Located at the northeast of the Arabian Peninsula, the UAE consists of seven self-governed emirates, which formed a federation in 1971. The government adheres to regional tradition and the Islamic faith.
Each ruler reigns over his emirate, consulting with the most important personalities and holding Majlis, public meetings which anyone can attend. The emirate rulers make decisions on the economic policy of their emirate and other local interests. However, issues concerning foreign policy, defense, health, education, and internal security are discussed in the Federal Supreme Council.
Abu Dhabi is the biggest of the emirates and also the most significant oil supplier. While there are many small islands off the coast, the biggest part of its mainland is a vast desert. An exception to this is the oasis Al Ain, located 160 km from the city of Abu Dhabi.
Since 1973, Abu Dhabi has experienced a significant boom, especially in the construction industry and the petroleum sector. Two of the biggest oil companies are the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO) and the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (ADMA-OPCO).
Dubai has a high percentage of foreigners (85 to 90%), making it a number one expat destination in the UAE. With its free trade zones such as the Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai is the trading hub of the country, as well as the location of many international companies and financial institutions. Its two harbors and the airport also make it a regional traffic hub and an increasingly popular tourist destination.
Sharjah is located north of Dubai, with three enclaves on the Indian Ocean: Khor Fakkan with its harbor, Kalba, and Dibba. Sharjah used to be the most important city on the Gulf. Today, with its universities and traditional architecture, it is considered the cultural center of the UAE. Economically speaking, Sharjah thrives mostly on the back of medium-sized businesses.
Ras al-Kaimah, with its hills and mountains, probably has the most fascinating landscape of all seven emirates. Rainfall is more frequent in this part of the country and has allowed for agricultural development. However, the government is also making a constant effort to introduce new industries and more tourism to this area of the UAE.
Fujairah is located on the Indian Ocean and dominated by its harbor, tourism sector, and middle-sized businesses. Ajman is the smallest of the emirates with regards to surface area. It mostly has small-scale local businesses. Umm Al Quwain stretches from the coast to the Omani mountains. It is the second-smallest emirate by number of inhabitants, providing a relaxed lifestyle.
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