It was a year for the nation's history books. Starting with the opening of the Burj Khalifa, the UAE ended the first decade of the millennium, and its 39th year, with major advances and international headline-grabbing news.
The country mourned the loss of its last surviving founding father, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Ras al Khaimah, when he died on October 27. His son, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, was appointed as the new ruler.
Foreign relations were a hot topic in government this year, beginning with a stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme, which brought the UAE's relationship with the Islamic Republic into the spotlight. The UAE pledged to enforce a new round of UN sanctions, imposed in June, straining trade relations.
Iran's occupation of three UAE islands was dubbed "shameful" by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in April, during his first appearance at the FNC after he was appointed to the post.
A row over Canada's refusal to grant extra landing rights to UAE airlines led to the cancellation of Canada's access to Camp Mirage, a military base in Dubai, in October. Canadians visiting the UAE will have to buy a visa in advance.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) raised eyebrows and sparked debate around the world in August with its plan to ban the BlackBerry, before announcing in October that it would allow the smartphones to remain in the country.
The nation's Dh41 billion 2011 budget was announced last month, and it became clear this month that it would include a Dh3bn deficit. Many FNC members decried cuts to social spending.
This month, the UAE took the helm of the Gulf Co-operation Council, pledging to implement a new water security strategy to help the Gulf reduce its carbon footprint.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth also dominated local headlines last month when she arrived in the UAE on her first state visit since 1979.
Arts & Culture
Throughout the year, the country continued to break new ground in the national arts and culture scene.
In the first three months of the year, the Abu Dhabi Festival staged Italian opera, La Boheme, for the first time in the Middle East, and Abu Dhabi International Book Fair hosted its biggest festival yet, with more than 800 publishers.
In music, the Womad Festival drew thousands to the Corniche for live music, and organisers announced they had signed a three-year contract to keep the event on the capital's shores.
Music lovers were also treated to a visit from the Duke Ellington Jazz Band in May and the nationwide launch of Abu Dhabi Classic FM in June.
In Sharjah, the museums department announced they had doubled staff at 19 cultural hotspots and the emirate's book fair in October was extended to run over 12 days - the longest yet.
The two major film festivals, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, lent a buzz to the last quarter of the year.
The Abu Dhabi event concentrated on including locally-based filmmakers alongside Hollywood greats, and Dubai introduced a new cash prize for Emirati filmmakers, making both events invaluable opportunities for local talent.
The Zayed National Museum - a landmark museum and library planned for a 2014 opening on Saadiyat Island to honour the life and achievements of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President, and highlight the rich history of the UAE - was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth during her visit last month. The falcon-inspired building will become the cornerstone of the capital's cultural hub, which will include branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums.
The biggest success, and possible the biggest challenge faced by police in the UAE, came in the aftermath of the murder of a senior Hamas official, Mahmoud al Mabhouh, on January 19 in an Al Bustan Rotana hotel room.
Dubai Police were able to swiftly identify the suspects, whom they believed to be Israeli security intelligence agents, using CCTV footage that tracked their movements across the city.
The story made international headlines when Dubai Police revealed they had evidence that Mossad was behind the killing and that the assassins had used fake passports from several nations including the UK, Germany and Australia.
Abandoned babies came into the spotlight in Sharjah and Ajman this year, with about 10 being found abandoned in the two emirates.
The Sharjah Police chief, Maj Gen Humaid Mohammed al Hudaidi, said the biggest crime problem for the emirate during the year had been the theft of luxury cars - about 50 were reported stolen this year.
Also in Sharjah, death sentences were handed to two groups of murder defendants. The first group was 17 Indians accused of murdering a Pakistani man, although this was later reduced on appeal. The other included four Emirati men accused of raping and murdering an Ethiopian maid in Al Dhaid earlier this year.
Improvements to the justice system were prolific across the Emirates. In the capital, judges underwent training to better equip them to handle commercial matters and financial crimes, while public prosecutors were trained in handling financial and military cases.
There was also a drive to create specialised courts including a family court, a court for media-related issues and an intellectual property court. Dubai also saw the introduction of a new, specialised family court and a court for the handling of cases involving bad cheque, among others.
Among the most important changes in Dubai were physical ones: a Dh16.4 million refurbishment of the courthouse was completed in January. The courts and public prosecutors office also appointed 53 new prosecutors and judges, including two female judges.
Courts and public prosecutors handled a host of high-profile cases this year.
