Food in Daily Life. Before the 1960s, food consisted mainly of fish, rice, bread, dates, yogurt, homegrown vegetables, and meat from sheep, goats, and camels. The diet has improved in quality and variety, with modern supermarkets offering imported foods.
Lunch is the main family meal and is eaten at home at around two o’clock. It usually consists of fish, rice, meat, and a vegetable dish. Many Emiratis prefer the traditional style of eating with the right hand. There are strict Muslim taboos against pork and alcohol, and meat must be slaughtered according to the Islamic halal method.
Emiratis are known for their hospitality; they feel honored when receiving guests and socializing with friends and relatives. Guests are welcomed with coffee and fresh dates. Incense is passed around so that guests can catch the fragrance in their headwear. With the immigrant population have come restaurants offering a wide variety of ethnic foods, and fast-food restaurants have also become popular.
Basic Economy. Income is among the highest in the world, but there are large differences between the emirates, with Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah producing the most oil. The other emirates have benefitted from oil wealth through the federal welfare system and employment in state institutions.
With declining oil prices, the government has attempted to diversify the national economy. This has led to the growth of industry, construction, commerce, free trade zones, transportation, tourism, farming, fisheries, and communications. The rapid development of these sectors has reduced the nation’s dependence on oil. In 1998, the gross domestic product was estimated at $45,590 million, 70 percent from the nonoil sector.
The national currency name is called the Emirian Dirham.
Major Industries and Trade. The UAE is the third largest exporter of crude oil and gas in the Gulf. It is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Division of Labor. Citizens account for 10 percent of the total labor force. Almost all nationals (99 percent) work in the state sector because of the attractive benefits and are employed mainly in nontechnical jobs in education, the army, the police, and the civil service. They also own all Emirati businesses. Immigrants are employed in both the public and private sectors in manual, technical, and professional occupations.