United Arab Emirates

Country in Western Asia

Coordinates: 24°N 54°E / 24°N 54°E / 24; 54

United Arab Emirates
ٱلْإِمَارَاتُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْمُتَّحِدَةُ (Arabic)
al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyah al-Muttaḥidah
Motto: الله الوطن الرئيس
God, Nation, President
Anthem: عيشي بلادي
"Īšiy Bilādī"
"Long Live My Country"
Location of United Arab Emirates (green) in the Arabian Peninsula
Location of United Arab Emirates (green)

in the Arabian Peninsula

CapitalAbu Dhabi
24°28′N 54°22′E / 24.467°N 54.367°E / 24.467; 54.367
Largest cityDubai
25°15′N 55°18′E / 25.250°N 55.300°E / 25.250; 55.300
Official languagesArabic[1]
Common languagesGulf Arabic, English[2]
Ethnic groups
(2020)[3] [4]
[needs update]
Religion
(2022)
Demonym(s)Emirati[5]
GovernmentFederal Islamic parliamentary elective semi-constitutional monarchy[6][7][8]
• President
Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan[9]
• Vice President and
Prime Minister
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Legislature
Establishment
1708
• Sharjah
1727
• Abu Dhabi
1761
1768
• Ajman
1816
• Dubai
1833
• Fujairah
1879
• Independence from the United Kingdom and the Trucial States
2 December 1971
9 December 1971
• Admission of Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah to the UAE
10 February 1972
Area
• Total
83,600 km2 (32,300 sq mi) (114th)
• Water (%)
negligible
Population
• 2020 estimate
9,282,410[10] (92nd)
• 2005 census
4,106,427
• Density
121/km2 (313.4/sq mi) (110th)
GDP (PPP)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $779.234 billion[11] (34th)
• Per capita
Increase $78,255[11] (6th)
GDP (nominal)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $501.354 billion[11] (32nd)
• Per capita
Increase $50,349[11] (21st)
Gini (2018)26.0[12]
low
HDI (2021)Increase 0.911[13]
very high · 26th
CurrencyUAE dirham (AED)
Time zoneUTC+04:00 (United Arab Emirates Standard Time)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideright
Calling code+971
ISO 3166 codeAE
Internet TLD
United Arab Emirates portal

The United Arab Emirates (UAE; Arabic: ٱلْإِمَارَاتُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْمُتَّحِدَةُ al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyah al-Muttaḥidah), or simply the Emirates (Arabic: ٱلْإِمَارَاتُ al-ʾImārāt), is a country in Western Asia (The Middle East). It is located at the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula and shares borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia, while having maritime borders in the Persian Gulf with Qatar and Iran. Abu Dhabi is the nation's capital, while Dubai, the most populous city, is an international hub.

The United Arab Emirates is an elective monarchy formed from a federation of seven emirates, consisting of Abu Dhabi (the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.[14] Each emirate is governed by an emir and together the emirs form the Federal Supreme Council. The members of the Federal Supreme Council elect a president and vice president from among their members. In practice, the emir of Abu Dhabi serves as president while the ruler of Dubai is vice president and also prime minister.[15] 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.[16][17][18] As of 2020[update], the United Arab Emirates has an estimated population of roughly 9.9 million.[19]

The United Arab Emirates has been inhabited for over 125,000 years. It has been the crossroads of trading for many civilizations, including Mesopotamia, Persia, and India.[20]

Islam is the official religion and Arabic the official language. The United Arab Emirates' oil and natural gas reserves are the world's sixth and seventh-largest, respectively.[21][22] Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 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.[23] The United Arab Emirates has the most diversified economy among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.[24] 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.[25]

Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, Freedom House and Human Rights Watch, regard UAE as generally substandard on human rights, with citizens criticising the regime imprisoned and tortured, families harassed by the state security apparatus, and cases of forced disappearances.[26][27] Individual rights such as the freedoms of assembly, association, the press, expression, and religion are also severely repressed.[28]

The UAE is considered a middle power. It is a member of the United Nations, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OPEC, Non-Aligned Movement, and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

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 such inland site at Jebel Buhais. 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 nomadism 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' 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.[20]

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.[29]

Antiquity

2nd century BCE era jar found in Mleiha Archaeological site in Sharjah.

