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United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven states - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain formed in 1971 after independence from Britain. Although internal politics are prone to instability, because of the uncertain nature of the federation and boundary disputes, the ruling families in the two main emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have managed to stabilise the federation

Abu Dhabi City is essentially a modern and sleek city, filled with skyscrapers.UAEs' capital, located on an island connected to the mainland by two bridges, is often accused of being a rather soulless place, but it does have its attractions: the Petroleum Exhibition and the Heritage Village, the beautiful Corniche, the Al Hisn Fort, the old souk, the Breakwater Island and Sheikh Zayed's palace. The most picturesque place is undeniably the Batin, the oldest part of the town, where the small harbours receive the daily catch brought by the fishing dhows.

History

A federation of seven Emirates, the UAE ( United Arab Emirates ) came into being on December 2, 1971. Since then, the country has made tremendous progress in all fields. Dubai, the second largest of teh seven emirates, has traditionally been a commercial centre and has now consolidated its position on the key trading route between the East and the West.

Although the early history of Dubai is not very well documented, archeological discoveries suggests that, as long as four thousand years ago, small fishing communities lived along the coast of the Arabian Gulf on the site of what we know today as Dubai.There are records of the town of Dubai from 1799, which was a dependent of the settlement of Abu Dhabi until 1833. The then sheikh of Dubai was a signatory to the British sponsored General Treaty of Peace of 1820.In 1833, the Al Maktoum dynasty of the Bani Yas tribe left the settlement of Abu Dhabi and took over the town of Dubai, "without resistance". From that point on, Dubai, a newly independent emirate was constantly at odds with the emirate of Abu Dhabi. An attempt by the Qawasim pirates to take over Dubai was thwarted.

In 1835, Dubai and the rest of the Trucial States signed a maritime truce with Britain and a "Perpetual Maritime Truce" about two decades later. Dubai came under the protection of the United Kingdom by the Exclusive Agreement of 1892.The rulers of Dubai fostered trade and commerce, unlike the town's neighbors. The successful early development was in large parts due to the foresight of Dubai’s rulers. The city has benefited from the stabilizing influence of two exceptionally long rules: that of H H Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum from 1912 to 1958, followed by that of his son, H H Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed al-Maktoum.

For many years prior to his father’s death in 1958 Shaikh Rashid has played a leading role in directing the state. Since then he has guided Dubai in its expansion from a small, old-world town to a modern state with excellent communication, and industrial infrastructure, and all the comforts of contemporary life. He ruled Dubai for over 30 years, during which time large projects like the Jebel Ali free zone, World Trade Centre and Dubai International Airport were sanctioned.

The town of Dubai was an important port of call for foreign tradesmen (chiefly Indians), who settled in the town. Until the 1930s, the town was known for its pearl exports. The international trade which flowed from Dubai’s cosmopolitan contracts was the basis of it’s rapidly increasing prosperity. This gave the city an early start in development before the beginning of oil production in the late 1960s. Like the other towns along the coast, Dubai had been severely affected by the decline of the pearling industry, due to competition in the 1930s from Japanese cultured pearls, and by the drop in trade in the Second World War.

After the devaluation of the Gulf Rupee in 1966, Dubai joined the newly independent state of Qatar to set up a new monetary unit, the Qatar/Dubai riyal. Dubai maintained its importance as a trade route through the 1970s and 1980s. Dubai and its twin across the Dubai creek, Deira (independent at that time), became important ports of call for Western manufacturers. Most of the new city's banking and financial centers were headquartered in this area.In 1971 when the British left the Persian Gulf, Dubai together with Abu Dhabi and five other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates. The UAE dirham was adopted in 1973 as the uniform currency, by Dubai and the other emirates.

Economy :
Although oil was the engine that began Dubai's rapid development, it now contributes only 20 per cent of GDP. The non-oil sector, including services, manufacturing and trading, are now the key segments of teh economy. Dubai has also emerged as a location of choice for global corporations, large numbers of which conduct their local and regional operations from the city.

Oil and gas are the Emirates’ main industries, and underpin the country’s considerable prosperity. Outside the oil and gas sector, which includes refining and the production of oil-derived chemicals, most economic activity is government sponsored, and designed to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil. This strategy has been reasonably successful and the oil sector’s contribution to GDP is now down to about 45%.

Chemicals, aluminium and steel production are the most important of the new industries. Other newly established industries produce consumer goods for the domestic market. There is some agriculture, mostly livestock rearing, in what is an unfavourable climate; fishing is also significant..

The economy has boomed in recent years. At the end of 2005, the International Monetary Fund predicted the UAE's economy would become the third largest in East and Central Asia. Most of the country’s economic development has been concentrated in the two richest and most powerful of the seven emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai; the remainder are relatively underdeveloped.

