The population of the UAE is something north of 5 million of whom fewer than 1 million are emiratis. 2.5 million live in each of Dubai and Abu Dhabi with the remainder scattered around the other smaller emirates. Pictures from the 1960's years ago show Abu Dhabi to have been the fort and a bunch of scattered tents and not much else. Someone I know from Bermuda who lived there in the 1980's remembers quite a lot of newer buildings like the Sheraton on the 1/2 mile long Corniche. Today the Corniche is miles and miles long and the 5-storey Sheraton about to be demolished and replaced by a gleaming 70-storey replacement. As property on the main island itself can only be owned by emiratis by law, they have built or maybe just added to existing flat sand bar islands all along the coast upon which new developments are planned. Miles upon miles upon miles of construction sites. This is planning on steroids. The ultimate field of dreams. And Abu Dhabi is described as being less blingy than Dubai, that's one heck of a bar to beat. Abu Dhabi is not that far behind though. I'd say second place.
|The end of the Bridge to Nowhere... they just built it to a deserted island expecting it to be built upon at some point in the future.|
For such a small population, the buildings in Abu Dhabi are immense. Not content with 20,30 or 40 storey buildings, double it seems to be the watch word when anything gets built. Huge mosque, vast purpose built hotel (Emirates Palace), biggest shopping mall in the world (Yas Island), largest indoor theme park (Ferrari World -- yes, that's right. Better sounding than Kia world isn't it?). But then again there's lots of space and big ideas and lots and lots of money, so why not?
It's a bit difficult to identify specific cuisine for a specific country in this part of the world as all the mezzes (starters like humus, tabbouleh, fatoosh, etc.) are the same all the way until Greece. That goes for many of the main courses too (lamb, kebabs, kofte) and the really sweet and sticky desserts all made with honey and pistachios (baklava and a whole host of others similar to that yummy sweet). But we'd hoped to eat lots of humus and we sure did. Everywhere does it slighlty differently thankfully so it was a gentle voyage of discovery through the chick pea and olive oil world. What really made a difference was the monstrously light pita bread, some coming fresh from the oven like a blown up balloon. Just fantastic. We didn't manage to get sick of it in our near 3 weeks in the country either... mind you I'm not in a hurry to seek it out now I'm home yet!