Emirati charts Abu Dhabi’s rise from palm frond huts to metropolis

Alamira Reem bani Hashim's new book — Planning Abu Dhabi: An Urban History — traces the transformation of the UAE capital

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An Emirati planner has charted the rise of Abu Dhabi from palm-frond village to modern metropolis.

Alamira Reem bani Hashim's Planning Abu Dhabi: An Urban History, traces the different approaches of each Ruler, examines the role of planners, architects and building companies and shows the contrast between Abu Dhabi's development and cities such as Dubai.

The book, to be launched on Monday, first looks at the slow pace of growth in the immediate years after oil was found in 1958.

"Communication services did not exist in Abu Dhabi until a telegraph office opened for business in 1960," she writes. "A medical facility was first introduced in 1961 or 1962, consisting simply of a dispensary and a first-aid man. It was not until 1963 that [Ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh] Shakhbut agreed to the establishment of a post office.”

When Sheikh Zayed took over as ruler in 1966, things started to change rapidly. By the 1970s, new hospitals, schools and hotels such as the Hilton, Sheraton and Meridien were ushering in a new era of internationalism. A central bus station opened in 1989, while scores of offices, shops and parks had transformed the city by the 1990s.

The book charts the expansion of the city on to Saadiyat and Yas islands when the President, Sheikh Khalifa, took over after the death of Sheikh Zayed in 2004. She also pinpoints the establishment of the Abu Dhabi urban planning council in 2007 as a milestone in regulating the city’s growth.

Dr bani Hashim, 34, grew up in a villa on the Corniche and has witnessed first-hand the changes to the city around her.

“In 2014, almost 25 years after watching the city grow from my bedroom window, my family moved to our newly-built home in Khalifa City.

“Our move illustrates the changes that have taken place in Abu Dhabi over the last decade, as urban development expanded from Abu Dhabi Island on to the mainland.”

The book will be launched at the Cultural Foundation and she said it was her civic duty to write it. “It feels incredibly surreal and I’m very excited,” she said of the publication. "The book is there for other researchers to understand the history of the city.”

Planning Abu Dhabi: An Urban History will be launched at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi at a private event on Monday. It is being sold at Kinokuniya book shop in Dubai, Art Jameel gallery in Dubai and on the Routledge website