The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven Emirates established by a constitution that was promulgated in 1971. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven Emirates by geographic size and holds most of the hydrocarbon resources of the country. The city of Abu Dhabi is the capital of the nation. Dubai, the second largest Emirate in geography and population, has grown to become the commercial hub for the region and many multinationals base operations in Dubai to cover the entire Middle East region and beyond. The other Emirates of the UAE are Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah.
Up until the discovery of oil in the mid-20th century, the Emirates of the UAE were small societies with a subsistence economy based on agriculture, fishing, and the pearling trade. There was essentially no written law. The head of a tribal royal family of each Emirate held and exercised power in accordance with Shari’ah (Islamic law). The Emirates were protectorates of Great Britain from the early 19th century until independence in 1971.
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