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PostSubject: UAE Info   Thu Feb 08, 2007 3:09 pm

I INTRODUCTION




United Arab Emirates (UAE), federation of seven independent states located in the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the Persian Gulf to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman and the Gulf of Oman to the east. Before the discovery of oil in the 1950s, the UAE was a group of largely undeveloped emirates under the protection of the British. Oil brought rapid growth and modernization to the area, and the emirates became independent as the UAE in 1971. Its seven member states are Abu Dhabi (Abū Zaby), ‘Ajmān, Dubai, Al Fujayrah, Ra’s al Khaymah, Ash Shāriqah, and Umm al Qaywayn. The city of Abu Dhabi, located in the emirate of the same name, is the federal capital and the largest city.

II LAND AND RESOURCES


The total land area of the UAE, including its islands, is 83,600 sq km (32,300 sq mi). The federation is roughly crescent-shaped, extending for about 420 km (about 260 mi) from north to south and, at its widest, for about 480 km (about 300 mi) from east to west. It has a coastline of 1,318 km (819 mi) on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Much of the UAE’s international border, running through empty desert, is undefined or disputed, and some minor interemirate border issues are still unresolved. Most of the country is desert, with a flat coastal plain consisting mostly of tidal salt flats. The land slopes down from the Al Ḩajar al Gharbī mountain range in the northeastern extremity of the country to an elevated desert plateau. The plateau slopes gently northward to the coast and westward to the Sabkhat Maţţī, a huge, sterile salt flat spreading into Saudi Arabia. The UAE’s highest point, at 2,500 m (8,200 ft), is in the Al Ḩajar al Gharbī. Some natural vegetation is found on parts of the plateau, sustained by rainfall runoff from the mountains.

A Water Sources
There are no rivers or lakes in the UAE, but underground water deposits are found at several desert oases, including Al ‘Ayn and Līwā. Wells dug to tap natural aquifers (underground layers of earth or stone that hold water) and reprocessed wastewater provide water for irrigation. Ocean desalination plants produce water for drinking and industrial purposes.

B Plant and Animal Life
The soil of the UAE is almost entirely sandy, and less than 1 percent of the land area is suited to cultivation. Palm, acacia, and tamarisk trees grow naturally in the oases and along the coast, and hardy shrubs and grasses survive in the desert. Irrigation around the major oases and cities supports the growth of eucalyptus trees, decorative plants such as bougainvillea, and fruits and vegetables. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nuhayyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the president of the UAE, has sponsored a massive forestation scheme designed to reduce soil erosion, protect crops from wind damage, and beautify cities. Since 1966 more than 70 million acacias, eucalyptus trees, and palm trees have been planted on more than 300,000 hectares (700,000 acres), in the desert as well as throughout the cities of Al ‘Ayn and Abu Dhabi. In addition to livestock, such as camel, sheep, and some cattle, the UAE has numerous birds, including trained falcons for hunting. The desert oryx and gazelle, as well as other wildlife previously hunted almost to extinction, have been preserved due to recent conservation efforts. The waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman contain a variety of fish and crustaceans. The dugong, or sea cow, is also found along the UAE coast.

C Natural Resources
The UAE’s proven oil reserves make up almost one-tenth of the world’s total, with about 90 percent in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and significant amounts in Dubai and Ash Shāriqah. Estimated natural gas reserves amount to about 3 percent of the world’s total, with Abu Dhabi again possessing the largest share. Other mineral resources include modest deposits of chrome, iron, copper, and uranium.

D Climate
Weather can be extreme during the summer months (May to October), with interior temperatures reaching 49°C (120°F) and coastal temperatures slightly lower but combined with high humidity. Pleasant weather prevails during the rest of the year, with temperatures between 20° and 35°C (68° and 95° F). Annual rainfall varies from an average of 43 mm (1.7 in) in Abu Dhabi to 130 mm (5.1 in) in Ra’s al Khaymah, but with great variations from year to year. Sandstorms occur frequently and are associated with both the shamal, a powerful wind from the north or west, and the hot khamsin, coming from the south in summer.

