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Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi

With a population of just under 1.5 million, Abu Dhabi is the headquarters of numerous oil companies and embassies. With only 420,000 citizens in the entire emirate, each has an average net worth of $17 million. The city features large gardens and parks, green boulevards lining all the streets and roads, sophisticated high-rise buildings, international luxury hotel chains and opulent shopping malls.

Long viewed as a staid bureaucratic outpost entirely lacking in neighboring Dubai's pizazz, things started to change radically in 2004 after long-ruler Sheikh Zayed passed away and his son Sheikh Khalifa took over. In a bid to attract tourism and investment, land sales to foreigners were allowed and restrictions on alcohol were loosened.

Homosexuality is currently illegal throughout the United Arab Emirates with possible resulting penalties of deportation, fines, prison time, or the death sentence.

Several massive projects are also under way. Yas Island hosts Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 track and the new Ferrari theme park, while the upcoming $28 billion cultural zone of Saadiyat Island and its centerpieces the Guggenheim and Louvre Museums are scheduled to open in 2013. It remains to be seen how well the strategy will work but the city is certainly experiencing a construction boom.