THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
As you can see it on the map, the United Arab Emirates are part of the Arabic peninsula. Its neighbouring countries are Saudi Arabia to the West, The Sultanate of Oman to the South, and the Islamic Republic of Iran across the small stretch of the Persian Gulf.
Speaking of water, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Northern Emirates are bordered by the Persian Gulf. The Persian comes out into the Oman Gulf, and then to the Arabian Sea, which is a part of the Indian Ocean.The only exception being the emirates of Fujairah has a direct access to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
The United Arab Emirates are an union of 7 distinct Emirates :
- Abu Dhabi
- Umm al Quwain
- Ras al Khaimah
The UAE has a subtropical, arid climate with sunny blue skies most of the year. Between the months of November and March a moderate warm climate prevails during the day and a slightly cool climate throughout the night. Humidity tends to get higher between the months of June and August.
Most retail outlets, hotels and car hire companies accept internationally-recognised credit cards. However, some retailers offer better value for cash and discounts may not be so readily negotiated if payment is by credit card. Cash may be drawn on credit cards in most banks and in some hotels.
Currency & Exchange
The local currency is the UAE Dirham divided into 100 fils. Notes are in denominations of AED1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins used are in denominations of AED1, 50 and 25 fils. Approximate exchange rate: USD1= AED3.65.
Most international currencies are accepted in banks, hotels and by many licensed money changers in major shopping centres and souks. Exchange houses operate during normal working hours and offer more competitive rates. There is no exchange control and the UAE Dirham is fully convertible.
The United Arab Emirates has a reasonably relaxed dress code but being an Islamic country modest clothing is recommended, particularly in rural areas. Beachwear is acceptable at beach clubs, in the hotel, at the pool or on the beach except in Sharjah and Khor Fakkan.
Light weight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year. Sweaters or jackets may be needed during the winter months, especially in the evenings. Hats, sun block and good quality sun glasses are advisable when in direct sunlight.
Hotels offer a diverse range of food and beverage outlets from coffee shops to fine dining and speciality outlets. Outside of the hotels, small and often inexpensive eating places are available. The enormous variety of restaurants ensure an equally wide range of prices. Traditional Arabic cuisine and a wide choice of international cuisine are available.
The official language is Arabic although English is widely spoken and understood. Most hotels and retail outlets employ English-speaking staff. Hotel staff may also speak additional languages.
A number of locally published English and Arabic dailies and magazines. Foreign newspaper and magazines, especially British and Asian are available in bookshops and large supermarkets. A wide variety of English television and radio channels. Most hotels receive international news and broadcast via satellite networks.
Most hotels have in-house nurses or doctors on call. Pharmacies are comprehensively stocked and addresses of those on night duty are given daily in the local newspapers, radio and television. Medical treatment is available at private and government hospitals which are modern and well equipped in the major cities.
Varied and lively nightlife ranging from bars to cafes and discotheques, many with live bands and DJs. Hotel bars range from sophisticated cocktail lounges to the informal British and Irish pubs and discotheques. There are a number of excellent Middle Eastern nightclubs featuring live entertainment.
Please note : In Fujairah after-dark entertainment is restricted to the hotel bars and nightclubs.
Photography of palaces, government institutions, military installations and oil and gas refineries is prohibited. Always ask before taking pictures of Emiratis and do not photograph ladies dressed in the traditional attire.
Taxis are readily available and metered. There is a surcharge on taxis from Dubai International Airport. There are fixed rates for different zones on taxis hired from Abu Dhabi International Airport. Within the city, fares would vary slightly depending on the taxi company.
Public transport in Fujairah is not as easily available as in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Most hotels in all three emirates operate courtesy buses into the city centre or beach on a regular basis. Guests can check with the front desk for details regarding these shuttle services.
Ramadan is the holy month in which Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Holy Koran and all Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk. Eating, drinking and smoking in public areas during daylight hours is strictly prohibited throughout this month. Live entertainment, loud music and dancing is prohibited and conservative dress is expected to be worn in public. Alcohol is not served during daylight hours but it is available in licensed bars and restaurants after sunset for non-Muslims.
