United Arab Emirates
|United Arab Emirates
دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة
Dawlat al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabiyyah al-Muttaḥidah
|Anthem: "Ishy Bilady"
"Long Live My Nation"
|Other languages||English · Persian · Hindi · Urdu|
|Ethnic groups (2009)|
|Government||Federal presidential monarchy|
|-||President||Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan|
|-||Prime Minister||Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum|
|Legislature||Federal National Council|
|-||from the United Kingdom||2 December 1971|
|-||Total||83,600d km2 (116th)
32,278 sq mi
|-||2013 estimate||9,205,651  (93rd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2013 estimate|
|-||Total||$269.815 billion (49th)|
|-||Per capita||$29,176 (32nd)|
|GDP (nominal)||2013 estimate|
|-||Total||$389.994 billion (29th)|
|-||Per capita||$43,185 (19th)|
|HDI (2013)|| 0.827
very high · 40th
|Currency||UAE dirham (AED)|
|Time zone||GST (UTC+4)|
|-||Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC+4)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||AE|
|a.||Predominantly Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people.|
|b.||Predominantly Chinese, Filipino, Thai, Iranian, South Korean and Afghani (Pashtun) people.|
|c.||Seven emirates and one advisory body.|
|d.||The country's exact size is unknown because of disputed claims to several islands in the Persian Gulf, the lack of precise information on the size of many of these islands and that most of its land boundaries, especially those with Saudi Arabia, remain un-demarcated.|
The United Arab Emirates i/ / (Arabic: دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة Dawlat al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabiyyah al-Muttaḥidah), sometimes simply called the Emirates or the UAE,[note 1] is a country located in the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing sea borders with Qatar, Iran and Pakistan. In 2013, UAE's total population was 9.2 million; 1.4 million Emirati citizens and 7.8 million expatriates.
Established on 2 December 1971, the country is a federation of seven emirates (equivalent to principalities). Each emirate is governed by a hereditary emir who jointly form the Federal Supreme Council which is the highest legislative and executive body in the country. One of the emirs is selected as the President of the United Arab Emirates. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. The capital is Abu Dhabi, which is one of the two centers of commercial and cultural activities, together with Dubai. Islam is the official religion of the UAE, and Arabic is the official language.
In 1962, Abu Dhabi became the first of the emirates to begin exporting oil. The late Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the first president of the UAE, oversaw the development of the Emirates and steered oil revenues into healthcare, education and infrastructure. Today, Emirates oil reserves is ranked as the seventh-largest in the world, along with the world's seventeenth largest natural gas reserves. Emirates has a high income economy, which ranks as the world's nineteenth highest in terms of GDP per capita (nominal), and also enjoys a sizable annual trade surplus. Its most populous city, Dubai, has emerged as a global city and a business gateway for West Asia and Africa.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Government and politics
- 4 Economy
- 5 Demographics
- 6 Culture
- 7 Education
- 8 Health
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The earliest known human habitation in the UAE dated from 5500 BC. At this early stage, there is proof of interaction with the outside world, particularly with civilizations to the northwest in Mesopotamia. These contacts persisted and became wide-ranging, probably motivated by trade in copper from the Hajar Mountains, which commenced around 3000 BC. Foreign trade, the recurring motif in the history of this strategic region, flourished also in later periods, facilitated by the domestication of the camel at the end of the second millennium BC.
By the 1st century AD overland caravan traffic between Syria and cities in southern Iraq began. Also, there was seaborne travel to the important port of Omana (present-day Umm al-Qaiwain) and then to the Indian Subcontinent. These routes were an alternative to the Red Sea route used by the Romans. Pearls had been exploited in the area for millennia but at this time the trade reached new heights. Seafaring was also a mainstay and major fairs were held at Dibba, bringing in merchants from as far as China.
Advent of Islam
The arrival of envoys from the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 630 reportedly heralded the conversion of the region to Islam (See also the section History about a companion of Moḥammad in Al-`Ain). After Muhammad, one of the major battles of the Ridda Wars was fought at Dibba resulting in the defeat of the non-Muslims and the triumph of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
In 637, Julfar (today Ra's al-Khaimah) was used as a staging post for the Islamic invasion of Sasanian Iran. Over many centuries, Julfar became a wealthy port and pearling center from which dhows travelled throughout the Indian Ocean especially to the neighboring land of Sindh, and its cities of Thatta and Debal.
Portuguese rule (1506–1620)
Portuguese expansion into the Indian Ocean in the early 16th century, following Vasco da Gama's route of exploration, saw them battle Safavid Persia up the coast of the Persian Gulf. In 1507, the Portuguese Captain Afonso de Albuquerque sailed a small fleet into the Gulf of Oman and the Straits of Hormuz seeking a way of by-passing Arab traders and taking control of the Indian Ocean to increase the amount of wealth flowing into the Portuguese monarchy's coffers. Vasco da Gama was helped by Ahmad Ibn Majid, a navigator and cartographer from Julfar, to find the spice route from Asia.
Afonso d'Albuquerque set sail in 1506, intent on founding a Portuguese empire in the Persian Gulf. The following year, the area of the Emirates soon became a target. After sacking Sohar in Oman, he pillaged and burnt to the ground the Fujairah port of Khor Fakkan, before overwhelming Hormuz Island. Over the succeeding decades the Portuguese invested considerable time and energy in trying to keep order along the coasts of Arabia, as local Emirati tribes rebelled against Portuguese control, and in fending off challenges from the Ottoman Empire. In the Emirates, Portuguese forts were constructed all along the East Coast beginning in the north at Dibba and proceeding south to Khor Fakkan, Fujairah, Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah. Remnants of the Portuguese forts have been located at Bidya and Julfar, but the ruins of the remaining ones continue to elude archaeologists and historians.
