The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a union of seven sovereign sheikhdoms, formed when the British withdrew from the Gulf in 1971. It boasts mountains, beaches, deserts, oases, camel racing, Bedouin markets and the legendary duty-free shopping of Dubai, all packed into a relatively small area. It also has the most relaxed entry regulations in the region, the best tourist infrastructure and, despite promoting itself exclusively to tourists with a buck or three (or four) to spend, it’s extremely accessible to independent budget travellers.