The Seven Emirates
Abu Dhabi is the largest of all seven emirates with an area of 67,340 square kilometres, equivalent to 86.7 per cent of the country's total area, excluding the islands. It has a coastline extending for more than 400 kilometres and is divided for administrative purposes into three major regions.
The first region encompasses the city of Abu Dhabi which is both the capital of the emirate and the federal capital. Sheikh Zayed, President of the UAE resides here. The parliamentary buildings in which the federal Cabinet meets, most of the federal ministries and institutions, the foreign embassies, state broadcasting facilities, and most of the oil companies are also located in Abu Dhabi, which is also the home of Zayed University and the Higher Colleges of Technology. Major infrastructural facilities include Mina (Port) Zayed and Abu Dhabi International Airport. The city also has extensive cultural, sport and leisure facilities, together with the wonderfully engineered Abu Dhabi Corniche which offers many kilometres of risk-free walking, cycling, jogging and roller-blading along the seashore of Abu Dhabi island. Architecturally speaking the city is also a fascinating place where older buildings such as small mosques have been preserved and sit comfortably in the shade of futuristic modern skyscrapers.
Abu Dhabi's second region, known as the Eastern Region, has as its capital Al Ain city. This fertile area is rich in greenery with plenty of farms, public parks and important archaeological sites. It is also blessed by substantial groundwater resources which feed into numerous artesian wells. Points of particular interest in this region are the Ain Al Faydah Park, Jebel Hafit, the leisure park at Al Hili, Al Ain Zoo and Al Ain Museum. This is also a cultural and educational centre and site of the UAE's first university, the UAE University, which includes among its many faculties a vibrant medical school. Internal transport is facilitated by a superb road network and Al Ain is connected to the outside world through Al Ain International Airport.
The Western Region, the emirate's third administrative sector, comprises 52 villages and has as its capital Bida Zayed, or Zayed City. Extensive afforestation covers at least 100,000 hectares, including more than 20 million evergreens. The country's main onshore oil fields are located here, as is the country's largest oil refinery, at Al Ruwais.
In addition to the three mainland regions of Abu Dhabi there are a number of important islands within the emirate including Das, Mubarraz, Zirku and Arzanah, near where the main offshore oil fields are located. Closer inshore are Dalma, Sir Bani Yas, Merawah, Abu al-Abyadh and Saadiyat, together with many other islands.
The Emirate of Dubai extends along the Arabian Gulf coast of the UAE for approximately 72 kilometres. Dubai has an area of c. 3,885 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 5 per cent of the country's total area, excluding the islands.
Dubai city is built along the edge of a narrow 10-kilometre long, winding creek which divides the southern section of Bur Dubai, the city's traditional heart, from the northern area of Deira.
The Ruler's office, together with many head offices of major companies, Port Rashid, the Dubai World Trade Centre, customs, broadcasting stations and the postal authority are all situated in Bur Dubai. Deira is a thriving commercial centre containing a huge range of retail outlets, markets, hotels and Dubai International Airport. Bur Dubai and Deira are linked by Al Maktoum and Al Garhoud bridges, as well as Al Shindagha tunnel which passes under the creek.
Jebel Ali, home of a huge man-made port, has the largest free-trade zone in Arabia housing an ever growing list of international corporations which use the zone for both manufacturing and as a redistribution point.
Jumeirah beach is a major tourism area with a number of spectacular award winning hotels and sports facilities.
Inland, the mountain resort town of Hatta is an extremely attractive location. Adjacent to a lake reservoir, the Hatta Fort Hotel is set in extensive parkland and provides a perfect base for exploring the nearby wadis and mountains, which extend into Omani territory.
The Emirate of Sharjah extends along approximately 16 kilometres of the UAE's Gulf coastline and for more than 80 kilometres into the interior. In addition there are three enclaves belonging to Sharjah situated on the east coast, bordering the Gulf of Oman. These are Kalba, Khor Fakkan and Dibba al-Husn. The emirate has an area of 2,590 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 3.3 per cent of the country's total area, excluding the islands.
The capital city of Sharjah, which overlooks the Arabian Gulf, contains the main administrative and commercial centres together with an especially impressive array of cultural and traditional projects, including several museums. Distinctive landmarks are the two major covered souqs, reflecting Islamic design; a number of recreational areas and public parks such as Al Jazeirah Fun Park and Al Buheirah Corniche. The city is also notable for its numerous elegant mosques. Links with the outside world are provided by Sharjah International Airport and Port Khalid.
