United Arab Emirates
|UNITED ARAB EMIRATE COAT OF ARMS|
United Arab Emirates within the continent of Asia
Map of UAE
Description of Flag: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and black with a wider vertical red band on the hoist side; the flag incorporates all four Pan-Arab colors, which in this case represent fertility (green), neutrality (white), petroleum resources (black), and unity (red); red was the traditional color incorporated into all flags of the emirates before their unification
Official name Al-Imārāt al-ʿArabiyyah al-Muttaḥidah (United Arab Emirates)
Form of government federation of seven emirates with one advisory body (Federal National Council )
Head of state President: Sheikh Khalīfah ibn Zāyid Āl Nahyān
Head of government Prime Minister: Sheikh Muḥammad ibn Rashīd Āl Maktūm
Capital Abu Dhabi
Official language Arabic
Official religion Islam
Monetary unit dirham (AED)
Population (2013 est.) 8,208,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 32,280
Total area (sq km) 83,600
- Urban: (2011) 84.4%
- Rural: (2011) 15.6%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2010) 77.2 years
- Female: (2010) 80.1 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2007) 90.9%
- Female: (2007) 89.2%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2011) 40,760
1Twenty seats are appointed by the rulers of the 7 emirates and 20 seats are indirectly elected.
Background of United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates, federation of seven emirates along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
The largest of these emirates, Abū Ẓaby (Abu Dhabi), which comprises more than three-fourths of the federation’s total land area, is the centre of its oil industry and borders Saudi Arabia on the federation’s southern and eastern borders. The port city of Dubai, located at the base of the mountainous Musandam Peninsula, is the capital of the emirate of Dubayy (Dubai) and is one of the region’s most vital commercial and financial centres, housing hundreds of multinational corporations in a forest of skyscrapers. The smaller emirates of Al-Shāriqah (Sharjah), ʿAjmān, Umm al-Qaywayn, and Raʾs al-Khaymah also occupy the peninsula, whose protrusion north toward Iran forms the Strait of Hormuz linking the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman. The federation’s seventh member, Al-Fujayrah, faces the Gulf of Oman and is the only member of the union with no frontage along the Persian Gulf.
Historically the domain of individual Arab clans and families, the region now comprising the emirates also has been influenced by Persian culture owing to its close proximity to Iran, and its porous maritime borders have for centuries invited migrants and traders from elsewhere. In the 18th century, Portugal and the Netherlands extended their holdings in the region but retreated with the growth of British naval power there; following a series of truces with Britain in the 19th century, the emirates united to form the Trucial States (also called Trucial Oman or the Trucial Sheikhdoms). The states gained autonomy following World War II (1939–45), when the trucial states of Bahrain and Qatar declared independent statehood. The rest were formally united in 1971, with the city of Abu Dhabi serving as the capital. The stability of the federation has since been tested by rivalries between the families governing the larger states of Abū Ẓaby and Dubayy, though external events such as the Persian Gulf War (1990–91) and an ongoing territorial dispute with Iran have served to strengthen the emirates’ political cohesion.
The emirates comprise a mixed environment of rocky desert, coastal plains and wetlands, and waterless mountains. The seashore is a haven for migratory waterfowl and draws birdwatchers from all over the world; the country’s unspoiled beaches and opulent resorts also have drawn international travelers. Standing at a historic and geographic crossroads and made up of diverse nationalities and ethnic groups, the United Arab Emirates present a striking blend of ancient customs and modern technology, of cosmopolitanism and insularity, and of wealth and want. The rapid pace of modernization of the emirates prompted travel writer Jonathan Raban to note of the capital: “The condition of Abu Dhabi was so evidently mint that it would not have been surprising to see adhering to the buildings bits of straw and polystyrene from the crates in which they had been packed.”
