History: The United Arab Emirates consist of seven autonomous emirates in the Persian Gulf-Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm-al-Qaiwin, Ajman, Fujairah and Ras-ai-Khaimah. These were formerly referred to as the ‘Trucial states’. Most of the land is barren and sandy. Rainfall is limited and erratic. One-tenth of the population are nomads.
Abu Dhabi, which is the capital of the Union, is the largest of the Emirates in area. Dubai is the main port of the Union and now has the largest harbor in West Asia. Dubai, the commercial hub of the Middle East, is now transforming itself into a manufacturing location and also a cultural, sports, leisure, and shopping centre.
Economy: In the past, the people of this area made their livng from subsistence agriculture and fishing, though with little good land or supplies of fresh water the agricultural prospects are limited. A combination of land reclamation and irrigation from underground acquifers allows farmers to grow dates for export and enbles the UAE to be self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. As a result of such efforts, total production increased six-fold during the 1990s.
Both Abu Dabi and Dubai have steadily been diversifying away from oil into such areas of refining and perro-chemicals. Dubai has the world’s largest single-site aluminium smelter and has a major duty-free zone at Jebel. Tourism is another useful source of income. Dubai’s port, airport, and glittering array of hotels, restaurants and shops draw people from all over the region.
Only a tiny proportion of the land area is sutable for agriculture. Crops include dates and alfalfa, along with other fruit varieties and cereals. Besdes oil and gas industries, aluminum smelling, trade and financial servces are also important.
Recent Events: Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE and ruler of the Federation since 1971, died in November 2004.