national flag consisting of horizontal stripes of green, white, and black and a vertical red stripe at the hoist. The flag's width-to-length ratio is 1 to 2. Great Britain compelled many of the small Arab states on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf to sign the so-called General Treaty of January 8, 1820. These states, which agreed to refrain from armed conflict, were subsequently referred to as Trucial Oman, or the Trucial Coast. To their plain red flag the General Treaty required that they add a white border as a symbol of their peaceful intents and their relationship with Britain. In 1966, six years after the formation of the Trucial States Council, only two of the countries (Ash-Shariqah and Ra's al-Khaymah) still used the white-bordered red flag. Three states'Ajman, Dubayy, and Umm al-Qaywaynhad reduced the border to a white vertical stripe at the hoist, and the latter had also incorporated a white star and crescent in the centre of the red. Abu Dhabi had added a white canton to its red flag. Only Al-Fujayrah, which never signed the General Treaty, still flew a flag of plain red. On December 2, 1971, six of these states united to form the United Arab Emirates. (The seventh state, Ra's al-Khaymah, joined the new country on February 11, 1972.) The new flag took its four colours from the Arab Revolt Flag of 1917. No explanation was given of the colour symbolism, but in other national flags derived from the same source the colours originally recalled those used by Arab dynasties of the past. Collectively they are referred to in a 13th-century poem by Safi ad-Din al-Hilli that speaks of green Arab fields defended in black battles by the blood-red swords of Arabs whose deeds are pure white. Whitney Smith History This discussion focuses on the United Arab Emirates since the 19th century. For a treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see Arabia, history of. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the dominant tribal faction was the Al-Qawasim (singular: Qasimi), whose ships controlled the maritime commerce (notably fishing and pearling) concentrated in the lower Persian Gulf and in much of the Indian Ocean. Attacks on British and Indian ships led to a British naval attack in 1819 that defeated the Qasimi forces. The Al-Qawasim thus lost power and influence in the region, and the Banu Yas tribal confederation of Abu Dhabi became dominant. The Banu Yas were centred on the Al-'Ayn and Al-Liwa' oases of Abu Dhabi, and their strength was land-based. Under the leadership of the Al Nahyan (members of the Al Bu Falah tribe), the Banu Yas have been the most powerful element in the region since the mid-19th century. The principal sheikhs along the coast signed a series of agreements during that centurya general treaty of peace in 1820, the perpetual maritime truce in 1853 (which gave the Trucial Coast its name), and exclusive agreements in 1892 restricting their foreign relations to British discretionand the sheikhdoms became known as the Trucial States. A council of the Trucial States began to meet semiannually in 1952 to discuss administrative issues. In January 1968, following the announcement by the British government that its forces would be withdrawn from the Persian Gulf by late 1971, Trucial Oman and the sheikhdoms of Qatar and Bahrain initiated plans to form a confederation. After three years of negotiations, however, Qatar and Bahrain decided to become independent sovereign states, and the former Trucial States, excluding Ra's al-Khaymah, announced the formation of the United Arab Emirates in December 1971. Ra's al-Khaymah joined the federation in February 1972. The struggle for centralization Abu Dhabi initiated a movement toward centralization in December 1973, when several of its former cabinet members took positions with the federal government. In May 1976 the seven emirates agreed to merge their armed forces, and in November of that year a provision was added to the constitution that gave the federal government the right to form an army and purchase weapons. Conflicts regarding centralization within the government in 1978 prompted Dubayy and Ra's al-Khaymah to refuse to submit their forces to federal command, and Dubayy began purchasing weapons independently. A proposal to form a federal budget, merge revenues, and eliminate internal boundaries was rejected by Dubayy and Ra's al-Khaymah, in spite of strong domestic support. Dubayy ended its opposition, however, when its ruler, Sheikh Rashid ibn Sa'id al-Maktum, was offered the premiership of the federal government; he took office in July 1979. Sheikh Zayid ibn Sultan al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi was reelected president of the United Arab Emirates for successive five-year terms beginning in 1971. Sheikh Rashid of Dubayy died in 1990 after a long illness, and his positions as ruler of Dubayy and vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates were assumed by his son, Sheikh Maktum ibn Rashid al-Maktum. The economy The union's economy is dominated by the petroleum produced in the Abu Dhabi and Dubayy emirates; it is estimated that reserves in Abu Dhabi will last until about the end of the 21st