About UAE

This section provides essential information about the UAE's economy, political and government system, strategies, plans and initiatives. Know about the UAE’s vast history and rich culture. For more information, you could also read the UAE Annual Book 2018.


The UAE has a rich culture and heritage that reflects traditional Arab and Islamic values. Environment and terrain also influenced the lifestyle. Read to know about the different aspects of the Emirati culture and their inspirations then and now Arab and Islamic heritage The UAE is blessed with a rich heritage that encompasses architecture, sports, occupations, traditions, arts, crafts, food, places of historical and archaeological importance, lifestyle and values imbibed in Islam. This page attempts to give you a peek into the UAE's glorious heritage and the UAE's efforts to preserve it amidst the modern changes.

Features of the Arab and Islamic heritage

Some of the distinct features of the Arab and Islamic heritage are hospitality, tolerance, family cohesion and solidarity among members of the society along with honour and pride associated with being part of this heritage.

Validation of the UAE's heritage

The city of Al Ain in the emirate of Abu Dhabi is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cultural sites include six oases and the archaeological sites of Bida bint Saud, Hafeet and Hili. Read more about Al Ain, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The emirate of Sharjah has gained two prestigious titles for bearing the torch of the UAE's culture and heritage. In 1998, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named it 'The Cultural Capital of the Arab World'. In 2014, it was named the capital of Islamic culture for 2014 by Organisation of Islamic Countries.

Efforts of the UAE Government in preserving the heritage

Government entities have taken and continue to take several measure not only to preserve the heritage but also to create awareness about it. It has achieved this through: holding festivals and events forming clubs establishing heritage villages establishing and maintaining museums constructing and maintaining mosques. Festivals and events

Annual festivals such as Qasr Al Hosn Festival, Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival, Sultan bin Zayed Heritage Festival, Sharjah Heritage Days bring alive the UAE's heritage and gives the chance for the new generation to experience and value it. These festivals are very popular and draw huge crowds.


Clubs such as Emirates Heritage Club and Juma Al Majid Center for Culture and Heritage conduct research on the heritage and organise activities to promote awareness about the heritage.

Heritage villages

Heritage villages are a complex of structures that include traditional houses, schools, markets and public spaces. It is like a replica of structures in the olden days. All emirates have at least one heritage village. The heritage villages offer a peek into the different aspects of the lives of Emiratis in the olden times. Read about the heritage villages in:

Abu Dhabi Dubai Fujairah. Museums
Museums in the UAE have contributed a lot towards preservation of the culture of the UAE. There are several museums in the UAE. They display artwork, rare pictures, utensils, armoury, maritime equipment, currencies and other items from the olden times. Museums that have opened in original structures that served as forts or palaces in the olden days reflect the heritage of the UAE in a unique way.

New Museums

Several new museums such as The Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Maritime Museum are coming up in Saadiyat Cultural District of Abu Dhabi.
Each of these museums will have a state of the art building. The Louvre and Guggenheim will exhibit unique collections from all over the world.

Constructing and maintaining mosques

General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments is the federal authority responsible for constructing mosques in the UAE. There are about 4818 mosques in the UAE open all day to call for piety, righteousness and peace.

Al Bidya Mosque in Fujairah is the oldest mosque in the UAE

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi reflects the grandeur of the Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid architectural styles. Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding President of the UAE, was laid to rest in the complex of the mosque.
Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai was built entirely from white stone in the medieval Fatimid tradition, with towering twin minarets framing a large central dome. It can hold up to 1,200 worshippers.

All these three mosques are open for visits by non-Muslims.
Tips for non-Muslims to enter a mosque
A non-Muslim wishing to enter the mosque must dress conservatively. His/her clothes should fully cover the shoulders, arms and knees. In addition, women would need to cover their heads.
Useful links:
Facts about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - the official portal of Abu Dhabi Government
Mosque manners
Useful links

Cultural authorities

Ministry of Culture and Youth
Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority
Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture)
Department of Culture and Information - Sharjah
Fujairah Culture and Media Authority

Culture and heritage:

Read about the culture and heritage of the UAE on the official tourism portals of:
Abu Dhabi
Ras Al Khaimah.
Places to visit:
Community and cultural centres - Ministry of Culture and Youth
Cultural attractions - Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority
Museums and heritage sites in Dubai - Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture)
Forts, museums and archaeological sites - the official portal of Abu Dhabi Government
Archaeological and historic sites - VisitDubai.com
Museums in Sharjah - the official portal tourism of Sharjah
Additional references
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding


Owing to the harsh climatic conditions, agricultural produce was limited in the olden days. Hence, the Emiratis relied on animal products. Some Emirati dishes have a hint of Arabian, Indian, Iranian, Mediterranean and Turkish influences.