Stone tools recovered reveal a settlement of people from Africa some 127,000 years ago and a stone tool used for butchering animals discovered on the Arabian coast suggests an even older habitation from 130,000 years ago.[30] There is no proof of contact with the outside world at that stage, although in time lively trading links developed with civilisations in Mesopotamia, Iran and the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley. This contact persisted and became wider, probably motivated by the trade in copper from the Hajar Mountains, which commenced around 3,000 BCE.[31] Sumerian sources talk of UAE as home to the 'Makkan' or Magan people.[32]

There are six periods of human settlement with distinctive behaviours in UAE before Islam, which include the Hafit period from 3,200 to 2,600 BCE, the Umm Al Nar culture spanned from 2,600 to 2,000 BCE, the Wadi Suq people dominated from 2,000 to 1,300 BCE. From 1,200 BCE to the advent of Islam in Eastern Arabia, through three distinctive Iron Ages and the Mleiha period, the area was variously occupied by the Achaemenids and other forces, and saw the construction of fortified settlements and extensive husbandry thanks to the development of the falaj irrigation system.

In ancient times, Al Hasa (today's Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) was part of Al Bahreyn and adjoined Greater Oman (today's UAE and Oman). From the second century CE, there was a movement of tribes from Al Bahreyn towards the lower Gulf, together with a migration among the Azdite Qahtani (or Yamani) and Quda'ah tribal groups from south-west Arabia towards central Oman.

Islam

The spread of Islam to the North Eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is thought to have followed directly from a letter sent by the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, to the rulers of Oman in 630 CE, nine years after the hijrah. This led to a group of rulers travelling to Medina, converting to Islam and subsequently driving a successful uprising against the unpopular Sasanids, who dominated the Northern coasts at the time.[33] Following the death of Muhammad, the new Islamic communities south of the Persian Gulf threatened to disintegrate, with insurrections against the Muslim leaders. The Caliph Abu Bakr sent an army from the capital Medina which completed its reconquest of the territory (the Ridda Wars) with the Battle of Dibba in which 10,000 lives are thought to have been lost.[34] This assured the integrity of the Caliphate and the unification of the Arabian Peninsula under the newly emerging Rashidun Caliphate.

In 637, Julfar (in the area of today's Ras Al Khaimah) was an important port that was used as a staging post for the Islamic invasion of the Sasanian Empire.[35] The area of the Al Ain/Buraimi Oasis was known as Tu'am and was an important trading post for camel routes between the coast and the Arabian interior.[36]

The earliest Christian site in the UAE was first discovered in the 1990s, an extensive monastic complex on what is now known as Sir Bani Yas Island and which dates back to the seventh century. Thought to be Nestorian and built in 600 CE, the church appears to have been abandoned peacefully in 750 CE.[37] It forms a rare physical link to a legacy of Christianity which is thought to have spread across the peninsula from 50 to 350 CE following trade routes. Certainly, by the fifth century, Oman had a bishop named John – the last bishop of Oman being Etienne, in 676 CE.[38]

Portuguese era

A painting of the Portuguese Empire Doba Fortress in Dibba Al-Hisn in 1620.

The harsh desert environment led to the emergence of the "versatile tribesman", nomadic groups who subsisted due to a variety of economic activities, including animal husbandry, agriculture and hunting. The seasonal movements of these groups led to not only frequent clashes between groups but also the establishment of seasonal and semi-seasonal settlements and centres. These formed tribal groupings whose names are still carried by modern Emiratis, including the Bani Yas and Al Bu Falah of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Liwa and the west coast, the Dhawahir, Awamir, Al Ali and Manasir of the interior, the Sharqiyin of the east coast and the Qawasim to the North.[39]

With the expansion of European colonial empires, Portuguese, English and Dutch forces appeared in the Persian Gulf region. By the 18th century, the Bani Yas confederation was the dominant force in most of the area now known as Abu Dhabi,[40][41][42] while the Northern Al Qawasim (Al Qasimi) dominated maritime commerce. The Portuguese maintained an influence over the coastal settlements, building forts in the wake of the bloody 16th-century conquests of coastal communities by Albuquerque and the Portuguese commanders who followed him – particularly on the east coast at Muscat, Sohar and Khor Fakkan.[43]

The southern coast of the Persian Gulf was known to the British as the "Pirate Coast",[44][45] as boats of the Al Qawasim federation harassed British-flagged shipping from the 17th century into the 19th.[46] The charge of piracy is disputed by modern Emirati historians, including the current Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, in his 1986 book The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf.[47]

Purple – Portuguese in the Persian Gulf in the 16th and 17th century. Main cities, ports and routes.
A painting depicting the burning of the coastal town and port of Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah during the Persian Gulf campaign of 1809.

