Something from Nothing
The United Arab Emirates, or simply Emirates, is an Arabian absolute monarchy consisting of seven emirates, most notably Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which is considered the capital of UAE. Today, the United Arab Emirates is considered one of the largest economies in the world. While a good portion of UAE’s economy is dependent on its oil reserves, which are the seventh largest reserves in the world, it has successfully established itself as an ever growing business hub in the challenging climate of the Middle East, becoming the second largest economy in the Gulf Cooperation Council, following closely behind Saudi Arabia, as well as having the highest average life expectancy among all other Arab countries, at roughly 76 years.
The UAE has the most diversified economy between Gulf countries. However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t largely dependent on oil for its revenues. The one emirate that breaks this rule is Dubai – which has situated itself as a cultural Pandora’s box and in turn stimulated millions of dollars of financial investments.
By far, Dubai is the most internationally discussed aspect of the UAE. Home to the world’s tallest man-made structure, Burj Khalifa, its heavily capitalist economy with its oriental culture and mostly foreign inhabitants has made it an interesting case study for economists worldwide. It is also the top tourist destination in the Middle East, as well as the 5th most popular tourist destination in the world.
More Than Desert and Sun
While a large portion of UAE population is comprised of foreigners, the Emirates have managed to create and reserve their unique identity and culture which is deeply rooted in their origins and rich history as is the case with most Middle Eastern territories.
UAE has strongly held up its Arabian identity through the years and through it social, economical, and technological advancements. Today, its culture is still heavily influenced by Arabian elements, and its cuisine remains authentically Middle Eastern. The official language in any region of the UAE is Arabic, despite its largely foreign population and its heavy reliance on foreign relations and exports for its economic vitality. This is especially interesting since recent reports suggest that out of the UAE’s entire population, only roughly 40% are UAE nationals.
Undoubtedly, the UAE has one of the harshest climates in its area, with temperatures getting as high as 45°C in summer months. This, however, has not stopped the UAE from creating an impressive tourist scene, considering the staggering heat and the generally humid climate. The eye-catching characteristic of this tourism scene is that at first glance, the UAE seems to be nothing more than desert, heat, and oil. However, it has successfully built a unique and authentic identity for itself beyond what meets the eye.
As for education, the UAE has a literacy rate well above 90%, and it’s also home to several adult learning centers whose main purpose is raising the literacy rate. UAE houses several well ranked universities, including the American University of Sharjah, Khalifa University, the United Arab Emirates University, and the University of Sharjah. Additionally, public schools are government funded, with several other higher level private schools available.
The Top Tourist Destination in the Middle East
There’s a lot that makes UAE and especially Dubai one of the most visited countries by tourists in the Middle East. Dubai is famous for its unique skyline, especially Burj Khalifa, and helicopter tours around the city are a tourist essential, as well as a trip to Burj Khalifa’s observation deck, for an incredible panorama view of the city. Another tourist favorite lies in Abu Dhabi, and it is the world-famous Sheikh Zayed mosque. Its unique blend of modernized architecture and vintage Arab heritage makes it one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. Another mosque that shouldn’t be missed is the Al Bidyah Mosque, which is the oldest mosque in the UAE. And for art and history enthusiasts, Sharjah offers a diverse and encompassing collection of art in the Sharjah Arts Museum, as well as a comprehensive and fascinating collection of Islamic history in the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization.
And of course, the breathtaking beaches, markets, mountains, and sand dunes are the cherry on top of an overall packed and exciting tourist experience.
One thing is for sure, whether viewed economically, culturally, or touristically, the UAE remains one of the most successful and dynamic environments in the Middle East. And today it is still growing in all of these sectors at a non-stop pace, in a race to keep up with and advance upon the developed world.