Fri, 30 Nov 2001

An adventure of the most rapid lifestyle changes

What do many Indonesians have in mind about this country? Its oil? Sand? Date? Football team and leagues? The Emirate Airline? The teasing prices at its airport dutyfree shops? Or simply as one of the richest countries in the world?

Many of us here might not know that, for example, the United Arab Emirates consists of seven emirates, or principalities, and President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has ruled the federation for 30 years. He actually has provided leadership to his country for over 50 years.

The seven emirates consist of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain and Fujairah. Sheikh Zayed is also ruler of Abu Dhabi.

Find the names hard to read and remember? No problem, just read it once again and you can show off your intelligence to your friends and colleagues.

Although the land is blessed with its abundant hydrocarbon reserves to produce oil and gas, which has been the mainstay of UAE's economy and will remain a major revenue earner long into the future, the non-oil sector contributes more than twice the oil sector's contribution to the country's GDP.

The country is home to the best of the best hotel in the world. Located in an artificial land, ....

Another dazzling record of wonder is that the Jebel Ali seaport, which is part of Dubai's free-zone, is dubbed as the largest man-made port in the world.

After Hong Kong and Singapore, the UAE has been known as the world third most important re-export center.

In UAE, one could witness that there are more women in higher education than men.

For centuries, people in this land lived as seagoing traders on the shores of the Persian Gulf. When piracy became a nuisance in 1820, Britain entered into truces with the local emirs to end attacks on shipping, and established a protectorate in the region. Soon the principalities were known as the Trucial States. In 1971 they became independent and formed the federation of sheikhdoms now known as UAE. Situated along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf between the Qatar peninsula to the west and the Straits of Hormuz, the federation share borders with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Talking about this particular land will remind anyone about the undulating seas of sand. To some, the dunes are of course bring obstacles. But they are also responsible for trapping water that would otherwise flow more rapidly towards the sea. But watching the pattern of the dunes and their dazzling constant motion is just another unforgettable attraction of the desert.

Many might have not know that this rich emirates also conceals a variety of wildlife, such as the Arabian tahr, leopard, oryx, sand gazelle, and dhub lizard.

From the precipitous mountains and steep valleys of the northern Emirates to the wind sculpted sand dunes of the Rub al- Khali and the low-lying coastal plains, the UAE is a loand of contrasts that offers a rich variety of attractive scenery and a wide range of natural ecosystems.

In addition to this startling diversity, the contributions of man and technology have helped to shape new environments -- modern cities, industrial parks and residential centers on the one hand and vast, highly productive agricultural and afforested areas on the other.

The physical contrasts that we can observe today, between -- for example -- the high rise business centers of Abu Dhabi or Dubai and the limitless pristine dunes of the Empty Quarter are also reflected in time, for the UAE of very recent memory presented a completely different picture from the modern era, lacking virtually all the amenities of the present.

Also, cultural traditions are founded upon Islamic/Arabian heritage and an historical dependence upon the skills and challenges of desert life, oasis farming, fishing, and pearling.

Today, these lavish traditions are carefully nurtured, helping to provide context, strength and inspiration for a people who have experienced some of the most rapid lifestyle changes of the present era. Horsemanship, falconry, camel racing, longboat and dhow racing, folkloric dancing, music and poetry all form part of this enthusiastic ethnic expression.

Contrast and change are part of what makes the UAE such a fascinating, attractive and welcoming country, both for its own citizens and for its many visitors. (K. Basrie)