Last updated: 03:00 PM ET, Mon April 15 2019
Wide picture of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi in the evening. (photo via mdgomes / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

United Arab Emirates

Destinations Home | Middle East


United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates, territories ruled by dynastic Muslim monarchs called emirs. It is located on the northern part of the tip of the Arabian Peninsula facing the Persian Gulf. UAE borders Saudi Arabia and Oman. The seven emirates are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. Abu Dhabi, the capital and second-largest city, is also country’s political, cultural and industrial center.

Before 1971, the UAE was known as the Trucial States or Trucial Oman, based on a 19th century truce between the United Kingdom and several Arab sheikhs. It also went by the name Pirate Coast from the 18th to the early 20th century.

UAE has the world’s seventh-largest oil reserves. The International Monetary Fund classifies UAE as a high-income developing economy. It has one of the most developed economies in the Middle East. It’s ranked as the 36th-largest economy in the world. It has the 14th-largest purchasing power per capita and ranks fairly high in its Human Development Index, which is based on education, life expectancy and per capita GDP.

Its largest city, the coastal Dubai, has become an elaborate playground of the rich, but not just the rich. It’s a sort of eastern Las Vegas and is UAE’s greatest tourist draw. Though UAE is a Muslim country, it does not prohibit other religions, as does Saudi Arabia, and it also permits casino gaming and lively nightlife in Dubai. In fact there is nightlife in all of the major cities of UAE except Sharjah, which has no discos or nightclubs.

UAE nightlife has a broad, international scope, with English- and Irish-style pubs, Western-style saloons, cabaret acts, piano bars, jazz clubs, musicians from Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and a wide range of styles represented, including Afrobeat, salsa, country, rock, R&B, and reggae. There is also plenty of access to local, indigenous styles of music and dance, such as Arab musicians, singers and belly dancers. Name acts come to town to play in the hotel theaters from both West and East. 

The capital city of Abu Dhabi rivals Dubai in its night life, with a wide variety of restaurants, entertainment, nightclubs and discos. Many of the top international hotel brands are represented there, including Crowne Plaza, Radisson Blu and Le Meridien. More archeological finds have been unearthed at Jebel Hafit, Kalba, Khor Fakkan and Shams.

UAE also has historical sites. In the northern part of Hili, a modern suburb of Al Ain, are several tombs which date to 2300 BC. More tombs were excavated in the 1990s dating to the Iron Age and the second millennium BC in Jebel Buhays, an outcropping of rock south of Mileiha and al-Dhaid.

Visitors can get a feel for the traditional Bedouin culture through tourist activities offered such as camel treks, henna tattoos, desert stargazing, 4x4 trips through sand dunes and cruises aboard a dhow.

Air access to UAE is easy, especially with Emirates Airlines, a top-quality carrier that has helped to put Dubai on the tourist map.