Living in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) is located in the Middle East, in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are to the west, Saudi Arabia and Oman to the south, Oman to the east, and the Arabian Gulf to the north. The U.A.E. has an area of approximately 83,600 square kilometers, comparable to the state of Maine in the U.S.A.
As the name suggests, the United Arab Emirates is a confederation of sheikhdoms: seven to be exact. The seven emirates are: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, and Ajman. Abu Dhabi is by far the largest making up over 80% of the country. Dubai is the second largest and regarded as the business center. The U.A.E. was established on December 2, 1971 following Great Britain's withdrawal from the Arabian Gulf's coastal region.
The two main cities in the U.A.E., Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are 160 kilometers apart (100 miles). Abu Dhabi, the more sedate city of the two, is the country's capital and administrative center. Abu Dhabi is also the center for the administration of oil and gas operations. Dubai, with its slightly faster pace of life, has acquired international acclaim thanks to its trade-related achievements. tourism and world class sporting events.
The U.A.E. is one of the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) states.
Although the U.A.E. weather is often depicted as being unbearably hot, the temperature actually varies between regions and between months. The summer time is indeed hot with temperatures averaging 47oC (115oF) in August but luckily, the vast majority of homes, shops and offices are efficiently air-conditioned. Surprising to most, the weather in this desert landscape is relatively humid. During the hot summer months this humidity can add to the discomfort. In contrast, winter (October to March) mid-day temperatures are very pleasant at 20oC to 25oC (75oF to 80oF) with cooler evenings averaging 15oC (59oF).
There are occasional sand storms during the winter.
Restaurants and retail businesses are generally open seven days a week. Shopping centers are typically open until 10 pm. On Fridays many are open all day; others open later in the afternoon.
Hours of work also vary with some working a "straight shift", generally from eight to five or equivalent, such as Zayed University and many private businesses. Others work a more traditional "split shift" from eight to lunch time with a long afternoon break, returning to work in the late afternoon or evening.
There is no tax levied on income in the U.A.E. but new residents should always check their own country's policy with regards to taxation; residents may still have to pay taxes in their own countries.
You will never be far from a modern supermarket. Modern supermarkets offer most things that are found in North America, Europe, and Australia. You are likely to find even greater variety in the U.A.E. due to the range of goods imported to suit the tastes of the many nationalities. Prices are comparable to those in most western countries.
Outdoor markets sell fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, and spices.
If you prefer dining out, the U.A.E. offers numerous world-class restaurants and cafes. All varieties of ethnic cuisine are available in hotels and restaurants. Fast food type outlets are also available and include some of the most well known western outlets. Arabic, Lebanese and Indian fast food outlets are also plentiful. Starbucks and other coffee outlets are readily available.
Tap water in the U.A.E. is safe to drink and cook with, but most people choose to drink bottled water and to use it for making tea and coffee. Local bottled water is cheap at approximately Dhs 1.5 / liter bottle. Water coolers are available for rental and purchase and there are many water delivery services.
Alcohol is available to non-Muslims. Alcohol is sold in most hotel restaurants and pubs. After receiving a Residence Visa, you can apply for a liquor permit which allows you to purchase alcohol in specialist outlets to drink at home. Liquor permits can only be used in the Emirate in which they are issued.
People are never at a loss for activities in the U.A.E. Private club facilities offer everything from golf to swimming to gym facilities. Amusement and water parks are fun weekend spots for families. Desert driving, camping, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, picnics, beaching and diving are just some of the many outdoor activities available in the U.A.E. Movie theaters show the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Concerts, plays and exhibitions take place throughout the year. You can even ski in Dubai at Mall of the Emirates.
The dress code is much the same as in your own country with some restrictions and variations across the different Emirates (Sharjah is more conservative requiring men and women to dress more conservatively, for example). Shorts, skirts, and short-sleeved shirts are quite acceptable, but with a sense of modesty and common sense. Revealing or tight fitting clothes should be avoided. There is no requirement for women to cover up. Those who do, do so out of choice and respect for their heritage and religion.
In public, most national women wear a black "abaya", a long loose black robe that covers their normal clothes, plus a headscarf, called a "shayla". Some women also wear a thin black veil covering their face, while some older women wear a small mask made of fabric known as a "burkha", which covers the nose, brow and cheekbones.
The national dress for men is the "dishdasha" or "khandura", an ankle length robe, usually white. Dishdashas are usually worn with a white or red-checkered headcloth ("gutra") and a twisted black rope-like coil ("agal") which holds the gutra in place; under the headdress is a skull cap ("gafia").
The U.A.E. is known for its low crime rate. This is not to say that crime does not occur, however incidents are rare. As in all big cities, a healthy degree of caution should always be exercised. The biggest threat to life and limb is driving. The incidence of road traffic accidents is quite high and the standard of driving is fairly low with often erratic and aggressive behavior. With so many different nationalities on the roads, there are bound to be some interesting differences in driving etiquette. Just be alert and keep a reasonable distance between vehicles. Driving while using a hand-held mobile phone has been banned and wearing a seat belt in the front seat is mandatory. For information on driving in the U.A.E. (license requirements) click here.
The voltage in the U.A.E. is 220-240 Volts, 50 Cycles. The socket type is the three pin British system. The prongs are square. Adapters are available in the U.A.E. Some products are sold in the U.A.E. with two prong plugs and you will need to buy adapters which are available from most supermarkets and hardware stores.
In the U.A.E., mail is not delivered to street addresses. Mail is delivered to post office boxes. You will be given a mail tray on campus where you will receive your internal and external mail. External mail should be addressed to you c/o Zayed University. Family members resident in the U.A.E. may also receive their mail c/o Zayed University.