British expeditions to protect their Indian trade routes led to campaigns against Ras Al Khaimah and other harbours along the coast, including the Persian Gulf campaign of 1809 and the more successful campaign of 1819. The following year, Britain and a number of local rulers signed a maritime truce, giving rise to the term Trucial States, which came to define the status of the coastal emirates. A further treaty was signed in 1843 and, in 1853 the Perpetual Maritime Truce was agreed. To this was added the 'Exclusive Agreements', signed in 1892, which made the Trucial States a British protectorate.[48]

Under the 1892 treaty, the trucial sheikhs agreed not to dispose of any territory except to the British and not to enter into relationships with any foreign government other than the British without their consent. In return, the British promised to protect the Trucial Coast from all aggression by sea and to help in case of land attack. The Exclusive Agreement was signed by the Rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain between 6 and 8 March 1892. It was subsequently ratified by the Governor-General of India and the British Government in London.[citation needed] British maritime policing meant that pearling fleets could operate in relative security. However, the British prohibition of the slave trade meant an important source of income was lost to some sheikhs and merchants.[49]

In 1869, the Qubaisat tribe settled at Khawr al Udayd and tried to enlist the support of the Ottomans, whose flag was occasionally seen flying there. Khawr al Udayd was claimed by Abu Dhabi at that time, a claim supported by the British. In 1906, the British Political Resident, Percy Cox, confirmed in writing to the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan ('Zayed the Great') that Khawr al Udayd belonged to his sheikhdom.[50]

British era and discovery of oil

Dhayah Fort at the hill top. In 1819 it was the last Al-Qasimi stronghold to fall in the Persian Gulf campaign of 1819. The fall of Dhayah was to pave the way for the signing of the General Maritime Treaty of 1820.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the pearling industry thrived, providing both income and employment to the people of the Persian Gulf. The First World War had a severe impact on the industry, but it was the economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s, coupled with the invention of the cultured pearl, that wiped out the trade. The remnants of the trade eventually faded away shortly after the Second World War, when the newly independent Government of India imposed heavy taxation on pearls imported from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The decline of pearling resulted in extreme economic hardship in the Trucial States.[51]

In 1922, the British government secured undertakings from the rulers of the Trucial States not to sign concessions with foreign companies without their consent. Aware of the potential for the development of natural resources such as oil, following finds in Persia (from 1908) and Mesopotamia (from 1927), a British-led oil company, the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), showed an interest in the region. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC, later to become British Petroleum, or BP) had a 23.75% share in IPC. From 1935, onshore concessions to explore for oil were granted by local rulers, with APOC signing the first one on behalf of Petroleum Concessions Ltd (PCL), an associate company of IPC.[52] APOC was prevented from developing the region alone because of the restrictions of the Red Line Agreement, which required it to operate through IPC. A number of options between PCL and the trucial rulers were signed, providing useful revenue for communities experiencing poverty following the collapse of the pearl trade. However, the wealth of oil which the rulers could see from the revenues accruing to surrounding countries such as Iran, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia remained elusive. The first bore holes in Abu Dhabi were drilled by IPC's operating company, Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) Ltd (PDTC) at Ras Sadr in 1950, with a 13,000-foot-deep (4,000-metre) bore hole taking a year to drill and turning out dry, at the tremendous cost at the time of £1 million.

Dubai in 1950; the area in this photo shows Bur Dubai in the foreground (centered on Al-Fahidi Fort); Deira in middle-right on the other side of the creek; and Al Shindagha (left) and Al Ras (right) in the background across the creek again from Deira

The British set up a development office that helped in some small developments in the emirates. The seven sheikhs of the emirates then decided to form a council to coordinate matters between them and took over the development office. In 1952, they formed the Trucial States Council,[53] and appointed Adi Bitar, Dubai's Sheikh Rashid's legal advisor, as Secretary General and Legal Advisor to the council. The council was terminated once the United Arab Emirates was formed.[54] The tribal nature of society and the lack of definition of borders between emirates frequently led to disputes, settled either through mediation or, more rarely, force. The Trucial Oman Scouts was a small military force used by the British to keep the peace.

In 1953, a subsidiary of BP, D'Arcy Exploration Ltd, obtained an offshore concession from the ruler of Abu Dhabi. BP joined with Compagnie Française des Pétroles (later Total) to form operating companies, Abu Dhabi Marine Areas Ltd (ADMA) and Dubai Marine Areas Ltd (DUMA). A number of undersea oil surveys were carried out, including one led by the famous marine explorer Jacques Cousteau.[55][56] In 1958, a floating platform rig was towed from Hamburg, Germany, and positioned over the Umm Shaif pearl bed, in Abu Dhabi waters, where drilling began. In March, it struck oil in the Upper Thamama, a rock formation that would provide many valuable oil finds. This was the first commercial discovery of the Trucial Coast, leading to the first exports of oil in 1962. ADMA made further offshore discoveries at Zakum and elsewhere, and other companies made commercial finds such as the Fateh oilfield off Dubai and the Mubarak field off Sharjah (shared with Iran).[57]

