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| capital=[[Abu Dhabi]]
| government=Federation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates
The '''United Arab Emirates''' is a federation of seven emirates on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. It has coastlines on the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, with [[Saudi Arabia]] to the west and southwest, and [[Oman]] to the southeast and also on the eastern tip of the Musandam Peninsula as well as an Omani enclave within its borders. It is a country rich in history and culture and an easy starting point for travels in the [[Middle East]].
The population is incredibly diverse. Only some 20% of the population of the Emirates are 'real' Emiratis; the rest come from the Indian Subcontinent: India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh (some 50%); other parts of Asia, particularly the Philippines, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka (another perhaps 15%); and "Western" countries (Europe, Australia, North America, South Africa; 5-6%), with the remainder from everywhere else. On any given day in, say, Dubai or Sharjah, you can see people from every continent and every social class. With this diversity, one of the few unifying factors is language, and consequently nearly everyone speaks some version of English. Nearly all road or other information signs are in English and Arabic, and English is widely spoken, particularly in the hospitality industry. On the other hand, there are elements that would be unsettling for overseas travelers, such as fully veiled women, but as this is "their way", tourists should show respect and will be offered the same in turn.
*[[Sharjah]] - A cheaper destination, dusty and chaotic in places but with its own unique charm.
Citizens of most industrialized countries will receive a 30-day visa on arrival in the United Arab Emirates free of charge. This can be extended for up to 90 days after arrival for a fee of Dhs 500. The countries are listed below:
[[Australia]], [[Andorra]], [[Austria]], [[Brunei]], [[Belgium]], [[Denmark]], [[Finland]], [[France]], [[Germany]], [[Greece]], [[Hong Kong]], [[Iceland]], [[Ireland]], [[Italy]], [[Japan]], [[Liechtenstein]], [[Luxembourg]], [[Malaysia]], [[Monaco]], [[Netherlands]], [[New Zealand]], [[Norway]], [[Portugal]], [[San Marino]], [[Singapore]], [[South Korea]], [[Spain]], [[Sweden]], [[Switzerland]], [[United Kingdom]] (except BN(O) passports), [[United States of America]] and the [[Vatican City]].
Several other countries are eligible for free hotel/tour-sponsored tourism visas. See '''UAE Interact''' [http://www.uaeinteract.com/travel/visas.asp#visa] for the latest details.
The UAE takes an infamously strict line on '''medicines''', with many common drugs, notably anything with containing '''codeine''', '''diazepam''' (Valium) or '''dextromethorphan''' (Robitussin) being banned unless you have a ''notarized and authenticated'' doctor's prescription. Visitors breaking the rules, even inadvertently, have found themselves deported or jailed. The US Embassy to the UAE maintains an unofficial list [http://abudhabi.usembassy.gov/restricted_medication.html] of what may not be imported.
Don't even think about bringing in narcotics: possession of even trace amounts leads to a minimum of four years in prison. Using Khat/qat (a flowering plant that contains an alkaloid called cathinone) which is popular in other nearby countries (notably [[Yemen]]) is also illegal, with life prison sentences possible.
The main hub for air transport in the United Arab Emirates is [[Dubai]] airport, which is served by several major airlines, most notably Dubai-based Emirates [http://www.emirates.com/]. Direct flights connect Dubai to [[Durban]], [[Johannesburg]], [[London]], [[Sydney]], [[Melbourne]], [[Karachi]], [[Tehran]], [[Riyadh]], [[
After Dubai, the airport at [[Abu Dhabi]] has the next best international connections. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways [http://www.etihadairways.com] now offers direct flights from [[New York City|New York]], [[Toronto]] and many other airports in [[Europe]] and [[Asia]]. Other major airlines serving Abu Dhabi include British Airways [http://www.britishairways.com] from London-Heathrow, KLM [http://www.klm.com] from [[Amsterdam]], Lufthansa [http://www.lufthansa.de] from Frankfurt and Singapore Airlines [http://www.singaporeair.com] from [[Singapore]] and [[Jeddah]].
The official language is Arabic, but it is safe to say that the majority of the population doesn't speak it (Iranian, Indian, Asian and Western expatriates are more numerous than Arabs in Dubai, and usually have very limited knowledge of Arabic). English is the ''lingua franca''. As the UAE was a British protectorate, most locals would have learnt English in school and would know at least basic English.
Other languages widely spoken in the UAE include
In Dubai, most shops, hotels, and commercial businesses conduct business in English. Generally speaking, Arabic is spoken by government departments and the police; however, in Abu Dhabi and in the Northern Emirates, Arabic is much more widely spoken.
Cash and travellers' cheques can be changed at exchanges located at the airports or in all the major shopping malls. ATMs are numerous and generously distributed. They accept all the major chain cards: Visa, Cirrus, Maestro etc. Credit cards are widely accepted.
There is an impressive number of super-luxury hotels, most notably the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab (Tower of the Arabs), a Dubai landmark popularly known as a "7-star hotel" — a nonexistent category, but still opulent by any standard. The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi also aspires to the same standards, at a fraction of the price.
Emiratis are a proud but welcoming people and, when not in their cars, are generally extremely civil and friendly. Like most peoples of the world, they welcome visitors who are willing to show some amount of respect and can be extremely generous. (Some expats and visitors do not understand that revealing clothing can be quite offensive to some people, even if nothing is said to the offenders.) Their culture is unique and can be highly conservative, but overall they are quite attuned to the ways, customs, events, media, and manners of the world.
Local men usually wear a "Kandoura", a long robe (typically white), and ghutra, a red-checked or white headdress. Local women wear a black robe-like garment (abaya) and a black head scarf (shayla).
The UAE is more conservative than most Western societies, though not as much as some of its neighbors. Travelers should be aware and respect the more traditional outlook in the UAE, as there are behaviors typical in the West (for example, making "rude and insulting gestures") that will result in arrest in the UAE. On the other hand, Western travelers will find most of the UAE quite comfortable.
The heat in summer can reach 50°C (122°F), so avoid outdoors activity at the height of the day and watch out for signs of heat stroke. Be sure to drink lots of water as dehydration happens easily in such heat. If travelling off road (most of the country is desert), ensure you carry sufficient water to allow you to walk to the road should vehicles become bogged.
Although the UAE is somewhat more accommodating to handicapped travellers than other countries in the Mideast, it would nonetheless be a difficult country to navigate in a wheelchair. Curbs are high and there are few, if any, ramps or other accommodations