E Environmental Issues
The government of the UAE has sponsored a massive forestation scheme designed to reduce soil erosion, protect crops from wind damage, and beautify cities. Wildlife previously hunted almost to extinction have been preserved through recent conservation efforts. However, the UAE is a major exporter of reptile skins and in recent years has been identified as a hub of international illegal wildlife commerce.

The UAE is contributing to increasing levels of air pollution in the Persian Gulf region. The UAE derives 100 percent (1998) of its electricity from thermal plants that burn fossil fuels, thereby releasing pollutants into the atmosphere. The country has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes, at 33.3 metric tons per year (1996), as well as of petroleum consumption per capita, at 50.4 barrels per year (1998). Pollution from petroleum processing facilities and oil spills also affect the coast.

There are no renewable sources of fresh water in the UAE; most of the country’s water comes from desalinization plants. Almost all residents have access to safe drinking water and sanitation services. The government has ratified international environmental agreements pertaining to climate change, desertification, endangered species, hazardous wastes, marine dumping, and ozone layer protection.

III THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

The UAE had an estimated population of 2,523,915 in 2004, with a density of 30 persons per sq km (78 per sq mi). Some 88 percent of the country’s population is urban. Abu Dhabi is the largest city and is the capital of the UAE. It serves as the financial, transportation, and communications center of a major petroleum-producing area. Abu Dhabi is also a significant port and is home to a majority of the federal government ministries. Dubai is the main trading center of the entire Persian Gulf, has the principal port facilities of the UAE as well as its busiest airport, and has several federal ministries. Ash Shāriqah is an important port and industrial center. The emirate of Abu Dhabi contains nearly 40 percent of the total UAE population.

The population in 1995 was 15 times larger than in 1965, largely due to the immigration of oil workers.

Several aspects of the UAE’s population are unusual. The population in 1995 was 15 times larger than it was in 1965, largely due to the immigration of oil workers. Four-fifths of the UAE’s inhabitants are foreign workers and their dependents. The UAE also has a very young population, due to the influx of young foreign workers, cultural preference for large families, and improved medical care.

A Ethnic Groups
The native population of the UAE is Arab; and generally a different tribe dominates each emirate. About two-thirds of the UAE’s non-native population are Asians (largely Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, and Filipinos), and the other third are Iranians or Arabs (primarily Jordanians, Palestinians, and Egyptians). Although the disproportionate number of expatriates has caused some concern over its possible impact on security and on social and cultural values, the level of tensions between the various ethnic communities is slight.

B Language and Religion


Arabic is the official language of the UAE. English is also widely spoken, as are Hindi, Urdu, and Persian. Islam is the official religion of the country and all Emiris and a majority of the expatriates are Muslims. The constitution guarantees religious freedom and there are some Christian churches in the UAE.

C Education
Primary and secondary education is free to UAE nationals and primary education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 11. Most teachers, at all levels, are from other Arab countries. In 2004 adult literacy rates were estimated to be 78 percent. This represents a dramatic increase since the introduction of universal public education under the UAE’s 1971 constitution. The United Arab Emirates University in Al ‘Ayn opened in 1977 with 519 students; by the mid-1990s it had an enrollment of about 12,000 students, about three-fourths of them women. In 1988 four colleges of technology, two for men and two for women, were opened for UAE nationals. Considerable numbers of Emiris, largely men, study abroad. The general quality of education ranks well in comparison with other developing societies.

D Way of Life


The culture and society of the UAE are a blend of traditional and modern elements. The religion of Islam and the heritage of a traditional, tribal society form the basis of a stable and essentially conservative social structure. There is, however, a decidedly tolerant and cosmopolitan atmosphere—most notable in the emirate of Dubai—that gives resident non-Emiris opportunities to enjoy their own cultural and religious organizations. For most older women the home remains the sphere of activity; younger women, benefiting from their access to modern education, are playing an ever-wider role in society. An estimated 16 percent of the UAE’s labor force is female and women are increasingly represented in government posts.

