The United Arab Emirates ( i/u /, Arabic: دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة Al Imārāt al ‘Arabīyah al Muttaḥidah), often abbreviated as UAE or shortened to The Emirates (Arabic: الامارات Al Imārāt), is a country situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asiaon the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabiaand sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iran.
Termed emiratesbecause they are ruled by emirs, they are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. The capital is Abu Dhabi, which is also the country's center of political, industrial and cultural activities.
Before 1971, the UAE was known as the Trucial Statesor Trucial Oman, in reference to a 19th-century truce between the United Kingdom and several Arab Sheikhs. The name Pirate Coast was also used in reference to the area's emirates from the 18th to the early 20th century.
The UAE's political system, based on its 1971 Constitution, is composed of several intricately connected governing bodies. Islamis the official religion, and Arabicis the official language.
Its oil reservesare ranked as the world's sixth-largestand the UAE possesses one of the most-developed economies in West Asia. It is the thirty-fifth-largest economy at market exchange rates, and has a high per capita gross domestic product(GDP), with a nominal per capita GDP of US$47,407 as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is 15th in purchasing power per capita and has a relatively high Human Development Indexfor the Asian continent, ranking thirty-second globally. The UAE is classified as a high-income developing economyby the IMF.
Although the UAE has a constitution and a president, it is neither a constitutional monarchynor a republic. It is a federation of seven monarchies, whose rulers retain absolute power within their emirates. The emirs chose one of their number to be the president of the federation, but this does not alter the monarchical character of the government of the emirates. The constitution is concerned solely with the relations between the emirates as members of the federation, and does not prescribe a constitutional system of government.
The UAE is a founding member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, and a member state of the Arab League. It is also a member of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OPEC, and the World Trade Organization.
By the 1st century AD overland caravan traffic between Syriaand cities in southern Iraqbegan. Also, there was seaborne travel to the important port of Omana (perhaps present-day Umm al-Qaiwain) and then to India. These routes were an alternative to the Red Searoute 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.
The arrival of envoys from the Islamic prophet Muhammadin 630 heralded the conversion of the region to Islam. After Muhammad, one of the major battles of the Ridda Wars was fought at Dibbaresulting 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 conquest of Iran. Over many centuries, Julfar became a wealthy port and pearling center from which dhowstravelled throughout the Indian Oceanespecially to neighboring land of Sindh and its cities of Thatta and Debal.
Portugueseexpansion into the Indian Oceanin the early 16th century following Vasco da Gama's route of exploration saw them battle Safavid Persiaup the coast of the Persian Gulf. The Portuguese controlled the area for 150 years, in which they conquered the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. Vasco da Gama was helped by Ahmad Ibn Majid, a navigator and cartographer from Julfar, to find the spice route from Asia.
During the 16th century, piecemeal, the entire territory of the nation came under the direct influence of the European colonial empires, with the British eventually getting the upper hand. The region was known to the British as the "Pirate Coast", as raiders based there harassed the shipping industry despite both European and Arabnavies patrolling the area from the 17th century into the 19th. British expeditions to protect the Indian trade from raiders at Ras al-Khaimahled to campaigns against that headquarters and other harbours along the coast in 1819. The next year, a peace treatywas signed to which all the sheikhsof the coast adhered. 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.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the pearling industry thrived in the relative 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 Warhad a severe impact on the pearl fishery, but it was the economic depressionof the late 1920s and early 1930s, coupled with the Japaneseinvention 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 Indiaimposed 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.
Beginning of the oil era
At the beginning of the 1960s, the first oil companyteams carried out preliminary surveys and the first cargo of crude was exported from Abu Dhabi in 1962. As oil revenues increased, 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, 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, Great Britain sided with Abu Dhabiin the latter's dispute with Omanover 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 recognized by the Saudi government. The border with Omanalso remains officially unsettled, but the two governments agreed to delineate the border in May 1999.
Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the union
In the early 1960s, oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi, an event that led to quick unification calls made by UAE sheikdoms. Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyanbecame ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and the British started losing their oil investments and contracts to U.S. oil companies. The British had earlier started a development office that helped in some small developments in the emirates. The sheikhs of the emirates then decided to form a council to coordinate matters between them and took over the development office. They formed the Trucial States Council, and appointed Adi Bitar, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum's legal advisor, as Secretary General and Legal Advisor to the Council. The council was terminated once the United Arab Emirates was formed.
In 1968, the United Kingdomannounced its decision, reaffirmed in March 1971, to end the treaty relationships with the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms which had been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection. The nine 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.
Bahrainbecame independent in August, and Qatar in September 1971. When the British-Trucial Sheikhdoms treaty expired on December 1, 1971, they became fully independent. The rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubaidecided 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 December 2, 1971. On that date, at the Dubai Guesthouse Palace, four other emirates agreed to enter into a union called the United Arab Emirates. Ras al-Khaimahjoined later, in early 1972.
