October 30th, 2009
12:30 PM GMT
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Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. - A central bank has to exude a sense of calm, stability and solidity. I have had the chance to enter a few of these landmark buildings around the globe, most notably the U.S. Federal Reserve, the former Bundesbank in Frankfurt and the Bank of England. 

Abu Dhabi's Formula One debut is seen as the emirate's coming out party.
Abu Dhabi's Formula One debut is seen as the emirate's coming out party.

The halls of the central bank of the United Arab Emirates provide the feeling of a different era. The Bank's communications director has been in his post for nearly four decades, the central banker himself, Sultan Nasser Al Suwaidi, for two decades.

The pace is measured inside the Bank, a complete contrast to the activity outside as the capital of the UAE hosts its first Formula 1 race this weekend - an event that is Abu Dhabi’s coming out party after neighboring Dubai commanded the spotlight for the past 20 years as the financial, trade and tourism hub of the region.

The emirate is buzzing with activity -– singer Beyonce led a weekend line up of concerts -– the corniche in the city center is filled with visitors around the new $2 billion landmark the Emirates Palace Hotel and workers at our hotel the Fairmont were scrambling to put the final touches on rooms to accommodate a surge of arrivals.

One gets the feeling that life here in Abu Dhabi will change dramatically after this weekend. The Emirate sits atop eight percent of the world's oil reserves and has the largest single sovereign wealth fund, with seven others created in the last few years as well. Money is not an issue for the 400,000 or so local Emiratis.

Abu Dhabi owns stakes in Daimler, EADS, GE, Rolls Royce and most recently Ferrari, which led them nicely into the F1 business by affiliation. With that backdrop of activity, one would expect a rethink perhaps of its partnerships and policies. That would be a miscalculation.

Back at the central bank, the Governor in our exclusive interview knocks back any suggestion of change: "We do not see any alternative so far to the U.S. dollar." I probe a bit more to get his views on the secret talks that reportedly took place around the IMF-World Bank meetings in Istanbul, to which he replied, "There was absolutely no discussion on the issue of re-pricing... absolutely not."

The look was consistent with the tone: Steady, serious and matter of fact. It is the same response that came from the Bank in the past 12 months. Al Suwaidi believes the worst is behind the UAE and is confident that the economy will end up in positive territory when the final tally is marked on 2009.

From the calm within the Central Bank, it is time to go back outside where the pace is markedly different and it is literally back to the races.

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Filed under: Marketplace Middle East

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soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. joyce

    i feel sorry for u guys man none of the "american sports" is popular outside the u.s that CNN trie its best to discredit other global sports that fans love

    October 30, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  2. Faten

    It is great to see the UAE back on the map- it's a wonderful country.

    October 31, 2009 at 7:23 pm |
  3. George

    As the Economist magazine put it in an article regarding Dubai, this is the first time that the jealousy of the Arabs is working towards their advantage. I think Abu Dhabi will take off and become another Dubai and it'll be interesting with they both expand to the point that the two cities join together into one mega city stretching 100km but it remains to be seen if the two Emirates work that closely in the future, given that they barely share much right now in terms of infrastructure, not even a train linking the two cities.

    November 1, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  4. kioni

    By hosting big event,they trying to wake Abu Dhabi from dormant stage to fast growing state.Majority of people think Dubai and Abu Dhabi there from different country.The only to make it be recognise is by staging big shows.

    November 2, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  5. John

    This is a poorly written article. The thesis of the writer was a bit of an anti-climax; with little, if any, hard evidence. And to think this is on CNN.com.

    November 2, 2009 at 9:18 pm |
  6. Mike Farrell

    George – I imagine that you have never travelled outside your little crop circle.

    There is a 6 lane highway connecting them and a train is a coming which will also connect to Qatar and Bahrain – figure that one out.

    You sound like a small minded person who is a DEM!

