Geography of the United Arab Emirates
|• Total||83,600 km2 (32,300 sq mi)|
|Coastline||1,318 km (819 mi)|
|Borders||total: 867 km (539 mi)|
|Highest point||Jebel Al Mebrah |
1,727 m (5,666 ft)
|Lowest point||Persian Gulf |
|Largest lake||Lake Zakher|
|Climate||arid; mild, pleasant winters; very hot, humid summers|
|Terrain||mountainous and barren desert covered with loose sand and gravel|
|Natural resources||petroleum, natural gas, marine resources|
|Natural hazards||haze, dust storms, sandstorms common|
|Environmental issues||limited natural freshwater resources are increasing dependence on large-scale desalination facilities|
|Exclusive economic zone||58,218 km2 (22,478 sq mi)|
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The United Arab Emirates is situated in the Middle East and southwest Asia, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia; it is at a strategic location along the northern approaches to the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil. The UAE lies between 22°50′ and 26° north latitude and between 51° and 56°25′ east longitude. It shares a 19 km (12 mi) border with Qatar on the northwest, a 530 km (330 mi) border with Saudi Arabia on the west, south, and southeast, and a 450 km (280 mi) border with Oman on the southeast and northeast.
The land border with Qatar in the Khawr al Udayd area is a source of long-running dispute (in fact, whether it even shares a land border with Qatar is in dispute). The total area of the UAE is approximately 83,600 square kilometres (32,300 square miles). The country's exact size is unknown because of disputed claims to several islands in the Persian Gulf, because of the lack of precise information on the size of many of these islands, and because most of its land boundaries, especially with Saudi Arabia, remain undemarcated. The largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, accounts for 87 percent of the UAE's total area (72,732 km2 (28,082 sq mi)). The smallest emirate, Ajman, encompasses only 259 km2 (100 sq mi).
The UAE stretches for more than 650 km (400 mi) along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. Most of the coast consists of salt pans that extend far inland. A recent global remote sensing analysis suggested that there were 637km² of tidal flats in the United Arab Emirates, making it the 40th ranked country in terms of tidal flat extent. The largest natural harbor is at Dubai, although other ports have been dredged at Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and elsewhere. Numerous islands are found in the Persian Gulf, and the ownership of some of them has been the subject of international disputes with both Iran and Qatar. The smaller islands, as well as many coral reefs and shifting sandbars, are a menace to navigation. Strong tides and occasional windstorms further complicate ship movements near the shore.
South and west of Abu Dhabi, vast, rolling sand dunes merge into the Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter) of Saudi Arabia. The desert area of Abu Dhabi includes two important oases with adequate underground water for permanent settlements and cultivation. The extensive Liwa Oasis is in the south near the undefined border with Saudi Arabia, and about 200 km (120 mi) to the northeast is Al Buraymi Oasis, which extends on both sides of the Abu Dhabi-Oman border.
Prior to withdrawing from the area in 1971, Britain delineated the internal borders among the seven emirates in order to pre-empt territorial disputes that might hamper formation of the federation. In general, the rulers of the emirates accepted the British intervention, but in the case of boundary disputes between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and also between Dubai and Sharjah, conflicting claims were not resolved until after the UAE became independent. The most complicated borders were in the Western Mountains, where five of the emirates contested jurisdiction over more than a dozen enclaves.
The UAE also extends for about 90 km (56 mi) along the Gulf of Oman, an area known as Al-Batinah coast. The Western Hajar Mountains (Jibāl Al-Ḥajar Al-Gharbī), rising in places to 2,500 m (8,200 ft), separate Al-Batinah coast from the rest of the UAE. Beginning at the UAE-Oman border on the Persian Gulf coast of the Ras Musandam (Musandam Peninsula), the Western Mountains extend southeastward for about 150 km (93 mi) to the southernmost UAE-Oman frontier on the Gulf of Oman. The range continues as the Eastern Hajar Mountains (Jibāl Al-Ḥajar Ash-Sharqī) for more than 500 km (310 mi) into Oman. The steep mountain slopes run directly to the shore in many places. Nevertheless, there are small harbors at Dibba Al-Hisn, Kalba, and Khor Fakkan on the Gulf of Oman. In the vicinity of Fujairah, where the mountains do not approach the coast, there are sandy beaches.
The climate of the UAE generally is very hot and sunny, though at night it becomes very cold. The hottest months are July and August, when average maximum temperatures reach above 48 °C (118.4 °F) on the coastal plain. In the Western Hajar Mountains, temperatures are considerably cooler, a result of increased altitude. Average minimum temperatures in January and February are between 10 and 14 °C (50.0 and 57.2 °F). During the late summer months, a humid southeastern wind known as the sharqi makes the coastal region especially unpleasant. The average annual rainfall in the coastal area is less than 120 mm (4.7 in), but in some mountainous areas annual rainfall often reaches 350 mm (13.8 in). Rain in the coastal region falls in short, torrential bursts during the summer months, sometimes resulting in floods in ordinarily dry wadi beds. The region is prone to occasional, violent dust storms, which can severely reduce visibility. The Jebel Jais mountain cluster in Ras Al Khaimah has experienced snow only four times (2004, 2009, 2017 and 2020) since records began.
Flora and fauna
Date palms, as well as acacia and eucalyptus trees, are commonly found growing at the region's oases. Within the desert itself, the flora is much more sparse and primarily consists of grasses and thornbushes.
The region's indigenous fauna had previously come close to extinction due to intensive hunting, which led to a 1970s conservation program on the Bani Yas island by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan; this resulted in the survival of Arabian oryxes and leopards, among others. The region's coastal fish consist mainly of mackerel, perch and tuna, as well as sharks and whales.
Acacia tortilis in Sharm-Dabna, Fujairah Emirate
Area and land boundaries
Coastline: 1,318 km (819 mi)
- Contiguous zone: 24 nmi (27.6 mi; 44.4 km)
- Continental shelf: 200 nmi (230.2 mi; 370.4 km) or to the edge of the continental margin
- Exclusive economic zone: 200 nmi (230.2 mi; 370.4 km)
- Territorial sea: 12 nmi (13.8 mi; 22.2 km)
Resources and land use
- Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas
- Land use:
- Arable land: 0.5%
- Permanent crops: 0.5%
- Permanent pasture: 3.6%
- Forest: 3.8%
- Other: 91.6% (2018)
- Irrigated land: 923 km2 (356 sq mi) (2012)
- Total renewable water resources: 150,000,000 cubic metres (5.3×109 cu ft)
- Natural hazards: frequent sand and dust storms
- Environment - current issues: air pollution; rapid population growth and high energy demand contribute to water scarcity; lack of natural freshwater resources being overcome by desalination plants; desertification; beach pollution from oil spills
- Environment - international agreements: party to:
- Biodiversity, Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution,[clarification needed] Wetlands[clarification needed]
- Signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
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