(CNN) — Champagne corks will be popping among the tourist communities of Dubai with the news that liquor licenses are to be granted to foreign visitors, in a softening of previously strict rules on alcohol consumption.
The pace of change has been one of the few constants in the rapidly developing Emirate, which went from sleepy fishing community to global capital in the latter part of the 20th century. Development has continued apace ever since — and to culture and custom as well as skylines and shorelines.
Of course, the Gulf region is still socially conservative, and Westerners often face restrictions they would not encounter at home. But changes over the past decade are making life easier for foreign visitors.
We look at some of the new possibilities.
Own your own company
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has repealed the requirement that all businesses must be at least 51 per cent owned by a national, allowing for full foreign ownership of a company in the Emirates. Restrictions remain in place in industries such as oil exploration and security, but sectors including transport, hospitality and even space exploration are now up for grabs for expats.
Secure long-term residency rights
University students with a distinction grade point average of at least 3.75 are among those now eligible for long-term visas in the UAE. Pictured, Middlesex University Dubai.
Courtesy Middlesex University Dubai
Receive state funding for your start-up
Get around underground… and on the water
Live in a renewable energy-powered home
Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
Receive cutting-edge medical treatments
Medical tourism is a fast-rising business in Dubai with reported growth rates of 13 per cent per year and plans to attract 500,000 international health tourists by 2021. Elite institutions such as King’s College Hospital have now set up shop in the City of Gold. With high-class facilities and a government push to attract doctors, Dubai is becoming known for advanced treatments, including 3D-printed prosthetics.
Tourism & Leisure
Walk on water
See Dubai, before it was Dubai
The dizzying pace of change might make Dubai seem as if it has sprung up overnight, but the city has a history that the government is increasingly keen to draw attention to. The revitalized historical district gives a taste of Dubai in its previous guise as a humble fishing port, with museums and exhibitions detailing the simpler way of life that prevailed before the age of skyscrapers took hold.
Tour the city by bicycle
Dubai has not traditionally been considered an accommodating destination for cyclists but the creation of dedicated car-free circuits and cycle paths in the city – and the desert – have made it easier to explore on two wheels. The proliferation of specialist equippers, popular races, and cycling package holidays have helped take a previously niche pursuit into the mainstream.