The trial of two men over the assassination of Chechen warlord Sulim Yamadayev in the basement car park of his Jumeirah Beach Residence building drew international attention, especially when their life sentences were reduced to three years after the victim's family issued a pardon. Seven people are still wanted in connection with his death. The trial over the murder of South African events executive Kerry Winter, bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat in front of her al Barsha villa, was also a high-profile case for much of the year, especially when the convicted murderer had his sentence raised from 15 years to life on appeal. Meanwhile, crimes against children were met with swift retribution - the paedophile killer of a four-year-old boy in a mosque at Eid was denied a retrial and will face a firing squad. The court also issued its judgment on the D'Souza children food poisoning trial and sentenced five youths implicated in the murder of a teenager in Rashidiya.
With a high number of pupils dropping out of school, and others graduating but struggling to cope in university, education authorities took action to reform public schools.
Pupils at public schools in Abu Dhabi witnessed the biggest transformation, when Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) introduced a New School Model (NSM), which saw the recruitment of more than 1,500 English teachers from abroad. While teachers and parents expressed scepticism, Adec officials say it is too early to know the end results.
Also in the capital, villa schools continued to be shut down, leaving some 30,000 students looking for places in other schools.
A push for a more centralised approach to education reform began this year with the restructuring of the Ministry of Education.
The ministry has expanded since September from 16 departments to 26 agencies for schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
In October, the ministry took oversight of public schools from the Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and reinstated the Dubai Education Zone to oversee administration and development in the emirate.
Public schools also shifted to a continuous assessment model, allowing teachers to assess student performance throughout the year, rather than rely on end-of-year exam results.
New York University opened in Abu Dhabi, enrolling its first class of 150 students from around the world. The launch of NYU in Abu Dhabi marked a significant development for the capital, which is seeking to diversify its higher education landscape by opening Middle East campuses for select international universities, including Paris Sorbonne.
In Dubai, the Rochester Institute of Technology launched its undergraduate programme, after having focused for two years on a small number of graduate programmes.
University standards made headlines in October, when the Government denied accreditation to nine programmes at four universities. Abu Dhabi University expelled more than 100 students and two foreign universities left Dubai for not meeting standards.
The Yas Marina Circuit crowned its first Formula One champion in an exciting climax to the 19-race season. Four drivers were in with a chance to win the coveted drivers title for the first time in F1 history at the last race in Abu Dhabi. A sell-out crowd of 50,000 fans descended on the 5.5km track to watch Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel win a nail-biting race. Vettel became the youngest man ever to win the driving title, at 23 years of age.
A different kind of horsepower featured at the newly built Dh10bn Meydan track in Dubai, where the horse racing season got under way in January and concluded with the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup, in March. Gloria de Campeao won the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) purse.
The wind was the driving force in the Louis Vuitton Trophy, one of the world's most prestigious sailing races, which was held off the Dubai coast in November. Emirates Team New Zealand won the series.
People power was also well represented with the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, a gruelling six-day endurance race. The event was won by the Thule Adventure Team, led by the three-time winners Richard and Elina Ussher.
However, not all was full speed ahead as the 2011 Red Bull Air Race World Championship series was cancelled. It is expected to take off again in 2012.
The municipality in Abu Dhabi took steps to clamp down on illegal and dangerous living spaces, launching initiatives to rid the capital of unauthorised tenements and rooftop dwellings. The move, which followed a series of fires in capital apartment blocks, saw the municipality ramp up inspection efforts and levy fines against offenders in a bid to maintain public safety.
In Dubai, the municipality took steps to ensure greater food safety with the introduction of the Person In Charge programme (PIC), whereby a qualified individual acts as liaison between the food establishment, municipality and government to ensure adherence to safety practices.
The environment was also a top priority for municipality officials this year. At least 22,000 volunteers joined forces for the 17th annual Clean Up the World campaign in Dubai, where more than 7,200 tonnes of waste, including hundreds of abandoned dhows and vehicles, were cleared.
Roads & Transport
The extension of the Dubai Metro to business and residential communities this year encouraged many motorists to ditch their cars and take the train. Sixteen stops were added to the Red Line this year, taking the number of operational stations to 26 of the planned 29.
With an eye towards promoting public transport, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced annual free travel for Nol cardholders on November 1 on public buses, the Metro and water buses. The occasion marked the anniversary of the inception of the RTA and will be held on an annual basis.
Abu Dhabi completed the long-awaited Sheikh Zayed Bridge, which cuts driving time between the island and Dubai by up to 30 minutes. It opened late last month.
Two aeroplane crashes caught local headlines, too. In March, the nation mourned when a crash in Morocco claimed the life of the President's brother, Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al Nahyan. On September 3, a UPS plane crashed after take-off in Dubai, killing both pilots.
A parcel bomb bound for Chicago and intercepted in Dubai raised security questions for the aviation industry.
In shipping, a Japanese oil tanker left the Port of Fujairah and was struck in a suspected terrorist attack off the Strait of Hormuz in July.