Geography of United Arab Emirates
- The United Arab Emirates is bordered by Qatar to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west and south, and Oman to the east and northeast. It is slightly smaller in area than Portugal. Since the early 1990s the emirates have been in a dispute with Iran over the ownership of three islands: Abū Mūsā and Greater and Lesser Tunb (Ṭunb al-Kubrā and Ṭunb al-Ṣughrā). In addition, the border with Saudi Arabia has never been defined, which was not an issue until Saudi Arabia began production at the Shaybah oil field in the border region in 1998.
Demography of United Arab Emirates
- Ethnic groups
Only about one-fifth of the emirates’ residents are citizens. The remainder are mostly foreign workers and their dependents, with South Asians constituting the largest of these groups. Arabs from countries other than the United Arab Emirates and Iranians account for another significant portion. Southeast Asians, including many Filipinos, have immigrated in increasing numbers to work in various capacities.
- Languages and religion
The official language of the United Arab Emirates is Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools, and most native Emiratis speak a dialect of Gulf Arabic that is generally similar to that spoken in surrounding countries. A number of languages are spoken among the expatriate community, including various dialects of Pashto, Hindi, Balochi, and Persian. English is also widely spoken.
About three-fourths of the population is Muslim, of which roughly four-fifths belong to the Sunni branch of Islam; Shīʿite minorities exist in Dubayy and Al-Shāriqah. There are also small but growing numbers of Christians and Hindus in the country.
- Settlement patterns and demographic trends
The population of the United Arab Emirates is concentrated primarily in cities along both coasts, although the interior oasis settlement of Al-ʿAyn has grown into a major population centre as well. Several emirates have exclaves within other emirates.
The federation’s birth rate is one of the lowest among the Persian Gulf states, and the infant mortality rate has decreased substantially. Owing to the large number of foreign workers, more than two-thirds of the population is male. The country’s death rate is well below the world average, and the average life expectancy is about 75 years. The major causes of death are cardiovascular disease, accidents and poisonings, and cancer.
Economy of United Arab Emirates
The federation’s economy is dominated by the petroleum produced in the Abū Ẓaby and Dubayy emirates. The wealthiest of the emirates, Abū Ẓaby contains nearly one-tenth of the world’s proven oil reserves and contributes more than half of the national budget.
- Agriculture and fishing
Agricultural production—centred largely in the emirates of Raʾs al-Khaymah and Al-Fujayrah, in the two exclaves of ʿAjmān, and at Al-ʿAyn—has expanded considerably through the increased use of wells and pumps to provide water for irrigation. However, agriculture contributes only a small fraction of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs less than one-tenth of the workforce. Dates are a major crop, as are tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants, and the United Arab Emirates is nearly self-sufficient in fruit and vegetable production. The country also produces enough eggs, poultry, fish, and dairy products to meet its own needs but must import most other foodstuffs, notably grains. The Arid Lands Research Centre at Al-ʿAyn experiments with raising crops in a desert environment. Most commercial fishing is concentrated in Umm al-Qaywayn, and the emirates have one of the largest fishing sectors in the Arab world.
- Resources and power
Oil was discovered in Abū Ẓaby in 1958, and the government of that emirate owns a controlling interest in all oil-producing companies in the federation through the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Production of petroleum and natural gas contributes about one-fourth of GDP but employs only a tiny fraction of the workforce. The largest petroleum concessions are held by an ADNOC subsidiary, Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (ADMA-OPCO), which is partially owned by British, French, and Japanese interests. One of the main offshore fields is located in Umm al-Shāʾif. Al-Bunduq offshore field is shared with neighbouring Qatar but is operated by ADMA-OPCO. A Japanese consortium operates an offshore rig at Al-Mubarraz, and other offshore concessions are held by American companies. Onshore oil concessions are held by another ADNOC company, the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations, which is likewise partially owned by American, French, Japanese, and British interests. Other concessions also are held by Japanese companies.