The UAE supported military operationsfrom the United States and other Coalitionnations 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 Terrorismfor 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 defenseagreement with the U.S. in 1994 and one with France in 1995.
On 2 November 2004, the UAE's first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, passed away. 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 Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyansucceeded 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 largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, accounts for 87% of the UAE's total area (67,340 square kilometers). The smallest emirate, Ajman, encompasses only 259 square kilometers (see figure).
The UAE coast stretches for more than 650 kilometers along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. Most of the coast consists of salt pansthat 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 reefsand 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 Bāţinahcoast of the Gulf of Oman, although the Musandam Peninsula, the very tip of Arabia by the Strait of Hormuz is an enclave of Omanwithin the UAE.
South and west of Abu Dhabi, vast, rolling sand dunesmerge 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 Oasisis in the south near the undefined border with Saudi Arabia. About 100 kilometers to the northeast of Liwa is the Al-Buraimioasis, which extends on both sides of the Abu Dhabi-Oman border.
Prior to withdrawing from the area in 1971, Britaindelineated 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-GharbiMountains, where five of the emirates contested jurisdiction over more than a dozen enclaves.
The UAE government comprises three branches: the executive, legislature, and judiciary. The executive branch consists of the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Federal Supreme Council, and a Council of Ministers (the cabinet). The Federal Supreme Council is composed of the emirs of the seven emirates. It elects the president, vice president, members of the Council of Ministers, and judges of the Federal Supreme Court. The Supreme Council also formulates government policy, proposes and ratifies national laws, and ratifies treaties.
Although elected by the Supreme Council, the president and prime ministerare 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. The political influences and financial obligations of the emirates are reflected by their respective positions in the federal government. While each emirate still retains autonomy over its own territory, a percentage of its revenue is allocated to the UAE’s central budget.
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the UAE's president from the nation's founding until his death on November 2, 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 legislature is the Federal National Council(FNC), which 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. The first indirect elections took place in 2006, and the goal is a wholly elected council. The council carries out the country’s main consultative duties and has both a legislative and supervisory role provided by the constitution. The council scrutinizes and amends proposed legislation, but cannot prevent it from becoming law. The main tasks of the FNC are:
- Discussing constitutional amendments and draft laws, which may be approved, amended or rejected
- Reviewing the annual draft budget of the federation
- Debating international treaties and conventions
- Influencing the Government’s work through the channels of discussion, question and answer sessions, recommendations and following up on complaints
In parallel to the economic developments of the UAE, the country's leaders have also initiated political reforms in order to further develop the political institutions. The political modernization process was envisaged in three stages: first, conduct elections to elect half the FNC members through an Electoral College; second expand the powers of the FNC and increase the number of FNC members, which would require extensive constitutional studies and possible modifications, at the end of which the political institution would be a more enabled body; and finally, an open election for half the council.
The purpose of the elections was to expand political participation and develop a culture of government reform. The limited scope of participation was conditioned by three reasons: (1) the country not having an electoral tradition, (2) the prevailing political tension and instability in the region meaning that there was no scope for error, and (3) elections in the region having proved to potentially be divisive affairs, based on sectarian and religious issues, which the UAE wanted to avoid.
In December 2008, the Supreme Council approved constitutional amendments both to empower the FNC and to enhance government transparency and accountability.
United Arab Emirates Government
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) eGovernmentis the extension of the UAE Federal Government in its electronic form. The UAE eGovernment enables convenient access to government information and services through innovative and customer-friendly delivery channels and streamlines the processes for quality and timely government service delivery. The UAE eGovernment engages modern tools in Information and Communication Technology to actively connect with its wide base of users from within the UAE and beyond. The setting up of the UAE eGovernment is a major step towards modernisation and upgradation of government functioning as it brings about a cost-effective, eco-friendly, transparent and participative government.
A federal court system applies to all emirates except Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, which are not fully integrated into the federal judicial system. All emirates have secular courts to rule about criminal, civil, and commercial matters, and Islamic courts to review family and religious disputes.
The country has undergone a period of liberalization and modernisation during the reign of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The laws of the UAE tolerate alcoholto a certain extent. However, public bars and nightclubs in the UAE operate mainly in hotels and clubs, much like in Qatar, although some do operate independently.
In the UAE the establishment of the Civil and Criminal Courts resulted in diminishing the role of the Sharia Courts. Nevertheless, the competence of the Sharia Courts in some emirates, particularly Abu Dhabi, was substantially expanded later on to include, in addition to matters of personal status, all types of civil and commercial disputes as well as serious criminal offences. Therefore, in addition to the Civil Courts, each of the seven emirates maintains a parallel system of Sharia Courts which are organised and supervised locally.