By the early seventeenth century, the Portuguese were beginning to suffer from the efforts of the East India Company and the Safavids to expel them from the region. They were dislodged from their base on Bahrain in 1602, from Bandar Abbas in southern Iran in 1615, and from Ras al-Khaimah in 1620.
Saudi rule (1744–1891)
Between 1744 and 1891, the western region of Abu Dhabi; today known as Al Gharbia was officially part of the First Saudi State, and after the Ottoman–Saudi War, was officially part of the Second Saudi State. Fearing vulnerability and territorial enroachment by the Saudis and Qataris, the ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan launched border wars with Qatar and the Second Saudi State during the 1880s that secured the western and southern borders of Abu Dhabi. He was successful and captured Sila, Liwa, Ruwais and Ghayathi. He also united with Omani forces to drive Saudi troops from the Buraimi area in 1870. This left the forts defending the Buraimi Oasis in permanent control of Abu Dhabi and forced the Saudis to abandon their designs on Oman. Abu Dhabi's influence and control over this area steadily grew afterwards. Sheikh Zayed was a strong leader and all tribes along his Emirates treated him with respect. The borders of Abu Dhabi were extended three times, to reach near Qatar in the west and to touch the Rub' Al Khali in the south.
As a result, the main towns of each of the Emirates operated independently from the capital city Diriyah during the first Saudi state and later from Riyadh which was the capital during the Second Saudi state. The Emirates also had an extremely high degree of autonomy. Not only could they negotiate treaties with outside powers if they wanted to, they also had their own militias and navies.
After the Ottoman-Saudi War in 1818 which led to the collapse of the first Saudi state, the British eventually got the upper hand, but the region was known to the British as the "Pirate Coast", as raiders based there harassed the shipping industry despite both European and Omani navies patrolling the area from the 17th century into the 19th. British expeditions to protect the Indian trade from raiders at Ras al-Khaimah led to campaigns against that headquarters and other harbours along the coast in 1819. The following year, Britain and local rulers signed a treaty to combat piracy along the Persian-Gulf coast. Yet according to the local Qawassim version, the piracy issue was a pretext. The British Empire tried to further establish itself in the Persian Gulf region and to secure it from any other European influence, particularly from France and Russia, not from local raiders. This version has been particularly well articulated by the current emir of Sharjah in his 1986 book 'The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf'. From this, and from later agreements, the area became known as the Trucial Coast. Raids continued intermittently until 1835, when the sheikhs agreed not to engage in hostilities at sea. In 1853, they signed a treaty with the British, under which the sheikhs (the "Trucial Sheikhdoms") agreed to a "perpetual maritime truce." It was enforced by the United Kingdom, and disputes among sheikhs were referred to the British for settlement. The Battle of Mulayda in 1891 marked the formal end of the second Saudi state.
British rule (1892–1971)
The following year after the formal collapse of the second Saudi state, and primarily in reaction to the ambitions of other European countries, the United Kingdom and the Trucial Sheikhdoms established closer bonds in an 1892 treaty, similar to treaties entered into by Britain with other principalities in the Persian Gulf. The sheikhs agreed not to dispose of any territory except to Britain and not to enter into relationships with any foreign government other than the United Kingdom without its consent. In return, the British promised to protect the Trucial Coast from all aggression by sea and to help in case of land attack. British suppression of piracy meant that pearling fleets could operate in relative security. However, the British prohibition of the slave trade meant an important source of income was lost to some sheikhs and merchants.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the pearling industry thrived in the relatively calm sea, providing both income and employment to the people of the Persian Gulf. It began to become a good economic resource for the local people. Then the First World War had a severe impact on the pearl fishery, but it was the economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s, coupled with the Japanese invention of the cultured pearl, that all but destroyed it. The industry eventually faded away shortly after the Second World War, when the newly independent Government of India imposed heavy taxation on pearls imported from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The decline of pearling resulted in a very difficult era, with little opportunity to build any infrastructure.
Oil was first discovered in the 1950s. At the beginning of the 1960s, the first oil company teams carried out preliminary surveys and the first cargo of crude was exported from Abu Dhabi in 1962. As oil revenues increased, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, undertook a massive construction program, building schools, housing, hospitals and roads. When Dubai's oil exports commenced in 1969, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the de facto ruler of Dubai, was also able to use oil revenues to improve the quality of life of his people.
In 1955, the United Kingdom sided with Abu Dhabi in the latter's dispute with Oman over the Buraimi Oasis, another territory to the south. A 1974 agreement between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia would have settled the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border dispute; however, the agreement has yet to be ratified by the UAE government and is not recognised by the Saudi government. The border with Oman also remains officially unsettled, but the two governments agreed to delineate the border in May 1999.
The British had set up a development office that helped in some small developments in the emirates. The seven sheikhs of the emirates then decided to form a council to coordinate matters between them and took over the development office. In 1952, they formed the Trucial States Council, and appointed Adi Bitar, Sheikh Rashid's legal advisor, as Secretary General and Legal Advisor to the Council. The council was terminated once the United Arab Emirates was formed. The development of the oil industry in the 1960s, encouraged unification of the sheikdoms. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and the British started losing their oil investments and contracts to U.S. oil companies.
