The United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of the seven small emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras
Al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, and Fujairah, which were united as a federal state on 2 December
1971. Before the establishment of the oil economy in the early 1960s, two main orientations shaped
traditional Emeriati culture: the nomadic desert-oriented Bedouins with small oasis farming within the
broader context of the desert economy and culture, and the sea-oriented culture that revolved around
pearling and sea trading. These subcultures were economically, politically, and socially interdependent,
creating a common culture and social identity. The UAE shares significant aspects of its culture with
neighboring Arab countries and the larger Arab culture
Relative to its size and oil wealth, the UAE has a small population, estimated at 2,624,000 in 1997.
Before 1970, the local population was tiny (estimated at eighty-six thousand in 1961) and lacked most of
the technical skills needed for a modern society. The commercial production of oil triggered rapid
population growth as a result of an increase in the national population from improvements in diet, health
care, and living standards and the importation on a large scale of mostly male foreign laborers. The latter
factor has generated a dependence on expatriate labor; the UAE has become a multiethnic society, and
Emirati nationals account for only about 20 percent of the population. This has created an imbalanced
population composition in favor of males; in 1997, there were 1,755,000 males and 869,000 females.