The United Arab Emirates or UAE is a federation of 7 emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain.
What is an emirate, you ask? Historically, each emirate was a kingdom ruled by an emir, or ruler. These days, the emirates are more like semi-independent provinces or states. Each emirate still has its own ruler, and the seven rulers together form the Federal Supreme Council of the UAE.
Visiting and Immigrating the UAE
You don’t need a visa to visit the UAE if you’re staying for less than 30 days. However, you need to make sure your passport won’t expire in 6 months. To immigrate there, you would need to get a job in one of the emirates, apply for a work permit and get a residency visa. The UAE also requires a health check and a valid passport.
Dubai, the jewel of the UAE, is a modern metropolis that might seem familiar to Western tourists. There are towering skyscrapers, malls, and even indoor ski resorts. You can also take tours of the desert and go on camel rides.
A major difference between American cities and Emirati cities is that the UAE requires certification for the purchase of alcohol. The policy aims to prevent Muslims from purchasing intoxicating beverages. The license, then, must certify that you are not Muslim. If you are visiting from the United States, it’s best to stay at a Western-catering hotel, which will likely serve alcohol.
The UAE is extremely diverse, though the country only grants citizenship to ethnic Emiratis. People from all over the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North America live and work in the UAE. The country is currently experiencing a boom in the education sector, with many private schools seeking international educators to move to the UAE to teach. Even American-based institutions like New York University have erected full campuses in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital.
While the UAE is one of the most modernized countries in the Middle East, it is rooted in a deep Muslim history that might be unfamiliar to Western tourists. Accordingly, much of the everyday etiquette may be different than visitors are used to. It’s best to do some research on what is socially acceptable in the UAE before heading there. Dress appropriately, take a look at appropriate eating etiquette and remember to be respectful of the nation’s culture.