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United Arab Emirates

UAE
Burj Khalifa tower, Dubai. Photo: Karim SAHIB / AFP

Emirates (Official name: United Arab Emirates) is a federal state located on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It consists of seven Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Umm Al Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah). UAE is bordered by the Arabian/Persian Gulf from north and northwest, By Saudi Arabia from south and west, by Oman from east and south. The total land area of the Emirates is around 71,023.6 km2, including some islands in the Gulf. The territorial sea area is about 27,624.9 km2.

The Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate with a land area of 67,340 km2, accounting for 84% of the country’s total land area. This Emirate witnessed a mass development over the past 40 years, due to the abundance of oil and natural gas resources.

Dubai is the second largest Emirate. It was established in 1833 when a group of people from the tribe of Bani Yas settled in Al-Khor, led by Al Maktoum. Dubai’s economy relies mainly on trade, services, funding, and tourism sectors. Dubai is featured by its cultural diversity, prominent landmarks, and having millions of visitors each year.

This area containing the seven Emirates has been the domain of Arab tribes and families over history. Nevertheless, it was culturally influenced by the Persian culture due to its proximity to Iran.

UAE map
Map of the UAE. @Fanack

In the 18th century, Portugal and The Netherlands extended their dominance in this area. However, this situation changed due to the growth of the British naval power there. By 1892, Britain signed a chain of treaties with the Sheikhdoms of the Gulf. According to these treaties, the sheikhs of the Gulf promised and agreed not to make any agreements or communications with any other force except the British government. In return, the British took the burden of defending the region against any external aggression. These treaties preserved the peace of the naval route and set the stage for the emergence of the Trucial States. In 1968, the British government declared its intention to withdraw from the Gulf by the end of 1971.

In July 1971, the leaders of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah decided to form the United Arab Emirates. On the 2nd of December 1971, the establishment of an independent Sovereign federal state was announced officially. On the 10th of February 1972, Ras Al Khaimah joined the federation, and with that, the federation was complete with its seven Emirates.

Since then, the federation lived in a lasting competition between Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi and Al Maktoum in Dubai. However, foreign events similar to the Gulf war (1990 – 1991) and the ongoing territorial conflict with Iran contributed to further reinforcing the political unity of Emirates.

The population is estimated at 9.771 million according to the estimates of 2019. Expatriates comprise about 87.9% of the total population. According to 2015 estimates, expatriates from south Asia account for 59.4% of the total population (38.2% Indians, 9.5% Bengals, 9.4% Pakistanis, 2.3% other nationalities). Other ethnic groups include Egyptians who account for 10.2% and Philippines who account for 6.1%. The remaining nationalities account for 12.8%.

Arabic is the official language. English however is widely used. Among the other languages used in Emirates are Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu, Pashto, Tagalog and Persian.

Islam is the official religion of the state, but it is also allowed to practice other religious beliefs. Emirates has a lot of churches and religious temples, where different nationalities practice their different liturgies.

The UAE dirham is the official currency, and it is officially linked to the USD. Natural resources include oil and natural gas.

Regarding the military, Emirate is ranked 45th out of 138 countries included in the Global Firepower index report for 2020.

The media environment in the UAE has a lot of local Emirati media outlets and major international news providers, which operate alongside each other in a cosmopolitan environment. Emirates holds an international position providing it with the opportunity to operate as a media center in the region. Nevertheless, the restrictive media legislation that has been in force since 1980 led to implementing a severe oppression on the media environment. Emirates ranks 131th out of 180 counties included in the “Reporters without Borders” free press index for 2020.

The list of prominent Emirati faces includes Sheikh Sheikh Muhammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the new face in the Emirati leadership Sheikh Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed and the diplomatic politician Yousef Al Otaiba.

Football is the most revered and watched sport in the country, despite holding still to the traditional sports of the region, such as hawks and camel racing. The Emirati national football team had qualified for the World Cup in 1990. It also won the Arabian Gulf Cup in 2007 and 2013. Emirates has hosted the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2003.

The UAE maintains a desert climate. Winter is warm and sunny, while summer is hot and humid. It is more mild and cool in the eastern mountains. Emirates in its whole is a desert, which means it has vast areas of sand. The important oases are located in Al-Ain, 100 miles away (160 km) from east of Abu Dhabi.

Emirates is full of exciting attractions for visitors; from modern buildings to the cultural mystic spots to many amazing cities. This allows the country to be one of the hottest spots for tourists. The list of the most famous tourist destinations includes Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is the longest high building in the world with a height of 800m. The list includes also Palm Jumeirah Island which is considered the biggest industrial island in the world and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Driving vehicles is right sided, similar to the rest of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The UAE time zone is (GMT+4). The international calling code is +971.

Further Reading

Page with a chronological overview of the country file articles published on the Chronicle website.
For almost a century, the territory which today makes up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) fell under Great Britain's sphere of influence. Peace treaties laid the basis for British rule in the Gulf, in exchange for which London promi...
Basic facts and figures regarding the politics, geography, population, and economy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
An overview of the UAE's geography, including its state borders, local climate, and natural resources.
Fanack provides an overview of the UAE's governance and politics, with an overview of its different branches of government and governance challenges.
The concept of human rights has become a well-known and widely accepted term to use. An overview of human rights in the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE used its oil revenues (discovered in the early 1960s) and a growing network of commercial and financial ties to attract global investment, skilled expatriate professionals, and migrant workers to achieve phenomenal economi...
More than any other country on the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are known for their skyscrapers, luxurious shopping malls and tourist centres. The traditional Arab culture, which forms the backbone of the UAE'...
faces
Overview of regional in-depth Fanack articles related to this and other Fanack country files.

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