Abu Dhabi houses federal government offices, is the seat of the United Arab Emirates Government, home to the Abu Dhabi Emiri Family and the President of the UAE, who is from this family. Abu Dhabi's rapid development and urbanisation, coupled with the relatively high average income of its population, has transformed the city into a large and advanced metropolis. Today the city is the country's centre of political and industrial activities, and a major cultural and commercial centre, due to its position as the capital. Abu Dhabi accounts for about two-thirds of the roughly $400-billion United Arab Emirates economy.
"Dhabi" is the Arabic word for a particular species of native gazelle that was once common in the Arabian region. Abu Dhabi means father of the "Dhabi" (gazelle). It is thought that this name came about because of the abundance of Gazelles in the area and a folk tale involving Shakhbut bin Dhiyab al Nahyan.
Abu Dhabi is full of archaeological evidence that points to civilisations, such as the Umm an-Nar Culture, having been located there from the third millennium BCE. Settlements were also found farther outside the modern city of Abu Dhabi but closer to the modern city of Al Ain. There is evidence of civilisations around the mountain of Hafeet (Jebel Hafeet). This location is very strategic because it is the UAE’s second tallest mountain, so it would have great visibility. It also contains a lot of moisture in its springs and lakes, which means that there would have been more moisture thousands of years ago.
The origin of the name "Abu Dhabi" is uncertain. Meaning "Father of the Gazelle", when literally translated from Arabic, it probably referred to the few gazelles that inhabit the emirate. According to Bilal al-Budoor, assistant under-secretary for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, "The area had a lot of dhibaa , and was nicknamed after that." An old story tells about a man who used to chase deer and was named the "father" of the animal. Abu Dhabi's original name was Milh "salt", possibly referring to the salty water of the Persian Gulf, or the ancient salt marshes that surround the city. Some Bedouins called the city Umm Dhabi (mother of deer), while British records refer to the place as Abu Dhabi. According to some historical accounts, the name Abu Dhabi was first used more than 300 years ago. The first word of Abu Dhabi is pronounced "Bu" by inhabitants on the city's western coast. In the eastern part of the city, the pronunciation is "Abu".
The Bani Yas bedouin were originally centred on the Liwa Oasis. This tribe was the most significant in the area, having over 20 subsections. In 1793, the Al Bu Falah subsection migrated to the island of Abu Dhabi on the coast of the Persian Gulf due to the discovery of fresh water there. One family within this section was the Al Nahyan family. This family makes up the rulers of Abu Dhabi today.