Oil riches propel Abu Dhabi onto world map

DUBAI, September 4, 2008 (AFP) – Oil-rich Abu Dhabi, which this week boasted of taking over English football club Manchester City, is pumping billions of petrodollars into investments ranging from fine art to films to Formula One. Riding on windfalls from record high oil prices, the wealthiest of the United Arab Emirates’ seven members is starting to rival Dubai, its glamorous neighbour which has gained global fame through grandiose projects such as the world’s tallest tower and palm tree-shaped man-made islands.

Following the death in November 2004 of its ruler and UAE founding president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, Abu Dhabi, which serves as the Gulf federation’s capital, opened its purse to local and overseas investments ranging from French cultural icons to US banking giants.

Whereas Dubai focused on entertainment, the southern Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi began by chasing the status of a cultural hub and high-end tourist destination as it propels itself onto the world map.

A branch of France’s prestigious Sorbonne university opened in the emirate in 2006 and an outpost of the Louvre museum is to follow in 2012.

A Warner Brothers theme park is in the pipeline, and construction of the world’s first