General background: The Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states – Abu Zaby, ‘Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn – merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were joined in 1972 by Ra’s al Khaymah. The UAE’s per capita GDP is not far below those of leading West European nations. Its generosity with oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy stance have allowed the UAE to play a vital role in the affairs of the region.
Area comparative: Slightly smaller than Maine.
Climate: Desert; cooler in eastern mountains.
Terrain: Flat, barren coastal plain merging into rolling sand dunes of vast desert wasteland; mountains in east.
Ethnic groups: Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8% (1982)
note: less than 20% are UAE citizens (1982)
Religions: Muslim 96% (Shi’a 16%), Christian, Hindu, and other 4%
Language: Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
Government type: Federation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates.
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Legal system: Federal court system introduced in 1971; all emirates except Dubayy (Dubai) and Ra’s al Khaymah have joined the federal system; all emirates have secular and Islamic law for civil, criminal, and high courts.
Economic overview: The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Its wealth is based on oil and gas output (about 33% of GDP), and the fortunes of the economy fluctuate with the prices of those commodities. Since 1973, the UAE has undergone a profound transformation from an impoverished region of small desert principalities to a modern state with a high standard of living. At present levels of production, oil and gas reserves should last for more than 100 years. The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up its utilities to greater private sector involvement.
Communication/Telephone system: Modern system.
Places of interest: It boasts mountains, beaches, deserts, oases, camel racing and much, much more.
Travel tips: Although the Emirates are considered safe and secure for travelers, demonstrations and political gatherings are best avoided.
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