The United Arab Emirates is comprised of seven
emirates, which occupy the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.
Each emirate, unique and rich in tradition, is an essential component
necessary for making up the whole.
Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, by far the largest emirate, is ruled by the Al Nahyan
family. It occupies 67,340 square kilometres or 86.7% of the total
area of the country. The emirate is primarily a vast desert area
with about two dozen islands in the coastal waters, including
the island where the city of Abu Dhabi is located, plus six sizeable
islands further out in the Arabian Gulf. The population of the
emirate is concentrated in three areas: the capital city, Abu
Dhabi; Al Ain, an oasis city located near the Hajar Mountains;
and the villages of the Liwa oases. Traditionally, the population
along the coast relied on fishing and pearling for their livelihood,
whilst those in the hinterland relied on date plantations and
camel herding. Through remarkable leadership and personal commitment,
His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has developed Abu
Dhabi into an influential, fully modernised state.
Emirate of Dubai
Dubai, the second largest of the seven emirates, is ruled
by the Al Maktoum family. It occupies an area of approximately
3,900 kilometres, which includes a small enclave called Hatta,
situated close to Oman, amongst the Hajar Mountains. Dubai, the
capital city, is located along the creek, a natural harbour, which
traditionally provided the basis of the trading industry. Pearling
and fishing were the main sources of income for the people of
Dubai. Under the wise leadership of its rulers, Dubai's focus
on trade and industry transformed it into the leading trading
port along the southern Gulf. His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin
Rashid Al Maktoum is the current ruler of Dubai.
Emirates of Sharjah
Sharjah, which shares its southern border with Dubai, is ruled
by the Al Qasimi family. It is approximately 2,600 square kilometres
and is the only emirate to have coastlines on both the Arabian
Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. In the nineteenth century the town
of Sharjah was the leading port in the lower Gulf. Produce from
the interior of Oman, India and Persia arrived there. Sharjah's
salt mines meant that salt constituted an important part of its
export business, along with pearls. In the 1930s when the pearling
industry declined and trade decreased due to the creek silting
up, Imperial Airways' flying boats set up a staging post for flights
en route to India, which benefited the residents of Sharjah. Today,
under the leadership of Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi,
Sharjah is the cultural and educational centre of the UAE and
takes pride in preserving the country's cultural heritage as well
as promoting Arab culture and traditions.
Emirate of Ajman
Ajman is the smallest emirate, comprising only 260 square kilometres.
It is ruled by the Al Nuami family. Surrounded mostly by the emirate
of Sharjah, Ajman also possesses the small enclaves of Manama
and Musfut in the Hajar Mountains. Along the creek dhow building
was the specialised trade. Fishing and date-trees provided the
local population with their primary means of sustenance. Ajman
benefited greatly from the union of the emirates, a fact that
is reflected today in their stately buildings and infrastructure.
Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuami has been the ruler since 1981.
Emirate of Umm Al Qaiwain
Umm Al Qaiwain is ruled by the Al Mualla family. It is the second
smallest emirate, with a total area of around 770 square kilometres.
Positioned between the emirates of Sharjah and Ajman to the south
and Ras Al Khaimah to the north, Umm Al Qaiwain has the smallest
population. Fishing is the local population's primary means of
income. Date farming also plays a significant role in the economy.
After the union of the emirates in 1971 Umm Al Qaiwain developed
into a modern state, and continues to progress under its present
ruler, Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmed Al Mualla.
Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah, the most northerly emirate, is ruled by another
branch of the Al Qasimi family. It covers an area of 1,700 square
kilometres. Thanks to the run-off water from the Hajar Mountains,
Ras Al Khaimah has a unique abundance of flora, so it is no surprise
that agriculture is important to the local economy. The emirate
also benefits from its stone quarries, and fishing, which is plentiful
in the rich waters of the Gulf. The city of Ras Al Khaimah, situated
on an inlet, has a rich history. It was renowned for its prosperous
port and for its exquisite pearls, which were famous as being
the whitest and roundest available anywhere. Ras Al Khaimah's
current ruler is Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi.
Emirate of Fujairah
The only emirate without a coastline on the Arabian Gulf is Fujairah,
which is ruled by the Al Sharqi family. Situated along the coast
of the Gulf of Oman, Fujairah covers about 1,300 square kilometres.
Unlike other emirates, where the desert forms a large part of
the terrain, mountains and plains are its predominant features.
Fujairah's economy is based on fishing and agriculture. Like Ras
Al Khaimah, the land in Fujairah is irrigated by rainwater from
the Hajar Mountains, making it ideal for farming. Sheikh Hamad
bin Mohammed Al Sharqi is the present ruler.
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