Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates and was also the largest of the former Trucial States. Abu Dhabi is also a city of the same name within the Emirate that is the capital of the country, in north central UAE. The city lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. An estimated 1,000,000 people lived there in 2000, with about an 80% expatriate population.
Abu Dhabi city is located at 24.4667° N 54.3667° E. The Emirate has approximately 70% of the country”s entire wealth. Al Ain is Abu Dhabi”s second largest urban area with a population of 348,000 (2003 census estimate) and is located 150 kilometres inland.
Parts of Abu Dhabi were settled as far back as the 3rd millennium BC and its early history fits the nomadic, herding and fishing pattern typical of the broader region. Modern Abu Dhabi traces its origins to the rise of an important tribal confederation the Bani Yas in the late 18th century, who also assumed control of Dubai. In the 19th century the Dubai and Abu Dhabi branches parted ways.
Into the mid-20th century, the economy of Abu Dhabi continued to be sustained mainly by camel herding, production of dates and vegetables at the inland oases of Al Ain and Liwa, and fishing and pearl diving off the coast of Abu Dhabi city, which was occupied mainly during the summer months. Most dwellings in Abu Dhabi city were, at this time constructed of palm fronds (barasti), with the better-off families occupying mud huts. The growth of the cultured pearl industry in the first half of the 20th century created hardship for residents of Abu Dhabi as pearls represented the largest export and main source of cash earnings.
In 1939, Sheikh Shakhbut Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan granted Petroleum concessions, and oil was first found in 1958. At first, oil money had a marginal impact. A few lowrise concete buildings were erected, and the first paved road was completed in 1961, but Sheikh Shakbut, uncertain whether the new oil royalties would last, took a cautious approach, preferring to save the revenue rather than investing it in development. His brother, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, saw that oil wealth had the potential to transform Abu Dhabi. The ruling Al Nahayan family decided that Sheikh Zayed should replace his brother as Ruler and carry out his vision of developing the country. On August 6, 1966, with the assistance of the British, Sheikh Zayed became the new ruler. See generally, Al-Fahim, M, From Rags to Riches: A Story of Abu Dhabi, Chapter Six (London Centre of Arab Studies, 1995).
With the announcement by Britain in 1968 that it would withdraw from the Gulf area by 1971, Sheikh Zayed became the main driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates.
After the Emirates gained independence in 1971, oil wealth continued to flow to the area and traditional mud-brick huts were rapidly replaced with banks, boutiques and modern highrises.
Current ruler of the Abu Dhabi
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan is the hereditary emir and ruler of Abu Dhabi, as well as the current president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Postal History of the Abu Dhabi
Now part of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi was formerly the largest of the seven sheikdoms which made up the Trucial States on the so-called Pirate Coast of eastern Arabia between Oman and Qatar. The Trucial States as a whole had an area of some 32,000 square miles of which Abu Dhabi alone had 26,000. The capital was the town of Abu Dhabi which is on an offshore island and was first settled in 1761.
The name Trucial States arose from treaties made with Great Britain in 1820 which ensured a condition of truce in the area and the suppression of piracy and slavery. The treaty expired on 31 December 1966. The decision to form the UAE was made on 18 July 1971 and the federation was founded on 1 August 1972, although the inaugural UAE stamps were not issued until 1 January 1973.
Oil production began on Das Island after prospecting during 1956-1960. Das Island is part of Abu Dhabi but lies well offshore, about 100 miles north of the mainland. Oil production on the mainland began in 1962. As a major oil producer, Abu Dhabi soon acquired massive financial wealth. Investment in long-term construction projects and the establishment of a finance sector has led to the area becoming a centre of commerce which may well secure its lasting importance when the oil resources are exhausted.
In December 1960, postage stamps of British Postal Agencies in Eastern Arabia were supplied to the construction workers on Das Island but the postal service was administered via the agency office in Bahrain. The mail was also postmarked Bahrain so there was no clear indication that a letter had come from Das Island.
On 30 March 1963, a British agency was opened in Abu Dhabi and issued the agency stamps after the sheik objected to the use of the Trucial States definitives. Mail from Das Island continued to be administered by Bahrain but was now cancelled by an Abu Dhabi Trucial States postmark.
The first Abu Dhabi stamps were a definitive series of 30 March 1964 depicting Shaikh Shakhbut Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan. There were eleven values under the Indian currency that was used of 100 naye paise = 1 rupee. The range of values was 5 np to 10 rupees. Despite the introduction of these definitives, the British agency stamps remained valid in both Abu Dhabi and Das Island until the end of 1966 when they were withdrawn.
A post office was opened on Das Island on 6 January 1966 and this ended the Bahrain service. Mail from Das Island was now handled within Abu Dhabi.
When the treaty with Great Britain expired at the end of 1966, Abu Dhabi introduced a new currency of 1000 fils = 1 dinar and took over its own postal administration, including the Das Island office. The earlier issues were subject to surcharges in this currency and replacement definitives were released depicting the new ruler Shaikh Zayed. Issues continued until introduction of UAE stamps in 1973.
In all, Abu Dhabi issued 95 stamps from 1964 to 1972, the final set being three views of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
Climate of the Abu Dhabi
Sunny/blue skies can be expected through-out the year. The months June through September are generally hot and humid with temperatures averaging above 40ºC(110ºF). The weather is usually pleasant from October to May. January to February is cooler and may require the use of a light jacket. The oasis city of Al Ain regularly records the highest summer temperatures in the country, however the dry desert air and cooler evenings make it a traditional retreat from the intense summer heat and year round humidity of the capital city.
Transport of the Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi International Airport serves this city. The local time is GMT + 4 hours.
Development of the Abu Dhabi
New developments on islands surrounding the city plan to increase the population of the city by up to 800,000.
Trivia of the Abu Dhabi
The city of Abu Dhabi, and the majority of UAE, has a large amount of stray cats. The cartoon cat Garfield would often put the kitten Nermal in a box and ship him to Abu Dhabi. The phrase “Abu Dhabi is where all the cute kittens go” is sometimes used in the comic.