The first Mormon chapel in the Middle East and North Africa was dedicated on February 22nd by Elder Jeffery Holland, part of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a ruling body of the LDS church. The land for the Middle East Stake center, as it is known, was donated by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. The chapel is located next to a number of Christian Churches, in a part of the city specifically designated for such sites.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a popular place for Christians to construct houses of worship, both because it is religiously tolerant and because it is safe. In fact, the UAE now has a 9% Christian population, which is made up almost entirely of expats.
However, there’s another reason that Mormons (and American-expat Christians like Blackwater Founder Erik Prince) feel comfortable in Abu Dhabi – the culture of Abu Dhabi shares some core values with America, namely, the value of no-holds-barred capitalism. Abu Dhabi has become the wealthiest city in the world, and with this wealth grew a western notion of cosmopolitanism and capitalism. The fact that the citizens of the Emirates share these values with Mormons and Evangelicals alike makes Abu Dhabi a place where western religions feel they have safety, a population to serve, and potential for growth. And maybe, in the case of people like Erik Prince (or the famously pro-capitalist, exceptionalist Mormon Church), a more perfect version of the same values they held in America.