Introduction to the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates or UAE is a federation made up of seven emirate states. These states were once independent sheikdoms. They are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, Ras Al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The country is located in the Southeast of the Arabian Peninsula and borders the countries of Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the South. It also shares sea borders with Qatar to the West and Iran to the North.

Before its independence in 1971 the UAE was called the Trucial States or Trucial Oman. This name was a reference to a peace treaty between the local sheikhs, rulers and the British Empire. The area was also known as the pirate coast due to the number of pirate vessels that operated from Emirati ports.

The countries government is unique in that it is classed as a Constitutional federation of absolute monarchies with an executive president elected by the Emirs of the each emirate. The president and prime minister are tasked with the day to running of the nation but can be overruled by the emirs.

UAE is a devout Islamic country and as such is strict over the following of Islam. Alcohol is forbidden as are public displays of affection. Despite the population of the country comprising of 80% immigrants these laws are strictly enforced. However UAE is a fairly tolerant country and expats enjoy relative freedom. Dubai is often considered the most Westernised region in the whole of the Middle East.

The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but English is widely spoken. Most English-speaking expats find that they can get by with virtually no Arabic, especially those working in the major expat cities. The capital city is Abu Dhabi and the nation boasts a population of just over eight million people.

The UAE imposes harsh penalties and strict policies to deter criminals making it one of the safest places in the world. Most crime is petty theft and other offences amongst the native population. Western expats should be aware that home robberies and car crime is quite high so precautions are required when securing your home and vehicle. Western woman should be aware of the cultural requirements imposed by the UAE law. They should not dress in short skirts or other revealing clothes and their shoulders must be covered. Swim suits and shorts are to only be worn at beach resorts. If you break these laws you could find yourself in prison, fined or even deported.

In case of emergencies, ambulance services in Abu Dhabi can be called for at 998, and a specific request for an attending doctor must also be made if the case is serious.