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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) formally established in December 2nd 1971, is a Constitutional Federation of seven Emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Ras Al-Khaimah and Fujairah, each with its own unique character and personality but yet united with a common goal and destiny.
Four-fifths of the UAE is desert, yet it is a country of contrasting landscapes, from awe-inspiring dunes to rich oases, precipitous rocky mountains to fertile plains. Occupies an area of 83,000 sq km along the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar lies to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the north and east.
The transformation of the United Arab Emirates since its establishment is quite astonishing. The desert sand has been replaced with greenery and architecturally magnificent buildings and mosques (masjids). Cities with Skyscrapers, a sophisticated network of highways crisscrossing the country, tree- lined boulevards, magnificent shopping malls, fun parks, all lie side by side with the silent desert, wind towers and camels. Much has changed within so short a time.
The UAE is an amazing amalgam of the traditional values of the East and modern technologies of the West. It is a melting pot of various nationalities and cultures living together, working in harmony and enjoying a standard of living comparable to the world's most advanced nations.
One of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations, the United Arab Emirates has all the right ingredients for an unforgettable holiday, sun, sand, sea, sports, unbeatable shopping, top-class hotels and restaurants, an intriguing traditional culture, a safe and welcoming environment that is literally crime free.
The earliest significant settlements in the UAE date from the Bronze Age. In the 3rd century BC, a culture known as Umm an-Nar's arose near the site of modern Abu Dhabi and its influence extended well into the interior and along the coast of what is now Oman.
The Greeks were the next major cultural influence and ruins showing strong Hellenistic features have been found at Meleiha, about 50km (30mi) from Sharjah, and at Al-Dour, in the emirate of Umm al-Quwain. During the Middle Ages, much of the region was part of the kingdom of Hormuz, which controlled the entrance to, and most of the trade in, the Gulf.
The Portuguese arrived in 1498 and by 1515 had occupied Julfar near Ras al-Khaimah, building a customs house that taxed the Gulf's flourishing trade with India and the Far East. The Portuguese stuck around until 1633 and were followed by the British, who began exercising their naval power in the Gulf in the mid-18th century.
Throughout this period, the main power among the Bedouin tribes of the interior was the Bani Yas tribal confederation, made up of the ancestors of the ruling families of modern Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Bani Yas were originally based in Liwa, an oasis on the edge of the Empty Quarter, but moved to Abu Dhabi in 1793.
The British were focused on securing their line of communication to India and keeping European competitors, such as France and Russia, out of the region. The states that comprise the UAE were formerly known as the Trucial States, Trucial Coast, or Trucial Oman. The term trucial refers to the fact that the sheikhs ruling the seven constituent states were bound by truces concluded with Great Britain in 1820 and by an agreement made in 1892 accepting British protection.
However the British let the area remain a backwater of fisher people, pearl divers and Bedouin until the early 20th century. For most of this colonial period, Sharjah was the most populous and powerful of the emirates but it lost influence to Abu Dhabi as the 19th century drew to a close; Abu Dhabi was later overshadowed by Dubai.
After World War II the British granted internal autonomy to the sheikhdoms. Discussion of federation began in 1968 when Britain announced its intended withdrawal from the Persian Gulf area by 1971.
The prospect of oil eventually changed Britain's laissez-faire approach. Before oil concessions could be granted, boundaries between the various sheikhdoms had to be determined. Since none of the local rulers could agree, it was left to the British to demarcate the borders of the seven emirates that would eventually make up the UAE.
The first oil concessions were granted in 1939 but oil wasn't found for another 14 years. Exports from Abu Dhabi began in 1962. Britain announced in 1968 that it intended to leave the Gulf in 1971 and their original plan was to form a single state consisting of Bahrain, Qatar and the Trucial States. But this collapsed almost immediately. Negotiations eventually led to the independence of Bahrain and Qatar and the formation of a new federation - the United Arab Emirates - in 1971. At the time many outsiders dismissed the UAE as a loosely assembled, artificial and largely British creation.
However the wisdom of its rulers and the generosity of His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the country's beloved President from 1971 until his death in 2004 and Ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1966 to 2004, who placed his own emirate's oil revenues at the service of the nation, made it all possible for what the UAE is today; a prosperous and progressive country, whose people, citizens and expatriates alike enjoy all the benefits of modern society. The UAE is now a major international business center and one of the most stable and untroubled countries in the Arab world.
In recent years, the UAE has undertaken several projects to diversify its economy and to reduce its dependence on oil and natural gas revenues. The non-oil sectors of the UAE's economy presently contribute around 70 percent of the UAE's total GDP, and about 30 percent of its total exports. The federal government has invested heavily in sectors such as aluminum production, tourism, aviation, re-export commerce, and telecommunications.
As part of its strategy to further expand its tourism industry, the UAE is building new hotels, restaurants and shopping centers, and expanding airports and duty-free zones. The UAE has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995, and has one of the most open economies in the region.
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