Located in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stretches 1066kms and shares border with Oman and Saudi Arabia. Spanning a coastline of 1,318km, the coastal areas facing the Persian Gulf are flat, while the Hajar Mountains dominate the northeast landscape. Most of the UAE is a desert wasteland, with huge rolling sand dunes, as the outer reaches of the Rub’ Al Khali Desert stretches into the country. UAE has no significant rivers or lakes to take note of, but has numerous small island and inlets along offshore in the Persian Gulf. The land area of UAE spans 83,600 km2 , which makes it the 113th largest country in the world.
The UAE has mean elevation of 149m above sea level, with a temperate climate, moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current. With a rather flat terrain, there are sand dunes of vast deserts and mountains in the east. Its geographic coordinates are 24 00 N, 54 00 E, with Abu Dhabi being the Capital City. The city experiences a rather hot, dry climate, with August being the warmest month. Rainfall is minimal in the city, with February being the wettest month with an average of 20mm. Strong winds are likely all though the year, with sandstorms from late May to October. Therefore, the period from mid-November to mid-March makes it ideal for outdoor activities.
UAE has a population of 9.54million, with the population heavily concentrated in the northeast. Majority of the population comprises non-residents, with residents constituting about 20 percent of the population.
Major Cities in UAE
Abu Dhabi, the Capital City of the UAE, spanning 972km2 is positioned off the mainland along an island in the Persian Gulf. The city’s focus on oil exports and commerce is truly reflected in its modern towers and shopping mega centres including Abu Dhabi and Marina Malls. Both modern and cosmopolitan, Abu Dhabi is more like the cultural capital of the UAE, where nothing stands still.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened doors in 2017, with its globe-trotting collection covers the breadth of humanity’s artistic achievements, and it is the first of city’s planned mega-museum projects, which serves as a major feather in cap for Abu Dhabi, having grown to be the region’s cultural leader. Then, there is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque that reflects Islamic architecture for the modern world. Beneath the white marble domes, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features a large Persian Carpet, crystal chandeliers, with a capacity for 41,000 worshippers. Abu Dhabi is not all about culture alone. If you are you looking for some adrenaline in your life, the Yas Island alone is sufficient to keep even the most dedicated thrill-seeker happy. Not to forget, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the ground for Formula One Fans. Ferrari World, Saadiyat Island, Al Bateen and the Corniche are some places for sandy fun, while the Mangrove National Park in Abu Dhabi depicts a completely different face of the city, which is much more than the glass-and-steel skyscrapers alone.
Spanning an area of 4,114km2 Dubai is positioned at a distance of 3 hours from most parts of the Middle East, the Near East, and the subcontinent of India. This makes Dubai an ideal destination for a good short vacation for shopping, fine dining, sun bathing, partying and sporting events. It is the most popular and the most progressive among the emirates in the UAE. Dubai is a desert city, with excellent infrastructure, divided into multiple districts and municipalities, liberal policies, and good tourist amenities. The city is known for its luxury shopping, contemporary architecture and a lively nightlife. Dubai is one of the biggest cosmopolitan cities of the world, and serves as the business hub in the Middle East. Tourism, aviation, real estate and financial services are the main sources of revenue in Dubai.
The 830m tall Burj Khalifa tower dominates the skyscraper-filled skyline in Dubai while the Dubai Fountain with its jets and choreographed music lies at its foot. Along the artificial islands, located offshore, is Atlantis, The Palm, a popular resort with water and marine animal parks. Dubai recently won the bid to host Expo 2020, a Universal Scale Registered Exposition, approved by the Bureau of International Expositions, Paris. Dubai is popularly called as the city of superlatives (the fastest, tallest, biggest, largest) and has the largest immigrant population in the world. Since the founding of oil industry, Dubai has drawn thousands of migrants from across the world, particularly from India, Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The next largest communities here are the Europeans and Sri Lankans. Despite being rooted in Islamic tradition, Dubai is an open society, which seems welcoming and easy for newcomers and visitors.
Being a shopping haven, Dubai hosts two huge annual shopping festivals, apart from traditional shopping souqs too, that are beehives of activity humming with timeless bargaining banter. There are other attractions too that lure visitors such as the indoor ski slope, open-air botanical garden, giant aquarium, and a plethora of restaurants and malls. Adding to all this, the vibrant nightlife of the city which centres on the fancy hotels, live-music venues, community theatre, flashy dance temples, sizzling beach clubs and the world-class Dubai opera makes the city stand apart.
