Abu Dhabi in 1980

I first visited Abu Dhabi in 1980; there was construction everywhere and part of me wished I had been there 20 years earlier!   The changes since then, though, have been enormous, and it is very hard to recognise any of what I experienced then in the modern city of today.  As part of my ongoing project of digitising my slides from  30-40 years ago, I hope that the selection below captures something of the city as it was at that time: the juxtaposition of small new mosques with high-rise buildings; the contrasts between the greenness of the agricultural projects at Al Ain, and the urban concrete of Abu Dhabi city itself; the differences in wealth between local citizens and immigrant labourers who were mainly from South Asia; the belief that pumping oil could create cities, whereas pumping water from the underground aquifers could turn the desert green; the rather sleepy atmosphere that pervaded the place; the beauty and colours of the dhows on the blue, blue sea; the markets on the streets where one could buy everything from animals to all sorts of imported goods from containers; the mysteries of the suq…

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Filed under agriculture, Markets, Photographs, Rural, UAE, Urban

11 responses to “Abu Dhabi in 1980

  1. Takes me back Tim. I worked there 79-80 seconded from Cable & WIreless to Emirtel. There was a pioneering spirit about, and what a life – rugby, water-skiing and picknicking on the sandbanks and camping out under the stars. When first went back a two years ago I could not even find the area where I used to live. I think though it has retained a spaciousness that Dubai has not or perhaps never had.

  2. Colin Newball

    Hi Tim
    I worked for Ghurair Tarmac in Abu Dhabi between 1977 & 1980 and after a sticky few months initially, went on to thoroughly enjoy my time there. I went back last November for the Grand Prix and like Hugh could not find hardly anywhere I recognised. (Did see the Al Ain Palace hotel where we sometimes went swimming on a Friday).
    I really think they have made a good job of developing Abu Dhabi and it has a feeling of being a proper Town, compared to the building site of Dubai.

  3. Nawaf

    Hi Tim,

    I’ve been living in UAE since 1971.
    Do I have your permission to share some of your photos on a Facebook page? Not personyones but old Abu Dhabi buildings.

    Thanks and regards.

    • Tim Unwin

      Yes do. Apologies for not responding earlier – I had not seen your request. Do, please, just acknowledge the source as being me and you coukld provide a link to my posts.

  4. Nawaf A.

    Hi Tim,

    May I share some of your photos on a nostalgic Facebook page for Abu Dhabi?

  5. Andrew Clark

    Just found your Blog Tim. I worked for British Airways in Abu Dhabi during the 1980’s, both at the old airport and at the (then) new airport. Great times and your terrific photos brought a lot of memories flooding back. Many thanks

    • Tim Unwin

      Thanks Andrew – glad you appreciated the photos. How it has changed since those days! I only wish I had been there in the early 1970s!

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