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9 Things You Ought to Know About Living in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi began as a small fishing village on the Persian Gulf, famous for its pearl divers. Later, as an outpost of the Royal Navy, it grew into a regional power under control of tribal sheikhs and the British Empire. Today, it is the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the second largest city in the nation and a leading center for trade, manufacturing, financial services, and information technology. The thriving economy has transformed the city into a gleaming, modern metropolis, with astonishing sights and spectacular opportunities for anyone looking to expand their career and explore the world. Living in Abu Dhabi is an adventure. But before you pack your bags, here are nine things you ought to know about this bustling and prosperous city.

Abu Dhabi Skyline

There is Zero Income Tax

As long as you’re a resident of the UAE, all the money you earn is yours to keep. The government does not tax income. For workers with high-demand skills in IT, law, banking, finance, healthcare, and biotechnology, working in Abu Dhabi is a great way to enjoy a lavish lifestyle while building their savings at the same time.

Diverse and Welcoming Community

Abu Dhabi is one of the most multicultural cities on Earth. Close to 90 percent of its population was born outside the UAE. As soon as you step through your door, you’re immersed in world culture in a way few ever imagined possible. India, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, Great Britain, France, Italy, America, and the Philippines are just a few of the countries you’ll find represented here. Living in Abu Dhabi lets you connect with travelers from across the planet without ever losing touch with your roots. Despite the diversity, it’s never hard to find a community of people who share your history, traditions, and background.

Practically Everyone Speaks English

Abu Dhabi is a great place to learn Arabic. But while it helps to speak the language, it’s not a necessity. Practically everyone here knows some degree of English. Conversation may be a bit halting at times, but Americans rarely have trouble making themselves understood no matter where they are in the city.

Crime Is Almost Unheard Of

The leaders of the UAE have invested heavily in their police and security forces and, as a result, their country is now one of the safest in the world. Crime is low across the board, on par with the most peaceful cities in the United States. A Canadian woman living in Abu Dhabi remarked that “you can leave your wallet on a table and come back the next day and it would still be sitting there.” The Emirate’s Urban Planning Council not only guards against physical crimes, but personal and informational ones as well ‒ creating a deep network of defense against any type of attack, loss, or theft.

Visitors Can Purchase Alcohol

Even though the majority of Abu Dhabi is Muslim, alcohol is available for purchase at specially licensed shops, hotels, bars, and restaurants throughout the city. The UAE even dropped its alcohol tax early in 2023 as part of a campaign to promote tourism. But while attitudes towards beer and wine have grown more relaxed, drinking is still taboo for most people living here. Therefore, out of respect for the country’s religion, most foreigners refrain from discussing alcohol unless they're at home or among friends.

There’s Mountains of Food

One of the nicest things about living in Abu Dhabi is, no matter what you’re craving, it’s on the menu. Besides the usual mix of international cuisine (French, Italian, Chinese, etc.), there are a whole host of regional favorites for you to sink your teeth into as well.

  • Khuzi. The national dish of the UAE, made from roast lamb or mutton spread over a bowl of spicy rice, with a mix of nuts, raisins, and vegetables sprinkled on top.
  • Al Machboos. A rich medley of rice, beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp, or fish, garnished with onions, lemon, and an exotic mix of spices, such as cumin, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, chickpeas, saffron, turmeric, chilis, and mace.
  • Shawarma. Though it’s become increasingly popular in the West, few places serve Shawarma like they do in Abu Dhabi. Thin slices of roast meat, flavored with cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric or paprika, are bound up in a wrap or sandwich bread. Hungry residents can find it at almost every hotel, shop, and street corner in the city.
  • Stuffed Camel. While camel meat is rare in the West, it’s a delicacy in the Middle East. Stuffed with lamb, chicken, rice, and eggs, it’s extremely filling, but served only on special occasions. Try it at least once, if you can.

The one food you won’t find much of here is pork, thanks to the muslim prohibition against it. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a hold of it, however. Ham and bacon are sold in most grocery stores, carefully cordoned off from the rest of the meat and produce. Just don’t look for them on the menu at your favorite restaurant. Most of the time, you’ll have to cook them at home.

Brunch is the Biggest Meal of the Week

Abu Dhabi has embraced brunch like no place else in the world. For most Americans, brunch is a late morning breakfast. For the Emirates, it’s an all-day feast that begins around noon and goes through dinner. The biggest brunches are held in the city’s hotels and there is nothing you won’t find there: giant chocolate fountains, ice cream mixing stations, pounds of sashimi, foie gras bars, buckets of marshmallows, gold-plated tiramisu, rivers of champagne, and entire rooms full of cheese.

Some even buck the Islamic taboo and serve whole roasted suckling pig! Only a few venues can afford such excesses, but even the smaller ones do their best to stock up on the weekends. In fact, brunch feasts are so mouthwatering, it’s not uncommon for people to visit two or even three on the same day.

Plenty of Blue Skies and Pleasant Weather

Abu Dhabi sits on the edge of the Ar Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter), the largest continuous desert in the world. Not surprising, there’s hardly a cloud in the sky from January through December. The sun is warm, but not oppressive. Most of the time, people move about comfortably in summer clothing without ever becoming worn down by the heat. Ironically, summer is the only part of the year when people prefer to stay indoors. June, July, and August are particularly humid, making it uncomfortable to go anywhere except the beach. But the rest of the time, you’ll find them out having fun.

Emerging Entertainment Destination

Abu Dhabi relies on petrodollars for most of its money, but the government has been striving to diversify its economy and expand into other industries, such as tourism. To entice visitors, they’ve begun erecting attractions all over the city, some of the largest and wildest the world has ever seen, including:

  • Ferrari World. Home to over 40 rides and attractions, including the world’s fastest roller coaster, the world’s tallest high loop, and the world’s first sideways coaster drop. After launching yourself to the top of the world, zoom around the Yas Island speedway in a genuine Ferrari roadster! Adrenaline served fresh daily.
  • Kidz Factory. The world’s premier art, hobby, and play center. Kids can run, climb, and explore outdoor adventure zones full of obstacle courses, skate parks, and pools stuffed with interactive water features. Or head inside to paint, sculpt, and explore their imaginations in the fully immersive arts and crafts studio. Fun for boys and girls of all ages!
  • Al Ain Adventure Park. The first ever surfing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting facility in the Middle East. Barrel down three levels of rapids or cruise through intricate river channels, while nearby wave pools turn the desert into surf city. But if those thrills don’t suit you, grab a board and race through their floating obstacle course. With over 21 ramps and jumps, it'll push your skills to their very limit!
  • Al Ain Zoo. Home to over 4,000 animals from every corner of the world, Al Ain is the largest nature preserve on the Arabian Peninsula . Go camel riding, hand feed giraffes, or take a guided safari through herds of African lions, white rhinos, ostriches, zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, kudus, d the endangered scimitar oryx.

Moving to Abu Dhabi

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