Petroleum production in Dubayy began in 1969. There are offshore oil fields at Ḥaql Fatḥ, Fallah, and Rāshid. Dubayy owns a controlling interest in all oil produced in the emirate. Al-Shāriqah began producing oil in 1974; another field, predominantly yielding natural gas, was discovered six years later. In 1984 oil production began off the shore of Raʾs al-Khaymah, in the Persian Gulf. Dubayy produces about one-third of the country’s total output of petroleum.
The federation’s natural gas reserves are among the world’s largest, and most fields are found in Abū Ẓaby. In the late 1990s the United Arab Emirates began investing heavily to develop its natural gas sector, both for export and to fire domestic thermal power plants.
Because it relies on energy-intensive technologies such as water desalination and air-conditioning, and because subsidies on fuel have encouraged wasteful energy use, the United Arab Emirates has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of energy consumption. Despite its large hydrocarbon reserves, rapidly increasing domestic demand driven by population growth and industrialization in the first decade of the 21st century forced the emirates to import natural gas and to draw upon petroleum reserves at a fraction of the export price.
To safeguard future hydrocarbon production, the federation began to explore other sources for domestic energy. In 2009 the emirates contracted the Korean Electric Power Company to build four nuclear reactors in the country by 2020. Abū Ẓaby and Dubayy also began to invest in renewable energy. In 2013 Abū Ẓaby opened what at the time was one of the world’s largest solar-power plants , a 100-megawatt facility capable of powering up to 20,000 homes.
The emirates have attempted to diversify their economy to avoid complete dependence on oil, and manufacturing has played a significant part in that effort. A petrochemical industrial complex has been established at Al-Ruways, 140 miles (225 km) southwest of Abu Dhabi city, with a petroleum refinery, a gas fractionation plant, and an ammonia and urea plant. Dubayy’s revenues have been invested in projects such as a dry dock and a trade centre; expansion of its airport began in 2002, and additional hotels have been built, including the striking Burj al-ʿArab (Tower of the Arabs), which opened in the late 1990s. The Burj Khalifa (“Khalifa Tower”) skyscraper in Dubai city became the world’s tallest building and the tallest freestanding structure when it opened in 2010. Al-Shāriqah has built a cement plant, a plastic-pipe factory, and paint factories. Manufacturing accounts for about one-seventh of GDP and employs a comparable proportion of the workforce.
The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates was established in 1980, with Dubayy and Abū Ẓaby each depositing half of their revenues in the institution. The bank also issues the UAE dirham, the emirates’ national currency. There are commercial, investment, development, foreign, and domestic banks as well as a bankers’ association. In 1991 the worldwide operations of Abū Ẓaby’s Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), partly owned by the ruling family, were closed down after corrupt practices were uncovered, and the emirate subsequently created the Abu Dhabi Free Zone Authority to develop a new financial centre. The emirates’ first official stock exchange, the Dubai Financial Market (Sūq Dubayy al-Mālī), was opened in 2000, followed by the Dubai International Financial Exchange in 2005.
Finance is an important component of the emirates’ economy, and the country’s liberal banking regulations have made it a popular destination for foreign funds, both open and clandestine. Dubai in particular has become a major world banking centre and a hub for unofficial financial institutions known as ḥawālahs (or hundīs), which specialize in transferring money internationally beyond state regulation. While such institutions are used primarily to transfer remittances, they also have been a way for terrorist organizations and criminal groups to move and launder illicit funds.
Trade has long been important to Dubayy and Al-Shāriqah. Even before the discovery of oil, Dubayy’s prosperity was assured by its role as the Persian Gulf’s leading entrepôt. (It was known especially as a route for smuggling gold into India.) In 1995 the United Arab Emirates joined the World Trade Organization and since then has developed a number of free-trade zones, technology parks, and modern ports in order to attract trade. The large free-trade zone of Port Jabal ʿAlī was developed during the 1980s and has done much to attract foreign manufacturing industries interested in producing goods for export.
