Population: 9.4 million
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Largest city: Dubai
Major language: Arabic
Major religion: Islam
Monetary unit: 1 Dirham = 100 fils
The United Arab Emirates is divided into seven emirates, with two thirds of the population living in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Expatriates make up an estimated 80% of the population.
Particularly during the credit boom that built up after 2000, the UAE emerged as a cosmopolitan hub for the Middle East. Significant amounts of foreign investment enabled project such as the palm-shaped artificial Palm Island or the Burj Khalifa skyscraper – the world's current tallest building. And despite being hit by the global financial crisis, trade, the retail sector and tourism are still going strong.
A paradise for shoppers, the UAE boasts several gigantic shopping malls and Dubai's gold souk is nothing short of spectacular.
The Dubai International Film Festival and the Sharjah International Book Fair attract visitors from all over the world. Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have ambitious plans to open world-class museums and galleries, including their own versions of the Guggenheim and the Louvre. There is also a lively dance and music scene with festivals and international acts performing in the UAE.
Sports fans can head to the Formula One Grand Prix or enjoy more traditional sports such as falconry and camel racing.
Our top tips:
Go bartering for textiles, jewellery and spices in the souks in the old town, skipping across the creek on a traditional wooden Abra.
Afterwards, enjoy dinner in one of the restaurants at Dubai Mall, overlooking the dancing fountains and the astonishingly high and impressive Burj Al Khalifa.
Live the high life and take afternoon tea at the super luxurious 7 star hotel Emirates Palace.