The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah.

Four-fifths of the UAE is desert but it has contrasting landscapes - from the towering red dunes of the Liwa to the rich palm-filled Oasis of Al Ain, and the precipitous Hajjar Mountains to the more fertile stretches of its coastal plains.

Though small in size (think Scotland in the desert), the UAE has become an important player in regional and international affairs.

In 1971, the late President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may God grant him mercy) unified the under-developed states into a federation - the only one in the Arab world.

With his visionary leadership, oil wealth was used to develop the UAE into one of the world's most open and successful economies.