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Country Reports

United Arab Emirates Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

A United Arab Emirates (9,4 million inhabitants), a federation of seven emirates (including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah) located on the Arabian Peninsula between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman,  the UAE is generally a lavish and peaceful destination. Although the situation in the country is currently calm, travel to the UAE nonetheless requires a certain amount of preparation.

TERRORISM

Certain Western governments, notably the United Kingdom, judge the terrorism threat to be high despite the fact that no attack has yet occurred on UAE soil. The terrorist group the Islamic State (IS) has called on its fighters to attack westerners and Western interests throughout the Middle East. The UAE's military participation   in the international coalition against IS in Iraq and Syria could make the country a likely target for jihadists. In January 2017, the Bristish Foreign Office issued a warning reminding the terrorist threat.

The presence of a large number of Westerners in the country, the modern way of life of many residents (particularly in Dubai), and the close diplomatic relations the UAE maintains with both the United States and the UK, make the federation a likely target for Islamic terrorists. If an attack were to take place, oil infrastructure in Abu Dhabi or sites frequented by Westerners in Dubai could be targeted.

POLITICS

The UAE is organized as a federal state presided by the Sheikh Khalifa Bun Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the Emir of Abu Dhabi. Each of the seven emirates is governed by an emir, with succession through  inheritance.

The country has a Supreme Council (uniting the seven emirates), a Cabinet (Council of Ministers), a Federal National Council (Parliament of 40 members with a consultative role) and a Supreme Federal Court. Legislative elections to elect half of the members of the lower chamber (Federal National Council, Majlis al-Itihad al-Watani) took place on October 3 2015. The next legislative polls are scheduled in 2019.

The local legislation (civil law and criminal law) is based on Shari'a law.

Abu Dhabi is the administrative capital of the UAE, however Dubai is the most populated city (2.33 million relative to 1.11 million in Abu Dhabi). The country's wealth derives from gas and oil (25% of GDP), foreign industries, and tourism. The emirate of Abu Dhabi produces 90% of all UAE hydrocarbons.

The UAE has one of the highest rates of immigration in the world. 

Geopolitically, the Emirates are preoccupied by the spread of radical Islam. Political Islam threatens the families in power and is incompatible with a tolerant and multicultural society. The country, at the crossroad between Europe and Asia, uses Singapore as a model.

SOCIAL RISKS

The Emirates have successfully avoided the social movements that rocked other Arab countries in 2011 by limiting the means of expression of opposing forces. The country is under strict control from the political authorities.

CIMINALITY

The crime rate is very low. Nonetheless, it is advised to take care of personal belonging, as thefts and pickpocketing is possible.

Travelers must note that some foreigners have suffered from verbal and sexual harassment. It is therefore advised against travelling alone, especially at night.

Credit card fraud are often reported in the country.

TRANSPORTATION

Dubai international airport is considered to be one of the most important in the world, with one of the highest number of yearly passengers (80 million in 2015). It serves 260 destinations on all continents, thanks to Emirates Airline.

Al Maktoum airport is the secondary airport in the city and mainly serves Cargo flights.

Abu Dhabi international airport is expanding with Etihad airways, Emirates Airline's rival.  

All flights to and from Qatar have been suspended since June 6, 2017, until further notice due to a diplomatic rift.

The US government has announced that passengers flying non-stop to the United States from the UAE will be banned from transporting any electronic device larger than a standard-sized smartphone (16 cm x 9.3 cm x 1.5 cm / 6.3 in x 3.5 in x 0.6 in) in carry-on luggage. This includes laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, DVD players, and video games, which will have to be stowed in checked luggage for the duration of the flight.

Luggage is strictly controlled at the airport. French diplomatic authorities recommend to their citizens that Emirati authorities have the power to accept or decline entrance to foreigners. Many French nationals have been declined entrance to the UAE (even in Dubai) by border police and have been sent back to their country of origin. No explanation is provided to travelers sent back to their country of origin. However, it is part of preemptive counterterrorism measures taken by local authorities. The road network is very good, however driving could be dangerous. Car accidents are frequent due to bad habits of drivers and dangerous driving, especially by youth on Thursday and Friday evenings due to speeding   and animals crossing the road. Authorities are very strict with regards to traffic laws. Automatic radar traps are widely used and fines can be expensive. The UAE has a "zero tolerance" policy on drinking and driving.

