x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Our new friends

Ostensibly, Monaco has a fair bit in common with the UAE: both host a Grand Prix, both have favourable tax regimes and both have a love of bling.

Fewer than 33,000 people, mostly expatriates, live in Monaco.
Fewer than 33,000 people, mostly expatriates, live in Monaco.

Ostensibly, it has a fair bit in common with the UAE: both host a Grand Prix, both have favourable tax regimes and both have a love of bling. In addition, about 85 per cent of the population in both countries are expatriates. There, though, the similarities end. Monaco is tiny, covering just under two square kilometres and with a population of fewer than 33,000. It takes an average of just 56 minutes to walk the width of the country - imagine attempting that in the Empty Quarter. Prince Albert II heads this constitutional monarchy, which was declared independent in 1861, although France is still responsible for its defence. It is the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican City, and home to many wealthy inhabitants. Tourism is a mainstay of the country's income with visitors often drawn by the world-famous casino - although Monaco's citizens are not allowed to gamble there themselves. There is no individual income tax, which has triggered a tide of tax refugees, such as the British billionaire Sir Philip Green, the UK's ninth richest man with a personal fortune of £4.27 billion (Dh26bn), who has taken up residence in Monaco. Before 2002, when the euro was introduced, the country minted its own currency called the Monegasque franc. French is predominantly spoken but Monegasque, the local language, is still taught in schools. Do: Drop anchor in the Monaco harbour for one of the most glamorous trackside spots to watch Formula One, if you have a luxury yacht. Otherwise contend with glitterati-spotting in Monte Carlo. Don't: Say: "The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is so much better than yours."

Mention Haiti and one immediately conjures images of voodoo spells and rituals. The religion has come to be associated with Satanism, zombies and the dark art of sticking pins into dolls to cast voodoo spells on hapless victims. The James Bond film Live and Let Die depicted a devilish Soviet agent using voodoo to control a cult of possessed followers. While Haitians do pin crude dolls to trees near cemeteries, they say their purpose is to send messages to the realm of the dead rather than sorcery. With 80 per cent of Haitians living in poverty, training as a voodoo priest is a lucrative career option. The Creole and French-speaking Caribbean island is just emerging from a turbulent period that saw political turmoil, stark social deprivation, gang violence and kidnappings, and during which time many Haitians fled to exile in the US and Canada. Many foreign offices still warn of an unstable security situation and urge against travelling there, but for those brave enough, the country boasts lively carnivals, music and good food. Arab influences have led to spicy dishes while national staples include rice and beans, red snapper, fried plantain and deep-fried goat. Haiti was home to the only successful slave rebellion in colonial history and the revolution persuaded France to abolish slavery at the end of the 18th century. Do: Mention Wyclef Jean - the Haitian-born pop singer, formerly of The Fugees, is arguably the country's greatest ambassador. Don't: Do zombie impressions on the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The sixth smallest country in the world and the fourth tiniest in Europe, Liechtenstein is landlocked by Switzerland on one side and Austria on the other. Getting there could be a problem. For a start, it does not have an airport. Tourists have to fly in to Switzerland, then cross the border by car (or, for the very health-conscious, using any of its 90km of bicycle tracks). Measuring just 25km long and 6km wide, it is barely bigger than Manhattan, and is the only country to lie entirely in the Alps. It has numerous hiking and cycling trails and offers spectacular scenery, with dramatic cliffs and lush forests, quaint villages clinging to mountainsides and friendly locals. For a tiny country, it has somehow secured the ignominious glory of being the world's biggest producer of dentures and sausage casings, while other factories also produce ceramics. Other exports are stamps, machinery, wheat, barley, corn and potatoes. Like the UAE, it has a large number of expatriates. Two-thirds of the 35,000-strong population were born outside Liechtenstein and many were drawn by its status as a tax haven - about 75,000 companies have postal addresses in the country because of its favourable business rates. Up to 5,000 British investors have an estimated £3 billion (Dh18bn) stashed in secret accounts in the country, investments which could be hastily withdrawn after the British government recently signed a deal with Liechtenstein to access details of private funds. Prince Hans-Adam II has the power to veto parliamentary decisions and disband government. He won power in 2003 by threatening to move to Austria if he did not get his way. Do: Shout "hoi!" to locals - it's a friendly greeting rather than a rude interruption. Don't: Bang on about how much you love your SUV - Liechtensteiners are big on protecting the environment and even buses run on low-emission natural gas.

This Pacific Ocean island 800km east of the Philippines only gained independence from UN trusteeship in 1994 and as such is one of the world's youngest sovereign states. Since then, it has formed diplomatic relations with numerous countries around the world. The tiny nation has some of the world's oldest formal cemeteries, containing the remains of a 3,000-year-old, pygmy-like people. It has enjoyed a rare matriarchal society for thousands of years with land, money and titles passed through the female line. The relatively recent occupation by the Japanese in the First World War established a patriarchal line, which has led to legal clashes between tribes. Spain, Germany and America have also had control over the island at different times, with one of the first European arrivals thought to have been the English sailor captain Henry Wilson, of the East India Company, who was shipwrecked there in 1783. The Japanese invaders established production lines for skipjack tuna and copra, or coconut kernel, in Palau. Aluminium and phosphate are also mined. In June this year, Palau offered to take in 17 Uighurs from Central Asia, who were being held at Guantanamo Bay, as a humanitarian gesture. Controversy followed, however, after it emerged the US had offered to pay Palau at least $90,000 (Dh330,000) for every Uighur who was resettled. Six of the former prisoners have so far been transferred. Do: Praise Palau's plans to create the world's first shark sanctuary, covering 600,000 square kilometres of ocean, after banning all commercial shark fishing. The nation has called for a worldwide ban on the practice. Don't: Say: "Have you seen Sammy the whale shark?" to any natives. The 13ft-long ocean creature has been kept captive in an aquarium at the Atlantis hotel in Dubai for more than a year, despite promises to release it back into the wild.