The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven states, established in 1971 after Britain decided the area was too expensive to rule. These countries were once dependent on fishing and a failing pearl industry. In 1958, oil was discovered and now their per capita GDP stands at about $64,500, largely due to oil and tourism industries.
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Seven emirates comprise the UAE. They are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain, and each maintains a relatively high level of independence. In contrast to neighboring countries, the UAE holds a fairly liberal stance regarding other cultures and beliefs. It's politics are still considered authoritarian and there is strong political control over the media and Internet.
People often group the UAE in with other Arab countries but it is noteworthy for its diversity, modernity, and tolerance. The estimated 9.5 million people who call this area home enjoy a high standard of living. About 85 percent of the workforce are expatriates and an estimated 100 languages are spoken there. It is also a major tourist destination.
Read more about the UAE:
BBC: United Arab Emirates country profile
National Geographic: United Arab Emirates country facts