What is the UAE? What is it famous for? Your most wanted answers

by Danni B

This article covers some of the most asked and googled questions about the UAE. Perhaps you’ve seen UAE and wondered what is means? Or maybe you’ve wondered how is the UAE connected to Dubai? Maybe you’re curious how the UAE became one of the richest countries in the world! Not to worry! I go through from the basics about the UAE to some of the more complex queries you might have about the UAE!

Once you’ve read this article, don’t forget to check out some of my other articles:

Where is Dubai? All your questions about Dubai answered
Visiting the Burj Khalifa like a pro! Everything you need to know before going
Getting between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, what is the best way?

What area should I stay in, in Dubai?

Looking for a specific question, skip to the question you want below:

What does the UAE stand for?
When and how did the UAE form?
Where is the UAE?
What is UAE national day and when is it?
What is the UAE flag?
What is UAE flag day and how is it different to UAE national day?
How large is the population in the UAE?
What is the difference between Dubai and UAE?
What is this UAE known or famous for?
Who is the ruler of the UAE?
What is the capital of the UAE?
Is the UAE safe?
Why is the UAE wealthy?
What is the currency of the UAE?
Is it possible to get citizenship in the UAE?
How to get a visa in the UAE
Mini guide to other Emirates

So let’s start answering your questions below!

What does the UAE stand for?

The UAE means the United Arab Emirates and is UAE for short. It is made up of the following Emirates:

  • Dubai
  • Abu Dhabi
  • Sharjah
  • Ajman
  • Ras Al Khaimah
  • Umm Al Quwain
  • Fujairah

Before the UAE was formed, each of the Emirates were separate states ruled by different ruling families or tribes as they are called in the gulf region. These ruling families still rule each of their own individual Emirates but they are now unified into one country

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When and how did the UAE form?

On the 2nd December 1971, the UAE gained independence from the United Kingdom and six of the seven Emirates became one unified as one country. The head of the country was given the title of “President of the UAE” was the Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Sheikh Zayed is also referred to as the father of the UAE and also the founder of the UAE

Ras Al Khaimah joined shortly after in February 1972 and thus the UAE we see today was born made of Seven Emirates. Also there were initially talks for Qatar and Bahrain to also join the United Arab Emirates as both had also been part of the British treaty up until 1968

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Where is the UAE?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE for short) is located in the Middle East and the Middle East is part of the larger continent of Asia. It shares borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman. This particular region is known as the Arabian Peninsula or Arabian Gulf, to which the UAE is located in the South Eastern part

The Arabian Peninsula is made up of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. It’s called the Arabian Peninsula due to the shape of the land surrounded by the Arabian Sea and Red Sea. The Arabian sea is also commonly called the Arabian Gulf

On the opposite side of the Arabian Gulf or Arabian Sea is Iran and this sea was a huge part of the history of the UAE. Due to this, you may find in Western texts they refer to it as the Persian Gulf but make sure not to say in this in the GCC. As you’ll probably start a debate!

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What is UAE national day and when is it?

UAE national day is every year on the 2nd December and is to celebrate the official formation the seven Emirates forming the United Arab Emirates. It is also when they gained independence from Great Britain

On this day both children and adults dress in local traditional dress along with decorating their homes with flags. You’ll also find Emirati citizens decorate their cars and drive around the city with much joy! People also have gatherings in their homes and make food items featuring the Emirati flag colours

The government also creates displays to celebrate around the country along with malls, hotels and other public places. There’s also firework displays at different locations through out the country

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What is the UAE flag?

The UAE flag is made up of four colours:

  • Red
  • White
  • Black
  • Green

Each of the colours have a meaning. The red stands for the sacrifice of previous generations who helped to build the nation of the UAE along with those who have been martyred

The white is for peace and symbolises the charity the UAE has given along with it’s security going forward

The black is the strength of the UAE and citizens along with the rejection of extremism

Finally the green symbolises growth and prosperity. Along with the UAE’s dedication to climate issues

The flag was designed by Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah after a competition was launched in the UAE for a citizen to design it. The competition was published in Al Ittihad Newspaper and over 1000 designs were sent in!

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What is UAE flag day and how is it different to UAE National day?

UAE flag day has been celebrated on November 3rd since 2013. It is a celebration both of the UAE flag and the anniversary of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan becoming president of the UAE in 2004. On this day you will see special displays where both residents and citizens put UAE flags on their cars, outside their houses and large displays through out the city

It was initiated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the ruler of Dubai and has been celebrated ever since

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How large is the population in the UAE?

The UAE has a total population of 9.711m as of 2019 and the forecasted population for 2020 is 9.9m

Each of the emirates of the following populations as of 2019:

  • Dubai – 3.331m
  • Abu Dhabi – 3.23m
  • Sharjah – 1.517m
  • Ajman – 540,000
  • Ras Al Khaimah – 390,000
  • Fujairah – 256,000
  • Umm Al Quwain – 80,000

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What is the difference between Dubai and UAE?

