Of the seven sheikhdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the largest geographically.
A family plays Frisbee in a park along the Corniche, a principal thoroughfare in Abu Dhabi.
Fountains light up the approach to the Emirates Palace Hotel, one of the most expensive hotels ever built. Mohammed, 4, rides behind his father, Salem Ebrahim Al Mazrouei, in their family SUV in the western part of the Abu Dhabi desert. Salem Ebrahim Al Mazrouei and his son Mohammed, 4, brought camels from Saudi Arabia to be entered in the Abu Dhabi beauty pageant.
Sheik Khamis Al Fendi (in chair), leader of the Al Mazrouei tribe of western Abu Dhabi, spends the evening with fellow Bedouin, enjoying a dinner of sheep and rice.
Camels destined for the beauty contest are led to the pens where they will be held and judged. An Abu Dhabi landmark, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque was the vision of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates. The largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Mosque has four 350-foot minarets, 82 white marble domes, and what’s possibly the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet.
About 30 different types of marble—from as far away as China and Italy—were used throughout the mosque. The main prayer’s room chandelier—a massive light stretching more than 32 feet across and 49 feet high—is decorated with Italian glass and Swarovski crystals. The mosque’s Qibla wall (the wall that faces Mecca) features the 99 names of Allah written in calligraphy and illuminated with fiber-optic lighting. A window looks out on the mosque’s main courtyard, which can hold more than 22,000 faithful.

One of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi and its capital city of the same name combine desert and coastline, urban sophistication and cultural tradition.Here, visitors snap photos near the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque. Traditional sailing dhows—including this 60-foot (18-meter) boat owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi—race between Sir Bu Na’air island and the emirate of Dubai during the Al Gaffal in May 2010. Gardens, fountains, and views of an ever changing city skyline draw early morning activity on Abu Dhabi’s seaside Corniche. The interior ceiling of the luxurious Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi reflects the opulence of the city, which can also be seen in its ultramodern office towers, shopping centers, and pristine infrastructure.
The oasis city of Al Ain is seen from the top of Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, which climbs the peak of the same name, one of the highest in the United Arab Emirates and a popular tourist attraction. Located in the Baraimi Oasis in eastern Abu Dhabi, the city of Al Ain was once a stop for ancient caravans.
Every year camels and prize-seekers converge on Abu Dhabi from across the Arabian Peninsula for an annual beauty contest. The illuminated Grand Mosque brightens the sky near a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi, where guests dining poolside can take in the view. Racing robots (with mechanical whips) are the jockeys now; the sport’s traditional child jockeys were banned in 2002.
One of the largest in the world and an Abu Dhabi landmark, the mosque welcomes both worshippers and visitors. The mosque houses the mausoleum of the late president for whom it is named, a significant and beloved figure in the modern history of the UAE. A portrait of the late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan is seen in the background. Walks or drives along the promenade are a highlight for visitors to Abu Dhabi, who can enjoy its public parks and beach access.

Such events are part of modern life in cosmopolitan Abu Dhabi city, home to Emiratis, expatriates, foreign workers, and international students. Numerous corners and smooth asphalt make the road a favorite of drivers and cyclists alike. The desert landscape, which covers much of the emirate, includes part of the vast Rub al Khali, or Empty Quarter, in the south. Here, falcons perch on wakirs—decorated stands for falcons at rest—during a desert hunting expedition. Expeditions across the area’s massive red dunes by camel or vehicle—known as desert safaris—are a top attraction for visitors to the region.
Established by the emirate's ruling family, the pageant can attract as many as 24,000 contestants.
During the nine-day event, camels are paraded before a grandstand as their owners compete for extravagant prizes.
Distinguished by a skyline of ultramodern high-rises, the city of Abu Dhabi sits on a T-shaped island, one of nearly 200 that dot the emirate’s Persian Gulf coastline.
In this gallery, take a peek into a race held near the Liwa oasis, southwest of the city of Abu Dhabi.

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