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The United Arab Emirates , sometimes simply called the Emirates ), is a federal absolute monarchy in Western Asia at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north. In 2013, the UAE's population was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million are Emirati citizens and 7.8 million are expatriates.
The country is a federation of seven emirates, and was established on 2 December 1971. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. Each emirate is governed by an absolute monarch; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the monarchs (traditionally always the Emir of Abu Dhabi) is selected as the President of the United Arab Emirates. Islam is the official religion of the UAE and Arabic is the official language (although English and Indian languages are widely spoken, with English being the language of business and education particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai).
The UAE's oil reserves are the seventh-largest in the world while its natural gas reserves are the world's seventeenth-largest. Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the first President of the UAE, oversaw the development of the Emirates and steered oil revenues into healthcare, education and infrastructure. The UAE's economy is the most diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, while its most populous city of Dubai is an important global city and an international aviation hub. Nevertheless, the country remains principally reliant on its export of petroleum and natural gas.
The UAE is criticised for its human rights record, including the specific interpretations of Sharia used in its legal system. The UAE's rising international profile has led some analysts to identify it as a regional and middle power.