Abu Dhabi - History

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History

In the 3rd millennium BC a culture known as Umm an-Nar (after the island where it was discovered) arose near modern Abu Dhabi. Umm an-Nar's influence extended well into the interior and down the coast of what is now Oman. Later regional influences included the Hellenic civilisations, the Kingdom of Hormuz and the Portuguese.

The rise of British naval power in the Gulf in the mid-18th century coincided with the rise of two important tribal confederations along the coast of the lower Gulf. These were the Qawasim, whose descendants now rule Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah, and the Bani Yas, whose descendants are now the ruling families of modern Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The Bani Yas were originally based in Liwa, an oasis on the edge of the Empty Quarter desert, but moved to Abu Dhabi in 1793. They engaged in the traditional Bedouin activities of camel herding, small-scale agriculture, tribal raiding and extracting protection money from caravans passing through their territory. The Bani Yas divided into two main branches in the early 19th century when Dubai split from Abu Dhabi.

After the collapse of the world pearl market in the early 20th century, the entire coast was plunged into abject poverty. In 1939, Sheikh Shakhbut, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, granted the first of several oil concessions on his territory. It was not until 1958, however, that oil was found in the emirate. With a population at the time of only 15,000, Abu Dhabi was on its way to becoming very rich.

Britain's 1968 announcement that it would leave the Gulf in 1971 came as a shock to most of the ruling sheikhs. Negotiations eventually resulted in independence for Bahrain and Qatar and the creation of a new federal nation: the United Arab Emirates. The UAE, with Abu Dhabi as its capital, came into existence on 2 December 1971. When oil revenue started pouring in, the reed and mud-brick huts were rapidly replaced by banks and boutiques.

In recent years, the settlement has spread to occupy virtually all of Abu Dhabi island. It's been remodelled in less than 40 years to become the classic Arabian petrodollar city, a wealthy metropolis filled with gardens and tall mirror-glassed buildings.

When to go

Visiting in high summer (July and August) is simply a bad idea - however, if you enjoy temperatures of 48°C (118 °F) you will be treated to heavily discounted hotel rates. Many hotels also offer up to 50% off their normal rates during Ramadan.

From May to September, daytime temperatures are in the low to mid-40°C (104-113 °F) range. In the winter months, temperatures average in the low to mid-20°C (68-77 °F) range. It can get very windy during these months.

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