    November 2, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  7. H Dastoor

    Abudhabi under new leadership is undergoing drastic changes on all levels. New schools, universities, hospitals, change in academic cirriculum, intellectual thinking, liberalisation of arts scene are promoted. Nevertheless,at core it is still a conservative country.Cautious reform and changes will be pushed thorugh.The citizens and younger generation of Abudhabi are well versed, well travelled and educated enough to decide their future, which is to take the best of the west and stongly integrate those western concepts into their culture. There is no stopping Abudhabi if their plans do materialise.

    November 3, 2009 at 2:07 am |
  8. Lard Dickso

    Unfortunately, workers in UAE are sucked to their last drop of blood, look at the labour camps, unpaid workers, maids committing suicide and you will find the real picture. Many countries, latest being Indoensia have banned their women from working in the Gulf, because of these malpractices. Yes they have the oil power to show off, but in terms of human development and 21 century fair practices, Abu Dhabi is still in the 18 th century.

    November 3, 2009 at 6:35 am |
  9. Jojo

    I'll tell you why this won't fly......1) Too expensive to go there. For an event to be successful, it has to be accessible to the general public. The cost of the plane ticket to Dubai or Abu Dhabi is just to exhorbitant., 2) Too hot during the summer and since the event falls in October, vacation time is done for most people, 3) Nothing to do there besides watch the race, 4) Different culture, and 5) Too expensive to stay there for the duration of the race with the prices of the hotels and all. I hope it becomes a success,....just doubtful.

    November 3, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  10. Abbas B

    First of all, I am proud to be a part of Abu Dhabi. Next, Abu Dhabi has always been mentioned as a competitor of Dubai , which is not at all true..Abu Dhabi and Dubai are totally different in their aspects of gaining popularity both economically, and culturally. Dubai spent all its fortune on gaining profits through its comparatively smaller reserves of oil and promoting tourism and real estate whereas Abu Dhabi is taking small but carefully planned steps in promoting the city. Also, as mentioned it has 8% of the world's oil reserves which itself states how rich the city is.

    All in all, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are different in all views; and Abu Dhabi will be hugely popular in the coming years.

    November 3, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  11. Jon

    joyce wrote "i feel sorry for u guys man none of the "american sports" is popular outside the u.s that CNN trie its best to discredit other global sports that fans love"

    What the heck are you talking about? This is not an article about American sports popularity in the world and no where in this article does CNN try to discredit any world wide sport. Wake up and get a clue woman.

    Congrats to Abu Dhabi on getting the F1 race. F1 is a great sport and its a nice feather in the cap of Abu Dhabi. Something Dubai doesn't have. UAE is a wonderful place to go and I look forward to going to Abu Dhabi now instead of just Dubai.

    November 3, 2009 at 11:47 pm |
  12. ted

    You did not show any videos of the abu dahbi formula one races.
    Is CNN zionist? If you are ,my deepest sympathy.

    November 4, 2009 at 1:04 am |
  13. ali

    every1 forgot expeltion of paestinian from the golf when Bush the first attacked iraq.
    the emirate arabs betray the palestinian people and will be deal with in the right time
    ali jaffa palestin

    November 4, 2009 at 4:00 am |
  14. felix sabiniano

    i totally agree with jon. she must be clueless with what she was talking about. i guess she likes doing american bashing.

    November 4, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  15. Wassim

    It is fantastic to hear such positive reviews about Abu Dhabi but what many people conviniently forget is the way most of the workers are treated in the Emirates in general. It is nothing but slave labor. These workers are bought in from the indian sub-continent (mainly India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) and are treated like slaves. They are made to work for a pittance, housed in inhospitable conditions (no air conditioning in 45C temperatures) and still worse their passports are confisticated as that prevents the workers from leaving !! ou also hear countless stories of maids from Asia (Indonesia, Phillipines) being badly treated, assaulted on a daily basis. When most westerners visit the Emirates they only get to see the big buildings, hotels etc but no one speaks a word regarding the labor they use to build them.

    November 4, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  16. John

    cnn sucks cnn is jealous of all Arab countries

    November 5, 2009 at 1:12 am |
  17. G Man

    John, you have missed the point completely.
    Don't let the tall, shiny buildings fool you.
    F1 is just something else to buy and "own".