Civil casesmay also be tried under Sharia courts with one exception: Shi'ite Muslims may try such cases in their own courts. Other civil proceedings include those involving claims against the government and enforcement of foreign judgments. Live-in relationships are illegal in all emirates including Dubai where there have been numerous arrests of couples that have lived together, and even have visited the city together.
Because of the rapid development of the UAE from a traditional, homogeneous society in the mid-20th century to a modern, multicultural one at the beginning of the 21st century, the concurrent development of legal provisions and the practical enforcement of existing laws has been challenging and, in consequence, problems exist mainly in regard to human rights of non-citizens, who make up around 80% of the population. Main issues include companies' and employers' non-compliance with labor laws.
Many expatriate workers, mostly of South Asian origin, have after their arrival in the UAE been turned into debt-ridden de facto indentured servants. Confiscation of passports, although illegal, occurs on a large scale, primarily of unskilled or semi-skilled employees.
The UAE's system of employment for non-citizens ties an employee to the employer and prevents him or her from seeking alternative employment without the express approval of the original employer. Also, non-payment of wages, cramped and unsanitary living conditions and poor safety practices are widespread and have been the subject of foreign media attention.
In order to institutionalize the fight against human trafficking, including that of expatriate workers for blue collar jobs, the UAE government has devised a four-pillar strategy: (1) legislation, (2) enforcement (3) victim support, and (4) bilateral agreements and international cooperation. In 2007 the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking was established, which serves as a coordinating agency. The UAE has ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol).
The victim support program includes protection, counseling and rehabilitation. 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 servantsis an 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 cracked down on. Until today, the government has not allowed for trade unionsto form despite having promised to do so since 2004.
As Sharia prohibits sodomy, homosexual relationships are not commonly disclosed. The UAE is much more moderate on homosexual punishmentthan many of its neighbors. The death penalty is never implemented for homosexuality, and rarely life imprisonment. Foreigners generally receive deportation, which is sometimes temporary. Prospective foreign employees infected with Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, or HIVwill not be given work visas and have to leave the country. There is, however, no screening of tourists.
The UAE authorities on the federal and local level have instituted a number of mechanisms and policies to improve the protection of human rights. For example, 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.
UN rapporteurs – one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the other on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance – visited the UAE separately and held discussions with various ministries, civil society organizations, academics and ordinary citizens. Commending the Government’s ‘cooperation and openness’, a preliminary report of the rapporteur on racism said: "The recent review of the UAE by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and by the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council demonstrates that the authorities are willing to find ways and means of addressing human rights challenges faced by the people in the UAE and to ensure compliance with international human rights standards."
Efforts are under way to promulgate a draft national law for better protection of children, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The proposed law provides for the establishment of a hotline to respond to children's problems and encourages the establishment of associations or clubs specializing in child affairs, as well as calling for the appointment of a special judge to handle cases related to children.
The UAE National Human Rights Report, prepared by a committee comprising representatives from various ministries and government institutions, with the participation of representatives from civil society and non-governmental organizations(NGOs), and presented to the UN Human Rights Councilon 4 December 2008 outlines efforts in the field of human rights observance and listed challenges facing the country, such as the following:
- Providing more mechanisms to protect human rights, keeping up with national and international developments, and updating laws and systems
- Meeting the state's expectations with regards to building national capabilities and deepening efforts for education on human rights and basic freedoms through a national plan
- Striving to regulate the relationship between employers and workers in framework that preserves dignity and rights, and is in harmony with international standards, especially with regard to domestic help
- Increasing the empowerment of women's role in society, increasing opportunities for involvement in a number of fields based on their skills and abilities
- Working to confront human trafficking crimes by reviewing the best international practices in the field, working to update and improve the state's legislature in accordance with international standards, working to establish institutions and agencies to confront human trafficking crimes, and working to support the foundations of international cooperation with international organizations and institutions.
Regionally, the UAE has a very close relationship with other GCC members as well as most of the Arab countries. The Emirates have long maintained close relations with Egyptand remain the highest investor in the country from among the rest of the Arab world. Pakistanhas also been a major recipient of economic aid and relations have been extremely close since the founding of the federation. 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. India’s large expat community in the UAE also has over the centuries evolved into current close political, economic and cultural ties. The largest demographic presence in the Emirates is Indian. Like most countries in the region, the UAE and Irandispute rights to a number of islands in the Persian Gulf but this has not significantly impacted relations because of the large Iranian community presence and strong economic ties.
Commercially, the UK and Germanyare the UAE’s largest export markets and bilateralrelations have long been close as a large number of their nationals reside in the UAE.
Diplomatic relationsbetween 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 gasand imports from Japan to UAE include cars and electric items.
