Phases of Development: A Cultural, Societal and Environmental Overview of Abu Dhabi’s Urban Morphology

Hannah A. Allawi


Instant cities are on the rise. With a global trend that
has stretched from the Far East to the Middle East, these emergent
cities have challenged the world through their instant urban
growth and their spectacular economic impact on a global scale.
Cities like Shanghai and Dubai have been instrumental in the
growth of other emergent cities - the craze of ‘Dubaization’ [1] or
Dubai-mania has been on the rise through out the more
politically stable countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) in the Middle East. The GCC came together in 1981
uniting the countries of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates
(UAE), Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. In recent
years, cities of the GCC, primarily, Doha, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi
and Manama have each adapted to the notion of instant urban
growth, and much like Dubai, they have become part of the race
for urban and architectural development. This paper will
examine the city of Abu Dhabi as a case study considering its
uniqueness and rich history, though considered short in
comparison with other major cities around the world. Abu Dhabi has
an opportunity to document and analyze its architectural and
urban evolution in order to fully understand its past, present
and potential future as a modernized metropolis. Instant cities
now have the challenge to meet the needs of environmental
sustainability in order to become even smarter cities and thus
must face the challenge of adapting their existing urban
fabric to accommodate sustainable urban and architectural
This paper provides an overview of the urban morphology of
Abu Dhabi, an influential instant Arab gulf city, and the process
of their instantaneous urban growth. An overview of their urban
history may call upon the question of their future adaptability and
current progress for future changes to the city. The current research
identifies the unique historical phases of urban development of
Abu Dhabi up to present day that each correspond to and contain
their distinctive cultural, societal and environmental factors
that have helped shaped the city – these factors have been taken
into consideration when defining the stages of urban
development through the defined phases.

The continuous development of the city of Abu Dhabi, to a
great extent, considers its ongoing growing economy and
distinctive environment contained as part of each defined
period provided in the following overview.


Emergent Cities; Gulf Cooperation Council; Instant Cities; Urban Morphology

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