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United Arab Emirates (UAE) - Overview
Seven states, or emirates, make up the UAE and a federation was formally established in 1971 consisting of Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Sharjah and the better known names of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The emirate of Abu Dhabi sits on 80% of the UAE territory and with a vast and impressive coastline is home to the capital city of the same name.
A third of the size of the United Kingdom the UAE covers just 83,600 km2, but it is one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations. It is hard to believe that not so many years ago Dubai was a small trading centre and Abu Dhabi was nothing more than a few hundred palm huts.
The UAE is a country of many landscapes with fertile tracts of land along the coastal plains in stark contrast to the steep mountains of Haiar. The desert covers four-fifths of the UAE but the lush green oases of Al Ain offer a welcome break to the never-ending dunes of the Liwa.
Each emirate has its own beauty and places to explore. Dubai has the tallest building in the world (Buri Khalifa) while Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are mountainous with agricultural land and archaeological sites. To admire beautiful coastlines visit Ajman and for a cultural experience head towards the museums of Shariah.
A nation that once relied on the more traditional ways to earn a living like agriculture and pearl fishing has now become one of the most admired young countries in the world. The UAE has evolved from the dusty plains and deserts into a strong and vibrant country of unbelievable prosperity that can rightly claim its place in the world as an important player in international affairs.
Less than four decades ago many of the UAE people were illiterate and the country had poor healthcare and almost no infrastructure. With forward thinking and dreams to bring it into the 21st century the strong leadership of the federation has improved the country almost beyond recognition. While still staying true to the cultural values of society and history the UAE is a prime example of a modern country with advanced healthcare, an education system that has transformed lives and an infrastructure that is the envy of the world. The leadership of the federation has made sure that the economic prosperity has not overshadowed tradition and the UAE has kept to its core Islamic values.
The official language is Arabic but English is widely spoken and anyone on holiday or living in major cities can get by with virtually no Arabic. Like any other country the nationals will appreciate any efforts to learn the local language and it can prove to be a valuable asset.
The laws in the UAE are strict and there are some very important points that anyone visiting the UAE should keep in mind. Eating, drinking and smoking are all forbidden in public during Ramadam from sunrise to sunset and alcohol must never be consumed on the streets or offered to the locals at any time. The emirate of Shariah forbids any alcohol at all but it is available to non-Muslims in the other six emirates but only in licensed clubs and hotels.
Many everyday things that we accept as normal in the western world are seen as offensive in the UAE and can lead to being arrested and fined or even imprisoned.
We take for granted the right to hold hands or kiss in public, our women go around in short skirts and semi-transparent clothing, men go out in shorts and with bare chests. All of this is forbidden in the UAE along with making obscene gestures or swearing in public.
These laws make the UAE a safe and welcoming place to holiday and live with unbeatable shopping, sunshine, warm seas and a wide variety of sports. The smart hotels and restaurants might give a 21st century look to the UAE but there is still a very traditional culture, and the modern Emirati people show great respect to visitors continuing the traditions of their Bedouin ancestors.
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