Since last National Day, each of the seven emirates has had to face difficult challenges. Each has emerged stronger from their struggles and so has the nation, as it celebrates the 39th anniversary of its foundation today.
Abu Dhabi's major projects, conceived in the last decade, are now beginning to bear fruit. The Formula 1 Grand Prix is now a sporting fixture, as is the World Club Championship later this month. Museums are in the works, and cultural events and concerts pepper the calender. Masdar City has reconsidered some of its plans but it now houses a pre-eminent research institute that may spawn numerous new technologies. Other conservation projects such as Sir Bani Yas are already a success.
For its part, Dubai was in the middle of a financial crisis one year ago. It has since come out of its corner fighting. Major obstacles remain, but efforts to improve the transparency of its financial institutions and its commitment to more regular financial reporting show a city determined to remain a leading economic player in the region. And of course, Dubai remains a favoured destination for travellers from all over the world.
The only emirate with access to both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Sharjah has come a long way from the small town that relied on fishing and pearl diving. It now attracts strong trade and tourism like its southern neighbours. It has also developed a reputation as a heritage and cultural hub, and has been named the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 by ministers of culture at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
Ajman continues to overcome obstacles brought about by power shortages and property disputes by improving its infrastructure. In fact, a network of new canals and artificial islands is slated as part of the redevelopment of the emirate's waterfront, one of its top strategic priorities over the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, a little further up the road, Umm al Quwain is home to the country's most pristine coastal environments and oldest archeological sites. This year French archaeologists, collaborating with the Umm al Quwain Museum, discovered the oldest-known ritual sanctuary in the region, dating between 3,500 and 3,200BC on Akab Island.
At the tip of the UAE, Ras al Khaimah's rate of growth now rivals its neighbours as it continues to diversify its economy, developing its mining and ceramics industry and, increasingly, its tourism industry. The emirate also remains committed to its strong cultural identity while also keeping an eye on the future. Its proposal for a floating, rotating solar island is in a testing phase and could be a game-changer for renewable energy.
Fujairah continues to expand beyond its traditional tourism and mineral-mining industries. The emirate has long been known for its natural and marine beauty and has increasingly become a major port for exports, as well as a trading hub for oil. This has created its biggest economic boom yet.
There remain choppy seas ahead, but the seven emirates, united as one nation, look fully equipped to navigate their way to a better future.