Relative to other regions of the Arab world, especially on the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai is more relaxed in social mores and culturally attuned to Western tastes. The city state nevertheless controls the media and provides very limited political representation to Emiratis and none at all to expatriates working in Dubai.
By geography, Dubai is the second-largest of the emirates. Its 4,114 square kilometers (1,588 sq. mi.), the size of Rhode Island, spread along the Persian Gulf and share borders with Oman to the southeast, Abu Dhabi to the south, and Sharjah to the northeast.
Dubai's population of 1.5 million the largest of the seven emirates, which have a combined population of 6 million. But just 20 percent of the Emirates' population is native. Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Europeans make up the majority of the population, especially in Dubai, where workers from the subcontinent provide the overwhelming majority of the manual labor.
Unlike Abu Dhabi, which has proven oil reserves of 92 billion barrels, Dubai has reserves of 4 billion barrels, and oil production in the emirate is declining. It is on pace to end within 20 years. Dubai's considerable wealth is generated by finance, real estate, investments abroad and tourism.
But much of the wealth was also speculative. Dubai's government debts as of 2009 ran anywhere between $80 billion and $120 billion. On Nov. 25, 2009, the government's principal investment arm, Dubai World, announced that it would be unable to make payments on its debt for the next six months.