The government of the UAE has provided housing for its people that is on a par with the most developed areas of the developed world. In the past, many people lived in tents or small houses made of palm fronds while in the mountains, there were small stone dwellings sheltering people from the weather. Even in the towns, housing was very basic -- huts of palm fronds or coral from the sea. And needless to say, the lack of power supplies meant that such conveniences as air-conditioning were unheard of.
All that has now changed, and however nostalgic people are for the simpler life of the past, no one ever laments the absence of the housing of those days. The government has built in rural areas over 50,000 houses which have been given free of charge to citizens. New villages and settlements have been established so that people can have comfortable housing as well as access to schools and medical clinics.
The country's larger towns have become cities. In Abu Dhabi alone, the government has built more than 35,000 apartments which have been given to citizens through long-term soft loans. The idea is that the citizens can lease the apartments in order to produce income. Housing at low- and controlled-rent has also been built all over the country for both citizens and expatriates.
At the upper end of the market, the country is a veritable exhibition of the latest in modern architecture, much of it with an Islamic influence. Luxury apartments, sumptuous villas, the latest supermarkets and office blocks create an architectural display which is equalled nowhere in the world.
The advances in education, health care and housing all require support in the form of dependable supplies of water and electricity, roads, communications and other facilities. And the Emirates has produced a state well-equipped with all of these.
Electric power stations and desalination plants, often fuelled by gas from the country's oil fields, ensure a constant supply of water and electricity for residential, industrial or agricultural consumption.
Several thousand kilometres of the most modern tarmac roads now link every part of the country with every other part. Journeys which once took days or weeks can now be performed in a few hours at the most. These roads have been invaluable in moulding the country into a single nation as well as in facilitating the ancient UAE tradition of sea-borne trade and commerce.
Because of its modern roads and ports, the country has once again become a centre of maritime trade for the whole of the Arabian peninsula and the Indian Ocean region.
The three principal ports of the UAE -- Port Rashid in Dubai, the Port of Fujairah and the Port of Jebel Ali -- handle a total of over 1.5 million container units a year. Business through the country's smaller ports brings the total to well over 2.5 million units annually. There are now more than a dozen ports in the country with more than 200 berths used not only for imports and exports but also for transshipment throughout the region. (As a measure of progress, in 1971 there were two ports and 18 berths in the country.)
The country's airports at Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al Khaimah, Fujairah and Al Ain handle several million passengers annually either as visitors or in transit. These passengers are transported by most of the world's major carriers and have made the UAE one of the busiest aviation hubs. The country also has two international carriers of its own -- Emirates and the regional airline, Gulf Air, jointly owned by three neighbouring states.
As a further complement to the country's rapid movement into the modern age, there is an enviable telecommunications network. Over half a million telephone lines are now operating in the country. There are also 6000 international circuits, sufficient to handle the traffic for even the UAE's thriving business community. Four satellite earth stations also transmit information and pictures about the UAE all over the world.