By 1966 it had become clear the British Government could no longer afford to administer and protect what is now the United Arab Emirates. British MPs debated the preparedness of the Royal Navy to defend the trucial sheikhdoms. Secretary of State for Defence Denis Healey reported that the British Armed Forces were seriously overstretched and in some respects dangerously under-equipped to defend the trucial sheikhdoms. On 24 January 1968, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced the government's decision, reaffirmed in March 1971 by Prime Minister Edward Heath to end the treaty relationships with the seven Trucial sheikhdoms that had been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection. Days after the announcement, the ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fearing vulnerability, tried to persuade the British to honour the protection treaties by offering to pay the full costs of keeping the British Armed Forces in the Emirates. The British Labour government rejected the offer. After Labour MP Goronwy Roberts informed Sheikh Zayed of the news of British withdrawal, the nine Gulf sheikhdoms attempted to form a union of Arab emirates, but by mid-1971 they were still unable to agree on terms of union even though the British treaty relationship was to expire in December of that year.
Bahrain became independent in August, and Qatar in September 1971. When the British-Trucial Sheikhdoms treaty expired on 1 December 1971, they became fully independent. The rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai decided to form a union between their two emirates independently, prepare a constitution, then call the rulers of the other five emirates to a meeting and offer them the opportunity to join. It was also agreed between the two that the constitution be written by 2 December 1971. On that date, at the Dubai Guesthouse Palace, four other emirates agreed to enter into a union called the United Arab Emirates. Bahrain and Qatar declined their invitations to join the union. Ras al-Khaimah joined later, in early 1972. In February 1972, the Federal National Council (FNC) was created; it was a 40 member consultative body appointed by the seven rulers.The UAE joined the Arab League in 1971. It was a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council in May 1981, with Abu Dhabi hosting the first summit. UAE forces joined the allies against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The UAE supported military operations from the US and other Coalition nations that are engaged in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan (2001) and Saddam Hussein in Iraq (2003) as well as operations supporting the Global War on Terror for the Horn of Africa at Al Dhafra Air Base located outside of Abu Dhabi. The air base also supported Allied operations during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and Operation Northern Watch. The country had already signed a military defense agreement with the U.S. in 1994 and one with France in 1995. In January 2008, France and the UAE signed a deal allowing France to set up a permanent military base in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The UAE joined international military operations in Libya in March 2011.
On 2 November 2004, the UAE's first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, died. His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, succeeded as Emir of Abu Dhabi. In accordance with the constitution, the UAE's Supreme Council of Rulers elected Khalifa as president. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan succeeded Khalifa as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. In January 2006, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, died, and the crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum assumed both roles.
The first-ever national elections were held in the UAE on 16 December 2006. A small number of hand-picked voters chose half of the members of the Federal National Council—which is an advisory body.
Largely unaffected by the Arab Spring turmoil, the government has nonetheless clamped down on Internet activism. In April 2011, five activists who signed an online petition calling for reforms were imprisoned. They were pardoned and released in November. Since March 2012 more than 60 activists (later showed evidence of being moved by Iran to create chaos) have been detained without charge (at the time) – some of them supporters of the Islah Islamic group. A member of the ruling family in Ras al-Khaimah was put under house arrest in April 2012 after calling for political openness. Mindful of the protests in nearby Bahrain, in November 2012 the UAE outlawed online mockery of its own government or attempts to organise public protests through social media.
The United Arab Emirates is situated in Southwest Asia, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia; it is in a strategic location along southern approaches to the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil.
The UAE lies between 22°30' and 26°10' north latitude and between 51° and 56°25′ east longitude. It shares a 530-kilometer border with Saudi Arabia on the west, south, and southeast, and a 450-kilometer border with Oman on the southeast and northeast. The land border with Qatar in the Khawr al Udayd area is about nineteen kilometers (12 miles) in the northwest; however, it is a source of ongoing dispute. Following Britain's military departure from UAE in 1971, and its establishment as a new state, the UAE laid claim to islands resulting in disputes with Iran that remain unresolved. UAE also disputes claim on other islands against the neighboring state of Qatar. The largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, accounts for 87% of the UAE's total area (67,340 square kilometres (26,000 sq mi)). The smallest emirate, Ajman, encompasses only 259 km2 (100 sq mi)(see figure).
The UAE coast stretches for more than 650 km (404 mi) along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. Most of the coast consists of salt pans that extend far inland. The largest natural harbor is at Dubai, although other ports have been dredged at Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and elsewhere. Numerous islands are found in the Persian Gulf, and the ownership of some of them has been the subject of international disputes with both Iran and Qatar. The smaller islands, as well as many coral reefs and shifting sandbars, are a menace to navigation. Strong tides and occasional windstorms further complicate ship movements near the shore. The UAE also has a stretch of the Al Bāţinah coast of the Gulf of Oman, although the Musandam Peninsula, the very tip of Arabia by the Strait of Hormuz is an exclave of Oman separated by the UAE.
South and west of Abu Dhabi, vast, rolling sand dunes merge into the Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter) of Saudi Arabia. The desert area of Abu Dhabi includes two important oases with adequate underground water for permanent settlements and cultivation. The extensive Liwa Oasis is in the south near the undefined border with Saudi Arabia. About 100 km (62 mi) to the northeast of Liwa is the Al-Buraimi oasis, which extends on both sides of the Abu Dhabi-Oman border. Lake Zakher is a man-made lake near the border with Oman.
Prior to withdrawing from the area in 1971, Britain delineated the internal borders among the seven emirates in order to preempt territorial disputes that might hamper formation of the federation. In general, the rulers of the emirates accepted the British intervention, but in the case of boundary disputes between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and also between Dubai and Sharjah, conflicting claims were not resolved until after the UAE became independent. The most complicated borders were in the Al-Hajar al-Gharbi Mountains, where five of the emirates contested jurisdiction over more than a dozen enclaves.
