The United Arab Emirates share borders with Oman, Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar. They are made up of seven small former sheikhdoms. Abu Dhabi is the largest Emirate; the remaining six (Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm al Qaiwain and Ras al-Khaimah) are known collectively as the Northern States. The landscape is mountainous and mostly desert. Abu Dhabi is flat and sandy but boasts the Buraimi Oasis. Dubai has a 16kmdeep-water creek, giving it the popular name of ‘Pearl of the Gulf’. Sharjah has a deep-water port on the Batinah coast at Khor Fakkan, looking out to the Indian Ocean. Ras al-Khaimah is the fourth largest emirate. Fujairah, one of the three smaller sheikhdoms situated on the Batinah coast, has some agricultural potential, while Ajman and Umm al Qaiwain were once small coastal fishing villages.
The best time to visit is between October and May, when temperatures are cooler, while the hottest montsh are between June and September; there is very little rainfall.
Facts and Figures
The world has watched open-mouthed at the UAE’s hyper-fast rise to modernity over recent years. With its man-made islands, exquisite luxury hotels, sky scrapers and duty free shopping galore, the Emirates are a modern-day marvel, considering the days the largest settlement was a collection of semi-permanent tents are still in living memory.
With its magical desert retreats, sweeping dunes, teeming oases and glorious sandy beaches, the UAE is much more than sprawling shopping centres and towering office blocks. With its delicious combination of European and Arab cuisines, along with the abundance of fresh ingredients, there is enough Middle Eastern food to delight your taste buds for weeks on end.
Dubai is aptly named the ‘Pearl of the Arabian Gulf’. It is concentrated mainly on an exquisite creek, the finest natural shelter in 1600km of coastline. Bur Dubai, the original town, has substantial areas of old buildings, atmospheric alleyways and souks. There are many sporting facilities in Dubai including powerboat racing,water-skiing, snorkelling, ice-skating as well as several golf courses. Take a trip up the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and witness the dizzying views from the top.The manmade Palm Jumeirah island is a stunning sight, especially from the air. Explore the ancient archaeological sites of Hilli and dine under the stars out in the desert. Don’t forget that the other, less well-known emirates have much to offer. Fujairah boasts idyllic snorkelling and scuba diving, not to mention deep sea fishing, and Ras-al-Khamiah has great opportunities for mountain trekking and off road driving.
Only four or five decades ago the UAE was occupied by desert roaming, nomadic Bedouin tribes, who lived simple existences traversing through peaceful fishing villages and the wide empty desert.
Europeans arrived in the country during the late 1400s, the Portuguese periodically occupying coastal areas, but previous to that, the Bedouin had long standing trade arrangements with merchants from China, Iran and India.
Trading what is known as the UAE’s “black gold” – crude oil – the source of the country’s seemingly infallible wealth – commenced in 1962. The various tribal communities were finally united by the federation of the emirates in 1971, which was a longstanding dream of the country’s dearly loved forefather, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who passed away in 2004. His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, has ruled the UEA ever since.
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