Modern as tomorrow
Abu Dhabi shapes up and moves with the times
Perhaps like you, I first visited Abu Dhabi in the middle of the night. In the days before technology allowed nonstop flights between Europe and Asia, planes were obliged to refuel along the way. One of the leading pit stops was the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi.
In an airport terminal that felt vaguely space-age, passengers from, say, Heathrow or Frankfurt would mingle blearily for a while with travellers from Singapore or Hong Kong. I never got a chance to appreciate the surroundings, because no matter whether you were heading east or west, it always seemed to be 3am in AUH, the code for the airport.
Today the terminal is still standing, as the airport ex- pands around it. But AUH is no longer an aviation filling station. It’s now the gateway to an intriguing destination.
Abu Dhabi is growing as rapidly as its neighbour, Dubai, but with a very different look and feel. Abu Dhabi ripples inshore from the Corniche, the waterfront beach, park and road that runs for kilometres beside the Arabian Gulf.
At the northern end, the Dhow Harbour gives a glimpse of traditional life, with sailors mending nets in preparation for their next voyage. But this waterside scene, and the adjacent fish market, are among the few constants in a city of change.
Downtown Abu Dhabi has an array of steel and glass skyscrapers, best viewed from the UAE Heritage Village, a complex almost at the end of the breakwater that juts out from the Corniche. Yet it’s not all about height. At the
Skyline from the Corniche, top; Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, above; an artist’s impression of the planned Louvre Abu Dhabi, above right