Emirati people

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Emirati  · Arabic: إماراتي
Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.jpgMohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda 2008 1.jpgLubna.png
Total population
1.5 million
[1]12% of the total UAE population in (2014)
Regions with significant populations
United Arab Emirates UAE 947,997 (2010)[2]
 United Kingdom 5,406[3]
 United States 4,000
Other Gulf countries Variable
Gulf Arabic · Standard Arabic

Emirati or Emirian people (Arabic: إماراتي‎) are citizens who speak the Arabic variety of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The largest concentration is in the UAE, there are 1.5 million Emiratis.[1]

Emirati people are ethnically diverse, with ancestries from Arabian Peninsula, Iran (including Baluchistan) and East Africa.[4] Many Emiratis originate from Bani Yas.

44.8% of Emiratis are Wahhabis.[5] Populations with Emirati ancestry, the result of emigration, also exist in other parts of the world, most notably in the Middle East (the GCC mainly), Europe and North America. Population estimates are seen to have a very small diaspora, mainly because the UAE provides them with more than adequate welfare benefits, removing the need to live and work in other developed countries.


Emirati culture is based on Arab culture and has been heavily influenced by Persian culture and the religion Islam. Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of the local Emirati identity.[6] Persian influence on Emirati culture is noticeably visible in traditional Emirati architecture and folk arts.[7] For example, the "barjeel" has become an identifying mark of traditional Emirati architecture.[7] Certain folk dances, such as "al-habban", are originally Persian.[7]

The influence of Islamic culture on Emirati architecture, music, attire, cuisine and lifestyle are very prominent as well. Five times every day, Muslims are called to the prayer from the minarets of mosques which are scattered around the country.[8]

The falcon is a national symbol
Camel race in front of the Dubai towers

Music and dance[edit]

The music of the UAE stems from the Persian Gulf seafaring tradition. Distinctive dance songs from the area's fishermen are also well-known. Liwa (or leiwah / leywah) is a type of music and dance performed mainly in communities of Bantu peoples from the African Great Lakes region.

National symbols[edit]

Falcon training is one of the UAE's national symbols. These birds can be seen on the coat of arms of the United Arab Emirates. They were traditionally used for hunting, and trained by the Bedouin tribes.


UAE is a recently created country with a history that is shared by the neighbouring empires such as Persia, Rome, Ottoman Empire, and foreign powers such as Portugal and England.[9] The earliest inhabitants were Neolithic people around 5500 BC. Significant control, and commerce was established by the successive Persian empires. During the Sasanian era, Persians controlled most of the lands around the Persian Gulf.[10] The Romans also exerted influence on the Persian Gulf. Envoys from the Islamic prophet Muhammad saw the islands convert to Islam around 630 C.E. The Portuguese would then battle the then dominant force in the Persian Gulf, the Safavid dynasty and control UAE for the next 150 years. During the 16th century, the Ottomans took control of the Islands and UAE was known as the "Pirate Coast." By the 19th century, the British Empire had taken complete control of the land then called the Trucial States.[10] Oil was discovered in 1959. The Trucial States were under the control of the British Empire until 1971. Consequently, with weakening British control, the Trucial States became the UAE in 1971 with Ras al-Khaimah joining in 1972.[10]

The term Emirati comes from the Arabic word emir (Arabic: أمير‎) which means commander. Each emirate is ruled by an emir. The Bani Yas tribe forms the basis of many clans within the UAE. Sub-clans of the Bani Yas include[11]

Another definition of "Emirati" is Arabs with origins in the UAE.


The population of the UAE as of 2009 stands at six million, of which 16.5% are Emiratis.

UAE consists of seven emirates. The emirate of Abu Dhabi represents 42% of UAE's total citizen population.[2] Most Emiratis in Abu Dhabi are urbanized Bedouins.[12] In Dubai, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain, most Emirati locals are of Iranian ancestry (locally known to as "Ajam").[9][13] Dubai, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain account for 35% of UAE's total citizen population.[2] The emirates of Sharjah and Fujairah are primarily inhabited by urban Emiratis of Arabian origin. Sharjah and Fujairah represent 23% of UAE's citizen population.[2]

The rest of UAE's population (83.5%) is composed of expatriates, with the largest groups hailing from South Asian countries such as India (1.75 million), Pakistan (1.25 million) and Bangladesh (500,000), and Iran (500,000). Members of other Asian communities, including China, the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Afghanistan make up approximately one million of the total population. Western expatriates, from Europe, Australia, and Latin America make up 500,000 of the overall population.

