Abu Dhabi



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Camels on Jumeirah Beach, Dubai
Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, © Can Stock Photo / RuthBlack

The United Arab Emirates is often referred to simply as the Emirates.  It is a small but oil-reserve wealthy Islamic country created in 1971.  It is located on the southern Gulf of Persia and is bordered by Oman and Saudi Arabia.  The UAE is a federation of 7 emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.  Each emirate is ruled by an emir and the 7 emirs choose among themselves who will be the national president.

The Emirates have a population of approximately 8 million and Dubai is the largest city.  The official language is Arabic. Due to the enormous investment in construction, most of the labor is provided by year-round immigrants from other nations.  About 75% of the population is foreigners on work permits who aren't ever allowed to own property.  They are exempt from income taxes and frequently do not bring their families into the country while they are working.  The large predominance of foreigners has caused English to become the primary language of the city.  The widespread use of English, the widespread acceptance of the American dollar and the opulent and eccentric architecture make the Emirates a unique country dissimilar to most countries in the Middle East.  Their plan is to use their oil wealth now to create one of the world's premier tourist destinations in order to attract visitors long after their oil reserves are gone. 


The U.A.E. has a moderate sub-tropical climate. It is hot in summer with temperatures over 100 F (40 C).  In the winter, temperatures drop to lows of 60 F (15 C). Rainfall is rare, but can come in heavy cloud bursts.  This area is susceptible to dust storms.  The main tourist attraction is Dubai, but Abu Dhabi is also attracting great interest and cruise ship visits.


Many country's citizens are exempt from travel visa requirements for the United Arab Emirates.  Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council are exempt, which applies to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.  More than 40 other countries are also exempt.  Check the UAE Ministry of Foreighn Affairs web site for a list of exempt countries or check your specific country at VisaHQ.  For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.  The ministry's web site also details the visa fees payable and the supporting documentation requirements.  Hotels and tour companies can apply for visas on behalf of their clients.


The dirham (AED) is the official currency of the United Arab Emirates.


There is no requirement to wear Middle Eastern attire in the Emirates, but religious sites open to non-Muslims require that women cover their head and shoulders.  Short skirts are also not appropriate in mosques.

View Emirates map