The thriving Middle Eastern metropolis of Abu Dhabi is the capital and second-largest city of the United Arab Emirates. Once famed for its pearl divers, the capital now has many notable faces.
The magnificent domes of the Sheik Zayed mosque (one of the world’s largest) give way to the Al Ain Oasis, an inner city idyll, with working palm plantations fed by a 3000-year old falaj irrigation system. These ancient features sit alongside the futuristic Masdar City, the world’s blueprint for a carbon-neutral eco-city.
In a bid to diversify its economy, this incredibly oil-rich city has recently witnessed a boom in its financial services and tourism sectors. Consequently, these days Abu Dhabi is the second-most expensive city to live in among the Arab states.
While tax-free salaries continue to be a major lure, "emiratization" (giving preference to nationals over expats for white-collar management positions) is creating tough competition for jobs. Private schooling is the only option for expats and again, competition for places is high.
Once the job and school places have been secured and you have come to terms with the social norms, life in Abu Dhabi is enriching, fulfilling and brimming over with promise. The tradition of employing live-in maids enables families to enjoy time together on the weekends, to explore all that this beguiling city has to offer.
What is special or unique about your city?
Abu Dhabi is known as the "Manhattan of the Middle East" due to the number of skyscrapers in proximity to each other. The majority of expats work with the oil industry in some capacity.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Abu Dhabi is rich in Arabic heritage and culture (much more than its neighbor Dubai), facilitated by its small expat population and the large concentration of government offices.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Absolutely, as time passes by; generally speaking, the more people learn about the culture, the more they like it.
What is the local language?
Arabic is the official language but English and Hindi are widely spoken (even by Emiratis).
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
Extremely easy, as English is quite common.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Clothing should not be too revealing, as the UAE is a Muslim country. The guidelines governing this are not particularly strict; just use common sense.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
For the most part, the weather is fine but summers can be unbearably hot.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Emiratis are known for their hospitality (a reputation that is quite evident in Abu Dhabi).