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Living in the UAE

Geography

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is located in the Middle East, in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are to the west, Saudi Arabia and Oman to the south, Oman to the east, and the Arabian Gulf to the north. The UAE has an area of approximately 83,600 square kilometers, comparable to the state of Maine in the U.S.A.

As the name suggests, the United Arab Emirates is a confederation of sheikhdoms: seven to be exact. The seven emirates are: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, and Ajman. Abu Dhabi is by far the largest making up over 80% of the country. Dubai is the second largest and regarded as the business center. The UAE was established on December 2, 1971 following Great Britain's withdrawal from the Arabian Gulf's coastal region.

The two main cities in the UAE, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are 160 kilometers apart (100 miles). Abu Dhabi, the more sedate city of the two, is the country's capital and administrative center. Abu Dhabi is also the center for the administration of oil and gas operations. Dubai, with its slightly faster pace of life, has acquired international acclaim thanks to its trade-related achievements. tourism and world class sporting events.

The UAE is one of the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) states.

Facts and Figures

Population TOTAL
Abu Dhabi
Dubai
Sharjah
Ajman
Umm al-Qaiwain
Ras Al Khaimah
Fujairah
3.8 million*
1.29 million
1.2 million
724,000
190,000
46,000
198,000
119,000


* Does not include up to 335,000 not counted in this census. Thus total population is actually closer to 4.1 million.

  • 2,944,159 are non-nationals (foreign expatriates)
  • 21.9% are UAE nationals (Emiratis); 78.1% are non-nationals
  • 67.5% of the total population are male; 32.4% female
  • 50.7% of the UAE national population are male; 49.3% female
  • UAE nationals less than 20 years of age comprise 51.1% of the local population
  • Overall, 52.9% of the total population (national and non-nationals) is between 20 and 39 years
From the 2005 Census Data
Religion 96% Muslim; Hindu, Christian and other 4%
Ethnic Groups Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8% (1982) note: less than 20% are UAE citizens (1982)
Languages Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu. English is the country's business language (and is widely spoken) and Arabic is the country's official language.
Currency Dirham (Dh or AED); the sub unit of the dirham is a Fil (100 fils equals 1 dirham). One US dollar is equivalent to approximately 3.67 AED. The dirham has been officially pegged to the US dollar since February 2002. To calculate exchange rates in other currencies click here.
Time Zone GMT +4
Country Dialing Code 971
Emirate Dialing Codes (Land Lines) Abu Dhabi (02); Dubai (04); Sharjah (06); Ajman (06); Umm Al Quwain (06); Ra's al-Khaimah (07); Fujairah (09)
Electricity 220 V 50 Hz
Internet Country Code .ae
Internet Service Provider (ISP) Etisalat

Climate and Weather

Although the UAE weather is often depicted as being unbearably hot, the temperature actually varies between regions and between months. The summer time is indeed hot with temperatures averaging 47oC (115oF) in August but luckily, the vast majority of homes, shops and offices are efficiently air-conditioned. Surprising to most, the weather in this desert landscape is relatively humid. During the hot summer months this humidity can add to the discomfort. In contrast, winter (October to March) mid-day temperatures are very pleasant at 20oC to 25oC (75oF to 80oF) with cooler evenings averaging 15oC (59oF).

There are occasional sand storms during the winter.

Government

The UAE is governed by heredity rule. The Supreme Council of Rulers is the highest authority and is made of the hereditary rules from the seven emirates. The seven members of the Council elect the President from amongst its members. The current President is HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan. He took over the role on the passing of his father, the namesake of Zayed University, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan. Sheikh Zayed, a visionary leader, is regarded as the father of the nation.

Business Hours

Commencing September 1, 2006, the work week is Sunday to Thursday for all public sector organizations. Thus public sector employees, schools and many businesses enjoy a two-day, Friday-Saturday weekend. However, there is no uniformity in weekends. Some companies close Thursday-Friday, working a five day week. Others work a five and half day week with Thursday afternoons and Fridays off. Others even work a six day week. Friday is the Islamic holy day and is the common day off for all.

