The last stop on our 2014 Around The World trip was the United Arab Emirates (UAE), specifically Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The UAE is the result of a union of seven small Arab sheikdoms on the Persian Gulf that joined forces in the 1970s for self-preservation given monumental political shifts in the region.

The official religion of the UAE is Islam and the official language is Arabic. On account of the large number of foreign expatriates however (only 1.5 million out of 8 million residents are native citizens), the country’s main language is English.

There remain large economic differences between the emirates. Abu Dhabi has access to the largest oil reserves and the highest revenues. Dubai has the most diversified economy. Both, but Dubai especially, provide a dramatic example of creating ‘something’ out of nothing. A manmade center for trade and tourism – which resembles Manhattan with its tall skyscrapers – Dubai fell hard as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and had to be bailed out by the more fiscally conservative Abu Dhabi in 2009. Dubai is building like crazy again – the architecture is truly stunning. Donald Trump is touting Dubai as the place to invest, but it looks like another bubble forming to us.

Map of Middle East. UAE is  the small brown country on the eastern edge of Saudi Arabia.

Map of Middle East. UAE is the small orange country on the eastern edge of Saudi Arabia.



Map of the United Arab Emirates.

Map of the United Arab Emirates.



After oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in the 1960s, the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai decided to form a union between their two emirates independently. They then called on the rulers of the other five emirates to offer them the opportunity to join.   The founding of the independent country - the United Arab Emirates - occurred on December 2, 1971 and is depicted by this famous picture.

After oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in the 1960s, the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai decided to form a union between their two emirates independently. They then called on the rulers of the other five emirates to offer them the opportunity to join. The founding of the independent country – the United Arab Emirates – occurred on December 2, 1971 and is depicted by this famous picture.



A view of Dubai in the 1960s.

A view of Dubai in the 1960s.



Dubai in the 1960s.

Dubai in the 1960s.



Dubai in the 1960s.

Dubai in the 1960s.



Dubai in the 1970s.

Dubai in the 1970s.



Dubai in the 1980s.

Dubai in the 1980s.



Dubai in the 1990s.

Dubai in the 1990s.



Dubai skyline today.

Dubai skyline today.



Dubai's central business district.

Dubai’s central business district.



Dubai's marina district from another angle.

Dubai’s marina district.



Dubai's marina district from another angle still.

Dubai’s marina district from another angle.



The new Dubai Atlantis.

Atlantis, The Palm Dubai.



The famous Burj Al Arab, featuring 202 two story suites.  The location is somewhat removed from downtown Dubai.

The famous Burj Al Arab, featuring 202 two story suites. The location is somewhat removed from downtown Dubai.



The Burg Kalifa - AT 2,717 feet, the tallest building in the world.

The Burj Khalifa – at 2,717 feet, the tallest building in the world.



From this angle, it's only about five times our height.

From this angle, it’s only about five times our height.



Top 10 tallest buildings in the world.

Top 10 tallest buildings in the world.



View from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa - looking at a foreground picture of Dubai from the 1970s, with a view of today's Dubai in the background.

View from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa – looking at a foreground picture of Dubai from the 1970s, with a view of today’s Dubai in the background.



View from the observation deck of the Burj Kalifa.

View from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, including the shadow of the building.



View from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa.

View from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa.



View from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa. No diving allowed.

View from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa. No diving allowed.



Dubai has something on the order of 75 shopping malls.  This four story cylindrical waterfall is in the Dubai Mall - one of the largest malls in the world.

Diving allowed. Click here for a short video.
Dubai has something on the order of 75 shopping malls. This four story cylindrical waterfall is in the Dubai Mall – one of the largest malls in the world.



One of the largest tanks in the world, the Dubai Aquarium is located inside the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Aquarium is home to more than 33,000 living animals, including 400 sharks and rays.

One of the largest tanks in the world, the Dubai Aquarium is located inside the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Aquarium is home to more than 33,000 living animals, including 400 sharks and rays.



The aquarium features the world’s largest viewing panel, which is about 100 feet wide, 25 feet high and 30 inches thick.   It weighs about 500,000 lbs.

The aquarium features the world’s largest viewing panel, which is about 100 feet wide, 25 feet high and 30 inches thick. It weighs about 500,000 lbs.



The royal yacht Dubai is the personal yacht of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. Completed in 2006, she is the second largest yacht currently in service[3] at 524 feet (162 metres) long.

The royal yacht Dubai is the personal yacht of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. Completed in 2006, she is the second largest yacht currently in service at 524 feet long.



The royal yacht Trieb.  Actually, a water taxi in "Old Dubai".

The royal yacht Trieb. Actually, a water taxi in “Old Dubai”.



A view from our water taxi. Many people commute to work on these taxis every day.

A view from our water taxi. Many people commute to work on these taxis every day.



