Dubai is the second largest of the seven states of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its main port and commercial center. With an area of 3,885 square kilometers, it is located on the two banks of the Dubai Creek, an inlet from the Arabian Gulf. It is one of the world’s few locations where modern city life, sandy beaches and the desert are all within easy reach.
The city has built its wealth mainly on its traditional role as an international trading centre, and it is less dependent on oil revenue than the other Emirate states. Dubai’s government is now heavily promoting the city for international investment, commercial and industrial development, and, more recently, tourism. Fifteen free trade zones are being developed, including the world’s first e-business free zone.
Dubai also has a tradition of implementing vast development projects which have included building the tallest hotel in the world, as well as the latest Palm Islands development, a major reclamation project which will include numerous new hotels and residential properties of the highest standard, as well as shopping malls, entertainment facilities, a marine park and around 75 miles of new beaches.
The main trading centre of the region, Dubai has developed into a truly cosmopolitan city, with up to four-fifths of its population at any one time being expatriates from around the world. With the continuing promotion of favourable conditions for trade and investment, there is likely to be a continuing influx of expatriate companies and workers wishing to take advantage of these benefits.
Expatriates can enjoy an excellent standard of living in Dubai. The city has an extremely low crime rate, and received the Conde Nast Traveller award for the safest holiday destination in 2003. There are a vast number of world-class hotels, luxury accommodation at reasonable cost, and very good leisure, entertainment and sporting facilities. It is also a shopper’s paradise, with imported goods from around the world available in the numerous high quality shopping malls, and bargains available in the many traditional souks and gold stores. For those with children, there a wide range of excellent international schools. English is widely spoken, and street signs and menus are printed in English as well as Arabic. As an added bonus, foreign workers pay no tax in Dubai, and goods are sold tax-free.
Although Dubai’s dry, sub-tropical climate is uncomfortably hot during the summer months, for around eight months of the year it is extremely pleasant. Average temperatures range from 25 degrees C in January to 42 degrees C in July. There is very little rain, and most days are sunny. Evenings are cool and night times can be quite chilly. Despite its desert location, an efficient irrigation system keeps the city amazingly lush and green all year round, and there are many beautifully maintained parks and gardens.
Despite its cosmopolitan nature, Dubai still retains its Arabic heritage and culture, along with the more western aspects of life which have developed here. Traditional souks, mosques and traditional merchant’s houses are interspersed with ultra-modern skyscrapers, shopping malls, hotels and office blocks. Along the creek, traditional dhows – though now motor-powered – are moored, whilst water-taxis ferry passengers from one bank to other at all hours of day and night. The city is very family-friendly, with playgrounds in virtually very shopping mall, restaurants which welcome children, and a wealth of family-oriented festivals and activities.
In contrast with some other countries in the Middle East, there are fewer restrictions in Dubai on what women are allowed to wear, they are allowed to drive themselves, and there is much less segregation in public life of men and women. Women should still dress modestly, however, in respect of Arabic culture.
There are some lifestyle restrictions in Dubai relating to its Islamic laws and traditions. During Ramadan, there is a ban on eating and drinking in public during daylight hours. Alcohol is only sold in hotels and restaurants which possess a liquor licence, and a licence is also required for the purchase of alcohol for private consumption. There is also heavy government censorship of videos, DVDs, CDs and books.
There have been reports of a high risk of terrorist attack in the United Arab Emirates, and several western countries have warned their citizens to exercise particular caution in the region.
The currency of Dubai is the Dirham (Dh). Dh1 is equal to GBGBP0.16 and US$0.27 (December 2005).