DUBAI – United Arab Emirates

Dubai is one of the 7 Constitutional Federation Emirate States in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) located on the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf)in the Middle East. The other 6 Emirates are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Umm-al-Quwain, Fujairah, Sharjah, and Ras-Al-Khaimah.

The Federation was formed on the 2nd December, 1971 under President Shiekh Zahed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, with the Capital of the UAE being Abu Dhabi, and the biggest city being Dubai.

Abu Dhabi is around 93 miles (150 kilometres) by road from Dubai, and also on the Gulf Coast.

While the history of Dubai goes back thousands of years, it was the discovery of Oil in the 1960's that has created vast wealth to the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Up until the discovery of oil, Dubai was largely a fishing and pearling port city on the Gulf under the protection of the British, who had been protecting what were called the "Trucial States" (Gulf States) for about 150 years, based on Agreements with the Sheikhs that went back to the Colonial times of the British Empire.

While in the early days of Oil Wealth, this wealth was invested in Britain, Continental Europe and the United States but in the last 30 years or so, there has also been massive investment into building Dubai into a regional centre for Trade, Tourism, Transport, in Real Estate and Finance, in much the same way that Hong Kong and Singapore were developed as regional hubs in Asia.

Trading has been a big part of Arab history and enterprise for thousands of years and the Persian Gulf bordered by Iran (Persia) on it northern coastline, Kuwait and Iraq at its northern end and Saudi Arabia mostly along its southern coastline, has been an important waterway for centuries, but more so with the discovery and shipment of oil.

Dubai's position being roughly midway between Europe, Africa and Asia and its heritage in Gold, Pearls, Spices and other traded goods, has enabled it to become a trading hub for the global tea industry, as well as in Gold and other Precious metals, steel, pearls and Agricultural commodities.

The creation of a Trading Free Zone where companies and employees pay no corporate or personal tax; have 100% ownership of their enterprise and no restrictions on repatriation of funds has created a massive influx of funds, finance and people.

While the Global Financial Crisis caused a massive upheaval in Dubai in 2009 and 2010 when Dubai almost went into a Sovereign Default, only stopped when Abu Dhabi came to the rescue, Dubai has largely recovered and it now becoming stronger as both a tourist and business destination with loads of reasons to come here for both business and pleasure.

The Emirates Airline is considered by many to be the best airline in the world to travel on, and Dubai is the hub from which it operates flights into other cities in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Australia, where it co-shares flights with Qantas.

Summer months can be extremely hot in Dubai (June-July-August) where the temperature can be well over 35⁰C (100⁰F) and touch 40⁰+ on some days, but almost all cars and buildings are air-conditioned, and the nights are slightly cooler. The months of December to March are the best time to travel to Dubai when the daytime temperature is more likely to be around 25⁰C.

Dubai has a large number of foreign workers (71% are foreign) with a large number coming from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as from Europe, almost all coming here for work, both in high end well paid business, technical and professional employment, but also in hospitality, construction and healthcare. The population of Dubai is around 1.8 million people, of which 1.4 million are male and just 400,000 or so are women. This is on account of the number of foreign workers who are here, most working in construction.

There are two airports – the Dubai International Airport (DXB) and the Al Maktoun International Airport (DWC). There are 3 terminals at Dubai International – Terminal 1, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, and there is a Free shuttle bus that runs between them. A driverless Metro Train links Terminal 1 and 3 to City Stations. Payment is in AED (Dirham) and you can buy a NOL card that gives you a discounted price that you can use both on the Metro and the Trams. The trams have 5 carriages and 11 stops in the city. When you book a hotel, also find out how close it is to a Metro Station or Tram stop. You can also take Taxis, Hotel cars, limos or Rent a car too at the airports.

The official currency in the UAE is the Emirati Dirham (AED) and it is roughly 3.76 AED to US$1, or 4 AED to one Euro.

Dubai in many ways may appear quite Western, but it is an Islamic Country, and while alcohol is permitted inside Hotel areas, it is not permitted outside. You should also be mindful to dress, act in a responsible way at all times and dress accordingly when outdoors. Women should wear longer dresses or trousers that cover below the knee.

During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day from dawn to dusk, and then enjoy Iftar (breaking the fast after dusk). The month of Ramadan varies each year, its start based on when the new moon in first seen in the sky. This will occur sometime in June and finish sometime in July. Non-Muslims will be able to buy food, but cannot be seen eating or drinking in public, and there will be many places that close during the day hours.

The typical Arab clothing that you will see are men dressed in a long white shoulder to ankle shirt (called a Khandura or Dishdasha), a head dress (Ghuta) held in place by a cord rope (Agal), while women wear a long black cloak (Abaya) and a scarf that covers the head and most of the face (called a Hijab or Sheyla).

Dubai is roughly divided in two by Dubai Creek that flows into the Arabian Gulf, with the City spreading out to the right or left of the Creek. There are hundreds of hotels to stay in, varying from the most spectacular ones to smaller hotels, so certainly no shortage of places to stay.

People come to Dubai for many reasons, and the Emiratis have purposely set out to attract a wide range of people with different interests in mind. There is certainly some of the world's most spectacular architecture, great sporting events in Tennis, Horse Racing, Formula One racing and Golf, and Exhibitions, Conferences as well as Theme Parks and attractions where you can snow ski, ride a zipline or see amazing animals. There is also great shopping and food too, as well as uniquely Arabian Dubai experiences like sandboarding on dunes and heading out on a Desert Safari.

Happy Travelling!

I hope you have a great time in DUBAI and the UAE.

Geoff Stuart

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