Modernity and Nation State in the United Arab Emirates

free essayThe history of modernity and nation state is not very old. Its roots can be traced back to the 16th century, when many monarchies started to exist. The nation state was born in Europe, where many monarchs started to “…consolidate the power by weakening the feudal nobles…” (Al Islam). Monarchs began to unite people under their power, which is the reason why people started to identify themselves as citizens of some country. Religion was the next step. It is something that unites people in the best way. Hence, many countries were united by Catholicism, Islam and other religions. The last step was centralization. The power of the country started to control everything from the adoption of laws to taxes and punishments.

Nevertheless, by the 21st century, the features of the nation state have changed. Thus, the UAE was impacted by the market economy, democracy and secularism (separation of state power and religion) (Motyl, 1992). The UAE refers neither to democracy nor to secularism. Nevertheless, the economy and social prosperity is on the high level in the country. Therefore, the UAE develops fast and is gradually becoming a nation state that meets modern European standards.

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The government of the UAE is very complex. Despite the fact that the country is an absolute monarchy, the power rests with seven emirs since the UAE is a federation. Thus, the state was divided into seven districts in the past, which were separate monarchies with their own internal and foreign affairs. Nevertheless, in 1971, seven monarchies united and agreed on the Federal Constitution. It was the moment when the United Arab Emirates emerged. Since then seven emirs rule the country (“United Arab Emirates,” 2017). One of them is the President (the emir of Abu-Dhabi), while the other one is the Prime Minister (the emir of Dubai). Hence, the UAE evolved in 1971. Probably in the future, the UAE will manage to implement democratic features such as voting into their policy.


Despite the fact that the United Arab Emirates is a young country visited by many European tourists and citizens (especially the youth), this country still maintains its national traditions. For instance, there are two main holidays in the country. The first holiday is connected with religion – Eid al Fitr (the end of Ramadan), and the second one is a national holiday – the National Day (or the Day of Independence, as it is called in other countries). There is special traditional clothes in the UAE. Males wear a kandura (a white cotton long tunic), while females similar to other Muslim countries wear abaya (a black garment that covers almost all body). Tourists should respect traditions of the UAE: they cannot initiate handshake with women, watch praising of Muslims, wear very clothes that does not cover the body, such as shorts, etc. The UAE is a more progressive country than other Muslim states. That is the reason why in the future the country can change its traditions due to the big number of immigrants.

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The UAE can be proud of its cultural heritage. Although the country cannot be called culturally homogenous due to historical factors, such as Ottoman, Portuguese and British influence, it develops very quickly. Abu Dhabi Louvre, which opened in 2017, is the brightest example of the country’s cultural development (Napoleon, 2014). The culture of the UAE is very special and different from other Muslim states. The United Arab Emirates have their special literature (the most famous poet is Ibn Majid) and music, which is composed by Bedouins (citizens of the desert), and their art is popular throughout the world (“About the UAE. Culture,” n.d.). Abu Dhabi Louvre has become a turning point for the cultural development of the country. Thus, it is now associated not only with emirs, Islam, great amount of oil and megacities of future but also with a great cultural heritage. The country has greatly improved its image on the international area. Probably in the future it will obtain the status of a cultural capital city of the whole world.

Family Life

Muslim countries were known for the diminished role of a woman in the family. However, the times have changed, and the UAE has become a progressive country. Modern women obtain education, do not marry in an early age, tend to control their reproduction, work outside home (if they want to), and choose their husbands themselves (Kurian, 2005). Furthermore, many daughters reported that they wanted their mother to be more educated. A man is still the head of the family who makes the main decisions. Nevertheless, Muslim families are becoming more and more similar to the European model of family. Hence, it is probable that in the future there will be fewer differences between various nationalities.

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Since the formation of the UAE in 1971, the country started to grow very fast. It is the second most developed country in the GCC (Saudi Arabia is the first). Its GDP per capita is $68,895, which ranks the seventh position in the whole world (“United Arab Emirates,” 2017). Such a great success in the economy is directly connected with the great reserves of oil, natural gas and other resources. That is the main reason why the young country managed to become the most successful and economically advanced region.

Nevertheless, the government of the UAE understands that oil and natural gas are not renewable resources, and in the near future, they will be depleted. Therefore, the country develops other sectors of its economy as well. For instance, tourism and financial sphere are the most developed sectors. Thus, the UAE is the fifth popular country for tourists, and Dubai is the most attractive city. “The Dubai International Financial Centre is advantageous for it offers 55.5% of foreign ownership with no withholding tax, with tailor-made financial system” (“United Arab Emirates” 2017). Therefore, although currently the economy of the UAE is concentrated mostly on oil extraction, in the future the UAE will successfully use its other benefits. It can be the IT sphere, financial sector, tourism, car production and many others.

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Since the UAE is the fifth most visited country, it is obvious that it has many entertainments. This country can offer a tourist “everything from incredible stunt acts to glamorous electric string quartets, thrilling fire shows to beautiful acrobatic displays, talented speed painters to captivating belly dance shows” (“UAE & Middle East – All Acts,” n.d.). The UAE has many luxurious hotels and the only hotel in the world that has seven stars. Despite the fact that the UAE is located in the desert, tourists can ski at the Mall of Dubai. There is also the biggest Aqua Park in the world, territories with climate control, underwater zoo, racing, and safari in the country. It is only a short list of entertainments since there is much more to do in the UAE. This country can offer the tourist new and special attractions in the future. Probably, this country will become the most visited state.


The UAE is a safe country for living since its crime rate is much lower than in many European countries. The laws in the UAE are very strict. Thus, the state bans sex if a person is not married, passionate kisses in public, and alcohol, except for five star hotels. Besides, special behavior is required during Ramadan. The police control observance of all those laws. Additionally, there are laws in the UAE that defense races, genders, old or young people (anti-discriminative laws); however, they are not useful on the workplace, where discrimination is still widespread. Therefore, although the level of crime is very low in the UAE, the country needs to start defending the rights of its citizens by implementation of anti-discriminative laws.

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The UAE is the country with one religion since about 96% of all citizens are Muslims (“United Arab Emirates” 2017). Muslims are divided into Sunni and Shia, with the predominance of Sunni. Except Islam there are also Christianity and Hinduism. Other religions are banned in Emirati schools. However, there are Christian churches in the UAE, which are not prohibited. However, the number of non-Muslims who convert to Islam is larger than the number of Muslims who adopt other religions. Therefore, the UAE supports religion on the state level. In the UAE, religion is connected with the government, as in many other Muslim countries. Secularism has not affected this country yet, and it is unknown whether it will ever do.


The United Arab Emirates are a great country with the well-organized government, special traditions, distinctive culture, interesting family model, prosperous economy, gorgeous attractions, high level of security and one religion. This country has a bright future since the great respect of other countries can serve a good argument for such assumption. The country is unique since it manages to connect the modernity with its native culture. Although modern megacities are likely to prevail in the future, they will maintain the culture, religion and customs of the UAE. Despite the fact that success of the UAE is attributed mostly to large reserves of oil and natural gas, there is no doubt that this country will successfully deal with all problems after the natural resources are depleted.

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