Over a period of less than thirty years, the United Arab Emirates, in particular Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have transformed themselves from small, oil-rich Gulf monarchies into “global cities,” ranking among the most highly developed nations in the world, leading innovators in renewable energy, glittering hubs for international art, media, finance and banking, hosts to globally renowned educational institutions, and at the forefront for women’s empowerment in the Gulf States. Yet the country is not resting on its laurels. Faced with finite natural resources and a young population, Abu Dhabi, in its Vision 2030, and Dubai, in its Dubai Plan 2021, lay out ambitious, holistic plans to transform the Emirates into a vibrant, modern, multicultural and global knowledge society that seamlessly integrates a constitutional monarchy, limited democratic participation, religion and cultural traditions with high technology. How is this kind of development sustainable, socially, economically and environmentally? How are the Emirates dealing with the inevitable social and environmental transformations and trade-offs such a success story requires? Is such extensive social and economic development possible without also expanding political participation rights? Additionally, the UAE, a close ally of the United States and Saudi Arabia, is located in one of the most volatile regions of the planet and conducts a moderate realist foreign policy that is anchored in state security, stability, regional co-operation, anti-extremism, and builds alliances through substantial development assistance. The principal objective of the course/global field intensive is to explore how the UAE navigate the complicated dynamics of cultural traditions, social change, the demands of gender equality, the post-2015 development agenda, and geo-political imperatives. Through site visits and meetings with representatives from academia, think tanks, women’s rights and youth organizations, government, the private sector, and the arts, we will explore the pathways and strategies for sustainable social development that the UAE have taken as well as ponder the challenges that remain.