Welcome to the UAE
A complete holiday destination
The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation of seven emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. Spurred by the discovery of oil in the late 1950s, a visionary programme of development has evolved the UAE into a modern and stable state with exemplary infrastructure, excellent facilities, and a very low crime rate.
The UAE covers an area of 83,000 square kilometres and is situated at the south eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. On the world map, it sits conveniently between the Far East and Europe - a key factor in its emergence as the region's major air travel hub.
Ranked high as one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations, it has all the right ingredients for a complete and unforgettable holiday - sun, sand, sea, sports, shopping, and safety.
- Modern country created in 1971
- Welcoming and hospitable society
- Unique blend of traditional and contemporary cultures
- Stable and secure
- Year round sunshine
- Varied landscape of beaches, mountains and desert
- Extensive range of hotels and resorts
- Wide choice of sports and leisure facilities
- Numerous attractions and activities
The earliest significant settlements in the UAE date back to the Bronze Age. Over the past hundreds of years, the country has been exposed to numerous cultural influences including Persian, Greek, Portuguese and British. In the 18th century, the British established a protectorate over the region, but the area remained a backwater for fishermen, pearl divers and Bedouin nomads until the 20th century, when oil was discovered.
In 1971, the British withdrew from the region and seven independent sheikhdoms came together to form the UAEs. The economy, once dependent on oil revenues, is now diverse and dynamic. Trade and manufacturing contribute significantly, while the tourism industry is accepted as an emerging global force, setting new standards and forever breaking new ground.
Although four-fifths of the UAE is desert, the landscape offers a lot more than sand dunes. In the North, the 200 million year old Hajar Mountains are a compelling sight, as are the rich fertile plains and quaint oasis towns in the East. The country's extensive coastline is peppered with secluded beaches, shallow inlets, and small islands.
Visitors to the UAE can choose from a wide selection of attractions and activities. These include extended shopping trips to designer stores, shopping malls and traditional souks, and cultural visits to museums, galleries and mosques. For the more adventurous, there are activities based in the desert, on the mountains, and in the water. The UAE also boasts some of the world's finest championship golf courses.
The warmth of the local culture is reflected in the traditional Arabian approach to hospitality, and the generous acceptance of other faiths, practices and customs.
The choice of hotels and resorts across the country is nothing short of exceptional. From city apartments to beach and mountain properties, and from exclusive desert resorts to some of the world's finest hotels, the service and facilities are of exceptionally high standards.
Despite the incredible growth in tourism, the UAE has not weakened the bond with its past, and local traditions and culture are cherished and respected across towering high rises and ancient boatyards alike. This fascinating mix of the old and the new has allowed the country to progress rapidly - without losing touch with its roots.
Abu Dhabi Awaits
The capital of the nation
Abu Dhabi, Arabic for father of the gazelle, is the federal capital of the United Arab Emirates.
The island capital is a beautiful and modern garden city lined with wide boulevards, green parks and bubbling fountains. The city of Abu Dhabi is a part of the large emirate with the same name. The greater emirate of Abu Dhabi occupies approximately 85% of the country's 78,000 square kilometres.
- Federal capital of the UAE
- Blend of ancient heritage and modern commerce
- Spectacular desert landscapes with dunes over 100 metres high
- Superb choice of hotels and resorts
- Numerous shopping, dining and entertainment options
- World class facilities for sports enthusiasts
- Culturally important town of Al Ain located 140 kilometres from Abu Dhabi
Less than 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi was ruled from a modest village of a few hundred palm frond huts. The modern city of Abu Dhabi evolved over the past 30 years, and an array of stunning skyscrapers now reflect in the waters of the Arabian Gulf, contrasting with endless sandy beaches.
Beneath Abu Dhabi's modern facade is an intriguing culture, and a way of life that has changed little in recent years. From the traditional dhow or wooden boat races on the Corniche to ancient bazaars packed full of antiques, the local culture is much in evidence. Minarets and domes sit comfortably between shimmering office towers and apartment blocks creating a unique skyline.
