The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the largest and richest of the nation's seven emirates. Covering 80 percent of the landmass of the EUAE, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is divided into three parts: the city of Abu Dhabi, the historic Al Ain region, focuses on a large oasis on an old road, and Al Gharbia, part of the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world with imposing dunes that extend across the Arabian Peninsula.
The cruise port is located in the central city of Abu Dhabi, a fast-growing cosmopolitan metropolis where glittering skyscrapers pierce the sky and five-star resorts extend over natural islands where they will find golf courses, beaches, marinas, high-end shopping malls, a Formula One racing track, entertainment areas and cultural institutions.
Compared to Dubai, the nation's playground and the largest city 90 minutes north, Abu Dhabi is more family-oriented and, with a population of more native Emiratis, more traditional in its values. The head of the Abu Dhabi executive family is also president of the United Arab Emirates and the city is home to the national government and a financial center.
Abu Dhabi's extreme wealth comes from oil, discovered in 1958. The UAE was formed in 1971, when Abu Dhabi's direct family leader, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, persuaded his colleagues to form the union and became its first president. The transformation was rapid. Abu Dhabi has put his oil money into developing modern infrastructure, health care, education, art, and culture. Abu Dhabi has grown into a modern, civilized Western in just over a generation, evolving from a society of coastal fishing villages and Bedouins living a nomadic life in the desert. Still, you will find that it retains its Arabic traditions and Bedouin hospitality. It diversifies its participation in the oil by developing other industries, including tourism, and is warm and welcoming to visitors.
The culture of Abu Dhabi is rooted in Islam, but all faiths are respected and protected by the constitution. The dress code is liberal, and Western wear is common, although the native Emirates often choose to wear their own national dress.