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United Arab Emirates or UAE

The UAE comprises seven separate emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah. Although Dubai is probably the most well known of the emirates around the world, the capital is actually Abu Dhabi.

The emirates are bound by common laws, but are each distinctly different, and for that reason I have given an outline for each.

Abu Dhabi -

Much the sleeping giant of the emirates, with the largest oil reserves and a thriving city. Abu Dhabi is playing catch up to Dubai in terms of expansion and construction, and this is taking its toll on the infrastructure. With a beautiful Corniche and the fabulous Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi is without a doubt a pleasant place to live. The city is situated on a peninsula, with mangrove swamps close a hand, and this creates more of a green feel than perhaps Dubai.

However, traffic is coming to a standstill as the road infrastructure creaks under the volume of traffic. There were 25,000 cars in Abu Dhabi 10 years ago and over 260,000 today.

Dubai -

The cosmopolitan capital of the Middle East to many people. Dubai is the tourist destination that many have visited, and of course is renowned for the iconic buildings. Sadly, this is also its downfall. The tourism has been based on 5 (or 7) star experiences and tax free shopping. With a currency pegged to the dollar the days of cheap shopping have evaporated and in many cases imported items can be bought cheaper at home.

The plans for the tourism hub of Dubailand are well advanced, but the attractions have yet to be completed. Home to the world's tallest building, and soon the world's biggest shopping mall, the feats in construction are astounding.

However, that also means that construction continues night and day, and you really do struggle to find any view that doesn't include a crane. This is set to continue for many years.

The availability of freehold property has boosted prices such that purchase prices rose by 72% in the last 12 months. This also means that rents have followed. You can easily spend 240,000AED on a medium sized 3 bedroom villa.

Naturally there are every type of restaurant and entertainment to be found in Dubai - including some that are illegal.

School fees in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have also risen dramatically in recent years, as their costs of operation have escalated.

Sharjah -

Just to the North of Dubai, Sharjah is perhaps less well known in the west because it is a completely 'dry' emirate. Construction is moving forward here too, and the massive traffic congestion between Dubai and Sharjah at rush hour makes accomodation here less attractive but much cheaper.

Sharjah has a richer cultural history than Dubai in Many ways, as it has retained some of its heritage. Not a favourite with western ex-pats Sharjah is sometimes seen as a poor relation of Dubai.

Ajman -

Ajman forms the start of the Northern Emirates, and as the nearest to Dubai is going through a period of rapid expansion in construction. There is an incredible amount of property being built around the emirate to elevate its status in the region.

Property prices are more attractive as are rents, but travel to Dubai can be very problematic.

Umm Al Quwain -

As you progress through the Northern Emirates they become less populated, and Umm Al Quwain is no exception. There are plans to increase the amount of housing, and Emaar are in the early stages of building a massive development in Umm Al Qwain.

Ras Al Khaimah -

RAK is basing its growth on a tourism platform and much of the development is being concentrated on the beautiful coastline of the Gulf. A very pleasant atmosphere compared to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but of course much less populated.

Fujairah -

On the East coast of the peninsular, Fujairah is one of the most attractive emirates. With beautiful coastal towns and dramatic scenery, it is the most natural of any you can visit. There is of course little local population.

The Motor Trade -

The main hubs for dealers are naturally Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and these would house most of the central operations. However, most volume dealers - Toyota, GM, Nissan - are represented in every single emirate. Those with smaller operations will still have representation in RAK as well as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Toyota are the number 1 in the market followed by GM, and you can struggle to get factual information on registrations. There is no central database due to import and export, and therefore you do rely of estimates from manufacturers.