Bordering the Gulf on the northern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, the seven states of the UAE are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn, Ras al Khaymah, and Fujayrah.
Geography: Mostly flat, semiarid desert with dunes, salt pans, and occasional oases. Cities are watered by extensive irrigation systems.
Climate: Summers are humid, despite minimal rainfall. Sand-laden shamal winds blow in winter and spring.
People and Society: Emirians, who make up just a quarter of the population, are mostly Sunni Muslims of Bedouin descent, and largely city dwellers. In theory, women enjoy equal rights with men. Poverty is rare and there is no income tax. The 1970s oil boom encouraged the immigration of workers, mostly from Asia. Western expatriates are permitted a virtually unrestricted lifestyle. Islamism, however, is a growing force among the young.
The Economy: Major oil and natural gas exporter; plentiful reserves. Dynamic Dubai: free trade zone, financial center (but 2008 global downturn caught overextended banks). Water is scarce. Imports most food. Some emirates are less developed.
Insight: Mina Jabal Ali, in Dubai, is the largest man-made port in the world
Official Name: United Arab Emirates
Date of Formation: 1971
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Population: 4.6 million
Total Area: 32,000 sq. miles (82,880 sq. km)
Density: 142 people per sq. mile
Languages: Arabic*, Farsi, Indian and Pakistani languages, English
Religions: Muslim (mainly Sunni) 96%, Christian, Hindu, and other 4%
Ethnic Mix: Asian 60%, Emirian 25%, other Arab 12%, European 3%
Currency: UAE dirham = 100 fils