Oh how this different this emirate will be in 23 years!
By the year 2030, metropolitan Abu Dhabi's economy will triple. The population will reach 3.1 million, compared to today's 930,000, the Urban Planning Council announced this week.
About 7.9 million people will visit annually, versus 1.8 million at present, according to the Gulf News (Sept. 2o, 2007). There will be 74,500 hotel rooms and 25 golf courses.
The housing crunch Abu Dhabi now faces - especially for the middle and lower-income sector - will ease with a veritable explosion of real estate developments in and around metropolitan Abu Dhabi.
"We will see a lot of little Abu Dhabi's off the island," one Emirati told me, referring to the communities under construction on the emirate's main-land. "This will take pressure off the city."
Abu Dhabi's plans also include an ultra-modern mass transit system of high-speed rails connecting the downtown to outlying areas, the airport, and other Gulf countries, the paper said.
The aim is to develop Abu Dhabi into "one of the best international cities in the world," Falah Al Ahbabi, UPC's General Manager said in the Gulf News, while maintaining its "cultural essence."
Perhaps because I prefer the peacefulness of Abu Dhabi to the sometimes craziness of Dubai, these plans seem daunting to me. It seems there are differing opinions amongst Emiratis.
"This (growth) is to be expected. We will still be a very small country - we may have 7 million people, while you (the US) have 300 million," an Emirati told me. Another UAE citizen said Abu Dhabi "must grow to keep up with the world."
No doubt Abu Dhabi will be an even more interesting place to visit in coming years. There are already plans underway for an Abu Dhabi Louvre, an Abu Dhabi Guggenheim, a world-class performing arts center, a maritime museum, and a museum of UAE history.
But will the country loose its identity in the process? How can the Emirati people retain their culture in coming years. The UAE is already comprised of at least 80% ex-patriates, the vast majority of whom do not share their culture or traditions.
In an op-ed piece (Sept. 25th) in the Gulf News, Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, professor of political science at Emirates University, wrote, "...is the situation getting out of control? Probably the great majority of UAE citizens firmly believe that they are on the verge of losing it all..."
To be sure, the dramatic changes coming to Abu Dhabi will continue to generate differing opinions.