Creating desert islands – Abu Dhabi

Reitsma, Geert and Little, Stephen E. (2010). Creating desert islands – Abu Dhabi. In: Go, Frank and Govers, Robert eds. International Place Branding Yearbook 2010: Place Branding in the New Age of Innovation. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 77–87.



The United Arab Emirates (UAE) covers an area of 83,600 sq km (77,600 sq km excluding its islands). The UAE’s emergence followed the United Kingdom’s announcement of its withdrawal from its commitments “East of Suez” in 1968. In 1969, Abu Dhabi and Dubai agreed on a union which formed the nucleus of the UAE at its establishment in 1971 (Govers and Go 2009). The vast majority of the UAE area is uninhabited desert. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven emirates within the confederation and accounts for more than 85 per cent of the total land mass of the UAE. Abu Dhabi is the country’s capital, the seat of the federal government and the richest of the emirates as a result of its abundant natural resources. Dubai is the second largest of the emirates and the leading commerce and tourism center. Other principal towns include Al Ain, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast, part of an archipelago of 200 islands within the emirate. Other islands, such as Sir Bani Yas and Dalma, are located approximately 250 km west of Abu Dhabi and 100 km east of the border with Saudi Arabia. These have played a historic role in the evolution and growth of the southern Arabian Gulf as a trading center.

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