Reflecting the mix of modern and traditional influences, clothing styles are both Western and indigenous. Most Emiri men wear the dishdasha, a white, loose-fitting garment that is comfortable in hot weather. Most women wear the enveloping black abaya and a face mask called the burka, although this tradition is beginning to be abandoned by younger, educated women. Most of the population enjoys modern air-conditioned housing, either in apartments or villa-style houses. The small rural population lives in a more traditional style, and a few Bedouins still live nomadically in tents. Similarly, cuisine represents a blend of traditional Arab dishes, such as grilled lamb with spiced rice, with increasingly popular American and European fast foods. Even though such traditional sports as falconry and camel racing remain popular, newer sports, particularly soccer, have been enthusiastically embraced. Most Emiris enjoy family-centered entertainment, including television-viewing at home. Movie theaters exist but are chiefly patronized by expatriates.

E Culture
Traditional social rituals remain important, especially the Eid al-Fitr and the Eid al-Adha, the festivals that mark the end of Ramadan (the month of fasting) and the conclusion of the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) on the Islamic calendar. On special occasions Emiris perform traditional dances to musical accompaniment. The commitment to preserving traditional arts and culture is evident both at the popular level and in the political leadership. Each emirate devotes considerable resources to maintaining museums and libraries. Throughout the year, the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation sponsors major events on artistic, social, and other themes that are designed to place before audiences both Arab and other cultural fare. The foundation’s Center for Documentation and Research is a national archive where scholars from around the world can do research on the history of the UAE, going back to earliest times. Ash Shāriqah has a fine arts museum and has long been home to a lively theater and literary scene.

F Social Issues
Although disparities do exist between the emirates, there is almost no poverty in the UAE because Sheikh Zayed has devoted a large part of Abu Dhabi’s wealth to the welfare of the poorer emirates. Drug and other crimes are not uncommon, but are confined mainly to the expatriate community.


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PostSubject: ...   Thu Feb 08, 2007 4:00 pm

IV ECONOMY

Since the 1960s the UAE has progressed from a largely subsistence economy to a developed one that provides one of the world’s highest standards of living. The main engine for the extraordinary growth and development of the economy has been the oil sector, although non-oil trade has played a significant role and all the emirates have begun to diversify their economies. The 2002 gross domestic product (GDP) was $71 billion. The total workforce of the UAE was estimated at 1,583,256 in 2002, with 59 percent working in services. A unique feature of the UAE’s economy is its dependence on foreign labor. More than 90 percent of the workforce is made up of expatriates.

A Mining
Oil and gas directly contribute only 34 percent of the UAE’s GDP, but make up nearly 80 percent of its export earnings. The country produces 938 million barrels of oil per year. Proven reserves amount to approximately 100 billion barrels of oil and about 5.7 trillion cu m (about 200 trillion cu ft) of natural gas. At present rates of production, the UAE’s oil will last for more than 100 years and its gas for more than 200 years.

B Manufacturing and Services
In addition to petrochemical production, other manufacturing has become important, with rapid growth in aluminum production, paint and clothes manufacturing, and food processing. There is a very active private commercial sector in the UAE, and Dubai’s trading services and other businesses are a major factor in the country’s economy. Community and social services such as teaching and government employment are significant sources of livelihood. Tourism has grown rapidly in the past few years; many Europeans and others are attracted by mild winter weather, extensive beaches, areas of scenic and historic interest, and opportunities for shopping in the suqs (markets). Hotels and other tourist facilities are modern and equipped with all the latest amenities.

C Agriculture
Agriculture and livestock raising make up only 2 percent of the GDP. These pursuits are important, however, because the UAE has achieved a significant level of self-sufficiency in several food categories, including vegetables, eggs, and dairy products. The country is a major date producer for both domestic consumption and export. Many of the farms are small, but since agriculture is supported by generous government subsidies it is no longer a subsistence activity.