Sharjah is UAE’s third biggest city located along the Arabian Peninsula, along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. Sharjah City is the capital of the Emirate of Sharjah, with the city contributing to 7.4 percent of UAE’s GDP and it is a major centre of industry and culture in the region. While Dubai is all about tall buildings and shopping, Sharjah City takes a slightly subtle approach, focusing less on the glitz and more on culture and history. Alcohol is completely banned in Sharjah, and has a rather conservative reputation. Sharjah houses some of the best museums and art galleries in the country, apart from the restored Sharjah Heritage Area and the vast history of Mleiha Archaeological Site. Sharjah has been working to preserve its heritage, and hence UNESCO has declared it as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World, and it is also recognized as the Capital of Islamic Culture.
Al Ai, located about 160kms away from Abu Dhabi, is an inland oasis city spanning 15,100km2 along the eastern border with Oman. Known as the Garden City for its palm groves and natural springs, the Bronze Age remains include tombs along the towering Jebel Hafeet. The UAE’s first President, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was born in this city. Al Ain houses the largest proportion of the Emirati nationals (30.8%). Given the green nature of this city, Al Ain is known as Green City, and is growing rapidly as a tourist destination in the region. It hosts several tourist attractions like Hili Archaeological Park Site, Al Ain National Museum, several restored forts and the Al Ain Palace Museum. With a beautiful oasis, museums, and a camel market, a visit to Al Ain can be a real UAE highlight.
Located along western coast of the UAE, Ajman is positioned on the Arabian Gulf with a 16km stretch of coastline, and is in proximity to Dubai and Sharjah. It is the smallest of all the seven emirates in the UAE, and the city of Ajman is the capital of the Emirate of Ajman The Ruler’s office, various companies, commercial markets and several local and international retail shops are located in Ajman, and the city is rapidly growing to be a major tourist destination in the region. Hotels, shopping and cultural destinations in the city are growing at a rapid pace, with Ajman National Museum, Ajman Fort and Red Fort being major attractions. The Ajman Corniche is another popular evening and weekend destination for families, housing several fast food outets, coffee stalls and shops.
A peaceful and relaxed destination, Ajman is known for its beautiful beaches and scenic beauty. It is a growing economy offering several sightseeing options such as the fort, beaches, museums and shopping complexes. No wonder, this little city has established itself as a major business hub locally and internationally. Apart from sightseeing options, the city offers an equally good shopping experience too, apart from an enriching historical experience, all of which makes it a popular tourist destination.
Ras Al Khaimah (RAK)
Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost emirate in the UAE, and is known for its Arabian Gulf beaches. Spanning an area of 2486km2, the RAK City, which is the capital city of RAK emirate, is just 45 minutes from the busy metropolis of Dubai, bordering Oman. It offers magnificent landscapes, breathtaking coastlines, terracotta desert planes, with the emirate firmly establishing itself as UAE’s most authentic destination in the Middle East.
The National Museum of RAK occupies a centuries-old fort, featuring the regional history and archaeological exhibit. In proximity to the museum is the traditional Mohammed bin Salem Mosque. With a fascinating history and culture, dating back to over 7000 years, RAK can be your perfect getaway from the hustle of daily life, as it offers a unique experience with mountains, deserts, ancient cultural sites, beaches, mangroves and water sports, along with true Arabian experience. Offering 64kms of coast line with clear water and white sandy beaches, it is true haven for all sun-seekers. It is well-connected by the National Highway and the Airport. Apart from the mentioned, RAK offers a wide range of activities including desert camps, golf courses, water sports, and mountain adventures, making it the ultimate outdoor venue for residents and visitors alike.
Spanning an area of 1166km2, he City of Fujairah is located along the easternmost of the UAE, and Fujairah is the only emirate that does not share a coastline along the Persian Gulf, and instead, lies along the Gulf of Oman. Furjairah is popular for its beaches and Hajar Mountains, and is home to the huge Sheikh Zayed Mosque, with its towering white Minarets. The Fujairah Fort which overlooks the city is a reconstructed 17th century fortress with round and square towers.
Umm Al Quwain
Spanning an area of 777km2, Umm Al Quwain (UAQ) is one of the emirates of the UAE, and UAQ City lies along the Arabian Gulf. It is positioned between Ajman and RAK along the West coast of UAE. Located on a peninsula, the city features the UAQ National Museum in a centuries-old fort. In proximity is the Al Sinniyah Island, which sits in a protected lagoon, and serves as a haven for seabirds. There are also other attractions like Dreamland Aqua Park, pools and waterslides, while Inland, a camel racetrack is just outside the village.