Abu Dhabi: Too fast, too curious
Abu Dhabi’s ambitious development plans are attracting investors worldwide. But Mishaal Al Gergawi asks if the emirate’s residents understand the consequences of drastic growth.
October 22, 2009 4:01 by Mishaal Al Gergawi
Since the union of the UAE, Abu Dhabi has chosen to be viewed as the conservative capital of the UAE in comparison to its more commercially driven neighbor Dubai. This did not mean that the capital was by any means behind Dubai in a realistic sense, but that the government’s own will was the only driver for development, as opposed to a thriving private sector.
Essentially, there was no private sector of notable mass there. The capital had realized that after approximately 35 years of relative obscurity on the international stage – baring discreet fund managers in Geneva, London and Tokyo – there was little international brand equity in the name of Abu Dhabi.
And so, approximately five years ago, the emirate made a strategic decision to change not only the way it was being perceived by cities and nations from around the world, but also by its own inhabitants.
Through several interviews and press releases, the capital laid out its plans. In some of these interviews the terms ‘cultural tourism’ and ‘getaway resorts’ were used. The message was clear; Abu Dhabi would approach its urban development plans differently from Dubai. It would be more selective in its tourism plans, not to mention its plans to attract residents.
An impressively long array of projects have since been launched; ranging from cultural development (Saadiyat Cultural District), automotive sports and entertainment (Ferrari theme park, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, and the Formula 1 race – occurring next month), renewable energy (Masdar City – reportedly the world’s first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city), media (TwoFour54) and healthcare (Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, among others).