The Emirate of Dubai

One of the richest of the Gulf States and a sporting nirvana, the formerly oil-rich Emirate of Dubai, is enjoying unprecedented good times as it diversifies away from black gold to cater for tourists looking for almost endless sunshine and five-star service.

Dubai has more than its fair share of world-class sporting events - the recent ATP Tennis Tournament, the Desert Classic Golf - replete with Tiger Woods last year teeing off from the iconic, [pounds sterling]790 a night Burg Al Arab's helicopter pad - and the annual, raucous Rugby 7s.

The latter - a global event featuring the shorter Union game, is also one of the few times in a year that alcohol can be consumed outdoors, and several sponsors, including Heineken and Jacob's Creek wine, make full use of the brief, liberal window to promote their products.

It is also an undeniably British and Commonwealth affair with tens of thousands of young people from the UK, Australia, South Africa et al, rendering the few French and German voices largely silent, and, in much the same manner as the Hong Kong Rugby 7s, vast quantities of refreshing liquids are consumed under a hot sun.

This year's event was a complete sell out - around 25,000 for the final day - with England even managing to walk off with the title - much to the unbridled joy of the Brit ex-pats, who by the time the final came around, would have frankly cheered anything.

But for those nonprofessional tourists, Dubai also offers virtually year-round opportunities to play sport, be it tennis, dune bashing and camel riding, while the benign climate allows for a whole plethora of water activities.

There are seven Emirates making up the UAE and of perhaps all Middle East countries, it is surely Dubai that powers the region in terms of tourism but also in a far more relaxed attitude than some of its more severe neighbors.

But Dubai - whose population is expected to more than double in 12 years to reach 3m - is a country that presents a bewildering series of contrasts and traditions. It might have all the essential ingredients of a first world, fabulously wealthy state, but look a little harder and a whole new environment opens up.

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