An immense four fifths of the UAE is composed of sweeping desert, yet its seven emirates have recently been transformed into a mammoth international business and tourism hub.
Established in 1971, the UAE is a constitutional federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah.
Located on the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar lies to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the north and east.
Although each of the emirates maintains a high degree of independence, the UAE is globally governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers, made up of seven emirs who are responsible for appointing the prime minister and the cabinet.
Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the UAE and sits within the wealthy, vibrant emirate of the same name. The discovery and export of oil in Abu Dhabi from 1962 has dramatically transformed the society and economy of this emirate into one of the wealthiest in the Gulf.
Dubai’s immense business sector and tourism industry have helped fuel its recent real estate boom, creating glistening skyscrapers and ground-breaking construction projects so far unequalled on this planet. This activity has been a major driver in making Dubai one of the most cosmopolitan and liberal of the United Arab Emirates. As a perfect tourist and expatriate destination, Dubai, and indeed much of the UAE, offers all the essential ingredients and more: sunshine, sand, sea, sports, tax-free shopping, top hotels, restaurants and an intriguing culture.
Ajman is the smallest of the emirates but is the second one, after Dubai, to offer freehold property to foreigners, attracting a huge number of investors to the emirate. Immense, government backed development projects are now underway to create ‘New Ajman’, a well-served business and residential conurbation just outside Ajman city centre.
Fujairah is located on a stunning beach strip and is undergoing a large number of exquisite hotel and resort projects to cater for the massive influx of luxury tourists to this emirate. Other industries include cement works and mining, while Fujairah’s flourishing free trade zone mimics that of Dubai, having expanded in vast proportions from 2003 to become the busiest port in the region.
Ras al-Khaimah is important as a sea port, providing bulk and container services to the area. Keeping up with the other emirates, Ras al-Khaimah is also undergoing mega tourism projects, many of which should be complete by 2011. With upgrades underway at the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport and as a member of the Open Skies Agreement, the airport offers a wide range of competitive flight options.
Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the UAE and the only one to have land on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Sharjah is perhaps the least liberal of the emirates, forbidding the sale, possession of and consumption of alcohol, as well as keeping strict dress codes etc. It is famous as the cultural capital of the UAE and boasts the distinctive landmarks of two beautiful Islamic-designed covered souks.
Umm al-Qaiwain is the least populated of the seven emirates. Covering an area of 750m2, it is, however, now undergoing vast development projects to create residential and commercial facilities in brand new districts, all in a bid to help absorb the overflowing demand from Dubai for luxury tourist facilities. As a result, sales and rental costs in The Northern Emirates have been rising dramatically.
Simply take your travel documents to the immigration counter upon arrival and they will provide an on-the-spot short entry (visit) visa for one month
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