The United Arab Emirates, sometimes known as simply the Emirates, is located against Saudi Arabia and Oman in Southwest Asia. Known locally as Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah, the United Arab Emirates covers an area of 32,278 sq mi (83,600 km²), divided into seven emirates or royal territories. Known in the past as Trucial Oman or the Pirate Coast, the United Arab Emirates is a Federal constitutional monarchy, under the control of the heir to the Al Nahyan clan. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the head ruler for 30 years, until his death in 2004.
Abu Dhabi, the capital city, has a population of 1,850,230, which is almost half of the total population of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi is a modern city characterized by skyscrapers, busy shopping streets, and a series of beautifully-designed urban parks. The United Arab Emirates is also notable because 75 percent of its population is composed of foreigners, mainly from India, the United Kingdom, and Egypt. There are approximately ten men for every six women in the United Arab Emirates, a percentage that is higher than anywhere else in the world.
The United Arab Emirates has an arid climate, with summer temperatures reaching 110ºF (40ºC) regularly. Sandstorms and fog are also common, but rain is rare. Winter temperatures rarely fall under 60ºF (15.5ºC). Scenic beaches and expensive resorts are located on the Persian Gulf, and attract rich visitors from all over the world. Sand dunes are the most common terrain found outside of the cities, although mountains and coastal plains can also be found. There is very little natural freshwater available, which means the government spends much money in desalination plants.
The United Arab Emirates has a better history than some of its neighbors when it comes to the protection of human rights. Former Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was well-known for his religious tolerance and for allowing freedom of the press. Internet access, however, is controlled, and Internet telephony (VoIP) and chat rooms are mostly blocked. Labor rights are practically non-existent, especially for immigrants, and the sex industry, including sex slaves and child prostitution, is alive in the country, especially in Dubai. Homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and is punished with the death penalty. Freedom of the press is relatively high compared to other Middle Eastern countries, but criticism of Islam is not allowed and is punishable with prison.