The UAE is pursuing a policy of peaceful settling of the region's issues. The country supports the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state. At the second international conference to support the Palestinian economy and reconstruction of Gaza strip, which was held in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, the UAE said it would continue to offer political, economic and humanitarian support to the Palestinian cause. The UAE has provided over US$3 billion in aid to the Palestinians, including development funds for infrastructure, housing, hospital and school projects. In addition, the country donated US$174 million towards reconstruction in Gaza. The UAE has been an active supporter of the Iraqi Government in its efforts to draw up a comprehensive political formula to enable the country to achieve security and stability. It has one of the few functioning Arab embassies and resident ambassadors in Baghdad, and has canceled debts worth about US$7 billion to support Iraq’s reconstruction efforts. The UAE continues to contribute constructively to the international efforts aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan and supporting its bid to restore security. As part of its humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan, it provided US$550 million between 2002 and 2008. The UAE is the only Arab country performing humanitarian activities on the ground in Afghanistan.
One major diplomatic success for the UAE during 2009, which also reflected its growing international status, came with Abu Dhabi being chosen to host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This is one of the few times that a developing country has had the opportunity to host the headquarters of a major international organization.
The UAE has continuously been a major contributor of emergency relief to regions affected by conflict and natural disastersin the developing world. The main UAE governmental agency for foreign aidis 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. Since 1971, these have accounted for a further Dh10 billion (US$2.7 billion), bringing the total amount of the loans, grants and investments provided by the fund or the Abu Dhabi government, and managed by the fund, to around Dh24 billion (US$6.5 billion), covering 258 different projects in a total of 52 countries.
In November 2008, the Abu Dhabi Fund announced a long term loan of around US$278 million for rehabilitation of agricultural land in the state of Uzbekistan. Between 1994 to mid-2008, for example, around Dh15.4 billion (US$4.2 billion) has been provided for the Palestinians, including, most recently, US$300 million pledged at a donor conference in Paris and an annual commitment of US$43 million to support the Palestine National Authority.
The UAE has also used the Red Crescent authority and charities such as Dubai Cares and Noor Dubai to donate aid to foreign countries.
Abu Dhabi has an area of 67,340 square kilometres, which is 86.7% of the country’s total area, excluding the islands. It has a coastline extending for more than 400 kilometres and is divided for administrative purposes into three major regions. The Emirate of Dubaiextends along the Persian Gulf coast of the UAE for approximately 72 kilometres. Dubai has an area of 3,885 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 5 per cent of the country’s total area, excluding the islands. The Emirate of Sharjahextends along approximately 16 kilometers of the UAE’s Persian Gulf coastline and for more than 80 kilometers into the interior. The northern emirates which include Fujairah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwainall have a total area of 3,881 square kilometres. 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 Musandampeninsula and the rest of Oman in the Emirate of Sharjah. It covers approximately 75 square kilometres (29 sq mi) and the boundary was settled in 1589. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Khor Fakkan-Fujairahroad, 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.
In 2010, the
UAE's population was estimated at 4,975,593, of which less than 20% were
UAE nationals or Emiratis, while the majority of the
population were expatriates. The country's net migration ratestands at 21.71, the world's highest.
23% of the population are
non-Emirati Arabs and Iranians and the majority of the
population, about 50%, is from India.
Approximately 1.75 million Indian
in the UAE, making
them the single largest expatriate
community in the country. However, by 2020
emiratis are projected to form 10% of the population.
There is also a growing presence of Europeans
especially in multi-cultural cities such as Dubai Those from
other parts of Asia
Philippines, Iran or Sri Lanka) comprised up to 1
million people. The rest of the population were
from other Arab states.
Thousands of Palestinians, who came as either political refugeesor temporary employment, also live
in the United Arab Emirates. There is
also a sizable population of people from Egypt, Somalia and Sudanwho migrated to
the UAE before its formation. The UAE has also attracted a
small number of expatriatesfrom
countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and Oceania. More
than 100,000 British nationals live in the
The population of the
UAE has a skewed sex distribution consisting of more
than twice as many males as females. The 15–65
age group has a
male/female sex ratioof 2.743. The
UAE's gender imbalanceis only surpassed by other Arab
countries in the Persian Gulf
The most populated city is
Dubai, with approximately 1.7 million people. Other
major cities include Abu Dhabi, Al-Ain,
Fujairah. About 88% of the population of the
United Arab Emirates is urban. The
live in tiny towns scattered throughout
the country or in the many
desert oilfield camps in the
life expectancy is 75 years, higher than any other
Main article: Religion in the United Arab Emirates
Islamis largest and the official state religionof the UAE, though the government follows a policy of tolerance toward other religions and rarely interferes in the activities of non-Muslims.
However, it is illegal in the UAE to spread the ideas of any religion apart from Islam through any form of media as it is considered a form of proselytizing. There are approximately 31 churchesthroughout the country and one Hindu templein the region of Bur Dubai.