Dubai is a city and an Emirate within the UAE. Despite it being a famous global tourist destination, it is not the capital of the UAE. It does however have the largest population thanks to the many expatriates who have moved to Dubai

Compared in size, Dubai is actually quite small in terms of landmass. It is 4,110 km² (1,588 m²) compared with the whole of the UAE which is 83,600 km² (32,300 m²). Abu Dhabi is the largest at 67,340 km² (26,000 m²) and even has two cities with in it, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. These all come under the UAE

You can find out more about Dubai, starting from this article here

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What is the UAE known or famous for?

The UAE is mostly known for two things; the first being one of the wealthiest countries in the world due to its oil and second for becoming of the largest tourist destinations in the world

It also has large reserves of natural gas and despite not being the largest oil exporter, which belongs to Saudi Arabia. It is still one of the wealthiest countries in the entire world. Dubai also has the most amount of billionaires and millionaires in the Middle East

Due to it’s global tourist destination, it also has some very famous buildings such as the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa and the world’s largest mall Dubai Mall

Many people do also do displays of the UAE flag on UAE National Day also but on this day, displays are purely flag focused. Flag Day is not a national holiday where as with UAE National Day, all sectors have two days off

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Who is the ruler of the UAE?

The ruler of the UAE is currently Sheikh Khalifa Bin Sultan Al Nayhan and is given the title of President of the United Arab Emirates. He is also from the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and is the ruler of Abu Dhabi also

He is also the son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nayhan whom united the Emirates. He has held this position since 3rd November 2004 after Sheikh Zayed passed away

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What is the capital of the UAE?

The capital of the UAE is Abu Dhabi, located in the centre of the country and in the north of the emirate Abu Dhabi by the sea. Abu Dhabi was actually only officially made the capital of the UAE in the early 1990s, before that it had been on a provisional basis

Abu Dhabi is actually really nice due to it’s closeness of the sea and how it runs across the main central area. The city was planned by Japanese architect Katsuhiko Takahashi and has a beautiful openness as there isn’t skyscraper blocking the sea view

If you want to learn about how to spend an amazing 48 hours in Abu Dhabi, check out my article here

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Is the UAE safe?

The UAE has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and is also one of the safest countries in the world. The city of Abu Dhabi has remained number 1 in the world for five years in a row for its low crime and high safety index

Dubai ranked 7th and Sharjah number 6th, it is the only country on the list to have so many all in the top 10 for lowest crime rates

Also as a woman, speaking from my own experience. I have rarely ever felt unsafe in the city and even walking alone late at night. I haven’t felt any need to worry. Frequently lost items are returned to those who lost them and you’ll even see people leave their belongings on the table

It is certainly safer than the United States, United Kingdom and Europe

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Why is the UAE wealthy?

The UAE’s initial wealth came from it’s oil and natural gas reserves which are mostly in the Abu Dhabi emirate. In fact, Dubai’s lack of natural resources is one of the keys to it’s success. As it had to diversify it’s income but it still isn’t as rich as Abu Dhabi

Another advantage the UAE had was it’s quite a small population in comparison to the resources that were discovered. This meant not only have it’s rulers been able to experience great wealth but that wealth has been shared with its citizens

Emirati’s are given free land, grants to build houses, reduced energy rates and free water even for large agricultural farms up until recent years in Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Zayed was famous for his generosity and the UAE follows these principles to this day

Now in modern times the UAE has also diversified it’s wealth, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have global investments along with a thriving tourist industry. Dubai’s location and large port, envisioned by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum has also meant Dubai is an epicentre of trade for the region

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What is the currency of the UAE?

The currency is shared by all of the UAE including Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This is the Emirati Dirham and uses the code AED

The main notes used are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. The Dirham is comprised of 100 fils and you’ll find 1 fil, 5 fil, 25 fil, 50 fil and 1 dirham coins. Though since 1 dirham is 27 cents, you’ll more frequently deal with the notes

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Is it possible to get citizenship in the UAE?

There have been quite a few changes recently and previously the only way for a foreigner to gain citizenship was through marriage. Emirati citizenship is passed down through the male line so it was only applicable to foreign women. However there are now other ways!

The UAE has first announced the ’10 year golden visa’ program. A standard work visa in the UAE is only 2 years but can be renewed. The golden visa is available for doctors, engineers, PHD holders and other specialist workers in desirable fields for 10 years as the name suggests

As of January 2021, it has now been announced those who would be applicable for the ‘golden visa’ and investors may also be able to get citizenship via naturalisation. This means having to live in the country for a minimum amount of time. Though we are currently waiting for more details on what the exact road path to Emirati citizenship would be

There have been some instances of people who have given great service to the UAE and thus have been awarded citizenship. Of course this is rare and currently it seems in the above cases would follow a similar suit. Where it is at the discretion of the UAE government

It is still possible to get citizenship as a women via marriage, if they marry an Emirati man. She can apply for Emirati citizenship after seven years or more of marriage if she has at least one child. Without children, it must be a period of 10 years and providing the marriage is ongoing according to the official UAE government website

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How to get a visa in the UAE

Firstly it depends if you wish to work in the UAE or if you are wanting to go on holiday.

