United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of the seven small emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, and Fujairah, which were united as a federal state on 2 December 1971. Before the establishment of the oil economy in the early 1960s, two main orientations shaped traditional Emeriati culture: the nomadic desert-oriented Bedouins with small oasis farming within the broader context of the desert economy and culture, and the sea-oriented culture that revolved around pearling and sea trading. These subcultures were economically, politically, and socially interdependent, creating a common culture and social identity. The UAE shares significant aspects of its culture with neighboring Arab countries and the larger Arab culture.

Location and Geography. The UAE covers 32,278 square miles (83,600 square kilometers) and is located on the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. It shares land borders with Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The seven emirates vary greatly in size. Abu Dhabi represents 85 percent of the land, and the smallest emirate is Ajman. Each emirate is named after its capital city, and Abu Dhabi City is the permanent capital of the nation. The inland area is mostly desert with a few oases, and the barren Hajar Mountains run through the country. The UAE has a dry climate with very high temperatures and humidity in the summer.

Demography. Relative to its size and oil wealth, the UAE has a small population, estimated at 2,624,000 in 1997. Before 1970, the local population was tiny (estimated at eighty-six thousand in 1961) and lacked most of the technical skills needed for a modern society. The commercial production of oil triggered rapid population growth as a result of an increase in the national population from improvements in diet, health care, and living standards and the importation on a large scale of mostly male foreign laborers. The latter factor has generated a dependence on expatriate labor; the UAE has become a...
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