Unlike in other Gulf Arab states, most Emiratis of Iranian ancestry are Persians (not Huwala Iranian Arabs).[14]


Main article: Emirati Arabic

Emirati Arabic is a variety of Arabic used in the UAE.


Islam is largest and the official state religion of the UAE and the government follows a policy of tolerating existence of other religions.

There are approximately 31 churches throughout the country and one Hindu temple in the region of Bur Dubai.[15] Emiratis are largely Muslims, approximately 85% of whom are Sunni and the remaining 15% are Shia.[16]

The government imposes restrictions on marriage for its citizens. Muslim Emirati women are forbidden by law from marrying men of "the book" (referring to Christians and Jews), while Muslim Emirati men are allowed to marry women of "the book". In UAE, a union between a Muslim Emirati woman and a man of "the book" is punishable by law, since it is considered a form of "fornication".[17]


Emirati ancestry, the result of emigration, also exist in other parts of the world, most notably in the Arabian Peninsula, Europe and North America.


In recent years, many Emiratis who wear traditional attire have complained about being discriminated against by expatriates living in the UAE. Emirati men who wear the kandura or the women who wear the abaya have been turned away from certain leisure activities like visiting the beach, bowling in Dubai Outlet Mall and skiing at Ski Dubai.[18] Emiratis have also complained of chronic overcharging in various shops and restaurants. Those wearing the Kandura are reportedly being charged triple amounts for goods and services, mainly because of public misperceptions that all Emiratis are rich.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Call to naturalise some expats stirs anxiety in the UAE
  2. ^ a b c d UAE National Bureau of Statistics. (PDF). Retrieved on 2012-01-01.
  3. ^ "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  4. ^ JIMD Reports - Volume 10. "UAE citizens (Emiratis) are ethnically diverse, with ancestries from Arabian Peninsula, Persia, Baluchistan and East Africa." 
  5. ^ "Demography of Religion in the Gulf". Mehrdad Izady. 2013. 
  6. ^ Handbook of Islamic Marketing. p. 430. "Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of a 'local' identity." 
  7. ^ a b c Folklore and Folklife in the United Arab Emirates. p. 167. 
  8. ^ "UAE Culture". Uae.gov.ae. 2000-06-01. Retrieved 2009-07-15. [dead link]
  9. ^ a b "Dubai, the City As Corporation". Ahmed Kanna. 2011. p. 144. 
  10. ^ a b c MobileReference (2010). Travel Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Illustrated Guide, Phrasebook and Maps. Google eBooks. 
  11. ^ : The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa. Long, Reich.
  12. ^ All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in Middle East. p. 55. 
  13. ^ "Global Downtowns". Marina Peterson, Gary McDonogh. 2012. p. 300. "In Dubai, a majority of the population (perhaps 80 percent) is expatriate, and majority of the citizenship is ethnically Persian, not Arab. The ruling families of each emirate, however, are mostly ethnically Arab." 
  14. ^ "Persian Presences in the UAE". "Since the beginning of the last century, Iranian immigration into the Gulf came in a steady influx and many of the area’s citizens are of Iranian descent. Despite the fact that most of Iranian immigration to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states mainly involves Huwala [descendants of Sunni Arabs who originally migrated from the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf to Iran (Persia) and returned to the Arabian peninsula in the eighteenth century], the Iranian presence in the UAE differs from that in the GCC states as most of the Iranians have Persian roots." 
  15. ^ Advanced Digital Technology www.adtworld.com (2008-04-05). "Gulfnews: Churches and temples in the UAE". Archive.gulfnews.com. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  16. ^ United Arab Emirates Religion
  17. ^ United Arab Emirates International Religious Freedom Report, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2009)
  18. ^ http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/heritage/cracking-the-uae-dress-code-can-be-tough#page2
  19. ^ http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/emiratis-complain-of-chronic-overcharging-in-shops