Exports are dominated by petroleum and natural gas. Imports consist primarily of machinery and transport equipment, gold, precious stones and foods. Major trading partners include Japan, western European countries, South Korea, and China. A large amount of trade is in reexports to neighbouring gulf countries.
The service sector, including public administration, defense, tourism, and construction, employs roughly two-fifths of the workforce and accounts for some one-fifth of GDP. Tourism has played an increasing role in the economy since the late 1990s. In order to develop its tourism sector, the government has encouraged hotel, resort, and restaurant construction and airport expansion.
- Labour and taxation
Expatriate workers constitute about nine-tenths of the labour force, and more in some private sector areas. Conditions for these workers often can be harsh, and at the beginning of the 21st century, the state did not allow workers to organize. Like other gulf states that depend heavily on foreign workers, the emirates have attempted to reduce the number of foreign employees—in a program known as Emiratization—by providing incentives for businesses to hire Emirati nationals. There are no personal taxes in the United Arab Emirates, and corporate taxes are only levied on oil companies and foreign banks. The bulk of government revenue is generated from nontax incomes, largely from the sale of petroleum products. In the early 21st century the expatriate labour issue persisted despite landmark developments. New laws were instituted that ban work during the heat of the midday hours in summer and that prohibit the use of children (largely expatriate) as jockeys in camel races. In addition, a number of strikes and protests in 2005 by unpaid expatriate labourers against a major construction and development company were resolved in favour of the workers. Early in 2006, the government announced the drafting of a new law permitting the formation of unions and wage bargaining; later that year, however, it instead passed a law permitting the deportation of striking workers, and worker organization remained illegal.
- Transportation and telecommunications
An excellent road system, developed in the late 1960s and ’70s, carries motor vehicles throughout the country and links it to its neighbours. The addition of a tunnel to the bridges connecting Dubai city and the nearby commercial centre of Dayrah facilitates the movement of traffic across the small saltwater inlet that separates them. The cities of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Raʾs al-Khaymah, and Al-Fujayrah are served by international airports; a sixth airport at Al-ʿAyn was completed in the mid-1990s. The airport at Dubai is one of the busiest in the Middle East. The federation has a number of large and modern seaports, including the facilities at Dubayy’s Port Rāshid, which is serviced by a vast shipyard, and Port Jabal ʿAlī, situated in one of the largest man-made harbours in the world and one of the busiest ports in the gulf. Of the smaller harbours on the Gulf of Oman, Al-Shāriqah has a modest port north of the city. In September 2009 the first portion of a remote-controlled rapid-transit metro line—the gulf region’s first metro system—began operations in Dubai. Additional public transit projects, including monorail service in Abu Dhabi and linkages to the Saudi rail networks, were under consideration.
The state-controlled Emirates Telecommunications Corporation, known as Etisalat (Ittiṣālāt), is a major telecommunications provider in the country. Radio, television, telephone, and cellular telephone service is prevalent and widely used. In 2000 Etisalat began providing Internet service, and the emirates soon had one of the largest subscriber bases per capita in the Middle East. In 2005 a second licensed operator, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), began providing telephone and high-speed Internet service, and in 2006 they reached an agreement with Etisalat to link their networks.
Government and Society of United Arab Emirates
Culture Life of United Arab Emirates
Oil wealth has transformed a territory containing mud-walled small towns and villages into commercial capitals integrated in the global economy. Abu Dhabi city is modern with broad boulevards, tall office and apartment buildings, large shopping malls, an extensive network of highways, and sprawling new suburbs. The city is known for its greenery; the former desert strip today includes numerous parks and gardens. There are separate housing areas for nationals and immigrants, and further subdivisions for class, ethnicity, and nationality. The federation has adopted an Arab-Islamic architectural style, with arched windows, gates, and decorative stucco. Old forts, palaces, marketplaces, and mosques have been restored. Date palm trees have been planted extensively along city roadsides.