    November 5, 2009 at 8:04 am |
  18. berger

    costs have to come down and attitudes towards the rest of humanity must change.Arab racism can be vicious!

    November 5, 2009 at 9:46 am |
  19. Andreas

    "You did not show any videos of the abu dahbi formula one races.
    Is CNN zionist? If you are ,my deepest sympathy."

    Jump to conclusions much? F1 broadcast rights are tightly held and rather expensive. Not something you would throw out on a free web video service.

    November 6, 2009 at 8:50 am |
  20. desmondo30

    All sensible people should stay away from Arab countries

    November 6, 2009 at 10:18 am |
  21. james bird

    In 1977 I left to UK to work in Dubai to set up a Car hire company we had a contract from Swiss Air to transfer Aircrew from the incoming Dubai flight to the Hilton in Abu Dhabi for a few days rest before they crewed a flight back to Switzerland, can you imagine how a very tired crew felt when they were stopped at the border, and there was some unused buildings at the edge of each state ? to be told that you can't go any further in a Dubai registered coach Having then to wait till someone bought a coach from Abu Dhabi. We once had a German Trade Delegation to attend meetings laid on by the Government of Dubai We had 17 Merc's and drivers impounded in Abu Dhabi they were going to a state banquet with the then Ruler of the Emirates until my ex-wife's quick thinking told the Police that they would be in trouble if they didn't let these people go to Sheik Zayed. The same Person I was told who when I lived in Abu Dhabi 5 years later stopped us setting up a Rally club as he didn't want young Emirates killed racing around. But saving the best to last its 1978 and being the only tourist company in the Emirates with coaches was asked by the Meriden Hotels to help open the Sharjah Meridien who brought important travel writers Directors of Hilton Hotels who provided rooms in other parts of the Country Airline people the list goes on, I decided to have a Bedu tent on the beach with Dubai folklore group playing and Dancing etc, it was great but I need to buy a camel which later I was given a fine for keeping a camel in the desert. it after the show. Thinking of the possible tourism I went with an important Local to the Government of Dubai to be be told we don't need tourists we have OIL. There many more things I could add, but most of all Great People, my experiences then are not obtainable to todays Expats. ps forgot to Say I married a Syrian Christian I adopted the Culture. and love the country December 2 is engraved on my heart.

    November 6, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  22. R. Bloom

    You sound like one of them out for revenge. No one is forced to come to the UAE, people that come are those that have filled and signed contracts of their own free will, However having said that, there are agencies in Indian and Pakistan etc. that sell false visas, it is comonly known amongst themselves. Only when they have arrived do they find out they have been exploited. It's the UAE who ends up helping them. Also, some of them are coming underage with new passports made with different ages etc. people discover this in casual talk with them when they are hired. When they talk about family ages and their year of birth, it completely contradicts on the info on supposedly legal papers they produce from their countries to companies in the UAE. if you are from any of the South Asian countries, you need to get your own country in ship shape order before criticizing others.

    November 8, 2009 at 7:53 am |
  23. Steve

    I have been a resident in Abu Dhabi for 11 years.
    On the surface, squeaky clean, efficient, advanced ,well educated people.
    In reality, sewage problems, facades of buildings often fall off revealing the truth....crumbling concrete, poor healthcare, incredibly poor infrasructure considering recent growth, often gridlocked, rude people, no humainty, its just about money. "I have this, I have that look what I bought today, a football team" Many local Arabs have a saying "we came from the camel and to the camel we will return".
    Summary. A plastic society, shiny on the outside, rotten to the core on the inside.
    Why do I stay? because Im western and the arabs have to keep us happy. I would not fancy being an asian and working here.
    It would be nice if Emirates "practiced what they preach".

    November 8, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  24. Adam979

    Steady now Mr James Bird.

    I must say there sure are a lot of (not you Mr Bird) bitter people around, Zio-jewish perhaps or is it folk from Texas who think Jesus was born in America?