UAE is a member of OPEC, and of the Gulf Co-operation Council which is increasingly concerning itself with regional economic collaboration. Plans to establish a customs union among the six member states are well advanced, and the GCC has sought advice from the EU on the creation of a single currency.

Climate :
Dubai has a sub-tropical arid climate. May to September is summer, when temperatures range between 40°C and 48°C. However, during the winter months, temperatures range from 10°C to 30°C in winter. Rainfall is predominantly in winter and amounts to some 13cm annually.
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Summers, mid-May to mid-September, are hot and humid and day temperatures are generally upward of 40 degree C.

Religion

Islam is the official religion of all of the emirates. A vast majority of the locals are Sunnis. There are foreign minority Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians as well. Dubai is the only emirate that has Hindu temples and a sikh gurudwara.

The Meena Bazaar area of the city has Religious Temples of Shiva and Krishna. Both are believed to be sanctioned by the late ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. There is an electric crematorium run by a group of Indian expatriates. Non-Muslims in the country are free to practice their religion but may not proselytize publicly or distribute religious literature. The government follows a policy of tolerance towards non-Muslims and Polytheist; in practice, interferes very little in the religious activities of non-Muslims.

In early 2001, ground was broken for the construction of several additional churches on a parcel of land in Jebel Ali donated by the government of Dubai for four Protestant congregations and a Catholic congregation. Construction on the first Greek Orthodox Church in Dubai (to be called St. Mary's) would begin at the end of 2005, members of the Eastern Orthodox Christian community in the UAE have had to use churches of other denominations for services, untill General Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and UAE Defence Minister, donated a plot of land in Jebel Ali.

Apart from donated land for the construction of churches and other religious facilities, including cemeteries, non-Muslim groups are not supported financially or subsidised by the government. However, they are permitted to raise money from among their congregants and to receive financial support from abroad. Christian churches are permitted to openly advertise certain church functions, such as memorial services, in the press.

Money

Currency
UAE Dirham (AED) = 100 fils. Notes are in denominations of AED1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of AED1, and 50, 25, 10 and 5 fils (10 and 5 fils coins are rarely used).The Dirham is tied to the US Dollar.

Currency Exchange
Most hotels will handle the exchange of foreign currency.

Traveller's Cheques
These are widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling.

Holidays
Friday is the weekly holiday. Governments observe a two-day weekend and are closed on Thursday and Friday. Some private sector organisations working to a five-day week, are closed on Thursday; others on Saturday.

Others

  • Time: GMT+ 4
  • Electricity: 220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are widespread.
  • Country code: 971

Custom & Regulations

The following items may be imported into the United Arab Emirates without incurring customs duty:

  • 400 cigarettes and cigars up to AED3000 in value (for personal use) and 2kg of tobacco.
  • 4L of spirits or 24 cans of beer (non-Muslims over 18 years only).
  • A reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.

Prohibited Imports: Firearms and dangerous weapons, religious propaganda, unstrung pearls except for personal use, raw seafood (only when visiting Dubai and/or Sharjah), fruit and vegetables from cholera-infected areas.

Note: It is prohibited to bring alcohol into Sharjah and usually not allowed if entering the UAE by land.

Visas:

Any person wishing to vist the UAE must have an entry visa.

  • Citizens of the Arab Gulf Co-operation Council ( GCC ) countries and British nationals, with the right of abode in UK, do not need visas to enter the UAE. Britons can stay for one month, renewable for a further two months.
  • US and German citizens can obtain tourist or business visas through any UAE embassy. It can be quicker if you apply in your home country.
  • A business visitor may enter the UAE on either a transit or visit visa.
  • Visa Holders may enter and exit the UAE through any port of entry.
  • Airlines may require evidence that the incoming visitor has a sponsor who holds the valid visa.

A VISIT visa is valid for 30 days, renewable twice upto a total of 100 days including a grace period of 10 days. It takes one week to 10 days for a visit visa to be issued. An express service also exists.

TRANSIT Visa's are issued for 15 days only and cannot be extended or renewed. Some travel and tour operators can arrange for Transit / Tourist visas. Large Hotels can sponsor transit visas for tourist and business visits.Any person wishing to vist the UAE must have an entry visa.

Please Click Here for further visa informations and visa application form.

Local time :
The UAE is four hours ahead of GMT ( GMT +4 ).

Language :
The official language is Arabic, but English and Urdu are also widely spoken Language, along with other languages like Persian, Hindi, Malayalam, Punjabi, and Tagalog.There are foreign minority Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians as well. Dubai is the only emirate that has Hindu temples and a sikh gurudwara.

Holidays:
Friday is the weekly holiday. Governments observe a two-day weekend and are closed on Thursday and Friday. Some private sector organisations working to a five-day week, are closed on Thursday; others on Saturday.