Restaurants and retail businesses are generally open seven days a week. Shopping centers are typically open until 10 pm. On Fridays many are open all day; others open later in the afternoon

Hours of work also vary with some working a "straight shift", generally from eight to five or equivalent, such as many private businesses. Others work a more traditional "split shift" from eight to lunch time with a long afternoon break, returning to work in the late afternoon or evening.

Taxes

There is no tax levied on income in the UAE but new residents should always check their own country's policy with regards to taxation; residents may still have to pay taxes in their own countries.

Food

You will never be far from a modern supermarket. Modern supermarkets offer most things that are found in North America, Europe, and Australia. You are likely to find even greater variety in the UAE due to the range of goods imported to suit the tastes of the many nationalities. Prices are comparable to those in most western countries.

Outdoor markets sell fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, and spices.

If you prefer dining out, the UAE offers numerous world-class restaurants and cafes. All varieties of ethnic cuisine are available in hotels and restaurants. Fast food type outlets are also available and include some of the most well known western outlets. Arabic, Lebanese and Indian fast food outlets are also plentiful. Starbucks and other coffee outlets are readily available.

Tap water in the UAE is safe to drink and cook with, but most people choose to drink bottled water and to use it for making tea and coffee. Local bottled water is cheap at approximately Dhs 1.5 / liter bottle. Water coolers are available for rental and purchase and there are many water delivery services.

Alcohol is available to non-Muslims. Alcohol is sold in most hotel restaurants and pubs. After receiving a Residence Visa, you can apply for a liquor permit which allows you to purchase alcohol in specialist outlets to drink at home. Liquor permits can only be used in the Emirate in which they are issued.

Recreation

People are never at a loss for activities in the UAE. Private club facilities offer everything from golf to swimming to gym facilities. Amusement and water parks are fun weekend spots for families.Desert driving, camping, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, picnics, beaching and diving are just some of the many outdoor activities available in the UAE. Movie theaters show the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Concerts, plays and exhibitions take place throughout the year. You can even ski in Dubai at Mall of the Emirates.

Dress Code

The dress code is much the same as in your own country with some restrictions and variations across the different Emirates (Sharjah is more conservative requiring men and women to dress more conservatively, for example). Shorts, skirts, and short-sleeved shirts are quite acceptable, but with a sense of modesty and common sense. Revealing or tight fitting clothes should be avoided. There is no requirement for women to cover up. Those who do, do so out of choice and respect for their heritage and religion.

In public, most national women wear a black "abaya", a long loose black robe that covers their normal clothes, plus a headscarf, called a "shayla". Some women also wear a thin black veil covering their face, while some older women wear a small mask made of fabric known as a "burkha", which covers the nose, brow and cheekbones.

The national dress for men is the "dishdasha" or "khandura", an ankle length robe, usually white.Dishdashas are usually worn with a white or red-checkered headcloth ("gutra") and a twisted black rope-like coil ("agal") which holds the gutra in place; under the headdress is a skull cap ("gafia").

Safety

The UAE is known for its low crime rate. This is not to say that crime does not occur, however incidents are rare. As in all big cities, a healthy degree of caution should always be exercised. The biggest threat to life and limb is driving. The incidence of road traffic accidents is quite high and the standard of driving is fairly low with often erratic and aggressive behavior. With so many different nationalities on the roads, there are bound to be some interesting differences in driving etiquette. Just be alert and keep a reasonable distance between vehicles. Driving while using a hand-held mobile phone has been banned and wearing a seat belt in the front seat is mandatory.

Electricity

The voltage in the UAE is 220-240 Volts, 50 Cycles. The socket type is the three pin British system. The prongs are square. Adapters are available in the UAE. Some products are sold in the UAE with two prong plugs and you will need to buy adapters which are available from most supermarkets and hardware stores.

Mail

In the UAE, mail is not delivered to street addresses. Mail is delivered to post office boxes. You will be given a mail tray on campus where you will receive your internal and external mail.