Most businesses and shops open only for a few hours in the morning and re-open after sunset until well after midnight. Many of the shops and retail outlets run special promotions and sales during Ramadan.
Sunset marks the breaking of the Iftar (fast) when families and friends get together to break the fast with water and dates. Iftar tents is a common sight and most restaurants within and outside the hotel offer Iftar specials.
All Arabian Adventures featured hotels make concessions for their clients and keep a restaurant open during the day for resident guests.
Note: The dates for Ramadan are not fixed as they are based on the Gregorian dates of the Islamic calendar, which is as per lunar observations. Ramadan goes back approximately 11 days each year and is expected to start around 10 August 2010.
Islam is the official religion of the United Arab Emirates and there are a number of mosques through-out the country. However, other religions are respected and there are various places of worship including churches and temples in major cities.
United Arab Emirates has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and it is quite safe for visitors to venture out, either by taxi or on foot.
In the United Arab Emirates guests are spoilt for choice – from the elegant shopping malls that are dotted all across the cities, to local souks or outdoor shopping areas.
Tax and service charges are usually included in bills, otherwise a five to 10 per cent tip is adequate. Hotel and airport porters should be given USD2 to USD3 dependent on the amount of luggage. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped.
Your Guide to Exploring the UAE
Wondering which country to visit next? Well, you probably might want to visit the home of the most luxurious hotels and shopping centres in the world: United Arab Emirates. Better wear a comfy outfit to make the most of your vacation!
Things to Remember
Who is not familiar with how glamorous the United Arab Emirates is? Everybody is. However, no matter how lavish the country is, there are still a couple of things you need to know before you enter the jurisdiction. Some of these are:
The Dress Code
You need to be mindful of your clothes. Since the United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country, it is best to keep it conservative. Respect their culture by dressing modestly. Both men and women should wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders.
You can also wear a shirt and pair with pants or probably the most comfy dress you have. Just make sure that it is not too short or revealing. Avoid graphic shirts with offensive phrases or words. You can also wear a bathing suit or any beachwear if you are in the hotel, at the pool, or the beach.
Do not forget to bring a hat or sunglasses to protect yourself from the intense heat of the sun. Wear a sunblock to avoid skin damage.
The Prayer Pause
Expect to hear a prayer broadcast five times a day. You are not required to do anything but to give respect. Stores are also closed during prayer times. If you are not a Muslim practitioner, you might probably want to use this chance to take a rest. On the other hand, if you are a Muslim, you can visit the nearest mosque and participate.
Even if Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken and understood. Since there are a lot of nationalities living in the UAE, you might also encounter other languages. It is also recommended to learn basic Arabic phrases to properly communicate with the locals.
Drinking alcohol is not completely restricted. However, it is only served in licensed hotels and clubs. It is important to remember that it is still illegal to drink alcohol in public. So, if you are planning to get drunk with your friends, it is best to stay inside your hotel room.
Booking Your Flight
It is recommended to book your flight six months ahead. This is because most international airlines offer the cheapest seats six months prior to the expected departure date. It is also best to compare all of the available flights.
Showing Respect During Ramadan
This is because Muslims are expected to observe fasting from sunrise to sunset. They are not allowed to eat, drink, or even smoke in public during the holy month of Ramadan.
There is nothing wrong with taking pictures of the breathtaking view. However, you need to be careful not to take a picture with a stranger without their permission. You are also not allowed to take photos of any government building, airport, or military base.
Although it is a common practice, giving tips is not really expected. You can tip any amount to luggage carriers and supermarket baggers to show your gratitude. There are some instances where restaurants will already include the tip to your bill.
Avoid Public Display of Affection
Any public display of affection is actually an offensive act in the UAE. In fact, violators are arrested and imprisoned for showing PDA. If you are with your special someone, it is better to refrain from holding hands and kissing.
