Located in the southeastern portion of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, the UAE is a federation of 7 emirates with a common president. Once known as the Pirate Coast and Trucial Oman, the region has been populated by humans at least since 5500 BC.
Even in that era, it has been proven that there was trading between the region and Mesopotamia, which by 3000 BC, had spread beyond that region. After the camel was domesticated near the end of the second millennium BC, foreign trade became the major reason for the flourishing of the economy.
By the 1st century AD, trading between Syria and southern Iraq had begun, via overland camel caravans, as had sea trading to Omana and India. Pearls, which had long been an important trade item, took on further importance, drawing merchants from far-off lands, such as China.
The Arabs of the region were accomplished seamen and were in much demand to crew the vessels of other nations wishing to take advantage of the trade possibilities. Their tales of the markets back home enticed more than one ship’s captain to detour from his planned route.
When envoys of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, arrived in 630 AD, the region quickly converted to Islam. When the prophet Muhammad died, the Ridda Wars began, which finally resulted in the defeat of the non-Muslims and the secure and lasting establishment of Islam on the Peninsula.
In the early 16th century, Portugal began its control of the region, which lasted for 150 years, but the British eventually wrested control from them, pursuant to their efforts to control piracy in the area.
Pirates were a major problem in the waters surrounding the Arabian Peninsula. Many merchant ships navigated those waters, heavily laden with silk and spices, and the British sent many vessels to patrol the area, attempting to protect the India trade.
Finally, in 1820, a peace treaty was signed with all the sheikhs of the coast, enjoining them to refrain from any hostilities at sea. They all adhered to the treaty, and in 1853, they signed the Trucial Sheikhdom treaty, pledging “perpetual maritime truce”.
This treaty placed Great Britain in the position of arbiter of an disputes among the sheikhs, which allowed them to exercise great control in the Middle East until the expiration of the treaty in December of 1971.
Seizing the opportunity to master their own destiny, and fearful of attack individually, several sheikhdoms
The rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi formulated a union between themselves and subsequently invited the other five emirates to join their union. By early 1972, the UAE was formalized with its seven present member-states.
The UAE is one of the friendliest nation-states in the Middle East, always quick to offer financial and humanitarian aid to its neighbors in need, as well as abroad.
In 2009, only about 16.5% of the population of the Emirates was comprised of UAE citizens. That is expected to drop to 10% by 2020.
The male to female ratio of the UAE population is the second highest in the world, at 2.2:1.
The average life expectancy is the highest of all Arab countries, at 78.5 years.
The Emirates has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
Although predominantly Muslim, the Emirates have been tolerant of other religions, and Christian churches, Hindu temples and SIkh gurudwaras can be found, as well as mosques.
The largest single demographic in the Emirates is Indian.
It’s illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan. Violators, whether Muslim or not, are subject to arrest. Pregnant or nursing women are excepted, as are children.
The Emirates Mall in Dubai has a 400 meter indoor alpine skiing track, and the indoor temperature there is kept at -3 to -4 degrees C.
Dubai also has a skyscraper that reaches 828 meters (that’s over half a mile!). Its elevators reach speeds up to 18 meters per second.
It is reported that in 1968, Dubai only had 13 cars in the entire city. Today, they have had to build double-decker highways to handle the traffic.
Dubai sports the worlds’s tallest building, the tallest hotel, the largest mall and the world’s largest aquarium.
There was only one skyscraper in Dubai in 1991. Today there are over 400.
Dubai Gold Souk – a traditional market in the commercial district in eastern Dubai, this is the place to buy some of the cheapest gold in the world, tax-free. You’ll see approximately 25 tons of gold on display in the windows.
Dubai – Flamboyant, materialistic, over-the-top? Perhaps. But breathtaking and innovative architecture and urbanization are to be seen throughout this world-class city.
Abu Dhabi – Much more laid back that Dubai, Abu Dhabi still has much to offer and is a distinctly Arabian city.
Sharjah – Promoted as the cultural center of the UAE, Sharjah is extremely conservative, but teeming with museums, theaters and galleries.
Al Ain – A famous oasis city of the Emirates, Al Ain is a beautiful and relaxing place to wander the palmed labyrinths, daydreaming.
Fujairah – There are various forts and historical sites to enjoy in the fourth largest of the seven Emirates.
Umm al-Qaywan – This island Emirate boasts many lush, green mangrove forests and gorgeous beaches.
Kalba – Be sure to visit the House of Sheikh Saeed bin Hamad Al-Qassimi and the Al-Hisn Museum.
Hatta – Visit the rock pools of Hatta and don’t fail to see Wadi Hatta, a beautiful gorge with its waterfall.
Ras Al Khaimah – See the natural geysers and hot springs of Ain Khat and enjoy the extensive mall shopping experiences.
How to Get Cash
You can find ATMs in most banks, malls, major supermarkets, the airports and most petrol stations. Cards commonly accepted around Abu Dhabi include American Express, MasterCard, Plus System, VISA, Cirrus and Global Access. For international cards, the exchange rates used in transactions are usually competitive.
Many hotels will also exchange money and travelers' checks at standard rates, but the money exchanges (Bureau de Change) usually offer more competitive rates.
Cash advances against a credit card can be acquired in most banks.
Western Union money transfers can also be made into the UAE, if necessary.
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