United Arab Emirates Country Overview
Despite the accentuated aridity, the territory formerly known as the Pirates’ Coast, then Oman of Truce, States of Truce and finally the United Arab Emirates, reached one of the highest per capita incomes in the world in the second half of the 20th century, thanks to oil exploration .
The United Arab Emirates is an independent federation made up of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi (which comprises more than half of the union’s territory), Dubai, Sharja, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaima and Fujaira, which are located in a narrow coastal strip of the northeast of the Arabian peninsula. The country is bordered to the northwest by Qatar, to the south and west by Saudi Arabia, to the east by Oman, to the northeast by the Gulf of Oman and to the north by the Persian Gulf. It occupies an area of 77,700km2, which includes 200 islands.
The federation’s territory is formed by a large desert extension, covered by salt pans and sands. This landscape is only broken by the presence of the last branches of the al-Hajar mountains, which extend across the territory of Oman.
The climate is hot and dry, with temperatures ranging between 15 and 21º C, in winter, and between 32 and 46º C, in summer, on the coast and inland, respectively. The average rainfall is between 75 and 100mm per year. Due to the aridity of the region, the rivers are practically nonexistent, and the presence of water is reduced to small oases, where palm trees and date palms grow.
Numerous contingents of Iranians, Pakistanis and Indians live side by side with the Arab population. The official language is Arabic. The sparsely populated country showed a very high rate of demographic growth in the last decades of the twentieth century, mainly due to the government’s policy of stimulating births to compensate for the huge outflow of immigrants.
The population is eminently urban and is concentrated in coastal cities and in some oases in the interior. The main urban centers are the capital, Dubai and Sharja.
Given the harsh conditions of the environment, both agriculture, livestock and forestry are quite deficient. The fishing sector is particularly rich.
The main mineral resources are oil and natural gas, which allowed the development of a vigorous industry, mainly steel and metallurgy. The production of oil and natural gas, which started in the 1960s, is concentrated in Abu Dhabi (four fifths of the total) and in the emirates of Dubai and Sharja. Other mineral resources are marble, extracted in Ajman, and various building materials, such as sand and limestones. The abundance of oil allows for considerable energy production in thermal power plants.
The growth in commercial and financial activity, related to oil exploration, was reflected in the multiplication of the national and foreign banking network. In addition, as a direct consequence of the economic expansion, there was a great development in the transport sector, both land (highways), air (Dubai airport) and maritime (ports of Abu Dhabi and Dubai).
Archeology pointed out the existence of important commercial warehouses on the coasts of the Persian Gulf, already in the time of the Sumerians. The region remained linked to the rest of Arabia until the 16th century, when the Portuguese landed on the coast. A hundred years later, the English company of the East Indies arrived, whose employees were continually harassed by pirates, hence the name of Costa dos Piratas. The English reacted, and in 1853 signed a treaty with the sheiks establishing a sea truce. Thus, the region changed its name to Oman da Truce. The territory was under English protectorate from 1892 to 1960, when the government of the Truce States was formed. The situation remained so until 1971, when the United Kingdom withdrew its troops from the country. On December 2, 1971, the federation of the United Arab Emirates was born as an independent nation. In the beginning, only six states were part of this group; then, in 1972, Ras al-Khaima joined the federation, while Bahrain and Qatar chose to form their own states.
With the conquest of independence, a provisional constitution was enacted in December 1971, reformed in 1976 and 1981, which granted maximum authority to a supreme council composed of the sheikhs of each emirate. In addition, a series of bodies were instituted to which the executive and judicial powers were granted, albeit of a federal nature, since each emirate maintained its autonomy in legislative, tax and criminal matters, etc.
The United Arab Emirates is part of the Arab League, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the United Nations.
Society and culture
The social situation in the country shows serious contrasts due to the differences between the emirates. Nevertheless, the federation allocates a large part of its budget to the improvement of social services, both in health and in education.
According to HOMEAGERLY, the Emirates are part of the Arab world, with Islamic culture and religion. Thanks to the prosperity of the oil industry, the country has modernized considerably, although traditional patriarchal tribal life and organizations still exist.