The Emirates Palace, which is reputed to be the most expensive hotel ever built, with a construction cost of over US$3 billion, is a luxury hotel, built and owned by the Abu Dhabi government.
The Abu Dhabi Public Library and Cultural Center is actually three buildings: A 1,000,000 volume National Library, a performance auditorium, and a conference exhibition center. The site includes a main entrance court with a central fountain, an amphitheater for public and children’s performances and a parking facility. Designed by architect Hisham N. Ashkouri as the first prize entry in an international design competition in 1976, the design represents the most modern construction technologies but incorporates local architectural styles and elements, such as decorative glazed brick tiled arcades. Construction was completed in 1982. The total building cost in 2007 dollars was $56.1 million.
The cinema industry is small. There is only one Emirati film as of 2007, Al-Hilm, about a group of frustrated actors/directors wandering aimlessly in the desert. However, there are a large number of short films. The Emirates is a popular filming location for Bollywood films. An annual film festival is held in Dubai, and a new film studio, Studio City, is being built in the city.
Arabic coffee of the Bedouin variety with dates. Originally, Arabs relied heavily on a diet of dates, wheat, barley, rice and meat, with little variety, with a heavy emphasis on yogurt products, such as leben (yogurt without butterfat). The diet has improved in quality and variety, with modern supermarkets offering imported foods.
Lunch is the main family meal and is eaten at home at around two o'clock. It usually consists of fish, rice, meat, and a vegetable dish, heavily spiced, sometimes with a tomato sauce. Meals are large family affairs. The traditional style of eating is with the right hand. Muslim prohibitions against pork and alcohol apply.
Mezze, a starter dish, consists of humus (chick pea dip or spread), kibbe (meat patties made from minced lamb, bulghur and onions), tabbuleh (salad of couscous or bulghur with diced tomatoes, onions, mint and parsley), baba ganush (aubergine or eggplant dip), kussa mahshi (stuffed courgettes or zucchini), warak enab (stuffed vine leaves), felafel (bean patties- often served in pitta bread at corner stalls), and pita bread (unleavened bread). Makbus, a casserole of meat, usually lamb, or fish with rice, is a favorite.
Essential to any cooking in the Arabian Peninsula is the concept of hospitality. Guests are welcomed with coffee and fresh dates. Incense is passed around. The immigrant population has brought a wide variety of ethnic foods, and fast-food restaurants have become popular.
- Clothing and etiquette
Male nationals wear the traditional white robe, known as a thawb, and white head cloth (ghutrah) with a black rope (aqal). Men grow short beards and mustaches. Women wear long dresses with a head cover (hijab) and black cloak (abayah).
Men greet each other with a quick nose-to-nose touch while shaking hands, while women greet each other by kissing on both cheeks. Men do not shake hands with women in public. Inquiries about the health of a person precede conversation. Refreshments are served before discussing serious matters. Elders are respected. The sexes are segregated, with men being entertained in large living rooms reserved for them, and women entertaining friends in the home. Shoes are removed before entering a private house.
Dubai Media City has helped to make Dubai the media hub for the region, a center for print, television, advertising and marketing. A number of international news organizations, including Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Press, Bloomberg, Dow Jones Newswires, CNN, and the BBC, all have a presence there. The leading English-language newspapers based there are: Gulf News, the highest circulating broadsheet; 7DAYS, the highest circulating tabloid; Khaleej Times, the second-highest circulating broadsheet; Emirates Today, a government-owned newspaper; and Xpress, Dubai's tabloid. From late 2007, the international editions of The Times of London and its sister paper the Sunday Times were to be printed in Dubai for local distribution.
The United Arab Emirates is a part of the Persian Gulf khaleeji tradition, and is known for Bedouin folk music. Distinctive dance songs from the area's fishermen are well-known. The country's most famous performers are Ahlam, the first female pop star in the Persian Gulf, Aithah Al-Menhali, and Al Wasmi. Other singers include Samar, Reem, Rouwaida, and Abdallah Belkhair, among others.
