The following post — a backgrounder on the economic structure and inequalities of the UAE — was contributed by Jenifer Fenton.
When six emirates proclaimed themselves a unified country in 1971, Ras Al Khaimah was not among them. For Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the ruler of the emirate at the time, there was one remaining stumbling block: an imbalance of power that tilted strongly toward the economically dominant emirates. Today, that imbalance remains.
While Abu Dhabi is awash with cranes working around the clock to raise a post modern city from the sand, and the skyline of Dubai is exploding with glass towers, in the northern emirates what one sees is a developing-world landscape. In Ras Al Khaimah, many of the residential streets are lined with single-story homes with unsightly exterior air conditioning units, peeling paint and tin-roofed garages. From the highways of Sharjah, drab concrete apartment blocks appear the norm rather than the exception.
Here “there is no oil,” Yousef Al Antali, a resident of Fujairah said. “We live a simple life.” But growing slower is better, his friend Abdullah Al Khadddeim said. Maybe in “two to three years we will be the same as Abu Dhabi.”