    November 9, 2009 at 9:35 pm |
  25. world traveller

    you need to visit the country before you make any negative comments. i travel frequently for pleasure, i have never seen coutry more advanced than this. i have been to 30 states in the continental US and nothing absolutely is anything like it. some people are just jealous from arab country rising, BY THE WAY IN DUBAI ON EVERY SINGLE BUS STOP it has AC IN IT. ( never got the chance to get into it) show me or tell me where else you would see that???????????? the highways and bridge also the high rises that surpassed all the others in the world. ski inside a mall? i keep go on and on how about the palm tree island? 7 stars hotels? not in a million years we will see that in here. so please you negative people keep your mouth shut :) see before before you make any comment.

    November 12, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  26. mazen

    To steve

    It is the government of UAE big mistake allowing someone like you to continue working there in UAE. You are like other westerners do not appreciate the good bay and the good life you having at UAE. I know very well, you and others are not highly productive people, go back to your country and I will bet you, you will be unemployed soon you arrive there.

    November 13, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  27. Scooter

    Having lived in Abu Dhabi for 14 years, watching my young kids who are now adults grow up, you cannot judge the city if you have not been here.

    I grew up in the Southern USA and we never would leave our house unlocked or car running at the store. Still to this day, you can do that in Abu Dhabi and not worry.

    Yes, there is money and glamour. However, there are honest hard working people that want to be here. No one is asking for government support or welfare programs. They work 40-60 hours a week and provide for their families in a safe, nurturing environment.

    November 13, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  28. N3FOL

    Great to hear about this new venue. F1 is top notch. Wish I can travel their and experience the thrill and excitement.

    November 15, 2009 at 6:32 am |
  29. Emarati

    I am an Emarati(citizen of the UAE). I have read all your comments and i should thank each and everyone of you for his/her comments. For those who do not know the history of the UAE then please note that we just celebratd out country's 38th birthday. 38 years ago, the founder of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed worked so hard and fought against other countries and individules who wanted to collapse the notion of UNITING the former know single Emirates as the Trucial Emirates. He managed to UNITED the then separated Emirates(States) into one unified country The United Arab Emirates. The new country which has small population of which over 80% were uneducated and infrastructure were none existing however the country was blessed with TWO most presious God's gifts to humanity, Oil and Sheikh Zayed. Shk. Zayed used the oil to support his people and country at the same time still working hard to keep the country UNITED when others were still trying to fail the new formed country. Up until he passed away in 2004, Shk. Zayed worked day and night to elevate the social and livelihood of the UAE citizen and people living on this precious land. We owe it very much to the expats who helped in developing the country back in ealy 70s, whether Arabs, Westerns or Asians. Laborers, Engineers, Civilians, Military etc. all of those people worked hard to support the development of our country without prejudice or laziness.
    I hope the above shed a bit on the UAE short history and how it started. Unlike other countries where their history is far more older than us and even their population and economy is bigger than us, we are in a country had has built itself to become a WORLD's distinguish economy in such a short 38 years ONLY.
    For those who criticize the UAE as a cheap, cosmetic, plastic, unreal, fake, brutal, inhumane place to live or work in, give me a country which became like the UAE in such short period. Tell me why do you accept to live in a country with people that you hate? I wonder why this guy STEVE lives in Abu Dhabi for 11 years and still here and I am sure he has family and kids living, studying, enjoying and feeling safe leaving their door open in the middle of the night when he doesnt like it and hate us as arrogants, with show off spirit and have falling pieces of buildings coming down to people' s head? Tell me what makes you live here then, is it just money! I am sure it is and you are such a scum and filth that deverve to be treated like what you are discribing in your comments and I am as Emarati proud of it. And for those who with positive comments, thank you very muc for your honest feeling to the place that housed you and your family for as long as you have been living here for. You are the type of people we woud love and appreciate to mix with and still build this lovely country to a more prosper and brighter future.

