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Abu Dhabi city profile | city data

Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), occupying 84 per cent of the national landmass territory, covering three regions: Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain region, and Al Dhafra region, with a population of about 2.5 million. Abu Dhabi city is the second largest city in the UAE, and the capital of the country. Its size has tripled in size over the past 20 years with an increasingly diversified economy, with culture and tourism as main drivers for this development.

Abu Dhabi emirate is rich in ancient history, with important archaeological sites and settlements, most notable amongst them is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Al Ain region, which attests to 5,000 years of civilisation. Moreover, archaeological discoveries on Marawah Island offshore Al Dhafra region provide a comprehensive picture of life in the UAE around 8,000 years ago. While recent excavations on Gaga Island, west of Abu Dhabi city, have revealed evidence of the earliest known settlements in the Arabian Peninsula, that are 500 years older than all the previous treasures found.

On the other hand, the capital city is known around the world for its contemporary architecture, multicultural business districts and innovative sustainable projects, particularly in the harvesting of solar energy.

The United Arab Emirates is growing as a destination for business and leisure, and Abu Dhabi is cementing its reputation as a hub for arts and culture in the region and the world. The Saadiyat Cultural District on Saadiyat Island, close to the city centre, is home to Louvre Abu Dhabi and will soon be home to Zayed National Museum, Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Abrahamic Family House.

With such rapid growth and upcoming new feats for Abu Dhabi’s cultural scene, cultural policymaking has drastically grew in importance. Led by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) in the emirate, in collaboration with key agencies in the public and private spheres, Abu Dhabi is actively establishing policies for the development and sustainability of its cultural infrastructure. Recently, the Creative Media Authority was founded to create an ecosystem that nurtures and encourages content creation and filmmaking, and to support the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s media industry.

A fundamental and longstanding challenge in Abu Dhabi’s cultural policymaking is the need to reconcile a focus on Emirati identity in the face of rapid modernisation and urbanisation, while at the same time recognising and celebrating a diverse population with their distinct identities and forms of cultural expression. About 80 per cent of the population is non-Emirati, from countries across the globe.

The ambition is to produce policies and programmes that strengthen the emirate’s cultural heritage outreach with a more inclusive vision, reflecting the diversity of the population.

Another challenge over the next five years will be to bolster the participation of civil society, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and businesses in the culture sector. The relative limited activity of civil society and non-profit organisations in Abu Dhabi has been an issue in the emirate’s culture and creative ecosystem. Tied to this is the need to strengthen skills and knowledge in the creative labour force. Empowering cultural programming by independent agencies and encouraging creative enterprises will allow them to play a larger leadership role in the cultural scene of Abu Dhabi.