Based on the Ministry of Economy census in 2005, 76% of the total population was Muslim, 9% Christian, and 15% other (mainly Hindu and Buddhist). Census figures do not take into account the many "temporary" visitors and workers while also counting Baha'is and Druze as Muslim. Non-Islamic religions are mainly followed by foreigners or expatriates. As the majority of the population are non-citizens, of the citizens 85% are Sunni Muslim while 15% are Shi'a Muslims. Omani immigrants are mostly Ibadi, while Sufi influences exist too.
The education systemthrough secondary level is monitored by the
Ministry of Education. It consists of
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 Englishas a
second language. There are also many private schoolswhich are internationally accredited.
Public schoolsin the country are
free for citizens of the UAE, while the fees for
private schools vary.
There has been
significant improvement in private education across
the UAE. This is particularly important given the fact
that a relatively high percentage of students in the
Emirates are enrolled in private schools: in
Dubai 50% of all students are in private schools,
while the number for Abu Dhabi stands at around
international schools in the UAE
are accredited by international bodies and
there are currently 17 International Baccalaureate
schools operating in the
country, all of which have obtained approval
from the International Baccalaureate
Organization in Geneva to run their
Reforms to special education are under way
across the country. In 2006, the
Cabinet passed the UAE
Disabilities Act, a comprehensive law that requires public and private schools
to provide equal access to all children. The law was
subsequently amended in 2009 to replace references to disability
with the phrase "special needs".
The higher educationsystem is monitored by the
Ministry of Higher Education. The
ministry also is responsible for
admitting students to its undergraduate institutions.
A recent survey showed that the
illiteracyrate is on
the decline in the
UAE, and is now in the
region of 7%. This is mainly due to programmes that
combat illiteracy amongst the adult population.
Currently there are thousands of nationals
pursuing formal learning at 86 adult educationcentres spread across the
2009, the Masdar Institute of Science and
Technology (MIST) opened its doors to its first class of graduate
students. The Dubai School of Government (DSG), a
research and teaching institution
focusing on good governance and public policy
in the Middle East, launched its first masters
program also in 2009. A number of foreign universities,
from the Paris Sorbonne to Michigan State University,
have opened campuses in the UAE. In
February 2008, a branch of the New York
Film Academy opened in Abu Dhabi; it will
launch its first bachelor’s degree program in 2010. In
fall 2010 the opening
of the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University will
mark a new milestone. INSEAD, one of the
world’s largest graduate business schools, has been
operating a Middle East campus in Abu Dhabi
since 2007, and now runs seven executive-education
The Government has
launched many programs and initiatives to improve the
quality of education at schools across the
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.
Standards of healthcareare
considered to be generally high in the
United Arab Emirates, resulting from
spendingduring strong economic years.
According to the UAE government, total
expenditures on healthcare from 1996 to 2003 were US$436 million.
According to the World Health Organization, in 2006 total expenditures on health care
constituted 2.6 percent of gross domestic product(GDP), and the per capita expenditure for health
care was US$673. General government expenditure on health as percentage of total
government expenditure is 8.7% and Health care currently is free only for UAE
citizens, with a health insurance scheme in place for
those working the Emirates. Hospital beds
(per 10 000 population) was 18 in 2005. The
number of doctorsper 100,000
(annual average, 1990–2005) was 17 and dentistry personnel (per 100 000
population) was 30 in 2002. The pharmaceutical
personnel (per 100 000 population) was 40.
expectancy at birth in the
UAE is at 78.5 years. According to World Health
Organisation (WHO) statistics, the UAE is ranked
fourth in the world in terms
of health care.
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.
introduction of mandatory health
Abu Dhabi for expatriatesand
their dependents 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 Persian Gulf
Cardiovascular diseaseis the principal cause of
death in the UAE,
constituting 28 percent of total deaths; other
major causes are accidents and injuries, malignancies, and congenital anomalies.
Cancerare also the main causes of
death in the country, and statistics
have indicated that UAE has the highest
rate of Diabetes in the
At the time
of independence, the
UAE was already regarded as a rich country with GDP per capita
The UAE has an open
of the highest per capita incomes
in the world and a sizable annual trade
surplus. In 2009, its GDP, as measured by purchasing power
parity, stood at US$400.4
billion. The GDP per capitais currently the third
in the world and second
in the Middle East, after Qatar and Kuwaitas
measured by the CIA World Factbook, or the 17th in the
world as measured by the International
With almost $1 trillion in
foreign invested assets, some argue the
UAE to be the richest, with the highest
average income in the world. Over
half of this money is generated by the nation's capital; Abu Dhabi.
With a population of just under 900,000 Abu Dhabi was labeled "The
richest city in the world" by a
particularly that of Dubai, was badly hit by the
financial crisis of
In 2009, the country's economy
shrank by 4.00 percent, but UAE's overseas
investments are expected to support its full economic recovery. However,
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 ability to service debt
remains a problem.
