Abu Dhabi (äˈbō ħäˈbē, zä–, dä–) [key], Arab. Abu Zabi, sheikhdom (1995 pop. 928,360), c.26,000 sq mi (67,300 sq km), part of the federation of seven United Arab Emirates, SE Arabia, on the Persian Gulf. The sheikhdom is the largest in the federation; in it is located the city of Abu Dhabi (1995 pop. 398,695), founded c.1760 and the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates. The city of Abu Dhabi became the provisional capital of the United Arab Emirates when it was formed in 1971.
The history of Abu Dhabi was marked by violence within the ruling dynasty, and Abu Dhabi frequently clashed with the neighboring sheikhdom of Sharjah. In 1892 the sheikhdom became a British protectorate. There was a long period of tranquillity during the rule (1928–66) of Sheikh Shakhbut ibn Sultan, broken only by a war between Abu Dhabi and Dubai from 1945 to 1948. The pearling industry that once thrived in Abu Dhabi declined after oil was discovered there in the early 1960s. The abundant oil revenues have been used for development and modernization, and have enabled Abu Dhabi to play a generally dominant role in the federation. The current ruler is Sheikh Khalifa ibn Zaid Al Nahayan, who succeeded his father when the latter died in 2004.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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