Sharjah also encompasses some important oasis areas, the most famous of which is Dhaid where a wide range of vegetables and fruits are cultivated on its rich and fertile soil. Khor Fakkan provides Sharjah with a major east coast port. Two offshore islands belong to Sharjah, Abu Musa, which has been under military occupation by Iran since 1971, and Sir Abu Nu'air.
Ajman, located a short distance northeast of Sharjah's capital city, has a beautiful 16-kilometre stretch of white sand beach. It is a small emirate in terms of its physical size, covering about 259 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 0.3 per cent of the country's total area, excluding the islands.
The capital city, Ajman, has an historic fort at its centre. This has been recently renovated and now houses a fascinating museum. In addition to the Ruler's office, various companies, banks and commercial centres, the emirate is also blessed with a natural harbour in which the Port of Ajman is situated. Masfut is an agricultural village located in the mountains 110 kilometres to the southeast of the city, while the Manama area lies approximately 60 kilometres to the east.
UMM AL QAIWAIN
The Emirate of Umm Al Qaiwain, which has a coastline stretching to 24 kilometres, is located on the Arabian Gulf coast of the UAE, between Sharjah to the southwest, and Ras al-Khaimah to the northeast. Its inland border lies about 32 kilometres from the main coastline. The total area of the emirate is about 777 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 1 per cent of the country's total area, excluding the islands.
The city of Umm Al Qaiwain, capital of the emirate, is situated on a narrow peninsula which encircles a large creek 1 kilometre wide by 5 kilometres long. The Ruler's office, administrative and commercial centres, the main port and a Mariculture Research Centre where prawns and fish are reared on an experimental basis, are located here. The city also has the preserved remains of an old fort, its main gate flanked by defensive cannons.
Falaj al-Mualla, an attractive natural oasis, is located 50 kilometres southeast of Umm Al Qaiwain city. Sinayah island, lying a short distance offshore has important mangrove areas together with a breeding colony of Socotra cormorants.
RAS AL KHAIMAH
Ras Al Khaimah, the most northerly emirate on the UAE's west coast, has a coastline of about 64 kilometres on the Arabian Gulf, backed by a fertile hinterland, with a separate enclave in the heart of the Hajar mountains to the southeast. Both parts of the emirate share borders with the Sultanate of Oman. In addition to its mainland territory, Ras Al Khaimah possesses a number of islands including those of Greater and Lesser Tunb, occupied by Iran since 1971. The area of the emirate is 168 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 2.2 per cent of the country's total area, excluding islands.
The city of Ras Al Khaimah is divided into two sections by Khor Ras Al Khaimah. In the western section, known as Old Ras Al Khaimah, are Ras Al Khaimah National Museum and a number of government departments. The eastern part, known as Al Nakheel, houses the Ruler's office, several government departments and commercial companies. The two sections are connected by a large bridge built across the khor.
Khor Khuwayr is an industrial region situated approximately 25 kilometres to the north of Ras Al Khaimah city. In addition to its major cement, gravel and marble enterprises, it is also the location for Port Saqr, the main export port for the emirate and the traditional fishing district of Rams. Digdagga district, on the other hand, is a well-known agricultural area and houses the Julphar pharmaceutical factory, the largest in the Arabian Gulf.
Other important centres within the emirate include: Al-Hamraniah, an agricultural centre and also the location for Ras Al Khaimah International Airport, Khatt, a tourist resort that is renowned for its thermal springs, Masafi which is well known for its orchards and natural springs and Wadi al-Qawr, an attractive valley in the southern mountains.
With the exception of some small enclaves belonging to Sharjah, Fujairah is the only emirate situated along the Gulf of Oman. Its coast is more than 90 kilometres in length and its strategic location has played a key role in its development. The area of the emirate is 1165 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 1.5 per cent of the country's total area, excluding islands.
Fujairah city, the capital of the emirate, is a rapidly developing centre which contains the Ruler's office, government departments, many commercial companies and a number of hotels, as well as an airport and the Port of Fujairah, one of the world's top oil bunkering ports.
The physical features of the emirate are characterised by the jagged Hajar mountains which border the fertile coastal plain where most of the settlement has taken place. Blessed with dramatic scenery, Fujairah is well placed to continue building upon its tourism trade. Attractions include some excellent diving sites, the natural beauty of the mountains and coastline, cultural and historic attractions and, of course, reliable winter sunshine.
The historic town of Dibba al-Fujairah, at the northern end of the emirate, is an important centre for both agriculture and fishing, while the village of Bidiya has a unique four-domed mosque that is the oldest in the country.