Fantastic, exotic, cutting-edge, unbelievable... Take your pick of adjectives to describe the limitless personas that make up the United Arab Emirates. With strong Islamic roots and commercial investments reaching SimCity proportions, the UAE is a study in contrasts. Daily prayers are just as common as ear-drum blasting nightlife. Historical buildings share real estate with skyscrapers and man-made archipelagos visible from outer space. There’s little doubt, the UAE is a rapidly expanding, progressive-looking megalopolis, intent on changing the future as we know it. At its shining center sits Dubai, whose estimated population of 1.5 million (up from 183,200 in 1975) is staggering proof of a city on the move. Yet, despite the influx of illustrious shopping meccas and world-class hedonism, quiet wonder still prevails in the UAE. Constellation-ridden skies blanket the desert sands of Abu Dhabi, date palms and acacia trees dot the beach oases of the Persian Gulf. Sheikhs sip quietly on coffee tinged with cardamom or saffron. With a vibrancy and buzz unmatched anywhere else in the world, the United Arab Emirates is a captivating place thriving in extremes.