|Abu Dhabi Emerging global city |
Just a few decades ago, Abu Dhabi the capital city of the emirate of the same name was of no importance outside its own region. Only an island of some 70 square kilometres was built upon, partly with very simple houses, and there was scarcely any infrastructure. From the 1960s, the oil boom bestowed unimagined wealth on Abu Dhabi and the six other emirates that came together in 1971 to form the United Arab Emirates. The city of Abu Dhabi became the capital of the new nation and was completely modernized. As no one was able to predict the increasing economic boom, the planners assumed a target population of 600,000. Today some 900,000 people live in Abu Dhabi, making it the second-largest city in the United Arab Emirates after Dubai.
The island on which the core of Abu Dhabi is situated is surrounded by mangroves, and is connected to the mainland in the east by three road bridges. At the western end is the Corniche, a representative coastal road running for many kilometres and separating the main business centre from the sea. Beyond the Corniche, new land has been reclaimed since the beginning of the 21st century and is gradually being built on. A further coastal road forms the boundary with a larger enclosed mangrove forest in the north-east.
As a result of the construction boom from the 1980s onwards, Abu Dhabi is a modern city whose layout and skyline is dominated by broad streets and high-rise buildings. One of the most striking buildings is the 177 metre high NBAD Tower, completed in 2002.
With the constant inflow of foreign workers, the island city has long since reached the limits of its capacity. Long-term plans have been made for the expansion of Abu Dhabi until 2030. By that time it is planned that some three million people will inhabit a city area that will, by then, have expanded considerably. Since artificial islands are too laborious, costly and exclusive, the planners are looking towards the hinterland.
There, the centrepiece is called Khalifa City and lies to the south-west of the international airport, which was built in 1981. When complete it will contain, in addition to housing, many important institutions and facilities including government buildings, embassies, shopping centres and a university. Within the next 20 years the capital city of the United Arab Emirates will move entirely from its present-day core city to Khalifa City. 40 billion US dollars are available for this undertaking alone.
In addition there are nine further top priority planning projects for which, together with Khalifa City, a total of 190 billion US dollars will be made available. These include Yas Island, where infrastructure is to be created for upmarket tourism at a cost of 39 billion US dollars: hotels, beaches, marinas, golf courses, riding facilities and a Ferrari theme park among other things. The aim is for Abu Dhabi to develop as a metropolis for luxury tourism. This also includes the seven-star Emirates Palace Hotel, opened in 2005, as well as planned branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre Museums on Saadiyat Island.
Beaches with a total length of 19 kilometres, 29 hotels, 8,000 villas and 38,000 apartments will be constructed on this island at a cost of 22 billion US dollars. Here too, golf courses and marinas will be laid out.
Immediately adjacent to Abu Dhabi's core city is Reem Island, where the future main business centre will be located with a skyline comprising dozens of high-rise buildings. It will also contain housing for 250,000 people. Space for 120,000 people will be offered by Raha Beach, which is presented in the plans as an exclusive waterfront city. How far it will be possible to turn these ambitious plans into reality in view of the global economic crisis of 2008 and after cannot yet be predicted.
D. Falk; Ü: J. Attfield
Keywords: Abu Dhabi investment labour migration mangrove oil boom tourism urban development urban planning
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