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United Arab EmiratesThe United Arab Emirates got its name when seven emirates united in 1971 (an emirate is a Muslim state ruled by a monarch). The seven emirates are: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.

Introduction:

Today in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) the culture seems quite modern and to some, may even seem sterile. However, the country is extremely varied and what most visitors see is the culture of the foreign population, not the locals. Moving from the large cities of Dubai or Abu Dhabi to a desert oasis reveals substantial cultural differences; in fact the cultural base remains in the desert.

Today, as in the past, the people's culture is based on the nomadic desert lifestyle of the Bedouin people. The people survived the difficult conditions by eating dates and camel's milk, but little else. Their lives were simple and social contact was both sought and feared as there was a need for knowledge, but fear of unknown people and enemies. In the country's deserts today there remains a simple lifestyle, with simple foods and clothing. The people also remain curious, but skeptical of outsiders although their kindness always seems to be more powerful in the modern age.

The colors of the flag of the United Arab Emirates represent: green for fertility, white for neutrality, black for oil, and red of unity. Red was also the traditional color for flags of the Persian Gulf countries and was a part of each individual emirate's flag prior to unification.

Name: United Arab Emirates
Independence: December 2, 1971
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Currency: Emirati Dirham
Population: 5,473,972 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: Citizenship is Emirati (Arab),
   but most of population is foreign
Language: Arabic
Religion: Muslim

In the 600s and 700s Islam arrived to the region and the people accepted this religion. It didn't alter their diets or even their architecture (as a primarily nomadic people there was little), but their lifestyles changed to meet the restrictions and rules of the new religion. Since this time the people have had greater outside contacts as new foods were introduced and their language became more uniform with the rest of the Arab world.

From a visual perspective, in the villages little has changed in the U.A.E. as the people continue to dress in their "National Dress," their homes remain traditional, and their foods are heavily influenced by the Lebanese cuisine, which arrived shortly after Islam. In fact, many locals share this culture in the cities, but the lifestyle is vastly different as business drives most schedules and life seems more complex. However both in the villages and in the cities the culture is changing, and at a very rapid pace.

With the discovery of oil in the U.A.E. in the 1900s the country became a rich and highly influential country. As the government controlled these resources and the income derived from it, they modernized their country quickly by building modern buildings, roads, transportation hubs, and introducing computers, televisions, and other technology. Today, the people have accepted these items while retaining traditional aspects of their culture, most notably in the form of dress and religion. Despite this, most locals own cars, have high-paying jobs, and have access to, and the resources to afford, the world's best technology.

Much of the U.A.E.'s economic success comes from free trade, oil, and foreign workers. As foreign workers arrive, the locals receive the higher paying jobs and if there is a smaller demand for jobs, the government simply lets fewer immigrant workers into the country to guarantee the locals have jobs. This essentially makes the local population the upper class in a multi-classed society.

Due to the growing number of jobs, the foreigners have changed the culture to a substantial degree. These people, from every part of the world, have brought with them new dress, foods, religions, and a new way of life. Despite clinging to their traditional roots, the local Emirati people, at least in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have grown accustomed to Italian, Indian, and American food as they have grown extremely tolerant of religious, ethnic, and cultural differences. With this comes constant pressure as the local people (most particularly the sheiks) feel obligated to cater to the foreign population, who is running their economy in some ways. This has led to a difficult balance of maintaining the traditional, while integrating the foreign. This has also led to a growing pride in being Emirati by some as traditional dress, clothing, language, and lifestyle are points of emphasis and pride by the locals.

Learn More About the United Arab Emirates:

The Land:
Geography WeatherWildlife

The Past:
History Architecture

The Food:
Food SpecialtiesDining EtiquetteDrinks

The Culture:
Way of Life EthnicityLanguageReligion DressBehaviorIdentity

Map of the United Arab Emirates:

United Arab Emirates Map

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Information for the U.A.E. was last updated: August, 2012 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks