The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates, which united on December 2, 1971. They are Abu Dhabi (the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain.
The UAE is an Arab country, a state member of the League of Arab States and also a member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Arabic is the official language, yet English is widely used.
The UAE is a predominantly Muslim country. Islam is the basis of the UAE’s culture, political system and way of life, yet it is also multi-cultural and tolerant towards other religions. Everyone is free to practice their own religion and UAE’s residents observe the various festive occasions such as Eid, Christmas and Diwali.
There are over 200 different nationalities residing in the UAE making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Over the last decade, the country’s population has increased from 3.4 million in 2001 to an estimated 8.2 million in 2011. Mostly due to immigration, UAE also ranks among the highest in the world in terms of population growth.
Emirati clothing is an important part of the history and heritage of the UAE and is a source of pride. Men in the UAE wear a white cloak ‘kandura’ which is also called a ‘dishdash’ or a ‘thawb’ in other GCC countries. It is also similar to the desert clothes used in North Africa. The women in UAE wear a long flowing black gown known as the ‘abaya.’ The abaya is actually an elegant piece of attire used to cover the female’s clothing. It can range from plain, practical discreet designs similar to the ones worn in the past to more modern, elaborate and colourful ones with intricate designs.