Business hours :
Government offices are open between 7.30am and 2.30pm. Banking hours are from 8am to 1pm, Saturday to Wednesday and 8am to 12 noon on Thursday; some banks also open in the evenings. Money exchanges begin serving customers at 8.30am and are open till late. Most shops in teh souks open between 9.30am and 1.30pm and then again between 4pm and 10pm. Shopping malls are open throughout the day. Supermarkets open early and close late; some operate round-the-clock.

Exchange rate :
The UAE Dirham is divided into 100 fils and is pegged to the U.S dollar at an exchange rate of Dhs. 3.67 = $ 1. The currency is freely convertible.

Clothing :
Light clothing is ideal for most of the year, though a jacket or pullover would be required in winter and while camping in the desert. There is no formal dress code but be conservative in the way you dress. In conformity with local customs, women should avoid revealing dresses and men should always wear a shirt in public. Proper swimwear is necessary on all beaches. Sunglasses, hats and suncream are essential if you wish to avoid the agony of sunburn.

Credit cards :
Most shops, hotels and restaurants accept leading international credit cards. You could, however, get better discounts with some retailers if you pay cash.

Shopping :
From exquisite porcleain and designer labels, to the latest electronic gadgets and gold jewellery, Dubai is a shopper's delight. Explore the souks and shopping malls, visit more than one outlet, compare prices and don't forget to bargain - many retailers will offer you a discount if you ask for it.

Getting Around United Arab Emirates

Getting There by Air: The national airlines are Emirates (EK) and Gulf Air (GF).Daily flights link Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Flights can also be chartered and there are small landing fields throughout the United Arab Emirates.

Main Airports:

  1. Abu Dhabi (AUH) is 32km (20 miles) east of the city (journey time – 40 minutes).
    • To/from the airport: Buses and taxis are available at the airport. Al Ghazal taxis operate a fixed-rate service.
    • Facilities: Duty-free shop, bank, bar, snack bar, bureau de change, post office and car hire.
  2. Al Ain International Airport (AAN) is 13km (8 miles) northwest of Al Ain.
    • To/from the airport: Al Ghazal taxis operate a fixed-rate service to the city centre. Public buses serve the airport.
    • Facilities: Bank, bureau de change, ATM, restaurants, coffee shop, 24-hour cafe, duty-free complex, children’s playground in landscaped gardens, and medical.
  3. Dubai (DXB) is 4km (2.5 miles) southeast of the city (journey time – 10 minutes).
    • To/from the airport: Taxis and buses are available at the airport. Bus stations are opposite both Terminal 1 and 2.
    • Facilities: Duty-free shops, bank, post office, shops, car hire, restaurant, snack bar and bar. The airport consists of two terminals.
  4. Sharjah (SHJ) is 10km (6 miles) from the city.
    • To/from the airport: Taxis are available at the airport.
    • Facilities: Duty-free shop, car hire, restaurants, snack bars, ATM and bureau de change.
  5. Ras al-Khaimah (RKT) is 15km (9 miles) from the city.
    • To/from the airport: Taxis are available at the airport.
    • Facilities: Duty-free shop and restaurant/snack bar.

Getting There by Road: Traffic drives on the right. There are good tarmac roads running along the west coast between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah; between Sharjah and Dhaid; and linking Dubai with other Northern States and the interior.Limited services link most towns. However, most hotels run their own scheduled bus services to the airport, city centre and beach resorts.Taxis are vailable in all towns. In Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain, urban journey fares are metered, whilst fares for longer journeys should be agreed in advance. There is a surcharge for air-conditioned taxis. Many travellers find taxis to be the quickest and most convenient method of travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.Most international car hire companies have offices at airports or hotels. A passport and either a valid international or national licence are necessary.The speed limit in built-up areas is 60 to 80kph (37 to 50mph) and 100 to 120kph (62 to 74mph) elsewhere.An International Driving Permit is recommended, although it is not legally required. A local driving licence can be issued on presentation of a valid national driving licence, two photos and a passport.

Getting There by Sea: Cruises call at Abu Dhabi and the cruise terminal in Dubai, and there are passenger services to the USA, the Far East, Australia and Europe. There are regular sailings between Sharjah and Bandar-é-Abbas (Iran).Commercial and passenger services serve all coastal ports. A water taxi travels between Dubai and Deira across the creek.

Main ports:

  • Jebel Ali
  • Rashid and Zayed (Abu Dhabi)
  • Khalid (Sharjah)
  • Saqr (Ras al-Khaimah)
  • Fujairah.

Parking :
Dubai Municipality has implemented a system of paid parking in crowded business districts of the city between 8 am and 9pm, Saturdays through Thursdays. These areas are clearly marked and drivers are required to obtain parking tickets from automatic vending machines and display them on the dashboards of their cars. Parking in most other areas of the city is free.

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