The United Arab Emirates – Al Etihad
Watching the growth of the country
We visited the country for the first time back in 2005 for one week holidays in November. At that time we still required the visa to be arranged through a selected hotel, the Burj Khalifa Tower was under construction as was the Dubai Marina. Palm Jumeirah was being developed on the desks of architects and the Dubai metro was in foggy pipeline.
Dubai was a relatively inexpensive place and there were no local taxes charged to the hotel bills. There was still the boat commuting service to the Iranian Kish Island available and millions of fake products were sold in Karama market without a trace of fear on the sellers’ faces.
In the years to follow we were returning to the UAE for several times and we could observe the country’s dynamic transformation to become luxury holiday destination, dynamic business centre and a major hub for development and the implementation of new technologies.
Certainly the country is lucky enough to have smart leaders. Although the political system is far from democracy in the Western sense, 7 rulers of the single emirates have understood that joining the forces and the preference to the common interest are more important than single benefit. These rulers have also understood early enough – and contrary to some of their neighbors – that the revenues from oil exploration will not last forever and an idea has to be found how to use them in order to guarantee the long term prosperity for the citizens.
The law order in the country is based on sharia rules with generous level of tolerance to the tourists. Gay couples in the hotels are not uncommon. Alcohol can be bought in excessive quantities (4 liters per capita) in the duty free shop in every airport’s arrival hall. As almost everywhere in the world the golden rule applies: be yourself with some level of respect to the local customs and laws.
Nowadays, we would describe Emirates as a quite expensive place where the local flavor is consequently being pushed out by the modern, luxurious environment. There are still differences in price levels between the single emirates (taxi cost in Abu Dhabi is still 60-70% of Dubai’s price for the same distance) but the country we remember from 2005 which we enjoyed so much is not going to be back.