On the Arabian Peninsula adjacent to the Arabian Gulf, Abu Dhabi is the largest of seven emirates (a territory that is administered by a hereditary emir) forming the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It comprises an archipelago of 200 islands, the island city of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain (an oasis city and UNESCO World Heritage Site). The dramatic shift, from a desert roamed by Bedouin tribes to a thriving metropolis fueled by oil revenue, continues to influence today's emirate, where traditional Arabian hospitality blends with ultra-modern amenities and technology in sparkling new hotels and Abu Dhabi event venues.
Groups arrive through Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), which currently has 53 airlines flying to/from 85 destinations in 49 countries. The airport is undergoing an expansion that is expected for completion in 2017. Travel time from AUH to the business district is 20 minutes.
Of the conference venues in Abu Dhabi, the largest include Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre (ADNEC), which, at 73,000 square meters of event space in 12 halls, is the largest in the Middle East; and the Abu Dhabi International Exhibition Centre (ADIEC), which has 55,000 square meters in 11 halls.
There is a wide assortment of hotel venues in Abu Dhabi, including city hotels, desert resorts, luxury Bedouin camps, beach resorts and more. The largest hotel is the 844-room Grand Millennium Al Wahda, with 5,000 square feet of meeting space. The 394-room Kempinski Emirates Palace pampers guests with decor and comforts enjoyed by Arabian royal families; it has more than 24,000 square feet of meeting space in its conference center. New hotels include the 377-room St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, with more than 32,000 square feet of meeting space; the 382-room Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, with 30,000 square of meeting space; and the 283-room St. Regis Abu Dhabi, with nearly 14,000 square feet of meeting space.
Special event venues in Abu Dhabi are special, indeed; these include Yas Marina and Yacht Club, Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi Country Club and Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Nearby Al Ain attractions include Al Ain Palace Museum, original residence of the late ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan; and Hili Archaeological Gardens, with remnants of 4,000-year-old settlement.
When meeting and planning events in Abu Dhabi, it's important to remember that local etiquette requires clothing to be circumspect; Women should avoid short, tight or revealing attire, and hemlines should fall, at minimum, just below the knee. Shoulders and arms should be covered, especially during Ramadan. Also during Ramadan, stores close during the day and reopen in the evening. Alcohol can only be consumed in hotels, restaurants and other licensed facilities; even so, avoid rowdy behavior and loud conversations during the calls to prayer. Always ask permission before taking pictures.