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United Arab Emirates

Capital Abu Dhabi
Continent Asia
Code +971
Currency Dirham
Languages Arabic , Arabic

Description

The United Arab Emirates is an elective monarchy formed from a federation of seven emirates, consisting of Abu Dhabi (where the federal capital, Abu Dhabi, is located), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain. Each emirate is governed by a Sheikh and, together, they form the Federal Supreme Council; one of them serves as President of the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, the country had a population of 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million were Emirati citizens and 7.8 million were expatriates. As of 2020, the United Arab Emirates has an estimated population of roughly 9.9 million.

Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language. The United Arab Emirates' oil and natural gas reserves are the world's sixth and seventh-largest, respectively. Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the country's first president, oversaw the development of the Emirates by investing oil revenues into healthcare, education, and infrastructure. The United Arab Emirates has the most diversified economy among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In the 21st century, the country has become less reliant on oil and gas and is economically focusing on tourism and business. The government does not levy income tax, although there is a corporate tax in place and a 5% value-added tax was established in 2018.

The United Arab Emirates is a middle power. It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, OPEC, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The United Arab Emirates has been widely described as an authoritarian state.  According to human rights organizations, there are systematic human rights violations, including the torture and forced disappearance of government critics.

History

Human occupation has been traced back to the emergence of anatomically modern humans from Africa some 124,000 BCE through finds at the Faya-2 site in Mleiha, Sharjah. Burial sites dating back to the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age include the oldest known inland site at Jebel Buhari's. Known as Magan to the Sumerians, the area was home to a prosperous Bronze Age trading culture during the Umm Al Nar period, which traded between the Indus Valley, Bahrain, and Mesopotamia as well as Iran, Bactria, and the Levant. The ensuing Wadi Suq period and three Iron Ages saw the emergence of nomads as well as the development of water management and irrigation systems supporting human settlement in both the coast and interior. The Islamic age of the UAE dates back to the expulsion of the Sasanians and the subsequent Battle of Dibba. The UAE's history of trade led to the emergence of Julfar, in the present-day emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, as a regional trading and maritime hub in the area. The maritime dominance of the Persian Gulf by Emirati traders led to conflicts with European powers, including the Portuguese Empire and the British Empire.

Following decades of maritime conflict, the coastal emirates became known as the Trucial States with the signing of the General Maritime Treaty with the British in 1820 (ratified in 1853 and again in 1892), which established the Trucial States as a British protectorate. This arrangement ended with independence and the establishment of the United Arab Emirates on 2 December 1971 following the British withdrawal from its treaty obligations. Six emirates joined the UAE in 1971; the seventh, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the federation on 10 February 1972.

Geography

The United Arab Emirates is situated in the Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia; it is in a strategic location slightly south of 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 (330 mi) border with Saudi Arabia on the west, south, and southeast, and a 450-kilometer (280 mi) 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 the UAE in 1971, and its establishment as a new state, the UAE laid claim to islands resulting in disputes with Iran that remain unresolved. The UAE also disputes claims 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 kilometers (26,000 sq mi)). The smallest emirate, Ajman, encompasses only 259 km2 (100 sq mi) (see figure).

Satellite image of United Arab Emirates. The UAE coast stretches for nearly 650 km (404 mi) along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf, briefly interrupted by an isolated outcrop of the Sultanate of Oman. Six of the emirates are situated along the Persian Gulf, and the seventh, Fujairah is on the eastern coast of the peninsula with direct access to the Gulf of Oman. Most of the coast consists of salt pans that extend 8–10 km inland. The largest natural harbor is 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. The Musandam Peninsula, the very tip of Arabia by the Strait of Hormuz, and Madha are exclusives of Oman separated by the UAE.

Roads leading to Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE (1,892 m), in Ras Al Khaimah.

South and west of Abu Dhabi, vast, rolling 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 in Al Ain is a human-made lake near the border with Oman that was created from treated wastewater.

Before withdrawing from the area in 1971, Britain delineated the internal borders among the seven emirates to preempt territorial disputes that might hamper the formation of the federation. In general, the rulers of the emirates accepted the British interventions, 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.

Government and politics

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federal constitutional monarchy made up of a federation of seven hereditary tribal monarchy-styled political systems called Sheikhdoms. It is governed by a Federal Supreme Council made up of the ruling Sheikhs of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Quwain. All responsibilities not granted to the national government are reserved to the individual emirate. A percentage of revenues from each emirate is allocated to the UAE's central budget. The United Arab Emirates uses the title Sheikh instead of Emir to refer to the rulers of the individual emirates. The title is used due to the sheikhdom-styled governing system in adherence to the culture of the tribes of Arabia, where Sheikh means leader, elder, or the tribal chief of the clan who partakes in shared decision making with his followers.

