Facts about United Arab Emirates

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The Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states - Abu Zaby, 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn - merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were joined in 1972 by Ra's al Khaymah. The UAE's per capita GDP is on par with those of leading West European nations. Its generosity with oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy stance have allowed the UAE to play a vital role in the affairs of the region.

Geography of the United Arab Emirates

Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia
24 00 N, 54 00 E
total: 82,880 sq km
land: 82,880 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Maine
Land boundaries:
total: 867 km
border countries: Oman 410 km, Saudi Arabia 457 km
1,318 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
desert; cooler in eastern mountains
flat, barren coastal plain merging into rolling sand dunes of vast desert wasteland; mountains in east
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Jabal Yibir 1,527 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, natural gas
Natural hazards:
frequent sand and dust storms
Environment current issues:
lack of natural freshwater resources compensated by desalination plants; desertification; beach pollution from oil spills
Geography - note:
strategic location along southern approaches to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil

Population of the United Arab Emirates

4,621,399 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 24.9% (male 331,012/female 317,643)
15-64 years: 71.2% (male 1,125,286/female 726,689)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 74,700/female 27,383)
Median age:
28.1 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
14.09 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.44 years
male: 72.92 years
female: 78.08 years
Fertility rate:
2.88 children born/woman
noun: Emirati(s)
adjective: Emirati
Ethnic groups:
Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8%
note: less than 20% are UAE citizens
Muslim 96% (Shi'a 16%), Christian, Hindu, and other 4%
Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 77.9%
male: 76.1%
female: 81.7%


Country name:
conventional long form: United Arab Emirates
local long form: Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah
abbreviation: UAE
former: Trucial Oman, Trucial States
Government type:
federation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates
Abu Dhabi
Administrative divisions:
7 emirates (imarat, singular - imarah); Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi), 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah (Sharjah), Dubayy (Dubai), Ra's al Khaymah, Umm al Qaywayn
2 December 1971 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 2 December (1971)
2 December 1971 (made permanent in 1996)
Legal system:
federal court system introduced in 1971; all emirates except Dubayy (Dubai) and Ra's al Khaymah are not fully integrated into the federal system; all emirates have secular and Islamic law for civil, criminal, and high courts
Executive branch:
chief of state: President KHALIFA bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan, ruler of Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi); Vice President and Prime Minister MUHAMMAD bin Rashid al-Maktum
head of government: Prime Minister and Vice President MUHAMMAD bin Rashid al-Maktum; Deputy Prime Minister SULTAN bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan; Deputy Prime Minister HAMDAN bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
note: there is also a Federal Supreme Council (FSC) composed of the seven emirate rulers; the FSC is the highest constitutional authority in the UAE; establishes general policies and sanctions federal legislation; meets four times a year; Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi) and Dubayy (Dubai) rulers have effective veto power
elections: president and vice president elected by the FSC for five-year terms (no term limits); prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the president
Legislative branch:
unicameral Federal National Council (FNC) or Majlis al-Ittihad al-Watani (40 seats; members appointed by the rulers of the constituent states to serve two-year terms)
elections: President KHALIFA in December 2005 announced that indirect elections would be held in early 2006 for half of the seats in the FNC; the other half would be filled by appointment
note: reviews legislation, but cannot change or veto
Judicial branch:
Union Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president)


The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Despite largely successful efforts at economic diversification, nearly 40% of GDP is still directly based on oil and gas output. Since the discovery of oil in the UAE more than 30 years ago, the UAE has undergone a profound transformation from an impoverished region of small desert principalities to a modern state with a high standard of living. The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up utilities to greater private sector involvement. In April 2004, the UAE signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Washington and in November 2004 agreed to undertake negotiations toward a Free Trade Agreement with the US. The country's Free Trade Zones - offering 100% foreign ownership and zero taxes - are helping to attract foreign investors. Higher oil revenue, strong liquidity, housing shortages, and cheap credit in 2005-07 led to a surge in asset prices (shares and real estate) and consumer inflation. Rising prices are increasing the operating costs for businesses in the UAE and adversely impacting government employees and others on fixed incomes. Dependence on oil and a large expatriate workforce are significant long-term challenges. The UAE's strategic plan for the next few years focuses on diversification and creating more opportunities for nationals through improved education and increased private sector employment.

$164.4 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 4%
industry: 58.5%
services: 37.5%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
2.8 million
note: 73.9% of the population in the 15-64 age group is non-national
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 7%
industry: 15%
services: 78%
revenues: $34.93 billion
expenditures: $29.41 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100% 
petroleum, fishing, petrochemicals, construction materials, some boat building, handicrafts, pearling
dates, vegetables, watermelons; poultry, eggs, dairy products; fish
crude oil 45%, natural gas, reexports, dried fish, dates
Export partners:
Japan 25.6%, South Korea 9.3%, Thailand 5.8%, India 5.1%
machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food
Import partners:
China 9.9%, UK 9.7%, US 9.6%, India 8.9%, Germany 6.1%, Japan 5.5%, France 4.8%, Singapore 4.2%
Emirati dirham (AED)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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