Impressions of Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the somewhat more sustainable cousin of Dubai. That is, they spend less, meaning they have more money in the bank and managed to save Dubai's ass a few years ago when the economic crisis almost saw Dubai go under.
Abu Dhabi is also a bit more boring, perhaps, and certainly doesn't have an old town at its centre, the city being nothing more than a fishing village, if that, as recently as 1962.

The fraction of the population that are said to be Emirati is amazingly small. It's said, no census data exists, that in the country, some 13% of the population is native, the rest being imported labor. It's said that in Abu Dhabi, only 5-10% of the population is in fact indigenous. And even that is contested, with apparently at least a sizeable portion of the Emiratis being half something else, half Emirati.

It's not only young treasure seekers from the Philippines and Bangladesh who come to the UAE to work, but also plenty of Ukrainians, South Africans and a host of western expats. Weirdly, the male/female sex ratio is 2.2, smaller only than in Qater. This means that for every woman there are 2.2 men, on average.
Even weirder, the UAE's population currently stands at somewhere in the neighbourhood of 9 million. While in 1963, it was as little as 95000. That's right, a hundred fold increase in the space of about 50 years.

The result of this is that, eating, drinking, shopping, working, in Abu Dhabi, is doing so in an economy that is virtually completely run by expats. Occasionally, you can see an Emirati, in his national dress, walking around on the street, probably in the process of checking up on one of his businesses, as all businesses in the UAE need to have a 51% majority ownership by an Emirati. Or you can check out any of the really fancy hotels, where you might find a few having an expensive coffee with cake, both laden with suger as alcohol is difficult to get, and very expensive.
Immigration officials, though, are local. Perhaps to minimise the risk of them accepting bribes.
It makes the whole experience of being in the UAE quite a bit surreal, a country where those in power are virtually never seen.

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The central area of Abu Dhabi being located on an island, the city is often compared to New York, and specifically Manhattan. The grid is indeed very rectangular, but Abu Dhabi's 'Hyperblocks' are the size of 20 New York city blocks, with the city designed for travel by car, only.