You’ve heard all about the city on its way to becoming the 8th wonder of the modern world, Dubai, but what do you know about the country in which it lies: the United Arab Emirates, or UAE?
According to the World Factbook, the UAE is one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, with the 12th highest GDP per capita. The UAE has come a long way from the collection of sheikdoms striving to recover from the collapse of the pearl diving industry. Today, this tiny stretch of land between the Arabian desert and the Persian Gulf is the 4th largest oil exporter in the world, and has more oil reserves than Russia, China, and the United States combined. [And at this rate will have more Starbucks too! (-: ]
The UAE’s robust economy stems partly from its leaders decision to reinvest oil and gas revenues in the country’s infrastructure, to diversify the economy, and to attract foreign capital and workers.
Dubai boasts the tallest building in the world, the Burj Dubai. At over 800 meters, it’s nearly twice the height of the Empire State Building.
But the capital of the UAE is not Dubai. It’s Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the UAE’s seven sheikdoms, comprising 80% of the country’s land. Combined with Dubai, the two sheikdoms make up the vast majority of the country’s population.
Abu Dhabi holds the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, named after the country’s first President. The mosque can accommodate 40,000 worshippers, and is one of the largest mosques in the world.
The UAE has eight public holidays, of which six are Muslim holidays. The other two are New Year’s Day (January 1) and today, December 2. (ameinfo.com) National Day marks the anniversary of the union of the seven sheikdoms to form the UAE after British withdrawal in 1971.
UAE has the world’s highest net migration rate. Only about a fifth of the country’s residents are citizens. Most of the remainder are expatriates from all over the globe.
Though the UAE is one of the Middle East’s great economic success stories, there has been concern during the financial downturn. Recently, the corporation Dubai World — the company famous for its unprecedented housing projects — made headlines for defaulting on half its $60 billion debt. Ironically, for the average UAE resident, there’s no such thing as bankruptcy. If you can’t pay your debt, you go to jail. (The Dark Side of Dubai – Johann Hari, The Independent) Though the UAE government refused to cover Dubai World’s losses, Asian banks have stepped in with a pledge of support. Evidently Dubai World has learned from its Western counterparts. Lose millions = jail. Lose billions = bailout.