Tucked away in a corner of the capital city's coastline is a tree-lined avenue. Smack in the middle of the avenue stands a dignified-looking building, with a number of flags flying at its front entrance. At first glance, activity seems scant in the surroundings. But this first impression belies the truth, for the building is the UAE Central Bank and the financial nerve centre for the entire country
The Central Bank is one of the busiest institutions in the growing economy of the UAE, and is aptly depicted on Dh200 currency note it issues.
Despite the buzz of activity at the UAE Central Bank, its quiet surroundings owe themselves to the fact that the area in which it is located, a section of Bainounah Street (34th Street), is entirely secure. The bank and its grounds themselves are the most important landmarks in the locality, and also among the oldest.
According to official records, the institution known at present as the UAE Central Bank was first established in May 1973, under the name UAE Currency Board, in order to issue a national currency for the then newly-formed country. At that point, the board was responsible only for the issue of the UAE dirham, which replaced other currencies in use in the UAE at the time, including the Bahraini dinar and the Qatari/Dubai riyal.
Nearly seven years later, on December 10, 1980, the issue of a new law, the Union Law No. (10) of 1980, transformed this Currency Board, and the Central Bank as we know it today was born.
In the words of Sultan Bin Nasser Al Suwaidi, current governor of the UAE Central Bank, the institution is responsible "for the formulation and implementation of banking, credit and monetary policies so that these policies ensure the growth of the national economy in a balanced manner."
Functioning as the ‘bank of banks' in the UAE, the Central Bank is also the UAE Government's bank, as well as its financial adviser.
Given the Central Bank's importance to the finances of the UAE, it is no surprise that a number of financial institutions, including the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Reem Finance and Aseel Finance, have recently sprung up around its headquarters in the capital city. During the day, a steady stream of professionals can be seen entering and exiting the tall towers which currently house these financial organisations.
Danish Kakarzai, 38, was one of these professionals heading to his office on a recent afternoon. The business development manager from India who has been working in the capital for two months said the area surrounding his office and the Central Bank appeared to be one of the quietest in the city.
"There is absolutely no congestion here, and the calmness of the locality seems absolutely befitting as a location for the Central Bank," Kakarzai told Gulf News.
He however added that there is currently a dearth of restaurants and cafes in the area.
"As a result, lunch time options can be limited. But I can see why a secure area with so many financial organisations has so few shops," Kakarzai said.
Because of the limited number of stores, people can be seen heading to one of the only groceries in the area, the Bateen Stars Grocery, to grab a quick bite. Its owner, Mahboob Koolikkad, 27, said the grocery sees nearly a 1,000 customers on a daily basis.
"Business has been good ever since we opened up shop here five years ago, and we end up selling a lot of food products during the day. I also like how beautiful the surrounding area is," he said.
And indeed, the neighbourhood is particularly well-maintained. Its sidewalks are sprinkled with shaded seating areas and plenty of trees, which offer executives and passers-by with a chance to get a few minutes of respite.
"I am training in one of the nearby banks for the summer, and since I began my training, I have been enjoying the beauty of the neighbourhood," said Sultan Nasser Al Za'abi, a 17-year-old Emirati student.
A handful of important government department are also visible in this particular section of Bainounah Street, which include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and the Ministry of the President's Affairs.
Adding to the aesthetic beauty of the avenue are some of the most luxurious five-star hotels in the capital.
The oldest of these is the Intercontinental Hotel, which stands atop a small hill next to the UAE Central Bank. The nineteen-floor facility with 390 guest rooms and 54 suites overlooks a private beach and marina, and has been hosting guests since 1981.
Beside the Intercontinental, the Emirates Palace occupies pride of place. The hotel has been one of the most visible landmarks along the capital's coastline since it opened its doors in 2005. In addition to hosting many high-profile events, its spacious grounds, interspersed with fountains and fauna that are visible from Bainounah Street, also add to the magnificence of this Abu Dhabi district.
Opposite to the Palace is the newly-renovated Khalidiyah Palace Rayhaan, another five-star hotel on Bainounah Street which also includes a residential complex.
The proximity of these hotels to some of the most pivotal government departments in the country means that on occasion, the entire Bainounah area can be closed off.
While the financial district eventually shifts to Al Sowwah and Reem Islands as part of the Abu Dhabi Government's 2030 plan, the location of the UAE Central Bank headquarters is set to be a constant. The bank's continuous growth will also continue to be a symbol of the country's enduring economic success.