The UAE is located in southwest Asia. It lies between 22° 30’ and 26° 10’ north latitude and between 51° and 56° 25’ east longitude. Abu Dhabi being the largest emirate, it represents 85% of the land, whereas Ajman, the smallest emirate encompasses only 259 sq. kms. The UAE have a total land area of 83,600 sq. kms. The coast stretches up to 650 kms along the southern shore of Persian Gulf. Salt Pans exists in most the coasts. There are ports are Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, but the longest natural harbour is situated in Dubai. It is a country of contrasting landscapes despite the fact that four-fifths of it is land is arid desert. It has a coastline of 734 kms; 644 kms is along the Arabian Gulf and 90 kms bordering the Gulf of Oman. The Coastal areas of the Arabian Gulf comprises of coral reefs, salt marshes and offshore islands, whereas the inland regions comprises of gravel plains and barren deserts. The interior of the western region of the country, most of which is Abu Dhabi comprises of deserts scattered around with oasis. Liwa is one of the largest oasis, beyond which is the vast Rub Al-Khali desert. Hajar mountain chains lie to the east, which further reaches north into the Musandam Peninsula at the mouth of Arabian Gulf. They rise up to 1300 m within the territory and fall steeply to the east coast on the Gulf of Oman where a fertile gravel plain separates the mountains from the ocean.
Khalifa Port, Dubai
The climate of UAE is sub-tropical arid. The country experiences hot summers and warm winters. Since the country borders the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, the temperatures are high in summer with high humidity along the coastal regions. The climate usually varies between the deserts of the inland areas, mountainous areas and the coastal regions. The daytime temperatures are pleasant at an average of 24°C between the months of November and March. During the night, the temperatures are slightly cooler, averaging 13°C and in the depth of the deserts and mountainous areas it is less than 5°C. During the summers, the temperatures are high and go as high as 45°C in the inland areas and in the coastal areas the temperatures are a few degrees lower. The humidity level in coastal areas ranges around 50% to 60%, but in summers and autumn, it goes beyond 90%. July and August are the hottest months. During the winters, the northwesterly winds (shamal) bring cool air making the climate pleasant. The average minimum temperatures in the months of January and February are between 10°C to 14°C. Most of the rainfall in the country is experienced during the months of December and January. In the coastal areas, the average annual rainfall is 120 mm, whereas in the mountainous areas it reaches around 300 mm.
The cuisine of UAE has influences from the cuisine of Middle Eastern and Asian Cuisines. A lot of meat, grain and dairy products are widely consumed due to the harsh weather conditions. Very often in cooking spices like turmeric, saffron, cardamom and thyme are used along with cooling side dishes like garnishes of yoghurt, mint or cucumber. Dejaj Murraq, which is a stew and Laham Murraq which is a term for meat stew are the two most popular and common dishes consumed by the people of the country. These dishes are prepared once or twice in a day due to its versatile nature, as it can be consumed along with bread, rice or other side dishes. During the month of Ramadan, Laham Murraq is widely consumed and often served with garlic, limes, radishes and buttermilk. Shrimp Biryani is another traditional dish of the UAE. Other popular dishes include Chicken Shawarma, Falafel and Hummus. Chicken and goats are the most common meats eaten in UAE. Even camel meat is sometimes consumed but there are prized more for their milk than meat. An average breakfast of the people includes coffee, bread, khameer, chebab or ragag that are usually served with cheese or eggs. Among the deserts or sweet dishes Esh Asarya, Umm Ali and Khabeesa are among the favorites of the people of the country. Besides coffee, red tea with mint is often served after meals to aid in digestion. Indian, Lebanese and European dishes are widely available in the large cities, mostly in Dubai.
The constitution of UAE guarantees the freedom to practice or preach any religion according to the established customs, on the basis that it does not conflict with public policy or violate public morals. The law of the country denies the Muslims to change to their religion. The constitution also stipulates that the citizens are equal before the law without any discrimination based on any religious belief. The constitution also declares that Islam is the state religion and defines all its citizens to be Muslim. But the law permits other citizens to practice any religion according to their culture or beliefs. About 85% of the total population are non-citizens. Of the citizens, 85% are Sunni Muslim and 15% are Shia. The non-citizens residing in the country have originated from South and Southeast Asia, whereas there are also small number of migrants from Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and North America. Among them about 76% of the total population is Muslim, 9% is Christian and 15% of the total population belongs to other religious groups (Hindu and Buddhist). The groups that account to less than 1% of the total population include the Baha’is, Sikhs, Parsis and Jews. Islamic studies are compulsory in public schools and also in private schools that serve Muslim children. Islam being the religion of the country, religious holidays are observed for the Islamic New Year, Waqfa, Eid al-Adha, the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Ascension Day and Eid al-Fitr. There are about thirty-five Christian churches, one Sikh temple and two Hindu Temples in the country. The people of other religious groups conduct religious ceremonies in private homes without any interference.