As in 2006 and 2008, the UAE this year ranked as the country with the world's highest per capita environmental footprint.
The findings were released in October by the influential Living Planet report.
Several initiatives launched in Abu Dhabi this year have the potential to remove the UAE from that unenviable spot.
In May, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi launched a campaign to install water-saving devices in households and public buildings that could save 75 billion litres of water per year - the equivalent of 35,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The installation started in autumn and is expected to continue for at least two years.
In September, the Urban Planning Council made some parts of Estidama, its green building rating system, obligatory for developers. It is hoped the move will make new buildings more energy and water-efficient.
In October, Al Basama Al Beeiya, a collaborative effort between the Emirates Wildlife Society - World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) and the federal Government, unveiled a new scientific tool to analyse the reasons behind the UAE's high energy use.
Developed by researchers from Masdar Institute the tool also shows the impact of various policies to reduce energy use.
The instability of global food prices led Abu Dhabi to place a greater focus on boosting local food production, while also reducing agriculture's water consumption.
According to Khalifa Ahmed Khalfan al Ali, the executive director of strategic planning for the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), reforms passed this year will improve farms from "an economic, social and environmental point of view".
In September, the authority ended an expensive subsidy programme that encouraged farmer's to grow thirsty Rhode's grass. Agriculture accounts for 80 per cent of the water used in Abu Dhabi, and just over two per cent of the gross domestic product.
The end of the subsidy was a part of moves to modernise farms in the emirate. Early last year, the Farmers' Services Centre began offering technology and expertise to farmers in Al Gharbia. The centre outfitted participating farms with modern irrigation systems to cut water waste and encourage more effective, non-chemical methods for fighting the red palm weevil, which has infested more than 1.2 million trees in the area. The hope is to push the farmers into improving the quality of their crops, so that in the coming year there will be more local produce and meat on supermarket shelves.
Two important laws were passed to improve the nation's health. The first was a nationwide smoking ban that will also control the import and advertising of tobacco products, and the other was a green light for transplants using organs from deceased donors to be performed in the UAE.
Both laws, however, are yet to be implemented.
Public health awareness programmes addressed mental health issues through public lectures, campaigns, seminars, conferences and the opening of mental health clinics in schools, while the magnitude and complications of diabetes was also the subject of continuing awareness campaigning.
This year also saw a call from health authorities, healthcare providers and decision-makers for more speciality healthcare workers, from nurses and lab technicians to heart specialists. Officials said the creation of work environments to minimise high turnover rates and the recruitment of more nationals were top priorities.
The Health Authority - Abu Dhabi issued "report cards" for 98 per cent of the adult Emirati population of Abu Dhabi through its Weqaya screening programme. No other country in the world has ever conducted such a precise screening of an entire population's cholesterol, blood sugar levels and body mass index. The results found that 30 per cent of the population were overweight, and another 30 per cent were obese.
The Indian Community
The Indian community welcomed a new ambassador, MK Lokesh, at the embassy in Abu Dhabi this year, as well as a new consul general, Sanjay Verma, in the Dubai consulate.
After years of petitioning the Indian government, non-resident Indians (NRIs) were finally granted the right to vote in elections. But the concession was not without problems. NRIs are required to travel to India to vote, an idea that is not feasible for a majority of the population.
Another significant development was the creation of the Indian Workers Resource Centre in Dubai, which was inaugurated by the Indian president, Pratibha Patil, during her official visit to the UAE.
A month after opening its doors to blue-collar workers and maids, the centre said, it was besieged by at least 800 calls a week from expatriate workers looking for legal, medical and social help.
The Indian expatriate community also suffered great losses this year, when an Air India Express aircraft, flying from Dubai to Mangalore, crashed during landing, killing 158 people. Eight survived, but most of the dead were those who had built lives in the UAE.
The Filipino Community
Benigno Aquino won May's presidential elections, with Filipino expatriate voters in the UAE tilting in his favour during a month-long stretch of overseas absentee voting. Mr Aquino gained 4,295 of 7,917 votes cast in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed's visit to Manila in October marked 30 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries. It was viewed as a chance to advance the welfare of Filipinos in the Emirates.
Discussions among Filipinos here have centred on ways to protect migrant workers against human trafficking, illegal recruitment, contract substitutions and other labour contract violations.
Since August, officers have been on the lookout for victims of human trafficking and have tried to prevent illegal departures from the Philippines.
In September, the consulate in Dubai drew flak over its controversial "affidavit of support and guarantee" after many Filipinos on tourist visas were barred from travelling to the UAE. Consulate and Manila immigration officials confirmed that the document was not needed.
The year ended with the launch of a reintegration programme in the UAE by the Philippines' labour department to provide job training, lending, family advice and counselling for the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers.
* The National