INTRODUCTION TO THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES DECEMBER 2005

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1 INTRODUCTION TO THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES DECEMBER 2005

2 I. HISTORY II. GEOGRAPHY III. CLIMATE IV. ECONOMY AND CURRENCY V. POPULATION, LANGUAGE AND RELIGION 2

3 History Although the UAE is still a very young country, the earliest settlements date back to the Stone Age. First to come were the Greeks, followed by the Portuguese who arrived in Here s a brief history of the UAE s The Al Qasimi family ruled much of the Northern Emirates. 1800s The British regarded the Gulf region as a cardinal communication link with its empire in India and began asserting their presence in this region. It was known as the Trucial Coast until the departure of the British in Dubai was founded when a group of people of the Bani Yas tribe seceded from Abu Dhabi and settled in Dubai Accession of Sheikh Shakhbut as Ruler of Abu Dhabi Petroleum was first discovered in commercial quantities beneath the coastal waters of Abu Dhabi. This discovery dramatically transformed the UAE from one of the poorest states into the richest Accession of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as Ruler of Abu Dhabi. 3

4 History (cont d) 1968 The Trucial States, joined by neighbours Bahrain and Qatar, was named the Federation of Arab Emirates. July, 1971 Six of the Trucial States (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman and Fujairah) agreed on an interim federal constitution for achieving independence as the United Arab Emirates. August, 1971 The interests of Bahrain and Qatar proved to be incompatible with others members of the Federation of Arab Emirates, and both seceded into separate independent states. December, 1971 The UK accordingly terminated its special treaty relationship with the States, and the UAE became independent December 2nd The remaining sheikhdom, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the United Arab Emirates as the seventh emirate to form the present UAE. 4

5 Geography of Abu Dhabi The United Arab Emirates occupy a total area of about 83,600 square kilometres or 32,400 square miles (roughly the size of Portugal or Maine). Of this, the emirate of Abu Dhabi contains about 80 percent of the area and Ajman, the smallest of the seven emirates, has an area of about 250 square kilometres. The UAE share borders with Qatar on the Northwest, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the west, south, and Southeast, and the Sultanate of Oman on the Southeast and Northeast. 5

6 Geography (cont d) It has a coastline to both the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf and is south of the strategically important Strait of Hormuz. Off the coastline lie more than 200 islands, most of them uninhabited. To the South and West, the land is a mainly sand dunes and salt flats with occasional oasises, whereas the East Coast is essentially a fertile plain where rainfall and subterranean water have allowed agriculture to be practised for thousands of years. Along the coast, there are long, unspoiled beaches stretching for kilometres. To the North, the sand dunes yield to gravel plains formed by the Hajar mountain range, dating back about 200 million years. The mountains rise to a height of over 3000 metres and run from the UAE, south into Oman. 6

7 Climate Abu Dhabi is a coastal city lying between a hot, dry desert and a warm subtropical sea. In general, the area enjoys clear, sunny and warm weather with plenty of sunshine. Northern Hemisphere seasons also play an important role with marked differences from summer to winter. The average maximum temperature during the winter is around 25 Degrees Centigrade; daytime conditions tend to be warm, sunny and pleasant with light winds. Evenings and nights are cool with temperatures occasionally falling below 10 Degrees Centigrade in January and February. 7

8 Climate (cont d) The majority of the annual rainfall also occurs between December and March; this tends to be in the form of intense storms with short sharp periods of heavy rain. Prolonged periods of rain are rare, however periods of cloudy, unsettled weather may last for a few days. Local north-westerly winds called Shamals frequently develop during the winter, these Shamals bring cool, windy conditions and rough seas. The summer period from July to September is hot and sunny and can be very unpleasant at times due to a combination of high temperature and humidity. Sea breezes bring some relief from the heat in the afternoons but nights are hot and sultry with temperatures often remaining above 30 Degrees Centigrade. Thick fog can often affect Abu Dhabi in the early morning towards the end of the summer. 8

9 Economy and currency The United Arab Emirates has a free market economy based on oil and gas production. The country has the largest reserves of hydrocarbons in the world: the UAE is second only to Saudi Arabia in worldwide oil reserves and third in natural gas reserves. Although the UAE is trying to diversify its economy by encouraging light manufacturing, the oil sector accounts for 80 per cent of UAE revenues and 70 per cent of UAE exports. These resources are not distributed evenly among the seven emirates: Abu Dhabi has 70 per cent of total oil earnings; Dubai has 25 per cent; and Sharjah has four per cent. Oil revenues in the other emirates are negligible. The local currency is the Dirham DHS that is divided into 100 fils. The currency is also referred to as AED (Arab Emirates Dirham). The current exchange rate is Dh to US$1 and no revaluation has occurred since

10 Population, Language and Religion Population According to the local authorities, the U.A.E. population was about 3.5 million in In this population, nationals represent approximately 20%. The UAE has a large expatriate population consisting of workers from all over the world A lot of nationalities can be found in the emirates such as: Indians Pakistanis Filipinos Lebanese British Language Arabic is the official language of the U.A.E, but English is widely spoken as is Urdu, Malayalam and Tagalog. Religion Islam is the official religion of the UAE, but other religions are respected. Abu Dhabi has a variety of Christian churches: St. Joseph s Roman Catholic Church, St. George s Orthodox Church, St. Andrews Protestant Church, Evangelical Church. 10

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