Petroleum and natural gasexports 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
A massive construction boom, an
expanding manufacturing base, and a
thriving services sector are helping the
UAE diversify its economy. Nationwide,
there is currently $350 billion worth of active constructionprojects. Aluminum, steel, iron
and other forms of metal exports along with textile
produce much a significant amount of income and are expected to
surpass the income brought in
by petroleum and natural gasexports within the
next 40 to 60 years. Government projects
include the Burj Khalifa,
which is the world's tallest building,
Dubai World Central
International Airportwhich, when completed, will be the most expensive
airportever built, and the three Palm Islands, the largest artificial islandsin the world.
Other projects include the
is the world's largest shopping mall, and a man-made archipelago called The Worldwhich seeks to increase Dubai's
rapidly growing tourism industry. Also
in the entertainment sector
is the construction of Dubailand, which is expected
to be twice the size of Disney World, and of
Dubai Sports City
which will not only provide homes for local sports teams but may be part of
future Olympic bids.
However, this is concern that this construction boom has been built on debt and
speculation, with little creation of true economic value.
Major increases in
imports occurred in manufactured goods,
machinery, and transportation equipment, which
together accounted for 80% of total imports.
Another important foreign exchangeearner, the Abu Dhabi Investment
controls the investments of Abu
Dhabi, the wealthiest emirate – manages an estimated
$360 billion in overseas investments & an
estimated $900 billion in assets.
More than 200 factories operate at the
Jebel Alicomplex in
Dubai, which includes a deep-water port and a
free trade zonefor manufacturing and distribution in
which all goods for re-export or transshipment enjoy a 100% duty
exemption. A major power plant with
desalinationunits, an aluminium smelter, and a steel
fabrication unit are prominent facilities
in the complex. The complex is
currently undergoing expansion, with sections of land set aside for
different sectors of industry. A large international
passenger and cargo airport, Dubai World Central
with associated logistics, manufacturing and hospitality
industries, is also planned here.
the free trade zones, the UAE requires at least 51%
local citizen ownership in all businesses
operating in the country as
part of its attempt to place Emiratis into leadership positions.
However, this law is under review and the majority
ownership clause will very likely be scrapped in order to
bring the country into
line with World Trade Organisation
As a member of the
Gulf Cooperation Council(GCC), the UAE participates
in the wide range of GCC activities that focus on
economic issues. These include regular
consultations and development of common policies covering
trade, investment, banking and finance,
transportation, telecommunications, and other
technical areas, including protection of
The currency of the
United Arab Emirates is the Emirati Dirham.
The UAE has been
spending billions of dollars on infrastructure and
is the biggest projects market
in the region, accounting for 37
percent of total project value within the
construction, oil and gas, petrochemicals, power and water and
waste sectors. Many huge investments have been poured
into real estate, tourism and leisure.
These developments are particularly evident
in the larger emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In the former,
Masdar City and Saadiyat Islandhighlight the status as an
emerging market. Dubai World Central,
a 140-square kilometre multi-phase development under construction near Jebel Ali, will create 900,000 jobs, and will include
which will be the largest airport
in the world by 2020. Property developer
Emaar’s Burj Khalifais a Dh3.67 billion (US$1billion) tower that is
the world's tallest skyscraper.
in the northern emirates are
rapidly following suit, providing major
incentives for developers of residential and commercial property.
In addition, UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin
Zayed Al Nahyanhas allocated Dh16 billion (US$4.4 billion) for
infrastructure projects in the
northern emirates. The allocation will be used
to fund the construction of road networks, new
housing communities, drainage networks and
other projects, providing
integrated solutions to some infrastructure deficits
in these areas.
The United Arab Emirates
has an extensive road network that connects all major cities and towns.
Roads in the western and
southern regions are still relatively undeveloped. Those are
highly dangerous roads passing through desert regions and many are
still unsealed, gravel roads. This has resulted in the
continued use of airplanes as the
main or alternative mode of transportationfor the
There are seaportsthroughout the country. The major ports
are Port Jebel Ali, Port Rashid, Port Khalid, Port Saeed, Port Khor Fakkan, and Port Zayed.
contains a number of significant airports. Dubai International
Airport(DXB) is the
main airport of the
country. In 2008, the airport
was the 20th busiest airport
in the world by passenger traffic and 11th busiestby cargo traffic. The airport also
was the 6th busiest airport
in the world by international
Other important airports include
Airport, and Al-Ain
International Airport. There are also airports in
smaller towns, as well as small domestic airstrips
in the rural Western region. There are
daily flight services between West and East UAE, which is the
only convenient option for passengers travelling
between the two parts of the country to places
such as Sir Bani Yas. The UAE is home to the largest
airlinein the Middle East, Emirates Airline. It has Dubai as its hub, and flies to over
100 destinations across six continents.