D Energy
Due to its vast petrochemical resources, the UAE obtains its electricity almost exclusively from oil- and gas-burning power plants. The UAE’s plentiful fuel supply has made extensive desalination facilities and other energy-intensive activities possible.

E Transportation
The UAE has rapidly developed a highly efficient transportation infrastructure. With a total of 1,088 km (676 mi) of roads, modern highways connect all the emirates with each other and with Oman and Saudi Arabia. Dubai International Airport is the largest of the UAE’s six international airports. Dubai owns Emirates Airlines and Abu Dhabi jointly owns Gulf Air with Bahrain and Oman. The country has 15 ports, including Mīnā’ Jabal ‘Alī in Dubai, one of the largest artificial deepwater ports in the world. Automobiles are the most commonly used form of transportation.

F Communications
There are five locally based radio stations and three television stations in the UAE; Arabic, English, and Urdu are used in broadcasts. International programming is available via satellite channels. The UAE is served by 7 daily newspapers, with a combined daily circulation of 384,000. The press, while subject to some censorship, is one of the freest in the Middle East.

G Foreign Trade
In 2000 the UAE earned $53.5 billion from exports, while imports cost $35.6 billion. Oil and gas exports amount to only about half of the country’s export earnings, indicating the country’s success in diversifying its economy. In addition to oil, gas, and petrochemical products, exports include aluminum, paint, and various fruits and vegetables. Principal purchasers of exports are Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India, Oman, and Iran; chief sources for imports are the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy, South Korea, and India. Through its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) the UAE has supported a moderate oil-pricing policy calculated to maximize its long-term benefit. The UAE also belongs to the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) that seeks to coordinate Arab oil policy. The UAE is a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), committing the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman to increased economic cooperation.

H Currency and Banking
The currency of the UAE is the dirham, divided into 100 fils. Its official rate has been fixed at 3.671 dirhams to the U.S.$1 since November 1980. The UAE Central Bank in Abu Dhabi is the bank of issue.

V GOVERNMENT


The UAE’s constitution, provisionally adopted at independence in 1971 and made permanent only in 1996, established a federal government that leaves much power to the emirates. The government has executive, legislative, and judicial branches, but the executive dominates. There are no political parties and no popular elections. Although the governmental institutions are modern in form, the essence of political power is traditional and hereditary, with the ruling family of each emirate representing its dominant tribe. Politics is largely a process of satisfying the claims to power of ruling families and their factions as well as merchants and religious leaders.

A Executive and Legislative
The highest political authority is the Supreme Federal Council (SFC), sometimes called the Supreme Council of the Union (SCU), which comprises the seven emirate rulers and establishes general UAE policy. It usually meets four times a year and elects the president to indefinitely renewable five-year terms. Sheikh Zayed has been president since independence and was most recently reelected in 1996. Each ruler has a vote, but on substantive matters the dominant emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai can exercise a veto. The Council of Ministers, appointed by the president, is both the federal cabinet and principal source of legislative authority. The SFC ratifies laws enacted by the Council of Ministers. The Federal National Council (FNC) is the UAE’s nominal legislature, but has only an advisory role. It does, however, play a significant role as a forum for discussion of important national issues. The 40 members of the FNC are selected by the UAE’s president—with the larger, wealthier emirates given the greater number of seats—and serve two-year, indefinitely renewable terms. The constitution permits a popularly elected FNC and it could someday evolve into a truly representative legislature.

B Judiciary
The UAE’s judiciary consists of a supreme court and courts of the first instance. The legal system is based on the Sharia (Islamic law), but incorporates elements of Western legal systems in such areas as commercial law. Many legal disputes are decided by local customary practices under the supervision of the ruler of each emirate.

C Social Services
Because of the UAE’s oil wealth, citizens pay no taxes but receive generous social welfare benefits, including free medical care. The UAE has a modern health care system. Facilities are concentrated in the larger cities, although most people have access to basic care.

