The UAE is a federation of seven emirates along the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, each governed by a hereditary emir, with a single national president. The capital is Abu Dhabi, which is also the state’s center of political, industrial and cultural activity. Dubai is both an emirate and the region’s largest city. It is home to the world’s tallest building, longest indoor ski slope and biggest shopping mall outside North America. Dubai offers worldly luxury in its most extreme form. The economic recession of 2009, however, put many of the more grandiose construction projects on hold.
A Massive Mosque
Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was completed in 2007 and can accommodate more than 40,000 worshippers. Much of the white marble is inlaid with semiprecious stones in imitation of the Taj Mahal. The main prayer hall is covered with a 60,000-square-foot carpet, said to be the world’s largest. Non-Muslims are welcome, and the atmosphere is peaceful and relaxed.
Luxury Cars in Action
Glamorous automobiles are an obsession in the Emirates — Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley appear to be the preferred brands — with the cult of the car reaching its climax in November with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the Formula 1 season. The track winds around a superyacht marina on Yas Island and at one point passes beneath the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel. Many of the suites have balconies overlooking the circuit.
The World's Tallest Building
Downtown Dubai is dominated by the extraordinary 2,716-foot Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building. It was designed by Adrian Smith, then of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and completed in 2009. The aesthetic inspiration for the structure is said to have come from the spiral minaret of the ninth-century Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq. The tower has 163 floors, 57 elevators and 24,348 windows. Fifteen of the lower floors are occupied by the Armani Hotel. On a clear day, from the public observation deck, it is possible to see the shore of Iran.
The New Dubai
Dubai Marina, a dramatic canal city located 14 miles southwest of downtown, was built along a two-mile stretch of the Persian Gulf. It is part of so-called New Dubai, which includes Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City. Several miles of pedestrian walkways are lined with restaurants and boutiques. Immediately offshore is Palm Jumeirah, a man-made archipelago, with lavish residences and numerous luxury hotels.
Dirham (AED). Fluctuating rate valued at AED3.67 = US$1.00 as of April 2019.
To phone hotels in the United Arab Emirates, dial 011 (international access) + 971 (United Arab Emirates code) + city code and local numbers.
Abu Dhabi, Tel. (971) 2-414-2200. Consulate: Dubai, Tel. (971) 4-309-4000.
November to March is warm and sunny. The summer is extremely hot and humid, with occasional violent thunderstorms.