The airline was the
eighth-largest airlinein the world in terms
of international passengers carried, and fifth-largestin the world in
terms of scheduled international passenger-kilometres
flown in 2008. Etihad Airways,
from Abu Dhabi, is also growing, with over 100 aircraft on
The Dh15.5 billion (US$4.2
billion) Dubai Metroproject
includes a 52-kilometre Red Lineviaduct, which stretches the length of
Sheikh Zayed Road between Al Rashidiya and
Jebel Aliand was opened in September 2009 after
round-the-clock work for three years. The
Red Line when fully complete will carry an estimated
27,000 passengers per hour in each direction on 42
trains. Work also on the Green Line, which will link Al Qusaisto Dubai Healthcare City, began in 2006 and is
scheduled for completion in late 2010. In
Abu Dhabi plans are underway for
all a metro system and also
a country-wide national railway, which will connect all the major cities and is later
to connect to the GCC wide network. The cost for
the railway will be between Dh25bn and Dh30bn, and will be a total
length of 1,100 kilometres, connecting Ghuwaifat,
bordering the Kingdom of Saudi
in the west and the border with
the Sultanate of Omanin the
The Federal Electricity and
Water Authority (FEWA) is the body responsible for
overseeing federal utilities, whilst authorities in
individual emirates, including Abu
Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA), Dubai Water and Electricity
Authority (DEWA) and Sharjah Water and Electricity Authority (SEWA), oversee
power and water generation in their
individual emirates. The UAE plans to build 68
rechargeable dams in the
coming five years to augment the
114 dams in existence, all but two of which are
rechargeable, to help with providing for the
The UAE is also
planning to develop a peaceful nuclear energy programmeto generate electricity. So far, the UAE
has signed peaceful nuclear agreements with France, United States, and South Korea, and a MOU
with the United Kingdom.
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. However, Etisalat, with over 80 per cent
of the market, remains the
UAE's biggest telecom provider and is expanding
dramatically internationally and is now the
sixteenth largest telecommunications firm
in the world. Du is targeting a 30
per cent market shareby
2010. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of mobile phonesubscribers in
the UAE grew by an annual average of 25.6 per cent, almost
four times its population growth. In
2007, there were 7.7 million
subscribers. Forecasts indicate that the
UAE mobile market will increase to 11.9 million users
internet penetration figures assume 2.4 users per subscription. TRA
projections indicate that over the next
few years growth in both users and subscriptions will be coupled
with a fall in the number of users per
subscription: the number of subscribers are expected to
increase from 0.904 million in 2007 to 1.15 million in
2008, 1.44 million in 2009 and 2.66 million in
2012. Internet use is extensive; by 2007
there were 1.7 million users. The authorities filter
websites for religious, political and sexual content.
The United Arab Emirates has a
diverse and multicultural society. The country's cultural
imprint as a small, ethnically homogenous pearlingcommunity was changed with the arrival of
other ethnic groupsand nationals—first by the Iraniansin the early 1900s, and later by
and Pakistanisin the 1960s. Dubai has been
criticized for perpetuating a class-based society, where
migrant workersare in the lower classes. Despite the diversity of the
population, only minor and infrequent
episodes of ethnic tensionshave been reported in the
city. 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
Emirati culture mainly
revolves around the religion of Islam and traditional Arab, and Bedouin culture. The
influence of Islamic and Arab culture on
the region's architecture,
music, attire, cuisine
and lifestyleare very prominent as well.
Five times every day, Muslimsare called to prayer
from the minarets
of mosqueswhich are scattered around the country.
Since 2006, the weekend has been
Friday-Saturday, as a compromise between Friday's holiness to
Muslims and the Western weekend of
This unique socioeconomic developmentin the Persian Gulfhas meant that the UAE is relatively
liberal. While Islam is the main
religion, the UAE has been known for its tolerant
practices. Christian churches can be found
alongside mosquesand this courtesy has seemingly been extended to
and Sikhismas there is a place tucked away
inside a residential style building which houses a
Hindu temple and a Sikh gurudwara.
There is evidently no persecution of Hindus or
Sikhswhich is why it is home to several communities that have
faced persecution elsewhere, who are now contributing
to the cosmopolitan atmosphere. There are
a variety of Asian-influenced schools, cultural centers and
restaurants. Increasing numbers of European centers,
schools, and restaurants can also be seen in the
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 covering most parts of the body. Western-style clothing is, however, dominant because of the large expatriate population, and this practice is beginning to grow in popularity among Emiratis.