Driving Around Town
If you are planning to rent a car, watch out for the rowdy drivers on the road. Although it is a lot more organized compared to other countries, most are fast drivers. So, you need to be a confident and calm driver. Do not get intimidated by tailgating because they just want to reach their destination fast. Not a fan of driving fast? You might want to stay in the slower lanes.
Places to Visit
You should never miss out the iconic skylines and famous beaches in the UAE. Contrary to popular belief that you need to ride a camel to explore the city, it is where you get to experience riding luxurious cabs to visit famous skyscrapers, shopping centres, and sandy shores.
Here are some of the places you should definitely visit:
Address: 1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd, Downtown Dubai
It is not just one of the famous buildings in the UAE. In fact, it is considered as the most popular tourist attraction and landmark in Dubai. Aside from being the world’s tallest building, it is also known for its tallest freestanding structure. Do not forget to visit its observation deck to have a panoramic view of the city.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Address: Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street, 5th St, Abu Dhabi
What makes it different from other mosques is that it has a combination of contemporary design and ancient craftsmanship. It is also one of the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi because its interior is decorated with lavish amounts of gold, mosaic tiles, and glasswork.
Sharjah Arts Museum
Address: Al Shuwaihean, Sharjah
If you are a fan of art, you should definitely include the Sharjah Art Museum in your list. It is the home of the most diverse art collection by Arabic and European artists. This museum is also known for its temporary exhibitions.
Address: Border of United Arab Emirates and Oman
Have a great view of the dessert while at the second-highest mountain peak located in the region of Tawam, the border of Oman and UAE. You can also bring your own packed lunch and have a picnic while enjoying the view.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Address: Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi
It is one of the most spectacular and newest museums in the region. You will definitely learn a lot in this museum because it is where sourced objects from across the globe are displayed. Most of these objects have their own history. What’s fascinating is that it has an ultra-modern architecture that will immediately catch your attention.
Aside from being the newest museum in the region, it is also the largest museum in the Arabian Peninsula. So, make sure to bring extra batteries for your camera because there are a lot of great sights for pictures.
Address: Bur Dubai, Al Hamriya, Dubai
You should never miss Al Bastakiya because it is the last remaining fragment of Old Dubai. Compared to the high rise buildings in the city, the place shows historic houses that bring a gentler and simpler feel. What’s also exciting is that you can enter the houses and see how unique Arabian interiors are. There is also a small surviving segment of the original Dubai City wall.
Al Bidya Mosque
Address: Al Bidiyah, Fujairah
It is regarded as the oldest mosque and most important historical site of the Emirate of Fujairah. What makes it different from other mosques is that its surrounding area is an archaeological site. It is where several metal and pottery artefacts are excavated.
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
Address: The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai
It is the home of more than 140 species of sea life located on the ground floor of Dubai Mall. Aside from the free aquatic view from the mall, you can also enter the Underwater Zoo to walk through the aquarium tunnels.
What makes it more exciting to visit is that three are different activities offered to know about sea life. You can snorkel, shark diving, and even have an exciting boat tour.
Note: The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo are in the same location but on different levels.
Address: Jumeirah, Dubai
Wear your best summer outfit and stroll along the white beaches of Jumeirah Beach. The best thing about it is that there are a lot of restaurants and sun loungers. You can also rent a jet ski for an hour or two depending on the available offer of water sports operators.
Address: Jumerirah, Dubai
Visit one of the most famous man-made archipelagos in the world. If you haven’t noticed, it is divided into three islands. These are Deira Island, Palm Jebel Ali, and Palm Jumeirah. Aside from having the shape of a palm tree, it became a tourist attraction because of its entertainment centres and breathtaking infrastructure.
IMG Worlds of Adventure
Address: E311, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd, Dubai
Aside from the world’s tallest building, the UAE also has the world’s largest indoor amusement park. In fact, there are four ‘epic’ zones you can explore. These are Cartoon Network, Marvel, Lost Valley-Dinosaur Adventure, and IMG Boulevard.
What are you waiting for? Book your tickets with Century Travels and have a fun time exploring the beauty of UAE!