D Defense
The armed forces of the UAE, called the Union Defense Forces (UDF), numbered 50,500 in 2002, with an army of 44,000 members, a navy of 2,500, and an air force of 4,000. A paid, professional force, the UDF relies heavily on officers and technicians from the United Kingdom, Jordan, and Pakistan, with many Omanis in the ranks of the ground forces.

E International Organizations
The UAE joined the Arab League immediately after independence in December 1971 and in the weeks following became a member of the United Nations (UN). It also belongs to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The first GCC summit was held in Abu Dhabi in May 1981.

VI HISTORY
Recent archaeological research indicates the presence of an advanced trading culture in the early 3rd millennium bc in what is now the UAE. The small trading states that emerged along the Persian Gulf coast were later overwhelmed by Persian empires—the Achaemenid Empire from the 6th to the 4th centuries bc and the Sassanian Empire from the 3rd to the 7th centuries ad. These empires took over and controlled the extensive maritime trade that the small states had already carried as far as China. In the early centuries ad Arab tribes flocked to the region, first along the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, then from the north, helping to make it receptive to the religion of Islam before the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632.

A The Trucial States
Trade with India and China expanded in the early Islamic period, with Julfar in present-day Ra’s al Khaymah as one of the leading ports. European intervention in the gulf began with the Portuguese in the early 16th century. From the mid-17th century the British and Dutch competed for domination, with Britain the winner in the late 18th century. By about 1800 the Qawasim, the ruling clans of Ash Shāriqah and Ra’s al Khaymah today, had become a maritime power in the lower gulf, attacking ships from British-ruled India. The British defeated the Qawasim navy in 1819 and in 1820 imposed the first of several treaties that created and sustained a maritime truce, giving the name Trucial States to the states that now form the UAE. By 1892 the British had assumed responsibility for the states’ foreign relations and external security and they remained under British protection until 1971. The British, who were principally concerned with the security of Persian Gulf maritime commerce, rarely intervened in their internal affairs. The most significant results of British domination of the area were the establishment of general peace, the introduction of the Western concept of territorial states, and the creation in 1952 of the Trucial States Council to promote cooperation among the seven rulers. The council provided the basis for the Supreme Federal Council of the UAE.

B Independence
At its birth on December 2, 1971, the UAE faced challenges that caused many to predict that the new federation would fail. There were border disputes with Saudi Arabia and Oman, rivalries among the emirates were strong, and Iran seized the island of Abū Mūsá, Ţunb al Kubrá (Greater Tunb), and Ţunb aş Şughrá (Lesser Tunb) in the Persian Gulf, all of which had been claimed by the UAE. Threats to regional stability since then have included the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The UAE has survived these dangers and prospered largely because its president, Sheikh Zayed, has used the oil wealth of his emirate, Abu Dhabi, to the benefit of all Emiris as well as to promote the UAE’s security in the international arena. Under Zayed the UAE has been a force for moderation in the Middle East and cooperated closely with the United States and its allies to defeat Iraqi aggression in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

In 1993, with the other Persian Gulf Arab states, the UAE supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. That same year, a dispute between the UAE and Iran over administration of the island of Abū Mūsá continued without significant progress. The conflict had flared up in April 1992 when Iran refused to allow several hundred expatriates to return to the island, which is jointly administered by the two nations under a 1971 agreement. Iran continues to occupy Abu Musá and the Tunb islands

In domestic affairs, the UAE became involved in a major financial scandal in 1991, when international regulators closed down worldwide operations of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) on fraud and forgery charges. Sheikh Zayed was a founding shareholder of BCCI, and Abu Dhabi businesses and investors lost approximately $2 billion. In December 1993 the government of Abu Dhabi filed a civil suit against BCCI and 13 of its top officials. In July 1994 the former chief executive of the bank pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to charges of fraud, conspiracy, and racketeering.

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