Etiquette is an important aspect of UAE culture and tradition, to which visitors are expected to conform. Recently, many expatriates have disregarded the law and been arrested for indecent clothing at beaches. Western-style dress is tolerated in appropriate places, such as bars or clubs, but the UAE has maintained a strict policy of protecting highly public spaces from cultural insensitivity. This is due, in large part, to the effects such practices are considered to have on the social integration and participation of a largely conservative Emirati population.
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 the surrounding countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Seafoodhas 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.
Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, so it is not included in local menus. Hotels 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.
Alcoholis 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 and pork, but these products are sold in separate sections.
Dishes forming part of the Emirati cuisine:
The main themes in Emirati poetry for Arab Poets range from satire, chivalry, self-praise, patriotism, religion, family and love, and could range from descriptive to narrative.
The style and form of ancient poetry in the UAE was strongly influenced by the 8th-century Persian Gulf Arabscholar Al Khalil bin Ahmed, who followed sixteen metres. This form underwent slight modification (Al Muwashahat) during the period of Islamic civilization in Andalucia (Spain).
The earliest known poet in the UAE is Ibn Majid, who was born between 1432 and 1437 in Ras Al-Khaimah. Coming from a family of successful sailors, Ibn Majid's oeuvre has a total of 40 surviving compositions, 39 of which are verses.
The greatest luminaries in the UAE literary realm during the 20th century, particularly for Classical Arabicpoetry, 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, also thrived during the 20th century including Khalfan Musabah (1923–1946), Sheikh Saqr Al Qasimi (1925–1993), an ex-ruler of Sharjah, and Sultan bin Ali al Owais (1925–2000). The Hirah group’s works are observed to have been heavily influenced by the Apollo and romantic poets.
The meeting of classical Arabic poetry and media continued through the regionally highly successful television shows – Million’s Poet and The Prince of Poets – broadcast on Abu Dhabi TV and poetry TV channels. The Prince of Poetsalso won the International Broadcasting Award in London in the specialist genre TV category.
There are three annual book fairs in the UAE, the well-known Sharjah International Book Fair, the oldest and largest in the country, its Abu Dhabi counterpart and the newly launched Al-Ain Book Fair.
The UAE has a booming magazine and newspaper industry. the biggest selling English language magazine is Ahlan! magazine. The biggest selling English language newspaper is Gulf News.
Many emirates have established museums of regional repute, most famously Sharjahwith its Heritage District containing 17 museums, which in 1998 was the Cultural Capital of the Arab World. Abu Dhabi's cultural foundation is also an important place for the presentation of indigenous and foreign art. In Dubai, the area of Al Quoz has attracted a number of art galleries.
Abu Dhabi has embarked on the path to become an art center of international caliber, by creating a culture district on Saadiyat Island. There, six grand projects are planned: the Sheikh Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners, the modern art museum Guggenheim Abu Dhabi to be built by Frank Gehry, the classical museum Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel, a maritime museum by Tadao Ando, a Performing Arts Center by Zaha Hadid, and a Biennale Park with 16 pavilions.
Dubai also plans to build a Kunsthal museum and a district for galleries and artists.
2009 saw the UAE’s first pavilion at the Venice Biennale, one of the top cultural events in Europe. The pavilion was called ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’ and was designed to offer a playful and provocative look at what has been described as the world’s most prestigious contemporary art event. This was the first occasion on which a country from the Persian Gulf has taken part in the Biennale.
The United Arab Emirates is a part of the khaliji tradition, and is also known for Bedouin folk music. Liwais a type of music and dance performed mainly in communities which contain descendants of East Africans. During celebrations singing and dancing also took place and many of the songs and dances, handed down from generation to generation, have survived to the present time. Young girls would dance by swinging their long black hair and swaying their bodies in time to the strong beat of the music. Men would re-enact battles fought or successful hunting expeditions, often symbolically using sticks, swords or rifles. Recently Emirati music has ventured into Hip Hop with Desert Heat becoming the first Emirati Hip Hop Group in the UAE. Releasing a hip hop album "when The Desert Speaks". The Album is a fusion album of Arabian traditional music with modern Hip Hop Beats.
Hollywoodmovies are the most popular in the UAE. The UAE has an active music scene, with musicians Amr Diab, Diana Haddad, Tarkan, Aerosmith, Santana, Mark Knopfler, Christina Aguilera, Elton John, Pink, Shakira, Celine Dion, Coldplay, Ahlam, and Phil Collins and a slew of Bollywoodstars having performed in the country. Kylie Minoguewas paid 4.4 million dollars to perform at the opening of the Atlantis resorton November 20, 2008. The Dubai Desert Rock Festivalis also another major festival consisting of heavy metal and rock artists.
In 2009 the highly successful Abu Dhabi Classics series celebrated its second season by treating the Emirates Palace audience to the Middle Eastern debut of the New York Philharmonic with pieces by Beethoven and Mahler, as well as holding a concert inside the recently renovated Jahili Fort in Al-Ain.