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Heading south from Kuwait on the western shore, the Gulf is bounded, first by the large, oil-rich State of Saudi Arabia, then, linked by the King Fahad Causeway, the small, independent island state of Bahrain, which consists of an archipelago of 33, sometimes tiny, low-lying islands.

Just south of Bahrain, is the independent peninsular state of Qatar, jutting northwards into the Gulf.

South and east of Qatar, you reach the United Arab Emirates [U.A.E], which consists of seven separate emirates unified as one State since 1971.

As you follow the coast around, the first of the United Arab Emirates encountered is Abu Dhabi, or Abu Zaby. The latter is the name you will see in many atlases, notably the popular National Geographic, although the government prefer to promote the name Abu Dhabi.

The emirate of Abu Dhabi/Abu Zaby, in terms of area, is largely desert. In fact, most of the land area of the United Arab Emirates, which covers 83,600 square miles [10.5 times the area of Wales.], is in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Much of it forms part of the Rub Al Khali, or Empty Quarter, a desert that stretches through Saudi Arabia and Oman, as well. This arid, stark desert is renowned for its spectacular sand dunes, broken only by the occasional oasis.

Visitors to Abu Dhabi will find a land of startling contrasts--occasional irrigated areas of cultivated farmland appear as a green paradise amid endless stretches of desert and vast tracts of sabkha.

Abu Dhabi City is located on a low-lying island in the Arabian Gulf. It is a lush modern metropolis, complete with tree-lined streets, futuristic sky-scrapers, huge shopping malls and international luxury hotels, surrounded by the sparkling waters of the Arabian Gulf. The famous "Manhattan" style skyline, reflected in the azure waters along the corniche, offers a striking contrast to the large parks and green boulevards that are spread across the island.

Al Ain, the second city, lies to the east, on the border with Oman. Primarily an oasis town that is surrounded by a hostile desert, this "Garden City" as it is also known, portrays a vision of cool tranquility. It is undergoing a major development of its infrastructure, including an airport expansion project and a new hospital.

North east of Abu Dhabi/Abu Zaby, as the coast curves around, is the rapidly developing emirate of Dubai, then the smaller emirates of Sharjah followed by Ajman as you carry on northwards towards the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian/Arabian Gulf.

About 50 miles north of the Strait of Hormuz lies the large Islamic Republic of Iran, which was known as the kingdom of Persia until the overthrow of the Shah of Persia in 1979. Iran occupies the whole of the northern coast of the Gulf.

After Ajman,on the southern shore of the Gulf, you reach the small Arab emirates of Umm Al Quwain, followed by Ras Al Khaimah. Then, heading further north, you leave the U.A.E at the rocky Musandam Peninsula overlooking the Strait of Hormuz and enter the independent, more mountainous, country of Oman.

The majestic Hajar Mountains rise in the Mussandam Peninsula, run through the eastern U.A.E, and flow into Oman, further south. Oman is split into two parts, separated by the U.A.E, and the emirate of Fujairah.

Sailing out through the Strait of Hormuz, you reach the Gulf of Oman, on whose shores the United Arab Emirate of Fujairah, is located. The Gulf of Oman is, of course, part of the Arabian Sea and warm Indian Ocean further south.

The Arabian Gulf, as all the Arab countries like it to be known, is the foremost oil producing area in the world, apart from, possibly, Russia. Abundant oil and natural gas has made many of the countries surrounding the Gulf very wealthy.

Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi are particularly well blessed with oil reserves.

Abu Dhabi/Abu Zaby is a very impressive city, as we said earlier, with fantastic examples of modern high-rise architecture everywhere, especially along Abu Dhabi Corniche on the sea-front. The Marina Mall on the end is also superb in its lay-out and choice of shops.

Abu Dhabi is following Dubai's lead and really pushing to improve tourism numbers. It is a fine, very clean, well-planned modern city. It is also said to be the richest city in the world due to its oil wealth. Now, this oil money is being used to create superlative, well-designed modern structures all over the emirate, just as in Dubai.

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are being transformed very rapidly. The speed of construction is amazing.

From the scenic corniche in Abu Dhabi, you can see the spectacular, iconic Emirates Palace Hotel, a truly prestigious hotel, on a par with the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. The UAE's largest marina, with several docks for private yachts, is being created here.

One of the city's landmarks, the Central Market, is undergoing a huge facelift. Six hectares of land are being redeveloped into a mass of retail and residential areas. There will be an Arabian Souk, branded shopping boutiques and a wide choice of food outlets as well as office space,tower apartments and a number of luxury hotels. The entire scheme will be complete by 2010.

Al Gurm Resort is a 1.8 million sq metre eco-friendly development designed to blend into its surroundings of protected mangrove forest and its wildlife. The resort has both residential and tourism elements, with an opulent 5-star hotel and spa due to open in 2008.

The first phase of an extensive eight island development off the western coastline of Abu Dhabi will be completed in 2010. The islands are being transformed into a tourism destination which will showcase the capital's environmentalist vision of a more eco-friendly city.

Plans are also underway to turn the 200 year old Al Hosn Palace into a national museum and a natural history museum. The building will become the "Trafalgar Square for the Emirates".

The Al Raha Beach development has been dubbed "the new city" and is set on a 500 hectare historical site on the beach side of the main highway into Abu Dhabi. It will be home to 120,000 residents. A network of canals and bridges will link together hotels, parks, marinas, restaurants and a host of leisure facilities.

These are just some of the major developments that are taking place in Abu Dhabi right now. The city is being rapidly transformed and developed into a high class tourist destination using oil wealth and business expertise from all over the world.

One great way of visiting Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman, Fujairah and Dubai, is to take a cruise around the Arabian Gulf from Dubai. It is becoming increasingly popular, as an alternative to the Caribbean, especially during the winter months when temperatures are pleasantly warm.

The Arabian Gulf, is growing in popularity as a tourist destination and also as a luxury second-home, vacation region. The wealthy are flocking to buy holiday homes, from all over the world, attracted by tax incentives and warm weather.

As a holiday area for the less wealthy, it is still very reasonable. Taxis are very cheap and eating out is invariably excellent and very good value for the money. More hotels are springing up almost weekly, so the choice of accommodation is increasing rapidly. Hotel prices are bound to fall as competition increases.

The Gold Souqs, are well worth a visit. You will be absolutely dazzled by the opulence and splendour of the ornate window displays. There are hundreds of little shops selling gold, silver and precious stones. After all, the Arabian Gulf region based all its early trade on selling pearls obtained from the sea-bed of the Gulf.

Merchants have been coming here for centuries to trade for precious stones and gold. There is a great deal more than oil in Abu Dhabi and the Arabian Gulf!!

Why not pay it a visit and see for yourself?