United Arab Emirates - Geography
The UAE lies between 22°50' and 26° north latitude and between 51° and 56°25' east longitude. It shares a nineteenkilometer border with Qatar on the northwest, a 530-kilometer border with Saudi Arabia on the west, south, and southeast, and a 450-kilometer border with Oman on the southeast and northeast. The land border with Qatar is one over which in 1993 the UAE continued to have a dispute in the Khawr al Udayd area. The total area of the UAE is approximately 77,700 square kilometers. 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 amirate, Abu Dhabi, accounts for 87 percent of the UAE's total area (67,340 square kilometers). The smallest amirate, Ajman, encompasses only 259 square kilometers.
The UAE stretches for more than 650 kilometers along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. Most of the coast consists of salt pans that extend far inland. The largest natural harbor is at Dubayy, although other ports have been dredged at Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and elsewhere. Numerous islands are found in the 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.
The UAE also extends for about ninety kilometers along the Gulf of Oman, an area known as the Al Batinah coast. The Al Hajar al Gharbi (Western Al Hajar) Mountains, rising in places to 2,500 meters, separate the Al Batinah coast from the rest of the UAE. Beginning at the UAE-Oman border on the Persian Gulf coast of the Musandam Peninsula (Ras Musandam), the Al Hajar al Gharbi Mountains extend southeastward for about 150 kilometers to the southernmost UAE-Oman frontier on the Gulf of Oman. The range continues as the Al Hajar ash Sharqi (Eastern Al Hajar) Mountains for more than 500 kilometers into Oman. The mountain slopes tend to run right to the shore. Nevertheless, there are small harbors at Diba al Hisn, Kalba, and Khawr Fakkan on the Gulf of Oman. In the vicinity of Al Fujayrah, where the mountains do not approach the coast, there are sandy beaches.
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 Al Liwa Oasis is in the south near the undefined border with Saudi Arabia. About 100 kilometers to the northeast of the Al Liwa Oasis is the 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 amirates in order to preempt territorial disputes that might hamper formation of the federation. In general, the rulers of the amirates accepted the British intervention, but in the case of boundary disputes between Abu Dhabi and Dubayy, and also between Dubayy and Sharjah, conflicting claims were not resolved until after the UAE became independent. The most complicated borders were in the Al Hajar al Gharbi Mountains, where five of the amirates contested jurisdiction over more than a dozen enclaves.
The climate of the UAE generally is hot and dry. The hottest months are July and August, when average maximum temperatures reach above 48° C on the coastal plain. In the Al Hajar al Gharbi Mountains, temperatures are considerably cooler, a result of increased altitude. Average minimum temperatures in January and February are between 10° C and 14° C. 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 fewer than 120 millimeters, but in some mountainous areas annual rainfall often reaches 350 millimeters. 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.
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