Visit Visa

Tourist visas or visit visas are pretty easy to get for most countries in the UAE. The vast majority offer a visa on arrival and are free! Depending on the country your from, these are either 30 days or 90 days

In the past, it was possible to keep extending the tourist visa if you were from a country where 30 days is given. By doing what is called a Dubai visa run however currently it isn’t possible to do these. Due to restrictions entering Oman and quarantine periods

You can find out more about UAE tourist visas here, but keep in mind the currently Abu Dhabi has different Covid policies in terms of quarantines and entrance for tourists than Dubai

Work Visa

This is the visa you get when you secure a job in the UAE, I give some useful tips on how to find a job in the UAE here. These are for two years and can be renewed for the entire time that you have a job in the UAE

There is also now the new Remote work visa which is either for those who are employed remotely or are self employed and wish to stay in Dubai

Business or Investor Visa

There are many many options in regards to this so I won’t go into the topic too deep as the UAE offers various visa depending on your needs. There are two main differences, your visa will either be registered in a freezone or on what is called the mainland

Dubai was previously offering a visa for investing a minimum amount of real estate. The visa is still on offer but I’ve heard of people having issue actually getting the visa

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Mini guides to the other Emirates

Here is a little guide to each of the other Emirates and a little bit about each of them!

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi night skyline across the water

The capital of the UAE, this is the calmer side of the UAE but still with lots to do and that city feel. You’ve got everything from high end malls to cultural experiences. It’s usually a lot less busy than Dubai and more family friendly

Key attractions include:

  • Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque
  • The Corniche
  • Qasr Al Watan
  • Founders Memorial
  • Ferrari World
  • Yas Waterworld
  • The Lourve

Abu Dhabi also have the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix every year in November, featuring not only Formula One but concerts from world renown stars

You can find out more about the places mentions and what to do in 48 hours in Abu Dhabi here


Dubai is the most famous Emirate in the UAE and has become a luxury global tourist destination for the super rich. There’s definitely two sides to Dubai but it’s flashy cars and 5 star hotels are a key reason people choose to visit. Aside from the awesome winter weather of the UAE

Key attractions:

  • Burj Khalifa
  • Dubai Mall & Fountains
  • The Atlantis
  • Palm Jumeirah
  • Dubai Parks & Resorts
  • Global Village
  • Burj Al Arab
  • Dubai Miracle Garden
  • Dubai Frame
  • Queen Elizabeth II Cruise Ship

For the ultimate luxury itinerary and how to blow all your money in 3 days in Dubai, check out my previous article


Sharjah is located next door to Dubai along the coast and is known for being more affordable than Dubai in terms of housing and hotels. Also restaurants and other goods tend to be cheaper here too. The Sharjah Book Fair is held every year and attracts people from all over the UAE

Key attractions:

  • Sharjah Corniche
  • Sharjah Aquarium
  • Al Noor Mosque
  • Museum of Islamic Civilisation
  • Sharjah Fort
  • Al Noor Island

If you do think of staying in Sharjah in order to save money or doing any activities there, one thing to bear in mind is the traffic. Traffic into Dubai is very busy in the mornings due to the amount of people who live in Sharjah but work in Dubai. Then the same increase in traffic happens in the afternoon till early evening Dubai to Sharjah


Ajman is somewhat similar to Sharjah, in that it’s another location that can be popular for those wanting to save money on housing. It is much less busy than Sharjah so it’s an enjoyable alternative with less traffic!

Key attractions:

  • Ajman Courniche
  • Al Zorah Nature Reserve
  • Ajman Beach
  • Ajman Museum
  • Masfout Mountain

Umm Al Quwain

There’s quite a few farms here owned by Emiratis and it’s popular for locals from Sharjah to come here. They’ll have a farm with a house on the land, for gatherings and to relax. It also has some nice beaches, so if you like getting away from the crowds. UAQ is great!

Key attractions:

  • Dreamland Waterpark
  • Al Dour Port
  • Umm Al Quwain Beach
  • Umm Al Quwain Groves

Ras al Khaimah

Ras Al Khaimah is a really popular staycation location for those that live in Dubai and is the 3rd most popular tourist destination after Abu Dhabi in the UAE. They also did the world’s longest firework display for New Years Eve in 2018/19

Key attractions:

  • Jebal Jais
  • World’s Longest Zipline
  • Wadi Shawka
  • RAK National Museum
  • Dhayah Fort
  • Marjan Island


Fujairah is famous for it’s nature and is one of the best places to go diving in the UAE

Key attractions:

  • Fujairah Fort
  • Heritage Village
  • Fujairah Beach
  • Al Bidyah Mosque
  • Al Aqah Beach
  • Hajar Mountain

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this article all about the UAE and learnt some interesting facts! If you found this article helpful, don’t forget to give a share with one of the buttons below

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