TIME Travel; Travel INSIDERS.
Byline: WITH TRAVEL EDITOR NIGEL THOMPSON AND DEPUTY MARJORIE YUE
Modern Abu Dhabi's story began in 1761 when fresh water was found, leading the Bani Yas tribe to settle there. British influence arrived in the 19th century when it was made a protectorate to combat pirates in the Gulf. By the 1930s, the pearl fishing trade in this quiet backwater was declining. Then in 1958 they struck oil, bringing fabulous wealth. Today it's the shimmering capital of the UAE, a Premier League power base with control of Manchester City, and it attracts 4.4 million visitors a year, including 238,000 from the UK.