The U.A.E is a federation of seven emirates, each of which is governed by a hereditary emir. It was established in 1971 from the Trucial states, which had previously been under British rule. The U.A.E. itself is governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers made up from the seven emirs.
Around four fifths of the U.A.E. is desert. Even so, this is a country of varying landscapes – one which encompasses dunes, mountains, oases and plains. The country’s neighbors include Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The official state religion is Islam, with Arabic the national language (English, too, is widely-spoken). This is an ethnically diverse country, whose citizens have roots in the Arabian peninsula, Baluchistan, East Africa and Iran. Each of the emirates has its own rules about suitable attire, with Dubai being the most liberal.
In 1962, Abu Dhabi became the first of the emirates to export oil. Since then, the country’s society and economy have been transformed, with its residents – Emiratis, as they are known – enjoying a high standard of living due to its oil wealth. The U.A.E. authorities have worked hard to diversify the economy, also investing in the business, construction and tourism sectors. Consequently, the U.A.E. has become one of the Middle East’s most important economic centers.
Rice, meat and fish (in particular seafood) are the staple dishes of U.A.E. cuisine, although thanks to the many different cultural influences present in the country food from every continent is available. Alcohol, however, is generally only served in hotel restaurants and bars. Sport is a popular part of U.A.E culture, with football, Formula 1, cricket, golf and camel racing all attracting large followings.