Flora and fauna
The oases grow date palms, acacia and eucalyptus trees. In the desert the flora is very sparse and consists of grasses and thorn bushes. The indigenous fauna had come close to extinction because of intensive hunting, which has led to a conservation program on Bani Yas Island initiated by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the 1970s, resulting in the survival of, for example, Arabian oryx and leopards. Coastal fish and mammals consist mainly of mackerel, perch and tuna, as well as sharks and whales.
The climate of the U.A.E is subtropical-arid with hot summers and warm winters. The hottest months are July and August, when average maximum temperatures reach above 45 °C (113.0 °F) on the coastal plain. In the Al Hajar Mountains, temperatures are considerably lower, a result of increased elevation. Average minimum temperatures in January and February are between 10 and 14 °C (50.0 and 57.2 °F). During the late summer months, a humid southeastern wind known as Sharqi (i.e. "Easterner") makes the coastal region especially unpleasant. The average annual rainfall in the coastal area is less than 120 mm (4.7 in), but in some mountainous areas annual rainfall often reaches 350 mm (13.8 in). Rain in the coastal region falls in short, torrential bursts during the summer months, sometimes resulting in floods in ordinarily dry wadi beds. The region is prone to occasional, violent dust storms, which can severely reduce visibility. The Jebel Jais mountain cluster in Ras al-Khaimah has experienced snow only twice since records began.
Government and politics
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of absolute hereditary monarchies. It is governed by a Federal Supreme Council made up of the seven emirs of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Qaiwain. All responsibilities not granted to the national government are reserved to the emirates. A percentage of revenues from each emirate are allocated to the UAE's central budget.
Although elected by the Supreme Council, the president and prime minister are essentially hereditary. The emir of Abu Dhabi holds the presidency, and the emir of Dubai is prime minister. All but one prime minister served concurrently as vice president. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the UAE's president from the nation's founding until his death on 2 November 2004. On the following day the Federal Supreme Council elected his son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to the post. Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is the heir apparent.
The UAE convened a half-elected Federal National Council in 2006. The FNC consists of 40 members drawn from all the emirates. Half are appointed by the rulers of the constituent emirates, and the other half are indirectly elected to serve two-year terms. However, the FNC is restricted to a largely consultative role. In December 2008, the Supreme Council approved constitutional amendments both to empower the FNC and to improve government transparency and accountability.
UAE's judicial system is derived from the civil law system and Sharia law. The court system consists of secular civil courts and Sharia courts. According to Human Rights Watch, UAE's secular civil and criminal courts also apply elements of Sharia Law, codified into its criminal code and family law, in a way which discriminates against women.
UAE's Sharia courts often use judicial corporal punishment. Flogging is used in UAE as a punishment for criminal offences such as drug use, adultery and prostitution. In most emirates, Muslim floggings are frequent, especially for adultery, prostitution and drunkenness, with sentences ranging from 80 to 200 lashes. Flogging sentences are also given to non-Muslims. In 2003, the federal court ordered the flogging and deportation of a 15-year-old Chinese girl who was sentenced to 90 lashes for adultery. In 2007, a migrant worker was sentenced to 100 lashes, allegedly for adultery. It is illegal for Muslims to consume alcohol in all UAE emirates. Muslims caught consuming alcohol are liable to flogging or deportation.
Sharia law dictates the personal status law, which regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody. The Sharia-based personal status law is applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Non-Muslim expatriates are liable to Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce and child custody. Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear family disputes, including matters involving divorce, inheritances, child custody, child abuse and guardianship of minors. Sharia courts may, at the federal level only, also hear appeals of certain criminal cases including rape, robbery, driving under the influence of alcohol and related crimes.
In all emirates, it is illegal for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims. In UAE, a marriage union between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is punishable by law, since it is considered a form of "fornication".
Homosexual relationships are illegal: article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years, while article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy. Foreigners generally receive deportation, which is sometimes temporary. Prospective foreign employees infected with hepatitis, tuberculosis, or HIV will not be given work visas and have to leave the country.
During the month of Ramadan, it is illegal to publicly eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset. Exceptions are made for pregnant women and children. The law applies to non-Muslims and Muslims, and failure to comply may result in arrest.
Article 1 of the 1987 Federal Penal Code states that "provisions of the Islamic Law shall apply to the crimes of doctrinal punishment, punitive punishment and blood money." The Federal Penal Code repealed only those provisions within the penal codes of individual Emirates which are contradictory to the Federal Penal Code. Hence, both are enforceable simultaneously.
The Constitution of the United Arab Emirates confers equality, liberty, rule of law, presumption of innocence in legal procedures, inviolability of the home, freedom of movement, freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of communication, freedom of religion, freedom of council and association, freedom of occupation, freedom to be elected to office and others onto all citizens, within the limit of the law.
Although human rights are enshrined in the Constitution of the United Arab Emirates, several international NGOs and civil society groups have raised concerns over the country's human rights record.
The annual Freedom House report on Freedom in the World has listed the United Arab Emirates as "Not Free" every year since 1999 (the first year for which records are available on their website). Freedom House have also condemned the UAE for imprisoning human rights defenders.
In their 2013 Annual Report, Amnesty International drew attention to the United Arab Emirates' poor record on a number of human rights issues. They highlighted the government's restrictive approach to freedom of speech and assembly, their use of arbitrary arrest and torture, and their use of the death penalty.
In 2013, the Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) released its annual International Human Rights Indicator (IHRRI) report, ranking the United Arab Emirates first among Arab countries and 14th globally for respecting human rights. The next Arab country on the list, Tunisia, was ranked at 72. The UAE was ranked ahead of the United States, Germany, France, and Ireland. No data or methodology for this report has yet been made public.