The discovery of oil in the 1950s has given the emirate major influence in the international oil market, and Abu Dhabi sits on 10% of the world's known oil reserves. But despite this wealth and power, it remains a humble and non-ostentatious society.
Progress, however, is never far away and the city is developing fast. The expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport has given an impetus to the fast growing tourism industry. Facilities at the airport are state-of-the-art, and include an impressive duty free complex and a unique 18 hole sandy golf course.
Abu Dhabi has a remarkable range of accommodation options to suit every taste and budget. Its cosmopolitan flavour is matched by its many restaurants which provide a truly international array of choices. A unique selection of leisure activities and sporting facilities is also available.
Beyond the city, the emirate stretches out into the vastness of the desert. The Empty Quarter, or Rub Al Khali, is as intriguing as it sounds, with its majestic red dunes shaped by the desert wind.
Life is more leisurely in Al Ain, the oasis city founded more than 1,000 years ago. A centre for education, this erstwhile caravan station on the trade route to Oman is now a popular leisure destination with zoos, parks museums, 5 star hotels and shopping malls. Al Ain is also the venue for popular annual events including air shows and flower shows.
Places of interest include the UAE's tallest mountain - Jebel Hafit, the oasis town of Buraimi, a traditional camel market, fresh water springs and date plantations watered by ancient irrigation systems. The city also has numerous archaeological digs and has received signed a UNESCO protocol to protect its key heritage sites.
A variety of world-class golf, spa and resort projects designed to enhance its appeal to the leisure travel market are also being developed.
- Yas Island
One of 200 natural islands in Abu Dhabi, Yas Island is undergoing massive development to become a prestigious leisure, sports and residential destination. The island is home to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and The Formula 1 Yas Marina Circuit, with plans afoot for a Warner Brothers' theme park, the Yas Water Park, and Motor Sports Business Park. Yas Island will also feature over 20 hotels and resorts, 2 golf courses (including one designed by Kyle Phillips), the Yas Mall with 500 stores, and 6 marinas - each with a distinct style of entertainment, food and leisure options.
- Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Located on Yas Island, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the world's largest indoor theme park, located under a roof modelled on the classic double-curve body shell of a Ferrari GT car. With over 20 rides and attractions, including the world's fastest rollercoaster, Ferrari World is more than just a theme park and continues to attract visitors from all over the world.
- Saadiyat Island
Located 500 metres off the coast of Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island is being developed as a multifaceted destination with various attractions - cultural, social, emotional and environmental. Saadiyat Island will have 7 distinctive districts and will feature close to 30 hotels including an iconic 7 star property.
- Cultural District
The Cultural District of Saadiyat Island will be the only place in the world to house architecture designed by five Pritzker Prize winners. The Foster + Partners designed Zayed National Museum will honour the late President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Frank Gehry's stunning conical shapes will form The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The spectacular dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi designed by Jean Nouvel will house thematic exhibitions and special programmes. Zaha Hadid's Performing Arts Centre will be a hub of theatre, music and dance. Tadao Ando is designing the Maritime Museum, with parks and pavilions featuring rotating exhibits and cultural events.
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The largest mosque in the UAE is the eighth largest in the world, and features Moorish, Mughal, and classic Arabic architecture. Built to honour the founding president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, it also serves as his burial place. Boasting unusual records like the world's largest carpet and the world's largest chandelier, the spectacular mosque is large enough to accommodate 40,000 worshippers.
- Emirates Palace Hotel
The magnificent Emirates Palace is a national landmark, and one of the world's most impressive hotels and conference venues. Set in 85 hectares of landscaped gardens, it has 1.3 kilometres of exclusive beaches, 20 restaurants, conference facilities, swimming pools, tennis courts, cricket and soccer facilities, fitness suites, a spa, and numerous water sports arenas. The luxury hotel has 1,000 custom-made Swarovski crystal chandeliers, and the world's largest dome over its lobby.