Some of the UAE’s top stories from 2022 (and a few you might have missed)

From the country's new president to a building that reshaped Dubai's skyline, it has been a big year for the Emirates

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It has been one of the most significant years for the UAE in recent memory.

First and foremost, a new president took the reins. Sheikh Mohamed was elected in May after the death of his brother, Sheikh Khalifa.

Other developments, such as changes to the working week and a major overhaul to the country’s visa system, helped to make 2022 a notable year. Here are some of the major moments:

The new President

Sheikh Mohamed became president of the UAE in May after the death of Sheikh Khalifa. Sheikh Khalifa had been president since 2004, when Sheikh Zayed died. Sheikh Khalifa oversaw vast economic growth during his tenure. As a mark of his leadership, leaders from across the world came to the UAE to offer condolences.

After a 40-day mourning period, President Sheikh Mohamed addressed the nation in July and set out his vision. He said the UAE would continue to champion peace and stability, maintain its commitment to diversification; scale up the pursuit of science and technology; continue to be a friend to those in need; and said the contributions of the 200 nationalities who call the UAE their second home were much valued.

A new working week

Residents started the year with an entirely new way of working. From January, employees across the country started working Monday to Friday after years of working Sunday to Thursday.

This followed a previous switch in 2006 when the weekend moved in the UAE from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday.

The government said it made the change to better align the UAE with global markets. This made the country among the first to cut the work-week to 4.5 days, with government offices working a half day on Fridays. Sharjah even shortened its working week to four days for public sector staff.

Museum of the Future on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. AFP

Museum of the Future reshapes Dubai's skyline

There is one certainty about Dubai’s skyline: change. But one structure that opened to the public in 2022 really has reshaped and re-energised the city’s architecture.

Museum of the Future welcomed visitors for the first time in February. Its design, using the oval and the void ― the hole through the middle ― and calligraphy across its facade, has captivated residents and tourists. Scores of people can be seen every day snapping photos of the museum.

“I love buildings with shapes that feel that they move,” Shaun Killa, the building’s architect, told The National. “The building looks like it wants to move down the Sheikh Zayed Road."

Summer floods hit the east

The UAE’s east coast was swamped by torrential rain and floods in July. The floodwater inundated roads, shops and homes.

At least seven died and close to 1,000 people were rescued after flash floods. Almost 4,000 were placed in temporary shelters in Sharjah and Fujairah.

The National Centre of Meteorology said it was the wettest July in decades.

Upturned trees, buckled lampposts, scores of abandoned cars caught in the surging floodwater and huge pools of water were visible across Fujairah city.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask and gloves holds a sign at Mall of the Emirates after the UAE government eased a curfew and allowed stores to reopen, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo

The end of Covid-19 rules

More than two years after coronavirus swept across the world, the UAE last month effectively ended most Covid-19 restrictions.

Back in 2020, who could have predicted how the world would be upturned by stay-at-home orders, working from home and travel curbs? But the UAE’s swift introduction of vaccines and safety measures guided the Emirates through the pandemic better than most countries.

And by last month, the days of Hosn green status to allow entry to shopping centres, temperature checks at airports and PCR tests for travel became a thing of the past, for now.

Overhaul of the visa system

Major changes to the UAE’s visa regulations came into effect in September. They included extended visit visas for tourists and long-term residency options for sought-after professionals and investors.

People who enter as visitors will be able to stay for 60 days, rather than 30 days at present. Parents can sponsor their male children until the age of 25, up from 18, allowing them to remain in the UAE after school and university.

Children with disabilities are granted a residence permit permanently, regardless of their age. The changes included the introduction of a job exploration entry visa for young talents and skilled professionals. In addition to the regular tourist visa, a five-year, multi-entry tourist visa was introduced.

These changes aim to make the UAE an even better place to live.

All aboard: Etihad Rail forges ahead

The UAE’s rail network made huge advancements this year. The passenger element that will connect people across the country is one of the most eagerly anticipated transport projects in the UAE’s history.

In January, we caught a glimpse of what the passenger carriages would look like. Trains will travel at speeds up to 200kph and can carry about 400 people, linking 11 cities and areas across the UAE from Al Sila in the west to Fujairah in the east.

More than 70 per cent of the track is complete, Etihad Rail said, and in March The National was afforded a rare chance to travel on the line. We travelled parallel to Emirates Road (E611) with the lorries, buses and cars on the busy motorway appearing like dots in the distance.

Throughout the year, the operator shared striking photographs of the line under construction, including several stunning shots showing the rail lines cutting through the Hajar Mountains en route way to Fujairah.

Etihad Rail said the first passenger station would be built in Fujairah and residents can look forward to more news about the line next year.

Updated: December 19, 2022, 12:19 PM
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