United Arab Emirates
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United Arab Emirates
September 12 to 23rd 2000

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a union of seven sovereign shaikhdoms, formed when the British withdrew from the Gulf in 1971. Travel agents are beginning to promote it as that much hyped 'land of contrasts'. There's a grain of truth in the cliché this time round, for it boasts mountains, beaches, deserts, oases, camel racing, Bedouin markets and the legendary duty free shopping of Dubai, all packed into a relatively small area.

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Abu Dhabi

Modern, sleek and shiny, it's hard to believe that the sprawling city of Abu Dhabi was just a bleak fishing and pearling village 40 years ago. Abu Dhabi may not be the most exciting city in the Gulf but it's not as soulless as its detractors claim. Founded in 1761, Abu Dhabi became the home of the ruling Al-Nahyan family when they moved from Liwa in 1793. It became a moderately successful pearling centre in the 19th century, but the collapse of the pearling industry decimated the town and it sunk into squalor. Oil concessions were granted in the 1930s in a desperate bid to salvage the emirate. When oil revenue started pouring in thirty years later, the reed and mud-brick huts were rapidly replaced by banks and boutiques, and the settlement has now spread to occupy virtually all of the T-shaped Abu Dhabi island in the centre of the UAE's northern coast. Abu Dhabi is by far the richest and most politically important of the UAE's seven emirates.

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View of Abu Dhabi from new development area

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View from my room from Khalifa's apt

My good old friend from college

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Trying to blend in :-)

My old college friend

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Could not tell, can not see them :-(

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View from the Souk

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Perfect beach, hot water.. but some just like the view of the Gulf...


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Al Ain

Al-Ain is the main town in the Buraimi Oasis, which straddles the border between Abu Dhabi and Oman. Its sister town, Buraimi, is on the Omani side of the border, but visitors can move freely between the two, making this a fine way to get a taste of Oman without the hassle of obtaining a visa.

The oasis is probably the longest inhabited part of what is now the UAE, with settlement dating back to the 4th millenium BC. In more recent times, Al-Ain was the birthplace of Shaikh Zayed, the current ruler of Abu Dhabi, and he has lavished funds on it. Buraimi has not received the same largesse and remains a comfortable provincial town. The resulting contrast between the two communities makes this an interesting spot to visit. The other drawcard in summer is the dry heat of the oasis, a welcome relief from the humidity on the coast.

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Date plantation
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Lunch time
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Mt. Hafit

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Dubai's is one of the last bastions of anything-goes capitalism - a city whose wealth is based on trade, not oil - and there's no place quite like it in the Gulf. There isn't a lot to see in Dubai but it's the most easygoing city in the region, has the best nightlife and boasts copious opportunities for duty-free shopping. It's well worth spending a few days wandering through the souks (markets) and along the waterfront to take in the city's atmosphere, but don't expect to find anything 'old' in Dubai. Fortunately it's the one place in the Gulf where that hardly seems to matter.

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Just $1000 bucks a night
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one of the many malls
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The pyramids, spa
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Desert Safari
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Desert Safari

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Desert Safari-- dancers waiting for their turn..
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