In 2013, the UK Foreign Office demanded an inquiry into reports that police in Dubai had subjected three British citizens to beatings and electric shocks after arresting them on drugs charges in 2012. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, expressed “concern” over the case and raised it with the UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during his 2013 State Visit to the UK. The three men – Grant Cameron, Suneet Jeerh, and Karl Williams – were subsequently pardoned and released in July 2013
Human Rights Watch have drawn attention to the mistreatment of expatriate workers, mostly of Asian origin, who have been turned into debt-ridden de facto indentured servants following their arrival in the UAE. Confiscation of passports, although illegal, occurs on a large scale, primarily from unskilled or semi-skilled employees.
Labourers often toil in intense heat with temperatures reaching 40–50 degrees Celsius in the cities in August. Although attempts have been made since 2009 to enforce a midday break rule, these are frequently flouted. Those labourers who do receive a midday break often have no suitable place to rest and tend to seek relief in bus or taxi stands and gardens.
Police departments and non-Government organizations provide shelter and support for human trafficking victims until they are able to acquire the right documents and many victims are then sent home at the Government's expense, under the Crime Victim Assistance Programme. These shelters include the Dubai Women's and Children's Foundation, which was established in July 2007, and Ewaa in Abu Dhabi, which opened in late 2008, as well as the Human Rights Care Department in Dubai and the Social Support Centre in Abu Dhabi, which have been operating for several years.
The issue of sexual abuse among female domestic servants is another area of concern, particularly given that domestic servants are not covered by the UAE Labor Law of 1980 or the Draft Labor Law of 2007. Worker protests have been suppressed and protesters imprisoned without due process.
In July 2013, a video was uploaded onto YouTube, depicting a local driver hitting an expatriate worker, following a road related incident. Using part of his head gear, the local driver whips the expatriate and also taunts him, before other passers-by intervene. A short while later, Dubai Police announced that both, the local driver and the person who filmed the video, have been taken into custody. It was also revealed that the local driver was a senior UAE government official, although the exact government department is not known. Later in 2013, police arrested a US citizen and some UAE citizens, in connection with a YouTube parody video which allegdly portrayed Dubai and its residents in a bad light. The video was shot in areas of Satwa, Dubai and featured gangs learning how to fight using simple weapons, including shoes, the aghal, etc.
In 2004, the Dubai police opened designated departments in all emirate police stations that are mandated to protect the human rights of both victims and perpetrators of crime. The UAE government is also currently studying the establishment of a national human-rights commission.
The UAE (as with most areas of the Persian Gulf) has escaped most of the effects of the Arab Spring, however, there were many UAE citizens who were jailed and/or tortured, because they heavily criticised the government system. There were also foreign nationals who had their residency in the country revoked. Human Rights Watch criticized the forced exile of a UAE activist Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, calling the action an "unlawful expulsion" motivated by the government's desire to stifle dissent. Amnesty International issued a statement that "Ahmed Abdul Khaleq should never have been forced to leave the country and this event sets alarm bells ringing regarding the fate of others held in the UAE in connection with alleged plots against state security"
The UAE's liberal climate towards foreign cooperation, investment and modernization has prompted extensive diplomatic and commercial relations with other countries. It plays a significant role in OPEC and the UN, and is one of the founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The Emirates have long maintained close relations with Egypt and remain the highest investor in the country from among the rest of the Arab world. Pakistan had been first to formally recognize the UAE upon its formation and continues to be one of its major economic and trading partners with about 400,000 expatriates receiving employment in the UAE.
Trade between the Arabian peninsula and Indian sub-continent, together with shared British history, has over the centuries evolved into current close political, economic and cultural ties between the UAE and India. The largest expatriate presence in the Emirates is Indian. Following British withdrawal from the UAE in 1971 and the establishment of the UAE as a newly formed state, the UAE disputed rights to a number of islands in the Persian Gulf against Iran. The UAE went so far as to bring the matter to the United Nations, but the case was dismissed. The dispute has not significantly impacted relations because of the large Iranian community presence and strong economic ties.
In its dispute with the USA and Israel, Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, a vital oil-trade route. Therefore, in July 2012, the UAE began operating a key overland oil pipeline which bypasses the Strait of Hormuz, to mitigate any consequences of an Iranian shut-off.
Diplomatic relations between UAE and Japan were established as early as UAE's independence in December 1971. The two countries had always enjoyed friendly ties and trade between each other. Exports from the UAE to Japan include crude oil and natural gas and imports from Japan to UAE include cars and electric items.
The UAE has continuously been a major contributor of emergency relief to regions affected by conflict and natural disasters in the developing world. The main UAE governmental agency for foreign aid is the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) which was established in 1971. Since its establishment, the ADFD has provided over Dh12.6 billion (US$3.45 billion) in soft loans and grants to countries mainly in Africa.
France and the United States have played the most strategically significant roles with defense cooperation agreements and military material provision. The UAE discussed with France the possibility of a purchase of 60 Rafale fighter aircraft in January 2013.
The United Arab Emirates is divided into seven emirates. Dubai is the most populated Emirate with 35.6% of the UAE population. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has a further 31.2%, meaning that over two-thirds of the UAE population live in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
Abu Dhabi has an area of 67,340 square kilometres (26,000 square miles), which is 86.7% of the country's total area, excluding the islands. It has a coastline extending for more than 400 km (249 mi) and is divided for administrative purposes into three major regions. The Emirate of Dubai extends along the Persian Gulf coast of the UAE for approximately 72 km (45 mi). Dubai has an area of 3,885 square kilometres (1,500 square miles), which is equivalent to 5% of the country's total area, excluding the islands. The Emirate of Sharjah extends along approximately 16 km (10 mi) of the UAE's Persian Gulf coastline and for more than 80 km (50 mi) into the interior. The northern emirates which include Fujairah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwain all have a total area of 3,881 km2. There are two areas under joint control. One is jointly controlled by Oman and Ajman, the other by Fujairah and Sharjah.
