Abu Dhabi, the federal capital, had an estimated population of 1,000,000 in 2002. Despite being the largest city in the UAE, Abu Dhabi is still a relatively young city. It was founded as a fishing village in 1760, when a tribe found water on the Island of Abu Dhabi. It remained a small village until the discovery of oil in Abu Dhabi in the mid 20th century. Once the city started reaping benefits from the oil revenues, Abu Dhabi went from a village to a sprawling, wealthy metropolis.
Most of the federal ministries, the foreign embassies, state broadcasting facilities, and oil companies are located in Abu Dhabi. The President of the UEA, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, keeps his residence in the city. Mina Zayed, established in 1972, is Abu Dhabi's main general cargo port. Its container terminals have a capacity of 15,000 twenty-foot-equivalent-units. A 15-year expansion of this port has been underway since 1998. The first phase, scheduled for completion in 2006, is expected to double the port's container handling capacity. The port serves as a gateway to the UAE by ensuring that trade is served to the expectation of all.
The current Abu Dhabi International Airport was opened in 1982, after it became clear that the city was growing to close to the area of the old international airport. Designed by Aérports de Paris, the architects responsible for Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, the new Abu Dhabi International Airport was built to cope with a maximum of five million passengers a year. By the mid-1990s, however, further expansion was necessary and the terminal building was enlarged to accommodate increasing numbers of business and leisure travellers - a large number of them in transit between Europe and the Far East. The airport, which supports 50 airlines, is undergoing a multi-year, US$500 million expansion project; completion is expected by 2006. According to the UAE government, this airport handled 4.3 million passengers in 2003 and experienced a 28 percent growth in passenger traffic the following year. In 2003 Abu Dhabi launched Etihad Airways to compete with Emirates, and there currently are plans to invest US$7 billion to expand the fleet from 35 aircraft to 100 (by 2010).
Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi as also built a strong tourism sector. Since it is located on an island and, thus, fairly compact, traveling around the city is fairly easy. Also like Dubai, Abu Dhabi has a landmark hotel called the Emirates Palace Hotel. Other areas of interest in the city include the Breakwater, which is an area that Abu Dhabi reclaimed from the sea, and now contains, among other things, shopping, sports clubs, and resturants. The Breakwater also includes an area dedicated to life before the oil boom.
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