Social life

In the earlier days, the UAE’s social life was different on the coasts, in the oases and in the deserts. Read about the varied life here. The aspects of UAE's social life The harsh climate and the mostly arid terrain played an important role in influencing the social life of people in the past.

One of a tribe

Every one belonged to one tribal group or the other and swore allegiance to it. This way, everyone was bound by obligations to protect his tribe and in turn be assured of the same for himself from the rest of his tribe members.
The tribal people settled and moved together in groups. The Bani Yas group was the largest tribal group. It roamed the deserts of the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The other tribes at that time were the Awamir and Manasir that also wandered.
The tribes wandered with their camels in search of greener lands for themselves and their cattle. Almost all Bani Yas families, except the Al Rumaitha, who were into fishing, returned to their dwelling in the oases of Liwa occasionally.
Water: key to economic and social structure
As per the book 'The Tribal Society of the UAE and its Traditional Economy' by Frauke Heard-Bey, the availability of water was key to the economic life and hence the social structure of the then UAE. The country can be broadly divided into three geographically and therefore economically different regions: firstly, the coasts and islands; secondly, the Hajar mountain range with its valleys (wadis) and adjacent gravel plains; and thirdly, the sandy desert.
Life by the coast On the islands of Abu Dhabi, archaeological evidences show that tribespeople came to fish in the winter and even brought their camels over in boats. They used rainwater, stored in cisterns, or caught in horizontally placed sails.
With the rise of pearling industry, many families moved to the coast. Thus, increasing the size and importance of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Life in the oases
The pearling industry resulted in families gathering wealth. Some of these moved to Al Ain and started date farming. They put some of their wealth in bringing underground water for the date farms from springs near the mountains to the plains. The area and its economy started thriving after the availability of water.
Life in the desert
Bedouins had found a way to live in the harsh desert. In the deserts of Empty Quarter in Abu Dhabi, sometimes, they could find water in the dunes, which was potable, sweet and adequate for their population. They even created date gardens and built themselves houses using the branches of the date palms.
The camel supported the bedouin in their daily life struggle. The camel was not only a mode of transport but also a source of food and a thing of entertainment and utility. Camels were herded for their milk and meat. They were also raced for fun as a sport. Camel hide was used to make bags and other useful utensils, while some of the finest mens' outer garments (bisht) were woven from their hair.
Foundation of the governance culture
The culture of sharing and participation is intrinsic to the Emirati culture. In the olden days, the ruling Sheikhs used to travel to remote lands in the UAE and camp in villages where they would hold ad hoc meetings in large tents. These meetings were informal in nature and largely involved sharing, discussing and resolving local issues relating to society, agriculture, trade and economy, housing, medical and other topics relating to the well-being and happiness of the people. These meetings were referred to as Barza or Majlis (Arabic words for gatherings) and drew Emiratis in huge numbers.

The UAE society today

The UAE's population was estimated to be around 8.2 million around mid-2010. The UAE Government has invested its wealth from oil in building a nation with world-class infrastructure. Emiratis now have access to good education, health services, housing and other vital infrastructure such as public works, banks, telecommunication etc. The UAE leads the Arab region in many of these sectors.
Owing to their earlier practice of settling in groups, even today, Emirati families live together. They stand for cohesiveness bound by religious and tribal ties and traditional values of cooperating and sharing.
Emiratis are social. They like to meet people and continue to hold regular gatherings at home or social venues. They are warm hosts and treat their guests with utmost honour. An Emirati man greets another Emirati man by rubbing his nose against the other's nose. A handshake, an embrace and greetings of peace follow.
Economic factors still affect social lifestyle. Yet, the one thing that did not change is that the Emirati culture resonates Islamic values.
Sourced from:
UAE Interact website
The book 'The Tribal Society of the UAE and its Traditional Economy' by Frauke Heard-Bey
Sports and recreation
This page provides information on the traditional and modern sports of the UAE. It also throws light on governmental efforts to promote the uptake of sports and improve results in that field
The area's history can be traced back to 6000 B.C. The UAE as a federation did not exist then. The area and the surrounding region was referred to as Arabian Peninsula. This page provides a brief about life in the area during ancient times and the major events that took place on this land that affected the sovereignty and freedom of its people and lead them to form the country of the United Arab Emirates
The seven emirates
This section provides an overview of the UAE’s seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

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