The Islamic Golden Age that spanned the eighth to the fifteenth centuries, and arguably beyond, was a period of unrivalled intellectual activity. Through invention and innovation, this period witnessed great advances in the arts, sciences, literature, philosophy, navigation, discovery and technology, creating a unique culture that influenced societies on every continent.

Map-making and cartography were advanced in the region by great Islamic geographers and scholars such as Al-Dinawari and Muhammad Al-Idrisi, who used cartographic techniques to document trade routes and the discovery of distant lands. They expressed the scope and diversity of the known world in visually compelling and emotive maps that remain relevant today.

A centrepiece of Islamic geography was the study of human–environment relationships and understanding the complex interrelationships between people and their environment. Arab scholars such as Al-Mas'udi classified different peoples by the climatic regions they inhabited. Al- Mas'udi defined habitable regions by the physical geography, the availability of water and the proximity to mountains and the sea. Geographers also studied the impact of the urban environment on human life, insightfully linking dense human settlements with the spread of disease.

The Environmental Atlas of Abu Dhabi honours this rich cartographic tradition. The following series of high quality thematic maps visually reveal the environmental aspects of the Emirate as outlined in the chapters. Significantly, the maps illustrate the intricate human–environment relationship and provide the geographic context for ensuring a sustainable future for Abu Dhabi.