Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The story goes that, sometime in 1761, Bedouin hunters of the Bani Yas tribe followed a deer all the way from Liwa Oasis to the shores of what was to become Abu Dhabi and, as they ventured further inland, they discovered something more precious than gold. Water! With a means to settle down, it is said that it was Shaikh Dhiyab bin Isa who first moved to the island, and protected the newly dug well with a small watchtower near the water source, marking the birth of Qasr Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi’s only historical building still standing, home to the ruling Al Nahyan family for 200 years. His son Shaikh Shakhbut was the first to set up permanent residence on the island and move the tribal headquarters from Liwa to Abu Dhabi. With him, the history of the Bani Yas tribe became intertwined with that of Qasr Al Hosn, as every ruler up to the Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan run the western emirate from this very fort, later to become a palace.
Everything changed in 1958 when oil was discovered, and it is from this date that the development of modern Abu Dhabi commenced. Sheikh Zayed took over the ruling of Abu Dhabi in 1966, and subsequently used his prodigious diplomatic skills to help create the UAE and became its first president, a role he held up until his death in November 2004. Currently, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Zayed’s oldest son, is the ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE.
Literally translating into “Father of the gazelle” in Arabic, Abu Dhabi is not just the capital city and the largest of the seven Emirates that make up the country, but is also the seat of the Federal Government as well as being a major historical and cultural centre. The city’s progressive vision is balanced by a deep-seated respect for traditions and culture.