    December 4, 2009 at 9:18 pm |
  30. dani

    what wassim was saying is so true, and from his name i can tell he is not an asian, probably a middleeastern, and to have this knwoledge about wht is going on in labour camps ,i suppose he is working in a contracting company , it is so true wht he said, and human rights have black listed uae and uae government now are doing their best to be cleared out from it, 100s of labours sleeping in a tight room and there was pics and groups on facebook that show exactly the situation. yes dubai is great, abu dhabi is too, but noone seems to care about the life and the way labours are treated, not even the least respect as human beings. a decent shelter is all they need , but wht wissam forgot to say, that its not uae fault , on the contrary they r trying to fix this problem by building decent labour camps and renting it in extremly high rates to companys, but it was the human rights black list that made things go this way ,but yet the problem is not solved there is thousands of labours that are abused in their working times and their shelters. hoping one day thinsg will be better for them.

    December 25, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  31. dani

    steve your are a typical blood sucker, as the gentlemen said, u dont have to stay ,if it wasnt that your enjoying the peace of mind that you can walk back home 2 am in the morning with out being subject of a gang like the ones u have in london or the U.S and every other place in the to threaten your life and take your money, you wouldnt stay trust me, offcourse westerns are paid good here even though half of them know nothing really , thats a big mistake by the uae employers, pays big money as per your citizenship,if you have a Uk , US, southafrican etc passport, bang you get the highest pay, even if he is worthless of wht he get paid.
    i beleive you should respect the country that is treating you with respect and making sure you're living in a safe environment ,

    December 26, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  32. Do Your Research

    Much of what has been said about the labor camps are true... IN DUBAI, NOT ABU DHABI.

    Dubai is entirely dependent on foreign investment given its lack of oil. Those foreign developers enter the market, maximize every last square inch of land for develop, and cut costs wherever possible: unfortunately this means that foreign developers operating in Dubai choose to use the cheapest means of labor and subjects their workers to the most unacceptable of living conditions.

    ABU DHABI, HOWEVER, which is what this article is all about, controls all property development through the government. In doing so, they also maintain a high standard of living for its workers. For the F1 Track development, AT THE VERY MINIMUM STANDARD there were no more than two men per bathroom, four men per bedroom in bunk beds. These conditions improved according to rank, with some having their own rooms and private bathrooms. Moreover, the workers have their own cricket and football pitches, movie theater, market, and internet cafe.

    Quite frankly, these living conditions for workers in Abu Dhabi far exceed that of any US military barracks. Remember that the men coming to Abu Dhabi to work are signing up for a three year campaign which allow them to support their entire village back home. They are fully prepared to live in better-than-military barrack standards.

    Again, this message is to distinguish the difference between an actual EMIRATI development company's treatment of workers to that of a foreign developer working within Dubai. Unfortunately Dubai did not enforce labor laws on the US and European based developers operating in Dubai, explaining the widespread labor issues.

    January 6, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  33. ALI Bahriani

    Dubia and Abu Dubia are parts of UAE, they are in the right way to develop by many a top projects like F1 formula and Burj Dubia. keep it up.

    January 20, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  34. Audrey Thompson

    I had no intentions of commenting or responding to anything – but "world traveller November 12th, 2009 1612 GMT' attracted my attention – you are a world traveller and that is all you have and will be – a person with means – however, don't forget there are others who live in this world too! Others who work for the food they eat and the clothes they wear – the only travel they do is back home to visit family after working for years on end, if they are privileged they do get a paid for holiday, if not they just suffer.
    I have worked in Abu Dhabi for several years and still have ties there, eventhough I now live in the States. The Asians have it rough, cost of living, cost of housing and basically everything has sky rocketted. One cannot even get a cab, few years ago it was a piece of cake getting about in AUH now its a mess, traffic jams all over the city and if you do get a cab [after a wait of almost an hour sometimes more] then I would say "lucky you"! Yes, they do treat their lower classified employees BADLY. I still love the city, but would not like to live there.

    February 11, 2010 at 6:46 pm |

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