The President and Prime Minister are elected by the Federal Supreme Council. Usually, a sheik from Abu Dhabi holds the presidency, and a sheik from Dubai is the prime minister-ship. All prime ministers, but one have served concurrently as vice president. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the UAE founding father and is widely credited for unifying the seven emirates into one country. He was the UAE's first 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.

The federal government is composed of three branches:

  • Legislative: A unicameral Federal Supreme Council and the advisory Federal National Council (FNC).
  • Executive: The President, who is also commander-in-chief of the military, the Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers.
  • Judicial: The Supreme Court and lower federal courts.

The UAE e-Government is the extension of the UAE Federal Government in its electronic form. The UAE's Council of Ministers (Arabic: مجلس الوزراء) is the chief executive branch of the government presided over by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, who is appointed by the Federal Supreme Council, appoints the ministers. The Council of Ministers is made up of 22 members and manages all internal and foreign affairs of the federation under its constitutional and federal law. The UAE is the only country in the world that has a Ministry of Tolerance, a Ministry of Happiness, and a Ministry of Artificial Intelligence. The UAE also has a virtual ministry called the Ministry of Possibilities, designed to find solutions to challenges and improve quality of life. The UAE also has a National Youth Council, which is represented in the UAE cabinet by the Minister of Youth.

The UAE legislative is the Federal National Council, which convenes nationwide elections every 4 years. The FNC consists of 40 members drawn from all the emirates. Each emirate is allocated specific seats to ensure full representation. Half are appointed by the rulers of the constituent emirates, and the other half are elected. By law, the council members have to be equally divided between males and females. The FNC is restricted to a largely consultative role.

The UAE is an authoritarian state. According to The New York Times, the UAE is "an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state". The UAE has been described as a "tribal autocracy" where the seven constituent monarchies are led by tribal rulers in an autocratic fashion. There are no democratically elected institutions, and there is no formal commitment to free speech. According to human rights organizations, there are systematic human rights violations, including the torture and forced disappearance of government critics. The UAE ranks poorly in freedom indices measuring civil liberties and political rights. The UAE is annually ranked as "Not Free" in Freedom House's annual Freedom in the World report, which measures civil liberties and political rights. The UAE also ranks poorly in the annual Reporters without Borders' Press Freedom Index.

Economy

The UAE has developed from a juxtaposition of Bedouin tribes to one of the world's wealthiest states in only about 50 years. Economic growth has been impressive and steady throughout the history of this young confederation of the emirates with brief periods of recessions only, e.g. With the global financial and economic crisis years 2008–09, and a couple of more mixed years starting in 2015 and persisting until 2019. Between 2000 and 2018, average real gross domestic product (GDP) growth was as close to 4%. It is the second-largest economy in the GCC (after Saudi Arabia), with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of US$414.2 billion, and a real GDP of 392.8 billion constant 2010 USD 2018. Since its independence in 1971, the 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 of around 28 times from 1981 to 2012. Backed by the world's seventh-largest oil deposits, and thanks to considerate investments combined with deciding economic liberalism and firm Government control, the UAE has seen its real GDP more than tripled in the last four decades. Nowadays the UAE is one of the world's richest countries, with GDP per capita almost 80% higher than the OECD average.

As impressive as economic growth has been in the UAE, the total population has increased from just around 550,000 in 1975 to close to 10 million in 2018. This growth is mainly due to the influx of foreign workers into the country, making the national population a minority. The UAE features a unique labor market system, in which residents in the UAE are conditional on stringent visa rules. This system is a major advantage in terms of macroeconomic stability, as labor supply adjusts quickly to demand throughout economic business cycles. This allows the Government to keep unemployment in the country at a very low level of less than 3%, and it also gives the Government more leeway in terms of macroeconomic policies – where other governments often need to make trade-offs between fighting unemployment and fighting inflation.

Between 2014 and 2018, the accommodation and food, education, information and communication, arts and recreation, and real estate sectors overperformed in terms of growth, whereas the construction, logistics, professional services, public, and oil and gas sectors underperformed.

Culture

Emirati culture is based on Arab culture and has been influenced by the cultures of Persia, India, and East Africa. 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 distinctive wind tower, which tops traditional Emirati buildings, the barrel has become an identifying mark of Emirati architecture and is attributed to Persian influence. This influence is derived both from traders who fled the tax regime in Persia in the early 19th century and from Emirati ownership of ports on the Persian coast, for instance, the Al Qassimi port of Lingeh.

The United Arab Emirates has a diverse society. Dubai's economy depends more on international trade and tourism, and is more open to visitors, while Abu Dhabi society is more domestic as the city's economy focuses on fossil fuel extraction.

Major holidays in the United Arab Emirates include Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates. Emirati males prefer to wear a kandura, an ankle-length white tunic woven from wool or cotton, and Emirati women wear an abaya, a black overgarment that covers most parts of the body.

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 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 the 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 several art galleries as well as museums such as the Salsali Private Museum. Abu Dhabi has established a cultural district on Saadiyat Island. 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 locally, 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.

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