There is an Omani exclave surrounded by UAE territory, known as Wadi Madha. It is located halfway between the Musandam peninsula and the rest of Oman in the Emirate of Sharjah. It covers approximately 75 square kilometres (29 square miles) and the boundary was settled in 1589. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Khor Fakkan-Fujairah road, barely 10 metres (33 ft) away. Within the Omani exclave of Madha, is a UAE exclave called Nahwa, also belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is about 8 kilometres (5 mi) on a dirt track west of the town of New Madha. It consists of about forty houses with its own clinic and telephone exchange.
|Flag||Emirate||Capital||Population||% of total population||Area (km²)||Area (mi²)||% of total area||Density|
|Abu Dhabi||Abu Dhabi||1,548,655||31.2%||67,340||26,000||86.7%||25|
|Ras al-Khaimah||Ras al-Khaimah||171,903||3.4%||1,684||650||2.2%||122|
|Umm al-Quwain||Umm al-Qaiwain||69,936||1.4%||777||300||0.9%||88|
UAE has the second largest economy in the Arab world (after Saudi Arabia), with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $377 billion (AED1.38 trillion) in 2012. A third of the GDP is from oil revenues. The economy was expected to grow between 4–4.5% in 2013, compared to 2.3–3.5% over the past five years. Since independence in 1971, UAE's economy has grown by nearly 231 times to AED1.45 trillion in 2013.The non-oil trade has grown to AED1.2 trillion, a growth by around 28 times from 1981 to 2012.
The UAE has a relatively high Human Development Index among the Asian continent, ranking forty-first globally. In 2011, UAE is ranked as the 14th best nation in the world for doing business based on its economy and regulatory environment, ranked by the Doing Business 2011 Report published by the World Bank Group
The GDP growth rate for 2010 was 3.20%. CPI inflation in the April 2008 — April 2009 year was 1.9%. The national debt as of June 2009 was $142 billion. In 2009, its GDP, as measured by purchasing power parity, stood at US$ 400.4 billion. With a population of just under 900,000 Abu Dhabi was labeled "The richest city in the world" by a CNN article.
Petroleum and natural gas exports play an important role in the economy, especially in Abu Dhabi. More than 85% of the UAE's economy was based on the exports of natural resources in 2009. The UAE has tried to reduce its dependency on oil exports by diversifying the economy, particularly in the financial, tourism and construction sectors. While Abu Dhabi remained relatively conservative in its approach, Dubai, which has far smaller oil reserves, was bolder in its diversification policy.
UAE law does not allow trade unions to exist. The right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are not recognised, and the Ministry of Labour has the power to force workers to go back to work. Migrant workers who participate in a strike can have their work permits cancelled and be deported. Consequently, there are very few anti-discrimination laws in relation to labour issues, with Emiratis – other GCC Arabs – getting preference when it comes to employment, even though they show scant regard for work and learning on the job.
The UAE's economy, particularly that of Dubai, was badly hit by the financial crisis of 2007–2010. In 2009, the country's economy shrank by 4.00% and the property sector and construction went into decline. However, tourism, trade and the retail sector have remained buoyant and the UAE's overseas investments are expected to support its full economic recovery. Concern remains about the property sector. Property prices in Dubai fell dramatically when Dubai World, the government construction company, sought to delay a debt payment. The economy is depending on foreign labour force and Emerisation is only showing few positive effects which was found out in studies from Paul Dyer and Natasha Ridge from Dubai School of Government, Ingo Forstenlechner from United Arab Emirates University, Kasim Randaree from the British University of Dubai and Paul Knoglinger from the FHWien.
The UAE has been spending billions of dollars on infrastructure. These developments are particularly evident in the larger emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The northern emirates are rapidly following suit, providing major incentives for developers of residential and commercial property.
Dubai International Airport was the Busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic from January to May 2013, overtaking London Heathrow. As roads in the western and southern regions are still relatively undeveloped, residents prevalently use airplanes as the main or alternative mode of transportation. A 1,200 km (750 mi) country-wide national railway is under construction which will connect all the major cities and ports. The Dubai Metro is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula. The major ports of the United Arab Emirates are Khalifa Port, Mina Zayed, Port Jebel Ali, Port Rashid, Port Khalid, Port Saeed, and Port Khor Fakkan.
The UAE is presently serviced by two telecommunications operators, Etisalat and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company ("du"). Etisalat operated a monopoly until du launched mobile services in February 2007. Internet subscribers are expected to increase from 0.904 million in 2007 to 2.66 million in 2012. The authorities filter websites for religious, political and sexual content.
The demographics of the UAE are extremely diverse. In 2010, the UAE's population was estimated to be 8,264,070, of whom only 13% were UAE nationals or Emiratis, while the majority of the population were expatriates. The country's net migration rate stands at 21.71, the world's highest. Under Article 8 of UAE Federal Law no. 17, an expatriate can apply for UAE citizenship after residing in the country for 20 years, providing that person has never been convicted of a crime and can speak fluent Arabic.
In 2009, Emirati citizens accounted for 16.5% of the total population; South Asian (Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Bangladeshi) constituted the largest group, making up 58.4% of the total; other Asians made up 16.7% while Western expatriates were 8.4% of the total population.
There is a growing presence of Europeans especially in multi-cultural cities such as Dubai  Western expatriates, from Europe, Australia, Northern America and Latin America make up 500,000 of the UAE population. The UAE has also attracted a small number of expatriates from countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and Oceania. More than 100,000 British nationals live in the country. The rest of the population were from other Arab states.
