The United Arab Emirates, sometimes simply called the Emirates or the UAE, is a federal absolute monarchy in Western Asia at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Arabian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north. In 2013, the UAE’s population was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million are Emirati citizens and 7.8 million are expatriates.
The country is a federation of seven emirates, and was established on December 2, 1971. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. Each emirate is governed by an absolute monarch; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the monarchs is selected as the President of the United Arab Emirates. Islam is the official religion of the UAE and Arabic is the official language (although English and Indian dialects are widely spoken, with English being the language of business and education particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai).
The UAE’s oil reserves are the seventh-largest in the world while its natural gas reserves are the world’s seventeenth-largest. 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. The UAE’s economy is the most diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, with its most populous city of Dubai is an important global city and an international aviation hub.
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of hereditary absolute 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 is allocated to the UAE’s central budget.
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 (250 mi) and is divided for administrative purposes into three major regions. The Emirate of Dubai extends along the Arabian 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 Arabian 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 square kilometres (1,498 square miles). There are two areas under joint control. One is jointly controlled by Oman and Ajman, the other by Fujairah and Sharjah.
UAE has the second largest economy in the GCC with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $377 billion (1.38 trillion AED) in 2012. Since independence in 1971, UAE’s economy has grown by nearly 231 times to 1.45 trillion AED in 2013. The non-oil trade has grown to 1.2 trillion AED, a growth by around 28 times from 1981 to 2012. UAE is ranked as the 26th best nation in the world for doing business based on its economy and regulatory environment, ranked by the Doing Business 2017 Report published by the World Bank Group.
With the exception of Dubai, most of the UAE is dependent on oil revenues. Petroleum and natural gas continue to play a central role in the economy, especially in Abu Dhabi. More than 85% of the UAE’s economy was based on the oil exports in 2009. While Abu Dhabi and other UAE emirates have remained relatively conservative in their approach to diversification, Dubai, which has far smaller oil reserves, was bolder in its diversification policy. In 2011, oil exports accounted for 77% of the UAE’s state budget. Successful efforts at economic diversification have reduced the portion of GDP based on oil/gas output to 25%.
Tourism acts as a growth sector for the entire UAE economy. Dubai is the top tourism destination in the Middle East. According to the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, Dubai is the fifth most popular tourism destination in the world. Dubai holds up to 66% share of the UAE’s tourism economy, with Abu Dhabi having 16% and Sharjah 10%. Dubai welcomed 10 million tourists in 2013.
The UAE has the most advanced and developed infrastructure in the region. Since the 1980s, 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.
The demography of the UAE is 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. However, these days citizenship is not given that easily, with many people living in the country as stateless persons (known as Bidun). In 2016, the number of emiratis was 12%.
Arabic is the national language of the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf dialect of Arabic is spoken natively by the Emirati people. Since the area was occupied by the British until 1971, English is the primary lingua franca in the UAE. As such, a knowledge of the language is a requirement when applying for most local jobs. Other world languages are represented by expatriate population drawn from a wide mix of nationalities.