If going off-road in the desert, it is advised against going alone. Inform someone of your itinerary, check your vehicle, be sure to have means of communication, mechanic tools, and enough fuel and water. In general, rental cars do not have insurance for going off-road.

Taxis are available in major cities and are trustworthy. They all have a metric system. Uber is available throughout the country.

Emirates Express buses connect Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with departures every 40 minutes between Al-Ghubaibah (Dubai) and Hazza bin Zayed terminal (Abu Dhabi). The travel time is around 2 hours. The Al Ghazal bus company also connects Dubai to Sharjah.

Travel by sea is possible, however the waters in the Gulf are politically sensitive. Some areas are forbidden to access. Coast Guard patrols are frequent. It is important to have your passport at all times. 

NATURAL RISKS

Finally, it should be noted that dehydration is a significant risk during the summer due to extreme temperatures. Summer also often brings sand storms and floods, such as the floods that struck Abu Dhabi in April 2011. This severe weather is not rare. In 2014, several cities in central and northern UAE were hit by floods, mostly due to insufficient or failing drainage infrastructure.

HEALTH

Hospitals are modern. It is important, prior to your departure, to subscribe to a medical insurance.

There is low risk of malaria in the east of the country, close to the border with Oman. No chemoprophylaxis is needed, but it is recommended to protect yourself from mosquitoes.

Water is potable. Avoid eating uncooked food.

Protect yourself carefully from sun and heat to avoid burns and sunstrokes.

In January 2016, cases of MERS were reported. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS‐CoV). Typical MERS symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, have also been reported. Approximately 36 percent of reported patients with MERS have died.

In early October 2016, Abu Dhabi health authorities reported several cases of quails infected with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in al-Gharbia, located in the western part of the country. All necessary measures based on international regulations were reportedly taken to avoid further contamination. It is the first reported case of avian influenza in the UAE, and although the risk of human contamination seems negligible, all necessary precautions should be observed. It is highly recommended to avoid all contact with potentially infected animals (poultry and other birds), as well as visiting poultry markets and farms.

LOCAL LEGISLATION

For Schengen, Swiss and Canadian passports, a 30 day visa is delivered (free of charge) on arrival, as long as the passport is valid for six months after the date of departure from the UAE.

Residency visas require a blood teste and will be refused to people with HIV, or Hepatitis B or C.

The local legislation is based on the Shari'a. Death sentences are still used.

The UAE is a Muslim country. It is important that travelers respect local customs and dress appropriately. While headscarves are not mandatory, women should nonetheless dress modestly.

Alcohol consumption is allowed in Hotel restaurants. It is advised against smoking, drinking, and eating in public during the month of Ramadan (May 27 until June 25).

Import of pork meat is illegal. Import of magazines and videos can be subject to censorship by the authorities.

It is forbidden to photograph people without their consent. Photography of public buildings as well as military installments are strictly punishable by law.

Financial crimes such as fraud or money laundering is subject to imprisonment.

A license can be required for electronic equipment such as binoculars, satellite phones or else. Electronic cigarettes are totally forbidden.

Use, possession and traffic of narcotics is severely punished.

Non-accompanied people under the age of 18 are forbidden to stay in a hotel.

Sexual acts outside marriage is illegal. Being pregnant outside marriage can be sanctioned by imprisonment. Homosexuality is also illegal. Parents are asked to have proof of marriage in order to get a birth certificate for their child. Without proof, parents risk prison time, and the child will not be recognized in the country.

The risk of sexual harassment exists in the country. It is advised to women to remain vigilant and avoid going out alone at night. Given the local legislation, it is difficult to prove sexual aggression and the victim may have their passport seized for the duration of the legal procedure, which could take months. In case of any similar problem, it is advised to contact your embassy and your company. 

Climate

The UAE has an arid-subtropical climate and is characterized by high temperatures and low levels of rainfall.

Summers are very hot and humid and winters are generally mild. From December to March temperatures range between 10°C and 30°C and can climb as high as 48°C with humidity rates of 100% in the summer.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +971 Police: 999 Fire Dept.: 999 Ambulance: 999

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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