About 88% of the population of the United Arab Emirates is urban.
Islam is the largest and the official state religion of the UAE. The government follows a policy of tolerance toward other religions and rarely interferes in the activities of non-Muslims. By the same token, non-Muslims are expected to avoid interfering in Islamic religious matters or the Islamic upbringing of Muslims.
The government imposes restrictions on spreading other religions through any form of media as it is considered a form of proselytizing. There are approximately 31 churches throughout the country, one Hindu temple in the region of Bur Dubai, one Sikh Gurudwara in Jebel Ali and also a Buddhist temple in Al Garhoud.
Based on the Ministry of Economy census in 2005, 76% of the total population was Muslim, 9% Christian, and 15% other (mainly Hindu). Census figures do not take into account the many "temporary" visitors and workers while also counting Baha'is and Druze as Muslim. Among Emirati citizens, 85% are Sunni Muslim, while Shi'a Muslims are 15%, mostly concentrated in the emirates of Sharjah and Dubai. Omani immigrants are mostly Ibadi, while Sufi influences exist too.
People of all faiths or no faith are given equal protection under the country's constitution and laws.
Largest cities or towns of the United Arab Emirates
2008 Calculation (some figures up to 2012)
|1||Dubai||Dubai||2,106,533||11||Al Gharbia||Abu Dhabi||290,450||
|2||Abu Dhabi||Abu Dhabi||1,935,234|
|4||Al Ain||Abu Dhabi||580,000|
|6||Ras Al Khaimah||Ras al Khaimah||230,903|
|8||Um Al Quwain||Um Al Quwain||72,936|
Arabic is the national language of the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf dialect of Arabic is spoken natively by the Emirati people. Being ruled by the British until 1971 and being a hub for trade, English is the primary lingua franca, and as such, a knowledge of the same is a requirement when applying for most of the jobs in the UAE. Other widely used languages are Persian, spoken by the Iranian diaspora, as well as Hindi-Urdu, Balochi spoken by Baloch , Pashto and Tagalog, spoken by the large Southeast Asian, Pashtun and Filipino diasporas, respectively. Malayalam, the official language of Kerala (India) is spoken widely by the Malayali community that forms a huge majority of the Indian diaspora in the UAE. Other small Asian groups do exist, primiarily, Indonesian, Mainland Chinese and Japanese.
Emirati people are ethnically diverse, with ancestries from the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Baluchistan and East Africa. Arab descendants of the Bani Yas, Al Nahyan and Al Maktoum families in Abu Dhabi and Dubai represent the Emirati leadership. Al Qawasim have also played a vital role in the history of the UAE. Most Emiratis in Dubai are of Persian ancestry.
Emirati culture is based on Arabian culture and has been heavily influenced by Persian culture. Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of the local Emirati identity. Persian influence on Emirati culture is noticeably visible in traditional Emirati architecture and folk arts. For example, the "barjeel" has become an identifying mark of traditional Emirati architecture and is attributed to Persian influence. Certain folk dances, such as "al-habban", are originally Persian. Local Emirati culture has also been influenced by the cultures of East Africa and India.
The United Arab Emirates has a diverse and multicultural society. Major holidays in Dubai include Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates.
Most Emirati males prefer to wear a kandura, an ankle-length white tunic woven from wool or cotton, and most Emirati women wear an abaya, a black over-garment that covers most parts of the body. The non-governmental campaign UAE Dress Code aims to educate the expat population on local dressing and its sensitivity to Emirati population. Each of the seven semiautonomous emirates has its own rules about attire. Dubai is the most liberal in that regard, allowing miniskirts and bikinis, while Ras al-Khaimah adopted a rule in April 2013 prohibiting bikinis, as well as tight swimsuits for males, on public beaches.
Ancient Emirati poetry was strongly influenced by the 8th-century Arab scholar Al Khalil bin Ahmed. The earliest known poet in the UAE is Ibn Majid, born between 1432 and 1437 in Ras Al-Khaimah. The most famous Emirati writers were Mubarak Al Oqaili (1880–1954), Salem bin Ali al Owais (1887–1959) and Ahmed bin Sulayem (1905–1976). Three other poets from Sharjah, known as the Hirah group, are observed to have been heavily influenced by the Apollo and romantic poets. The Sharjah International Book Fair is the oldest and largest in the country.
The list of museums in the United Arab Emirates includes some of regional repute, most famously Sharjah with its Heritage District containing 17 museums, which in 1998 was the Cultural Capital of the Arab World. In Dubai, the area of Al Quoz has attracted a number of art galleries as well as museums such as the Salsali Private Museum. Abu Dhabi has established a culture district on Saadiyat Island. There, six grand projects are planned, including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Dubai also plans to build a Kunsthal museum and a district for galleries and artists.
Emirati culture is a part of the culture of Eastern Arabia. Liwa is a type of music and dance performed mainly in communities that contain descendants of Bantu peoples from the African Great Lakes region. The Dubai Desert Rock Festival is also another major festival consisting of heavy metal and rock artists. The cinema of the United Arab Emirates is minimal but expanding.
The Media of the United Arab Emirates plays an important role in the region. Dubai Media City and twofour54, Abu Dhabi's media zone, were set up to attract key players. The UAE is home to major pan-Arab broadcasters, including the Middle East Broadcasting Centre and Orbit Showtime Network. On 25 September 2007 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum decreed that journalists can no longer be prosecuted or imprisoned for reasons relating to their work. At the same time, the UAE has made it illegal to disseminate online material that can threaten "public order". Criticism of the Royal family or government procedures is not allowed. Prison terms have been given to those who "deride or damage" the reputation of the state and "display contempt" for religion. Very recently, a YouTube user was arrested in Dubai for filming and uploading a video of a UAE local (who happened to be a Government official) hitting an overseas worker.