century, while those in Dubayy probably will run out sooner. The richest of the emirates, Abu Dhabi, contains nearly one-tenth of the world's oil reserves and contributes more than half of the national budget. Noncitizens constitute more than four-fifths of the labour force; the government attempted to reduce that number by providing incentives for businesses to hire citizens. Resources Oil was first discovered in Abu Dhabi in 1958. The government of Abu Dhabi owns a controlling interest in all oil-producing companies in the emirate. The largest concessions are held by Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (ADMA-OPCO), which is partially owned by British, French, and Japanese interests. One of the main offshore fields is located in Umm ash-Sha'if. Al-Bunduq offshore field is shared with neighbouring Qatar but is operated by ADMA-OPCO. A Japanese consortium operates an offshore rig at Al-Mubarraz, and other offshore concessions are held by American companies. Onshore oil concessions are held by the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO), which is partially owned by American, French, Japanese, and British interests. Other concessions also are held by Japanese companies. The production of oil in Dubayy began in 1969. There are offshore oil fields at Haql Fath, Fallah, and Rashid. Dubayy owns a controlling interest in all oil production in the emirate. Ash-Shariqah began producing oil in 1974; another field, predominantly yielding natural gas, was discovered six years later. In 1984 oil production began off the shore of Ra's al-Khaymah, in the Persian Gulf. Dubayy produces about one-third of the country's total output of petroleum. The land Nearly the entire country is desert, containing broad patches of sand. Salt flats lie in the coastal areas around Abu Dhabi city and in the far west, the latter constituting the Matti Salt Flat that extends southward into Saudi Arabia. Some of the world's largest sand dunes are located east of 'Aradah in the oases of Al-Liwa'. The largest oases are at Al-'Ayn about 100 miles (160 km) east of Abu Dhabi. Along the eastern portion of the Musandam Peninsula, the northern extension of the Al-Hajar Mountains (also shared by Oman) offers the only other major relief feature; elevations rise to about 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) at their highest point. The Persian Gulf coast is broken by shoals and dotted with islands that offer shelter to small vessels. There are, however, no natural deepwater harbours; both Dubayy's Port Rashid and the gigantic Port Jabal 'Ali are man-made, as are major ports at Abu Dhabi, Ash-Shariqah, and Ra's al-Khaymah. The coast of the Gulf of Oman is more regular and has three natural harboursDiba al-Hisn, Khawr Fakkan, and Kalba. The climate is hot and humid along the coast and is hotter still, but dry, in the interior. Rainfall averages only 4 to 6 inches (100 to 150 mm) annually, with considerable fluctuation from year to year. The average January temperature is 64 F (18 C), while in July the temperature averages 91 F (33 C). Summertime highs can reach 115 F (46 C) on the coast and 120 F (49 C) or more in the desert. In midwinter and early summer, winds known as the shamal blow from the north and northwest, bearing dust and sand. Because of the desert climate, vegetation is scanty and largely limited to the low shrubs that offer forage to nomadic herds; but millions of trees, notably mangroves, have been planted in Abu Dhabi, which have provided habitats for various species. In the oases, date palms are raised together with alfalfa (lucerne). Fruits are grown, and the Al-'Ayn oases east of Abu Dhabi are known for their mangoes. Animal life is largely restricted to domesticated goats, sheep, and camels, together with cattle and poultry, which were introduced in modern times. The gulf waters harbour schools of mackerel, grouper, tuna, and porgies, as well as sharks and occasional whales. In the 1990s the government initiated a conservation and management program to preserve and protect desert animal and plant life. The people The population of the United Arab Emirates is concentrated primarily in cities along both coasts, although the interior oasis settlement of Al-'Ayn has grown into a major population centre as well. Several emirates have enclaves within other emirates. Less than one-fifth of the emirates' residents are citizens. The remainder are mostly male foreign workers and their dependents, with South Asians, mainly Indians and Pakistanis, constituting nearly half of the population. Arabs from countries other than the United Arab Emirates, notably Egypt, account for more than one-tenth and Iranians nearly one-fifth of the population. Southeast Asians, including many Filipinos, have immigrated in increasing numbers to work in various capacities. The official language is Arabic, but English and Farsi are also spoken. The birth rate is the lowest among the Persian Gulf states, and the infant mortality rate has decreased substantially. Most citizens are Muslims and belong to the Sunnite branch of Islam, although small Shi'ite minorities exist in Dubayy and Ash-Shariqah.

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