Clockwise, from top left: Skyline from Marina, Etihad Towers, Ferrari World, Skyline from Breakwaters Marina, Emirates Palace, Desert Ripples.
Abu Dhabi has more than 2,000 well-maintained parks and gardens and more than 400 kilometres (249 miles) of coastline, of which 10 kilometres (6 miles) are public beaches.
A view from Heritage Park
Turmeric plants at the Heritage Park
Inside the Heritage Park
Directions Pole at the Heritage Park
Watch Tower at the Heritage Park
Abu Dhabi has a diverse and multicultural society. The city's cultural imprint as a small, ethnically homogeneous pearling community was changed with the arrival of other ethnic groups and nationals—first by the Iranians in the early 1900s, and later by Indians and Pakistanis in the 1960s. Abu Dhabi has been criticized for perpetuating a class-based society, where migrant workers are in the lower classes, and suffer abuse which "is endemic to the system". Despite the diversity of the population, only minor and infrequent episodes of ethnic tensions, primarily between expatriates, have been reported in the city. Major holidays in Abu Dhabi include Eid al Fitr, which marks the end ofRamadan, Eid ul-Adha which marks the end of Hajj, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates.
This unique socioeconomic development in the Persian Gulf has meant that Abu Dhabi is generally more tolerant than its neighbours, including Saudi Arabia. Emaritis have been known for their tolerance; Christian churches, Hindu temples, and Sikh gurdwaras (but no synagogues) can be found alongside mosques. The cosmopolitan atmosphere is gradually growing and as a result, there are a variety of Asian and Western schools, cultural centers and themed restaurants.
Abu Dhabi is home to a number of cultural institutions including the Cultural Foundation and the National Theater. The Cultural Foundation, while closed for reconstruction as of spring 2011, is home to the UAE Public Library and Cultural Center. Various cultural societies such as the Abu Dhabi Classical Music Society have a strong and visible following in the city. The recently launched Emirates Foundation offers grants in support of the arts, as well as to advance science and technology, education, environmental protection and social development. The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) will be based in Abu Dhabi. The city also stages hundreds of conferences and exhibitions each year in its state-of-the-art venues, including the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) which is the Persian Gulf's largest exhibition center and welcomes around 1.8 million visitors every year.
The Red Bull Air Race World Series has been a spectacular sporting staple for the city for many years, bringing tens of thousands to the waterfront. Another major event is the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC).
The diversity of cuisine in Abu Dhabi is a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of the society. Arab food is very popular and is available everywhere in the city, from the small shawarma to the upscale restaurants in the city's many hotels. Fast food and South Asian cuisine are also very popular and are widely available. The sale and consumption of pork, though not illegal, is regulated and it is sold only to non-Muslims in designated areas. Similarly, the sale of alcoholic beverages is regulated. A liquor permit is required to purchase alcohol; however, alcohol, although available in bars and restaurants within four or five star hotels, is not sold as widely as in its more liberal neighbour Dubai. Shisha and qahwa boutiques are also popular in Abu Dhabi.
Poetry in Abu Dhabi and the UAE is highly regarded and often is centric around the themes of satire, religion, family, chivalry and love. According to an article from an Abu Dhabi tourism page, sheikhs, teachers, sailors and princes make a large bulk of the poets within the UAE. A unique form of poetry to the UAE was formed in the 8th century by Al Khalil bin Ahmed and it was written in 16 meters. The first known poet from the UAE, Ibn Majid, was born sometime between 1432 and 1437 in Ras Al Khaimah. According to the tourism page Majid came from a family of sailors and 40 of his works have survived. Another Emirati poet, Ibn Daher is from the 17th century. Daher is important because he used Nabati poetry (AKA Bedouin poetry), poetry written in the vernacular instead of the classical/religious Arabic. Other important poets from the UAE are Mubarak Al Oqaili (1880–1954), Salem bin Ali al Owais (1887–1959) and Abdulla bin Sulayem (1905–1976). These poets made headway in the field of Classical Arabic poetry as opposed to the Nabati poetry of the 17th century.
One of Ibn Masjid's most prominent works is a book called, Kitab al-Fawa'id fi Usul 'Ilm al-Bahr wa 'l-Qawa'id (Book of Useful Information on the Principles and Rules of Navigation), and it was written in 1490. This book is effectually an encyclopædia about navigation and sailing in and around the Indian Ocean. Masjid also goes into detail about the intricacies and technologies of the Arab sailing techniques. An excerpt from his book is:
"We have 32 rhumbs, and tirfa, and zam, and the measurement of stellar altitudes, but they have not. They cannot understand the way we navigate, but we can understand the way they do; we can use their system and sail in their ships. For the Indian Ocean is connected to the All-Encompassing Ocean, and we possess scientific books that give stellar altitudes, but they do not have a knowledge of stellar altitudes; they have no science and no books, only the compass and dead reckoning… We can easily sail in their ships and upon their sea, so they have great respect for us and look up to us. They admit we have a better knowledge of the sea and navigation and the wisdom of the stars."
Today in Abu Dhabi there is a group called the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation that works to preserve the art and culture of the city. According to an article from the English Pen Atlas Al jawaher wal la'li was the first manuscript to come out of the UAE. According to another article this book was written in the 1990s and was banned in the city for some time for making accusations about the ruling family.