Geography of United Arab Emirates

Learn Information about the Middle East's United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates is a country located on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula. It has coastlines along the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf and it shares borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman. It is also located near the country of Qatar. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation that was originally formed in 1971. The country is known as being one of the wealthiest and most developed in western Asia.

Fast Facts: United Arab Emirates

  • Capital: Abu Dhabi
  • Population: 9,701,315 (2018)
  • Official Language: Arabic
  • Currency: Emirati dirham (AED)
  • Form of Government: Federation of monarchies
  • Climate: Desert; cooler in eastern mountains
  • Total Area: 32,278 square miles (83,600 square kilometers) 
  • Highest Point: Jabal Yibir at 5,010 feet (1,527 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Persian Gulf at 0 feet (0 meters)

Formation of United Arab Emirates

According to the United States Department of State, the UAE was originally formed by a group of organized sheikhdoms that lived on the Arabian Peninsula along the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. These sheikdoms were known to have constantly been in dispute with one another and as a result, constant raids on ships the area was called the Pirate Coast by traders in the 17th and early 19th centuries.

In 1820, a peace treaty was signed by the area's sheikhs in order to protect shipping interests along the coast. The raiding of ships continued until 1835 however, and in 1853 a treaty was signed between the sheikhs (Trucial Sheikhdoms) and the United Kingdom which established a "perpetual maritime truce." In 1892, the U.K. and the Trucial Sheikhdoms signed another treaty that forged a closer relationship between Europe and the present-day UAE region. In the treaty, the Trucial Sheikhdoms agreed not to give away any of their land unless it went to the U.K. and it established that the sheikhs would not begin new relationships with other foreign nations without first discussing it with the U.K. The U.K. then promised to provide military support to the sheikhdoms if needed.

Throughout the mid-20th century, there were several border disputes between the UAE and neighboring countries. In addition in 1968, the U.K. decided to end the treaty with the Trucial Sheikhdoms. As a result, the Trucial Sheikhdoms, along with Bahrain and Qatar (which were also being protected by the U.K.), tried to form a union. However, they were unable to agree with each other so in the summer of 1971, Bahrain and Qatar became independent nations. On December 1 of the same year, the Trucial Sheikhdoms became independent when the treaty with the U.K. expired. On December 2, 1971, six of the former Trucial Sheikhdoms formed the United Arab Emirates. In 1972, Ras al-Khaimah became the seventh to join.

Government of the UAE

Today, the UAE is considered a federation of seven emirates. The country has a federal president and prime minister which makes up its executive branch but each emirate also has a separate ruler (called an emir) who controls the local government. The UAE's legislative branch is made up of a unicameral Federal National Council and its judicial branch is made up of the Union Supreme Court. The seven emirates of the UAE are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al Qaywayn.

Economics and Land Use in the UAE

The UAE is considered one of the wealthiest nations in the world and it has a high per capita income. Its economy is based on oil but recently the government has begun programs to diversify its economy. Today, the main industries of UAE are petroleum and petrochemicals, fishing, aluminum, cement, fertilizers, commercial ship repair, construction materials, boat building, handicrafts, and textiles. Agriculture is also important to the country and the main products produced are dates, various vegetables, watermelon, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and fish. Tourism and the related services are also a large part of the UAE's economy.

Geography and Climate of the UAE

The United Arab Emirates is considered a part of the Middle East and it is located on the Arabian Peninsula. It has a varied topography and in its eastern portions but much of the rest of the country consists of flat lands, sand dunes, and large desert areas. In the east there are mountains and UAE's highest point, Jabal Yibir at 5,010 feet (1,527 m), is located here.

The climate of UAE is desert, although it is cooler in the eastern areas at higher elevations. As a desert, UAE is hot and dry year-round. The country's capital, Abu Dhabi, has an average January low temperature of 54 degrees (12.2˚C) and an average August high temperature of 102 degrees (39˚C). Dubai is slightly hotter in the summer with an average August high temperature of 106 degrees (41˚C).

More Facts About the UAE

• UAE's official language is Arabic but English, Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali are also spoken.
• 96% of the population of UAE is Muslim while a small percentage is Hindu or Christian.
• The UAE's literacy rate is 90%


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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of United Arab Emirates." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Briney, Amanda. (2023, April 5). Geography of United Arab Emirates. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of United Arab Emirates." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).