Introduction to the UAE

When you think of the United Arab Emirates, you immediately think of soaring skyscrapers and luxury goods juxtaposed with modestly dressed Emiratis amid shiny splendour and conspicuous wealth. However, that impression is mainly composed of images of Dubai city and not indicative of Dubai the emirate as a whole or the other emirates in this federation of states. The UAE consists of 7 emirates each governed by a separate sheikh. Sure, there’s a shared history, culture and cuisine with the Bedouin desert lifestyle and Islamic customs and laws, however each emirate has a style all its own.

Headline-hogging Dubai gets the most column inches in its quest to construct the world’s tallest, largest and mind-boggling feats of engineering like manmade islands in the shape of palm trees, the first (unofficial) 7-star hotel and the largest shopping mall. This Western excess in the most progressive emirate is tempered by Islamic culture and customs that beguile and intrigue both the casual visitor and the long-term expat.

Also pushing the boundaries of what is structurally possible, albeit in a less extravagant manner, is the largest emirate, Abu Dhabi. The home of the UAE president, Abu Dhabi is hoping to establish itself as a modern cultural and entertainment destination while protecting traditions like falconry, dhow boat sailing and camel racing. The smallest emirate, Ajman, may be overlooked and offer less in terms of attractions, but this underrated gem has much to show visitors keen to see the origins of the UAE. It’s also known as the ‘Arabian Boozer’ for its not-so-secret alcohol takeaway outlet, and a popular spot to party, so maybe Ajman won’t be under the radar for much longer.

For a luxe holiday with the lot, the UAE can’t be topped. However, you don’t have to be cashed-up to cash in on the attractions, accommodation and activities on offer. It’s simply all the trappings of home taken to the next level, literally!

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