The traditional food of the Emirates has always been rice, fish, and meat. The people of the United Arab Emirates have adopted most of their foods from other West and South Asian countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Oman. Seafood has been the mainstay of the Emirati diet for centuries. Meat and rice are other staple foods; lamb and mutton are the more favored meats, then goat and beef. Popular beverages are coffee and tea, which can be supplemented with cardamom, saffron, or mint to give them a distinct flavor. The cosmopolitan nature of the UAE means that food from every continent can be found here. Fast food has become very popular among youth, to the extent that campaigns are underway to highlight the dangers of fast food excesses.
Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, so it is not included in Arab menus. Hotels and other establishments frequently have pork substitutes such as beef sausages and veal rashers on their breakfast menus. If pork is available, it is clearly labeled as such. Unlike other Muslim countries, it is not against the law to bring pork products into the country for personal consumption.
Alcohol is generally only served in hotel restaurants and bars (but not in Sharjah). All nightclubs and golf clubs are permitted to sell alcohol. Specific supermarkets may sell alcohol, but these products are sold in separate sections. Note that although alcohol may be consumed, it is illegal to be intoxicated in public or drive a motor vehicle with any trace of alcohol in the blood. Etihad Airways and Emirates airlines, both owned by the UAE, serve alcohol on their beverage menus too.
Football is a popular sport in the UAE. Emirati football clubs Al-Ain, Al-Wasl, Al-Shabbab ACD, Al-Sharjah, Al-Wahda, and Al-Ahli are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time regional champions. The United Arab Emirates Football Association was first established in 1971 and since then has dedicated its time and effort to promoting the game, organizing youth programs and improving the abilities of not only its players, but of the officials and coaches involved with its regional teams. The UAE national football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1990 with Egypt. It was the third consecutive World Cup with two Arab nations qualifying, after Kuwait and Algeria in 1982, and Iraq and Algeria again in 1986. The UAE won the Gulf Cup Championship two times.They won the first cup in January 2007 held in Abu Dhabi and has won the recent cup in January 2013 held in Bahrain.
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the UAE, largely because of the expatriate population from the Indian subcontinent, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in Sharjah has hosted 4 international test cricket matches so far. Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi also hosted international cricket matches. Dubai has two cricket stadiums (Dubai Cricket Ground No.1 and No.2) with a third, the DSC Cricket Stadium as part of Dubai Sports City. Dubai is also home to the International Cricket Council. The UAE national cricket team qualified for the 1996 Cricket World Cup and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
The country hosted the 2014 Under-17 Basketball World Championship. The senior national team is a major contender on the Arabian Peninsula in terms of qualification to major international basketball events such as the Asian Championship.
Formula One is particularly popular in the United Arab Emirates, and is annually held at the picturesque Yas Marina Circuit. The race is held at evening time, and is the first ever Grand Prix to start in daylight and finish at night.
The education system through secondary level is monitored by the Ministry of Education in all emirates except Abu Dhabi, where it falls under the authority of the Abu Dhabi Education Council. It consists of primary schools, middle schools and high schools. The public schools are government-funded and the curriculum is created to match the United Arab Emirates development's goals and values. The medium of instruction in the public school is Arabic with emphasis on English as a second language. There are also many private schools which are internationally accredited. Public schools in the country are free for citizens of the UAE, while the fees for private schools vary.
The UAE has shown a strong interest in improving education and research. Enterprises include the establishment of the CERT Research Centers and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Institute for Enterprise Development.
According to the QS Rankings, the top-ranking universities in the country are the United Arab Emirates University (421-430th worldwide), the American University of Sharjah (431-440th) and University of Sharjah (3046th).
The life expectancy at birth in the UAE is at 78.5 years. Cardiovascular disease is the principal cause of death in the UAE, constituting 28% of total deaths; other major causes are accidents and injuries, malignancies, and congenital anomalies.
In February 2008, the Ministry of Health unveiled a five-year health strategy for the public health sector in the northern emirates, which fall under its purview and which, unlike Abu Dhabi and Dubai, do not have separate healthcare authorities. The strategy focuses on unifying healthcare policy and improving access to healthcare services at reasonable cost, at the same time reducing dependence on overseas treatment. The ministry plans to add three hospitals to the current 14, and 29 primary healthcare centres to the current 86. Nine were scheduled to open in 2008.
The introduction of mandatory health insurance in Abu Dhabi for expatriates and their dependants was a major driver in reform of healthcare policy. Abu Dhabi nationals were brought under the scheme from 1 June 2008 and Dubai followed for its government employees. Eventually, under federal law, every Emirati and expatriate in the country will be covered by compulsory health insurance under a unified mandatory scheme. Recently the country has been benefiting from medical tourists from all over the GCC. The UAE currently attracts medical tourists seeking plastic surgery and advanced procedures, cardiac and spinal surgery, and dental treatment, as health services have higher standards than other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.
- Arabic: الامارات Al-ʾImārāt
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- United Arab Emirates entry at The World Factbook
- United Arab Emirates web resources provided by GovPubs at the University of Colorado–Boulder Libraries
- InterNet Website Services Provider IN UAE
- United Arab Emirates at DMOZ
- United Arab Emirates profile from the BBC News.
- United Arab Emirates country profile from the Lebanese Economy Forum, extracted from the CIA Factbook & Worldbank data.
- Wikimedia Atlas of United Arab Emirates
- World Bank Summary Trade Statistics United Arab Emirates