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Useful Notes / United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates (Arabic: دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة‎ Dawlat al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabiyyah al-Muttaḥidah) is a Western Asian federation of seven emirates on the Arabian Gulf. "Emir" is Arabic for "prince", so these emirates are basically principalities. The only parallel in the modern world of a federation of monarchies is Malaysia (although for historical reasons not every state in Malaysia is headed by a monarch), but the Malaysian sultans are ceremonial, whereas the Emirati emirs still hold a lot of powers.

Formerly known as the Trucial States (up until 1971), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the 8th wealthiest per capita state in the world by purchasing power parity.

The country has a population of 9.4 million. However, Emirati nationals only account for 13% of them, i.e. 1.2 million. The rest is made up by foreign expatriates, chiefly economic migrants from the Indian subcontinent; taken together, they constitute more than a half of the population and outnumber Emirates by four to one. Other expatriate communities came from Southeast Asia, other Arab countries, and Africa. This migrant-outnumbering-citizen situation happens to other Persian Gulf countries too, but nowhere is this as pronounced as in the UAE.

A country with twice as many men as women due to the influx of guest workers, it is a major oil producing state and acquiring further wealth all the time. It provided troops to the UN coalition in The Gulf War (1991).


Not a democracy, although slight moves to that system have been made. It is close to the US and bought F-16s from them in 1999, and many ships of the United States Fifth Fleet are based in the UAE.

Camel racing is popular and the place is attracting motorsport too. Tourism brings in big money. This has resulted in a bit of a culture clash between the covered-up, teetotal locals and the scantily-clad, beer-drinking tourists. Homosexuality and adultery are against the law.

Like the other Gulf emirates, citizens experience a highly luxurious life. This includes a very cushy welfare state, free healthcare, and free education up to the Doctorate level. Even the large welfare states of northern Europe seem threadbare and stingy in comparison to that provided in the UAE. Not so great is the fact that all this luxury is mostly built on the backs of the country's vast population of non-citizen guest workers, most of whom are criminally underpaid and emphatically not supported by the welfare state.


The Emirates

The UAE is divided into seven emirates. Except for Abu Dhabi and Umm al-Quwain, all of the emirates' territories are discontinuous, with exclaves and enclaves dotting the northeastern region. This dates back to the tribal politics of age old, when clans had to race against time and each other to grab as many fertile grazing areas as they could. Sharjah is the worst about this, but the others are not much better. Part of the reason the emirates decided to merge in 1971 was to prevent the (potentially catastrophic) result of this agreement.

Each emirs elect two of their own to become President and Prime Minister every 5 years. By convention, the President is always the Emir of Abu Dhabi, while the Prime Minister is always the Emir of Dubai.

  • Abu Dhabi — The largest and most populous of the seven, constituting about 87% of the land area and over 25% of the national population. Its eponymous capital is the second most-populous city in the UAE as well as its capital.
  • Ajman — The smallest emirate in size and a primarily agricultural area, with 95% of its population living on the eponymous capital.
  • Dubai — The largest city in the UAE, and home to the world's tallest skyscraper, as well as the financial center in the region.
  • Fujairah — The very last of the seven emirates to go under British protection in 1902. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the only emirate facing the Gulf of Oman. It is home to Al Badiyah Mosque, the oldest in the country.
  • Ras al-Khaimah — Originally not part of the UAE, it requested to join the union three weeks after the other six had merged, as a result it is not signatory to the Constitution. Home to some of the oldest archaeological sites in the UAE, some dating back 5,000 years.
  • Sharjah — Has many universities that attract students from around the UAE and the region, mostly located in the appropriately-named "University City" complex on the border with Dubai. It has an exclave facing the Gulf of Oman, as well as an exclave within Oman, within the UAEnote .
  • Umm al-Quwain — The least populous of the seven emirates.

The UAE and its residents in fiction

  • Abu Dhabi was popularized in the comic strip Garfield and the subsequent television show being the place where Garfield was always trying to mail Nermal. One episode featured a musical number about the city.
    Abu Dhabi, it's far away
    Abu Dhabi, that's where you'll stay
    Abu Dhabi, the place to be
    For any kitten who's annoying me, yeah!
  • The second Sex and the City movie is partly set in Abu Dhabi, but filmed in Morocco, as the government didn't like the script.
  • In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Ethan's team has to infiltrate the Burj Khalifa to intercept the Big Bad's plan and capture the assassin providing him the launch codes to Russia's nuclear subs.
  • Furious 7 sees the gang visit Abu Dhabi to retake the God's Eye, which is hidden in a property of a prince of Jordan.
  • The fifth iteration of the Street Fighter series features Arabic fighter, Rashid, who is ostensibly an Emiratinote  and dressed accordingly in a completely white dishdash and keffiyeh. His home-stage takes place on the wings of his own private jet as it flies around the city-scape of Dubai and several iconic buildings feature in the flyby, including the Burj Khalifa and the Emirates Towers.
  • The horror movie Djinn mostly takes places in the UAE, and features both spoken English and Arab.

The Emirati flag
The flag uses the very familiar Pan-Arab colors, arranged as green, white and black horizontal stripes with a red vertical stripe on the hoist; all colors symbolize Arab unity.


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