Everything You Need to Know
And more …
In recent years tourists have been discovering the relatively new and exciting cities of the Emirates in the Middle East. These super-impressive, ultra modern metropolises have rapidly developed in the middle of the desert. In particular I’m referring to the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi which have become two of the most luxurious cities in the world today and are now very popular tourist destinations with so much to offer holidaymakers. I recently visited both of these ‘hot’ spots and wish to share some amazing facts about the United Arab Emirates I have learnt that will enlighten and shock you. Some of this information might also help keep you out of trouble if you decide to visit the UAE. You can thank me later.
- The UAE is one country, with seven Emirates (states), located in Western Asia. They are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ra’s al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain and Fujairah.
- The capital is Abu Dhabi, the biggest Emirate in land size (approximately 87% of UAE) and the wealthiest of all the Emirates.
- Each Emirate is ruled by its own leader/king (Sheikh), who inherits the role from the tribal family.
- The King of Abu-Dhabi is the President of the UAE.
- The country is rich in oil and gas reserves. Pearl diving used to be the main industry in the past, prior to the discovery of oil.
- There is only a few days of rain each year.
- It is a desert climate, with very hot sunny days and mild evenings.
- The temperature can reach a scorching 55 ºC / 122 ºF with high humidity.
- The sea water also reaches unbelievably high temperatures of up to 38 ºC.
- Most popular time to visit is in the UAE Winter, from October to April.
- Arabic is mostly spoken only by government and police, as these are the jobs held by local Emiratis.
- English is the most widely spoken language.
- Less than a third of the population are women.
- Only 12% of the UAE’s population are locals.
- In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, expats are a majority, with overseas workers making up most of the population.
- Young people are also a majority, with only 15% of people aged over 45.
- There is zero income tax for workers. Whaat…? I hear you ask. Yes that’s right. Only a 5% VAT (value added tax) on goods and services is charged and nothing else!
- Medical and dental care is free!
- Dubai boasts 40 billionaires.
- More than 13 million tourists visit the UAE each year.
- Petrol is very cheap in the UAE because of the vast oil reserves here.
The land of superlatives
- The world’s tallest tower is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, standing at over 800 metres.
- The world’s most leaning tower isn’t in Pisa, Italy, but in Abu Dhabi, called the Capital Gate Building.
- The UAE has the largest sand desert in the world, called the Empty Quarter.
- Dubai has the world’s biggest man-made island, Palm Jumeirah, an archipelago shaped like a palm. Here there is hotels, resorts, residential areas, dining and a monorail.
- The Dubai Mall is the largest shopping mall in the world.
- Abu Dhabi has the fastest rollercoaster in the world at Ferrari World Theme Park.
- Ferrari World in UAE is the only one in the world.
- The Dubai Miracle Flower Garden is the largest fresh flower garden in the world. Note: it is closed from June to September, during the hot season.
Culture & Lifestyle
- Friday is a day of rest. The business week starts on Sunday.
- It is illegal to drink alcohol on the streets. Drinking alcohol is permitted in licensed hotels, restaurants and venues, for non-muslims only.
- Don’t take photos of other people unless you ask permission, particularly of women and children.
- No public displays of affection. If you hold hands in public, you better be married.
- Don’t swear in public or on-line.
- Always wear modest clothing, i.e. cover shoulders and knees in public. At the beach, bathers are acceptable.
- Sex outside of marriage is illegal. Tip: If you decide to move to UAE as a couple, you better get married first!
- Being gay is illegal.
- During the month of Ramadan it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public, for everyone!
- Food with poppy seeds is illegal, as it’s related to opium.
- Married women need permission from their husbands to buy a car, open a bank account or a credit card and even to work. No comment!
- Dubai and Abu Dhabi have pink roofed taxis for ladies only, with lady drivers.
- Camels are a favourite animal and camel racing, a favourite sport. Falcons are also a much revered animal and kept as pets.
- Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Formula One Circuit is free for everyone to use for running and cycling with free use of bikes.
- You can go skiing in the desert! Yes, only in Dubai, at Ski Dubai Indoor Park, the biggest indoor ski resort, with real snow.
Everything is bedazzled
- You must have a golden cappuccino, in Abu Dhabi, at the Emirates Palace Le Cafe. Yes, it has real 24 carat gold flakes sprinkled on the froth with the hotel logo! For A$80 you get your coffee served on a tray with cake and all the trimmings you didn’t know you wanted.
- Feeling peckish? How about ordering a bedazzled Angus beef hamburger with gold edible frosting on top of the bun at Maison Rouge Restaurant in Dubai? Surely the gold will add flavour. But alas, I think it is too beautiful to eat!
- Perhaps a gold foil encrusted facial for madam? Yes, that’s what I need. Be gold-pampered like a queen at the Sisters Beauty Lounge, Al Bateen in Abu Dhabi.
Gold to go
- The first gold dispensing ATM machine in the world was installed in Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace, and now also in Dubai. So you have the convenience of being able to grab a gold bullion or two on the go. How handy! I don’t know how we ever did without gold ATM’s.
- Speaking of vending machines, in Dubai you can have them dispense you a laptop, phone or other electronic gadget you may need pronto, by purchasing one straight from a machine, if you can’t drag yourself to a shop. I’m waiting for the car vending machine, which I’m sure will be next.
- If you want to experience a 7 Star luxury hotel (because sometimes 5 or 6 stars just doesn’t cut it!) then the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi is the best in the world. I haven’t yet stayed there myself, but I explored the massive foyer and lower level where the cafe/bar is located and enjoyed some refreshments. I was bedazzled with brilliance. Everything is golden – gold plated, gold encrusted and gold trimmed – as far as the eye can see. You have to see it to believe it!
- The Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai is also 7 Star luxury accommodation.
- Even the police are obsessed with luxury in Dubai. The force patrols the streets in a fleet of super luxury sports cars that you won’t believe, including Lamborghini Aventador, Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari, Bentley, McLaren, Maserati and many others. Dubai’s law enforcement officers drive 14 of the most expensive cars in the world. To see the world’s fastest police cars in action, watch this Youtube video.
I’m sure there are plenty of other things in the UAE that are the biggest/tallest/richest or first/most/best, but I haven’t got all day! If you know of anything I should add, please let me know.
What the … ?
Given all the things the UAE has, I was surprised to learn a few things it doesn’t have, that most countries do.
- There are no political parties, no elections and no voting. The Emirates each have a ruling family.
- Dubai has no formal address system, ie. no street names or post codes. People find their way around by landmarks.
- Dubai has no post or parcel deliveries to homes. People rent a PO Box or use their work PO Box address.
- Dubai has no sewer system. Trucks take away the city’s waste.
- The Metro system in Dubai has no train drivers. It’s an automated electronic system.
Tours of the UAE
I suggest visiting either Dubai or Abu Dhabi to experience the Emirates for yourself. There are many exciting things to see and do here, so I recommend taking a tour with the experts.
Have you experienced the UAE? Share your thoughts below.