Less than one century ago, Abu Dhabi was just a bunch of small settlements scattered in the desert, mostly inhabited by nomads, fishermen and pearl pickers. No visitor dreamed of adventuring in such impervious and remote ground, where the temperature hits fifty degrees, there is no shadow and drinkable water is rare.
But in the last decades everything changed: Abu Dhabi is a luxurious town, with modern skyscrapers, 200 islands along the coast, 5-star hotels, large boulevards and long beaches with white sand and crystal clear water.
I was sceptic before leaving, but in Abu Dhabi I found a charming destination, worth a visit also for its controversial sides, the excess, the mixture of religions and cultures.
Here faith and Islamic tradition shape any aspect of daily life, from clothing to habits, food and business. Almost every man wears its dishdasha (a long robe of white cotton) while the women use a black robe called abaya.
And then come the ‘citizen of the world’, as all the people arrived from any corner in the world to live in the capital of the United Arab Emirates: they came from Europe, Asia, America, moved for work and decided to stay and contribute to Abu Dhabi’s melting pot.
Here the people don’t walk on the street, they move by car or bus, with air condition, and spend most of their time indoor, especially in the hottest season, from June to September. Social life develops around bars and restaurants of the most popular hotels, where modernity and tradition mix up, as the people from any ethnic group.
During the evenings among friends, coffee breaks or lunch time there is always a shisha (‘hookah’) around: everyone but children smokes from it, a tradition passed through the generations.
Talking with Laiba, an Abu Dhabi born woman and our guide in the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, I found out about some rules regarding clothing Muslim women have to abide to: black is the most common colour because it is not transparent a covers also in backlight conditions; at home and among friends and relatives women use to wear different colours; covering the face is not a rule, but women are requested to do it if that is the husband’s wish; many women do not cover it, but some do for privacy reason.
Abu Dhabi is going to become a huge cultural destination with the creation of a dedicated district in Saadiyat Island. The island – 27 square kilometres at 500 metres from the coastline – is going to be the focal point for culture and entertainment. In 2015 is already planned the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, followed by National Museum Sheikh Zayed and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, making Abu Dhabi the hosting place for the largest collection of cultural assets in the world.
For further information: Visit Abu Dhabi.