The American University in Dubai Sound Society, independent organizers, Ignite-Events and Phride.com are key players in terms of organizing and promoting rock concerts. Key band events include Turbulence, The Rage concerts, The Lutions (Revolution, Evolution, Absolution), and The Assembly gigs. Dubai Lime, which has artists including Paul Nolan, Final Echo, Cassiano and others, runs a weekly Open Mic event on Radio 92 FM that showcases new artists in Dubai.
Emirates Palace Hotel Emaratis are keen on sport. The seven emirates regularly compete in a multiplicity of sports in top sporting venues (both indoor and outdoor). Camel racing is a unique sport. By 2007, there were 15 race tracks across the seven emirates. Robot jockeys are used instead of South Asian children, a practice that sparked an outcry against child exploitation.
Football (soccer), established in the emirates in 1971, has become popular. The federation won the Gulf Cup soccer championship held in Abu Dhabi January 2007. The Dubai (Rugby) Sevens round of the IRB Sevens World Series takes place at the Dubai Exiles Rugby Ground. Sharjah has hosted international cricket test matches, as has Abu Dhabi, and Dubai is home to the International Cricket Council. Two European Tour golf events are held in the country (the Dubai Desert Classic and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship), as is the world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, held annually in March.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is part of the ATP Tour World Series. The 2005 championships attracted six of the top-seeded women’s players, as well as Andre Agassi and Roger Federer. In February 2007 it was announced that Abu Dhabi had signed a seven year deal to host a Formula 1 race there from the 2009 season. The 5.6 km circuit was to be set on Yas Island and would include street and marina sections similar to Monaco's course.
History of United Arab Emirates
The states that comprise the UAE were formerly known as the Trucial States, Trucial Coast, or Trucial Oman. The term trucial refers to the fact that the sheikhs ruling the seven constituent states were bound by truces concluded with Great Britain in 1820 and by an agreement made in 1892 accepting British protection. Before British intervention, the area was notorious for its pirates and was called the Pirate Coast. After World War II the British granted internal autonomy to the sheikhdoms. Discussion of federation began in 1968 when Britain announced its intended withdrawal from the Persian Gulf area by 1971.
Originally Bahrain and Qatar were to be part of the federation, but after three years of negotiations they chose to be independent. Ras al-Khaimah at first opted for independence but reversed its decision in 1972. After the 1973 rise in oil prices, the UAE was transformed from an impoverished region with many nomads to a sophisticated state with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and a broad social welfare system. In 1981 the UAE joined the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The fall of the shah of Iran in 1979, the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, and the Iran-Iraq War threatened the stability of the UAE in the 1980s. In 1990, Iraq accused the UAE and Kuwait of overproduction of oil. The UAE participated with international coalition forces against Iraq during the Persian Gulf War (1991). Since the Gulf War the UAE has expanded its international contacts and diplomatic relations. A dispute erupted with Saudi Arabia in 1999 over relations with Iran, a traditional enemy; while Saudi Arabia appeared willing to seek improved ties, the emirates still regarded Iran as a foe.
Sheikh Zaid ibn Sultan al-Nahayan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, was president of the UAE from the founding of the federation until his death in 2004, when his son and heir, Sheikh Khalifa ibn Zaid Al Nahayan, was elected to succeeded him. The financial crisis that resulted in Dubai in 2009, as the speculative bubble there collapsed and the government-owned Dubai World conglomerate struggled with huge debts, affected all the sheikhdoms to some degree and shook the banking system, and Dubai was forced to seek significant financial aid from Abu Dhabi.
In 2011 Emirati forces aided Bahrain in suppressing prodemocracy demonstrations. The UAE itself did not experience Arab Spring protests, but in 2013 more that 60 people were convicted of plotting the government's overthrow. An Islamist group that has called for political reforms and engaged in social service work was said to be behind the plot.
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