The entrance to the gold market (souk) in old Dubai.  The souk is located in the heart of Dubai's commercial business district in Deira. The souk consists of over 300 retailers that trade almost exclusively in jewelry.

The entrance to the gold market (souk) in old Dubai. The souk is located in the heart of Dubai’s commercial business district in Deira. The souk consists of over 300 retailers that trade almost exclusively in jewelry.



Supposedly the largest ring in the wold, the Najmat Taiba or Star of Taiba is estimated to cost $3 million, is on display at the Deira Gold Souk.  The 21-carat ring weighs almost 141 pounds, and is studded with 11 pounds of precious stones.

Supposedly the largest ring in the wold, the Najmat Taiba or Star of Taiba is estimated to cost $3 million. It is on display at the Deira Gold Souk. The 21-carat ring weighs almost 141 pounds, and is studded with 11 pounds of precious stones.



A view down the passageway of the gold souk.

A view down the passageway of the gold souk.



Some of these necklaces weigh 5 or 6 lbs.

Some of these necklaces weigh 5 or 6 lbs.



Shauna in the Persian Gulf in Abu Dhabi.  The water was 86 degrees.  Around the 1st of August, it will reach close to 95 degrees.

Shauna in the Persian Gulf in Abu Dhabi. The water was 86 degrees. Around the 1st of August, it will reach close to 95 degrees.



Large desalination plant near Dubai.  Is partially powered by the heat that gets created in the electrical generation process.   Costs about $2 per 1,000 gallons to remove the salt.

Large desalination plant near Dubai. It is partially powered by the heat that gets created in the electrical generation process. It costs about $2 per 1,000 gallons to remove the salt. According to a Bloomberg report, Dubai gets 98.8% of its potable water from desalination.



Constructed from 1996 to 2007, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest mosque in the world. The Sunni mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshipers – about 10,000 indoors and the remainder in the large courtyard.

Constructed from 1996 to 2007, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest mosque in the world. The Sunni mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshipers – about 10,000 indoors and the remainder in the large courtyard.



Women are required to cover their heads.

Women are required to cover their heads, arms and legs.



The courtyard, with its floral design, measures about 17,000 m2 (180,000 sq ft),and is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world.

The courtyard, with its floral design, measures about 180,000 sq ft, and is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world.



The carpet in the main prayer hall is supposedly the largest

The carpet in the main prayer hall is supposedly the largest in the world. 1200 carpet knotters worked for two years to make it. It weights 35 tons.



There are seven crystal chandeliers made by Faustig (Munich, Germany) situated inside the halls and foyers. The largest (located in the main prayer hall and considered one of the world’s largest in a mosque and is weighing approximately 12 tons.

There are seven crystal chandeliers containing millions of Swarovski crystals situated inside the halls and foyers. The largest, located in the main prayer hall, is one of the world’s largest in a mosque and weighs 12 tons.



Pics of the other chandeliers.

Pics of three chandeliers in a row.



At $6 billiion USD, the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi is the second most expensive hotel ever built, only surpassed by Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.  Completed in 2005, it contains about 850,000m² of floor space. Underground parking allows housing for 2,500 vehicles.

At $6 billiion USD, the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi is the second most expensive hotel ever built, only surpassed by Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Completed in 2005, it contains about 850,000m² of floor space. Underground parking allows housing for 2,500 vehicles.



The main central area houses an expansive marble floor, balconies and a large patterned dome above, decked out in gold. The topmost floor has six Rulers' Suites which are reserved solely for Emirati royalty and dignitaries. In December 2010, it boasted the world's most expensive Christmas tree, valued at over 11 million dollars.

The main central area houses an expansive marble floor, balconies and a large patterned dome above, decked out in gold. The topmost floor has six Rulers’ Suites which are reserved solely for Emirati royalty and dignitaries. In December 2010, it boasted the world’s most expensive Christmas tree, valued at over 11 million dollars.



Probably the most beautiful staircase we've ever seen.

A beautiful staircase inside.



Many of the suites offered are furnished in gold and marble - a bit too much for our tastes.

Many of the suites offered are furnished in gold and marble.



....and if you need gold on the go.....

….and if you need gold on the go…..



The Dubai Fountain is the world's largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake. It was designed by WET Design, the California-based company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel Lake in Las Vegas. Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 colored projectors, it was built at a cost of $218 million.

The Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake. It was designed by WET Design, the California-based company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel Lake in Las Vegas. Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 colored projectors, it was built at a cost of $218 million.



The Dubai Fountain is the world's largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake. It was designed by WET Design, the California-based company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel Lake in Las Vegas. Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 colored projectors, it was built at a cost of $218 million.

The Dubai Fountain show.



The Dubai Fountain is the world's largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake. It was designed by WET Design, the California-based company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel Lake in Las Vegas. Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 colored projectors, it was built at a cost of $218 million.

The Dubai Fountain show.



We’ll leave you a video of this beautiful fountain show.