The United Arab Emirates, also known with the acronym UAE, is a country on the Arabian Peninsula bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, and is otherwise washed by the waters of the Persian Gulf.
The country was officially born in December 1971, with the union of the seven emirates of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Each of the seven emirates is ruled by an absolute monarchy, and the seven governors together form the Federal Supreme Council, the highest constitutional authority in the UAE.
The UAE initially based its economy heavily on oil, as its reserves are the seventh largest in the world, but the foresight of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the country’s first president, a position he held for 33 years, from the independence of the Emirates in 1971 until his death in 2004, meant that the economy diversified into real estate, healthcare, education and infrastructure.
Today, the UAE’s economy is the most diversified in the Middle East. The prime example is Dubai, which has rapidly emerged as a global city and an international air transport hub.
The United Arab Emirates offers an extraordinary mix of adventure, culture and relaxation, and below is a top 10 list of things to see and do in this country: take every moment to discover the wonders of this unique land and immerse yourself in the fascinating mix of tradition and modernity.
A visit to Dubai is a futuristic and fascinating experience. Admire the majestic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, climbing up to the observation deck for a breathtaking view of the city and beyond. Stroll through Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest shopping malls, with a plethora of shops, restaurants, and attractions such as the underwater aquarium and ice-skating rink.
For an authentic experience, visit traditional souks, such as the Madinat Jumeirah Souk or the Deira Souk, to buy spices, textiles and unique souvenirs. End the day with an atmospheric dhow cruise along Dubai Bay, admiring the city’s enchanting illuminated skyline.
One of the most memorable moments during your trip to the United Arab Emirates will be a safari in the Abu Dhabi desert. Experience the thrill of an off-road adventure over the golden dunes as the sun sets on the horizon. Try sandboarding, descending the dune ridges at full speed.
Afterwards, immerse yourself in the atmosphere of a Bedouin camp, where a traditional dinner with delicious dishes, music and local dances around the campfire awaits you. Capture unforgettable moments with group shots with the sunset in the background.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an architectural masterpiece and one of the most magnificent mosques in the world. With its imposing domes, minarets and colonnades covered in precious marble, it is an incredible work of art. Inside, you will be enchanted by sparkling crystal chandeliers and the world’s largest carpet.
Remember to wear appropriate clothes to respect the local culture. A visit here will allow you to understand the deep faith and devotion of the local population.
Head to Al Ain, located in the heart of the desert, for an insight into the history and culture of the United Arab Emirates. Explore the Al Ain Museum, which offers an interesting exhibition on the traditional life, crafts and history of the region. Visit the restored Fort Jahili, which houses a photo gallery dedicated to British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger. Don’t miss the opportunity to admire the city’s lush oases, which testify to ancient wisdom in the exploitation of natural resources.
Explore the historic heart of Dubai, the Dubai Creek, on board an ancient boat called a dhow. This fascinating tour takes you on a journey through the past, when Dubai was a quiet fishing village.
Admire the ancient buildings along the banks of the Creek, such as the Bastakiya, one of the few restored historic districts, and the Dubai Museum, which illustrates the evolution of the city from its humble beginnings to modernity. Enjoy the lively and authentic atmosphere of this traditional part of Dubai.
Famous as the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates, Sharjah offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the country’s traditions and history. The Sharjah Heritage Museum will bring the past to life through artefacts, artefacts and interactive exhibits.
Take a tour of Souk Al Arsah, one of the oldest markets in the Gulf, to buy textiles, spices and local handicrafts. Explore the Qanat Al Qasba, a vibrant entertainment centre with restaurants, gardens and a Ferris wheel, perfect for a relaxing evening out with a group.
If you love nature and the sea, the Fujairah region will enchant you with its breathtaking beaches and spectacular mountains. Spend a day at one of the beaches in Dibba, where you can swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Oman and enjoy a boat trip along the coastline, admiring picturesque views.
Visit Fujairah Fort, an ancient fortress offering an insight into local history, and the 15th-century Al Bidya Mosque, among the oldest mosques in the Emirates.
Ras Al Khaimah is a true culinary paradise. Enjoy a gastronomic tour to sample traditional dishes and local delicacies. Savour mandi, a tasty dish of rice and meat, slowly cooked in an underground oven, or experience shawarma, a meat and vegetable delicacy wrapped in thin pita bread. Explore the fish market in Ras Al Khaimah to sample fresh fish from the Arabian Gulf, prepared with skill and passion by local fishermen.
A trip to Hatta will offer you a welcome escape from the urban hustle and bustle. This picturesque enclave is surrounded by the majestic Hajar Mountains and offers a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Explore the Hatta Fort, a restored old structure offering panoramic views of the surrounding valley.
Stroll through the traditional village and immerse yourself in authentic Emirati traditions. Enjoy the tranquillity of one of Hatta’s luxury resorts and dive into the cool waters of the natural pools formed by the Hatta Dam waterway.
Conclude your trip by relaxing on the spectacular beaches of Jumeirah, where you can enjoy the sun, sea and a breathtaking view of the iconic Burj Al Arab. Rent a private beach cabin and take time to relax and reconnect with the group.
The beaches of Jumeirah offer a wide range of activities, such as water sports, beach volleyball and surfing. Conclude your UAE experience with dinner at a beachside restaurant, admiring the twinkling lights of the city and the sounds of waves crashing on the shore.
During the 19th century, the pearl industry was at its peak and provided income and employment for the people living along the Persian Gulf coast. World War I had a severe impact on the economy, along with the subsequent economic crisis in the late 1920s. The subsequent invention of pearl cultivation brought the whole area to its knees in the following years.
The British Empire settled in the area, helping small commercial developments in the Emirates. The seven sheikhs decided to form a council to co-ordinate any problems that might arise between them but co-existence was somehow always quite peaceful.
However, by the end of the 1960s it was clear that the British government would no longer be able to administer and protect that territory: on 24 January 1968 Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced the government’s decision, reaffirmed in March 1971 by the new Prime Minister Edward Heath, to end relations with the seven Emirates, which together with Bahrain and Qatar were under British protectorate.
Bahrain became independent in August of that year, Qatar in September, while in December it was the turn of the seven Emirates: the governors of Abu Dhabi and Dubai decided to form a union, writing a constitution and inviting the other five to join: thus the United Arab Emirates were born.
The United Arab Emirates maintains trade and diplomatic relations with a large number of other countries, both in the Arab and Western worlds. They received enormous wealth from oil, but when the rulers decided not to rely solely on it, they quickly became a global economic hub.
Almost unbelievable, record-breaking projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi quickly became a reality, turning the country into a world-renowned tourist hub and attracting large numbers of workers mainly from India and South-East Asia.