UAE then and now: a symbol of modernity on Abu Dhabi's Corniche

Use our interactive slider and scroll through the picture gallery to explore one of the capital’s early landmarks

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Today, life in the Emirates moves in the fast lane. In a regular series to mark the 50th anniversary of the UAE, 'The National' takes a trip back in time to examine how much the country has changed.

When it was completed in the late 1970s, the glass-fronted office building that is now home to the Corniche branch of Union National Bank was the first of its kind in Abu Dhabi.

It was designed by UK architecture firm Fitzroy Robinson & Partners. The building's glass panels glittered against the night sky and were reflected in the waters of the Arabian Gulf, making it one of the UAE capital’s most distinctive landmarks and a symbol of modernity.

In the 1980s, it became the headquarters of the BCCI-Emirates Bank, a subsidiary of the ill-fated Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and subsequently home to some government offices and the Union National Bank.

More than 40 years later, the building remains almost exactly as it was in 1978, but the surrounding area has changed beyond recognition, with the skyline now dominated by the distinctive curves of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority building and the 324-metre Landmark Tower.

The expansion of the Corniche in the early years of this century means all that remains of the old road are the parking areas for the ornamental gardens and park near the front entrance of the Union National Bank building.

Land reclamation has allowed for the construction of an eight-lane road, with beaches and a cooling sea dip about 300 metres away.

Abu Dhabi Corniche through the years - in pictures

Updated: August 11, 2021, 4:00 AM