The United Arab Emirates is located on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, 24.00.00 degrees north of the equator and 55.00.00 degrees east to the Greenwich meantime. Saud Arabia bordering in the south and south west, Oman in the east and Qatar to the West.
b. Brief history and political system
Prior to 1971, the UAE is comprised of seven independent emirates; Abu Dhabi, Dubai , Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman. They were all known by the name of “The Trucial States” due to the early 19th century Truce signed by the various sheikhs with the British government.
In 1968, the British announced their withdrawal from the Gulf region after which the Sheikhs of the different emirates decided to unite under one country and formed the United Arab Emirates in 1971, December the 2nd.
Today the UAE is a federation of seven absolute monarchies where every ruler has absolute power over his territory and economic resources. The federal supreme council comprises all the seven Sheikhs and they elect the president, vice president, members of the council of ministers and judges of the Supreme Court every 5 years.
Presently Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (ruler of Abu Dhabi) is the president of the UAE and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (ruler of Dubai) is the vice president.
c. Area and population
The total land area is approx. 83,000 sq. km and a total population of approx. 5.5 million. The capital Abu Dhabi is by far the largest (67,000 sq. km) followed by Dubai (4000 sq. km), Sharjah 2,900 sq.km and all three emirates house some 80% of the total UAE population.
d. Local time and working hours
The UAE is 4 hours ahead of GMT (+4 UTC). Government sector works from 07:00 to 14:00 (Sun-Thu), private sector usually works from 09:00 to 18:00. Most of the shops and shopping malls are open from 10:00 to 22:00 all week days.
The UAE currency is called Dirhams and many times abbreviated to either “Dhs” or “AED” (Arab Emirates Dirhams). The Dirham is pegged to the US Dollar since 1980 and the current conversion rate is:
1 USD = 3.67 Dhs. You may visit this link for updates on currency: http://www.xe.com/
Arabic is the official language spoken in the UAE, however English is wide spread and is the main commercial language.
Islam is the main religion of the UAE with Friday being the holy day for the main prayer. All other religions are tolerated and practiced within their own communities.
The UAE lies in a subtropical and arid region with more than 98% sunshine all year round. There are two main seasons, summer (May-September) and winter (October-April) with the highest temperature reaching 45 degrees in mid-summer and the lowest recorded in winter is 7 degrees. Humidity is high during summer time reaching 90% and normal during winter time.
Despite the high temperature during summer, visitors to the UAE will hardly feel the heat; hence all venues, transportation, shopping malls and hotels are air conditioned.
Public transportation is widely available throughout the country, with buses and taxis available almost round the clock. In Dubai, the multibillion metro is a must experience for new comers who wish to see the city from higher ground.
j. Emergency numbers
In case of a medical emergency or accident you can call 999 for police assistance and ambulance service
If you are facing any day to day problem you may call the Tourist Police on their toll free number 8004438
The voltage for all electrical appliances used in the UAE is 220 Volt and you will need a 3 pin plug, however you can also unlock the earth pin and plug your 2 pin plug.
Communication infrastructure is well developed and modern. There are two main contenders offering telephone and internet services to the public, Etisalat and Du. You can buy your mobile sim card from many branches (many found in Malls). You can dial 181 for directory inquiries
m. Entry visa regulations
The kind of visa that you require for entry into the UAE depends on several different factors such as your nationality, the purpose of your planned visit and its planned duration. If you wish to visit the country for a short period between 14 days – 30 days, you will need a tourist visa. GCC citizens do not require entry visa to the UAE.
The following categories of visitors may receive their visit visa at the airport or other point of entry, upon arrival:
AGCC Residents who are not GCC nationals but who have a high professional status such as company managers, business people, auditors, accountants, doctors, engineers, pharmacists, or employees working in the public sector, their families, drivers and personal staff sponsored by them, are eligible for a non-renewable 30-day visa upon arrival at the approved ports of entry.
National citizens of the following countries: Australia, Austria, Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United States of America, United Kingdom with (Right of Abode in UK) and Vatican will be granted a free-of-charge visa for a single visit upon arrival in the UAE. It should be noted that this list may vary slightly from time to time and it is therefore best to check with your local UAE embassy or the airline that you are using to fly to the UAE prior to departure.
If you do NOT fall into one of the above categories, you will require a visa and a sponsor for your visit. The sponsor normally applies for the visa on your behalf.
n. Driving licence
If you are planning to rent a car upon your arrival in the UAE, you must hold a valid international driving licence and be 21 years of age. The most convenient way to book your car will be through internet prior to your arrival and make sure you book your car with a reputable company to avoid any disappointment. The road signs in the UAE are all bi-lingual (Arabic and English).
There are two types of holidays in the UAE, religious holidays which follow the lunar (Islamic) calendar and public holidays which follow the Gregorian calendar. The religious holidays are not fixed and depend on moon sightings which may change from year to year (hence the Islamic calendar is 11 days shorter).