Postcard from… Abu Dhabi

My wife and I moved to Abu Dhabi eight months ago. This has been an exciting time in both our lives. I’ve transferred from my firm’s London office to Abu Dhabi, we have a new home, it’s my wife’s first visit to the Middle East, and we’re also expecting a new addition to our family later this year.

My move to the Middle East follows in the family tradition. My parents moved to work in the region in the late 1970s when I was a newborn. I grew up in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia until my early teens and had the advantage of learning Arabic in my childhood. Speaking Arabic is by no means a prerequisite to enjoying life in Abu Dhabi, which is a growing cosmopolitan city with a diverse population from all over the world. This is well reflected in our office, where I have colleagues from Australia, France, Germany, India, Lebanon, Malaysia, New Zealand, Syria and the UK. 

Abu Dhabi may not be as well known outside the region as its sister Emirate, Dubai. One or two of my friends thought we were moving to the capital of Ethiopia or somewhere in Saudi Arabia. This won’t be for long I’m sure, with Abu Dhabi now a growing tourist destination in its own right. We arrived in Abu Dhabi just after the 2009 Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which was a great success by all accounts; the 2010 edition promises to be just as successful with tickets selling fast and hopefully the title won’t be decided before the last race of the season.  Abu Dhabi is keen to build on this success and is developing a new district with massive projects on Saadiyat Island including museums by the Guggenheim, the Louvre, a new Zayed National Museum in cooperation with the British Museum and a performing arts centre. Neighbouring Yas Island already hosts the Formula One race circuit, new hotels and the soon to opened Ferrari World, the world’s largest indoor theme park. 

My drive to work is along date-palm lined roads that bring me to our offices in the Al Bateen district of Abu Dhabi. Our offices on the 21st floor of the new Al Bateen Towers overlook the old Dhow marina and shipbuilding yard meaning you can also see the odd jet ski racing around the bay. Further along the shoreline a new multiuse development is under way with a luxury marina, hotel and residential apartments. A great illustration of the old and new aspects of Abu Dhabi side by side.

There has been much coverage in the press on the challenges faced by the Dubai economy in recent months. While there are interfaces between the Dubai and the Abu Dhabi economies, they have different economic drivers and Abu Dhabi remains economically active. Abu Dhabi has immense hydrocarbon resources, enjoying approximately 9 per cent of the world proven oil reserves and 5 per cent of the world’s natural gas.

Abu Dhabi is very much catching up with Dubai and you can enjoy everything from fine dining in the opulence of the Emirates Palace hotel (if you are feeling flush) to the more traditional Shawarmas along the beachfront. The city is a very family orientated place with people and their children enjoying public spaces and barbeques by the beach.  One word of warning though, when driving on Abu Dhabi’s roads, indicators are for wimps so keep a watchful eye out for some ’alternative’ driving skills…

Shaun Hardiman is a lawyer in Trowers & Hamlins’ Abu Dhabi office