Meanwhile, onshore exploration was hindered by territorial disputes. In 1955, the United Kingdom represented Abu Dhabi and Oman in their dispute with Saudi Arabia over the Buraimi Oasis.[58] A 1974 agreement between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia seemed to have settled the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border dispute, but this has not been ratified.[59] The UAE's border with Oman was ratified in 2008.[60]

PDTC continued its onshore exploration away from the disputed area, drilling five more bore holes that were also dry. However, on 27 October 1960, the company discovered oil in commercial quantities at the Murban No. 3 well on the coast near Tarif.[61] In 1962, PDTC became the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company. As oil revenues increased, the 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, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, was able to invest the revenues from the limited reserves found to spark the diversification drive that would create the modern global city of Dubai.[62]

Independence

Historic photo depicting the first hoisting of the United Arab Emirates flag by the rulers of the emirates at The Union House, Dubai on 2 December 1971
Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the first President of the United Arab Emirates and is recognised as the father of the nation.

By 1966, it had become clear the British government could no longer afford to administer and protect what is now the United Arab Emirates. British Members of Parliament (MPs) debated the preparedness of the Royal Navy to defend the sheikhdoms. Secretary of State for Defence Denis Healey reported that the British Armed Forces were seriously overstretched and in some respects dangerously under-equipped to defend the sheikhdoms. On 24 January 1968, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced the government's decision, reaffirmed in March 1971 by Prime Minister Edward Heath, to end the treaty relationships with the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms, that had been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection. Days after the announcement, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fearing vulnerability, tried to persuade the British to honour the protection treaties by offering to pay the full costs of keeping the British Armed Forces in the Emirates. The British Labour government rejected the offer.[63] After Labour MP Goronwy Roberts informed Sheikh Zayed of the news of British withdrawal, the nine Persian Gulf sheikhdoms 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.[64]

Fears of vulnerability were realised the day before independence. An Iranian destroyer group broke formation from an exercise in the lower Gulf, sailing to the Tunb islands. The islands were taken by force, civilians and Arab defenders alike allowed to flee. A British warship stood idle during the course of the invasion.[65] A destroyer group approached the island Abu Musa as well. But there, Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al Qasimi had already negotiated with the Iranian Shah, and the island was quickly leased to Iran for $3 million a year. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia laid claim to swathes of Abu Dhabi.[66]

Originally intended to be part of the proposed Federation of Arab Emirates, Bahrain became independent in August, and Qatar in September 1971. When the British-Trucial Sheikhdoms treaty expired on 1 December 1971, both emirates became fully independent.[67] On 2 December 1971, at the Dubai Guesthouse (now known as Union House) six of the emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain) agreed to enter into a union called the United Arab Emirates. Ras al-Khaimah joined it later, on 10 January 1972.[68][69] In February 1972, the Federal National Council (FNC) was created; it was a 40-member consultative body appointed by the seven rulers. The UAE joined the Arab League on 6 December 1971 and the United Nations on 9 December.[70] It was a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council in May 1981, with Abu Dhabi hosting the first GCC summit.

A 19-year-old Emirati from Abu Dhabi, Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, designed the UAE flag in 1971. The four colours of the flag are the Pan-Arab colours of red, green, white, and black, and represent the unity of the Arab nations. It was adopted on 2 December 1971. Al Maainah went on to serve as the UAE ambassador to Chile and currently serves as the UAE ambassador to the Czech Republic.[71]

Post-Independence period

View of Dubai

The UAE supported military operations by the US and other coalition nations engaged in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan (2001) and Saddam Hussein in Ba'athist Iraq (2003) as well as operations supporting the Global War on Terror for 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 defence agreement with the U.S. in 1994 and one with France in 1995.[72][73] In January 2008, France and the UAE signed a deal allowing France to set up a permanent military base in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.[74] The UAE joined international military operations in Libya in March 2011.

On 2 November 2004, the UAE's first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, died. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected as the President of the UAE. In accordance with the constitution, the UAE's Supreme Council of Rulers elected Khalifa as president. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan succeeded Khalifa as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.[75] In January 2006, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, died, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum assumed both roles.

The first ever national elections were held in the UAE on 16 December 2006. A number of voters chose half of the members of the Federal National Council. The UAE has largely escaped the Arab Spring, which other countries have experienced; however, 60 Emirati activists from Al Islah were apprehended for an alleged coup attempt and the attempt of the establishment of an Islamist state in the UAE.[76][77][78] Mindful of the protests in nearby Bahrain, in November 2012 the UAE outlawed online mockery of its own government or attempts to organise public protests through social media.[23]

On 29 January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have reached the UAE, as a 73-year-old Chinese woman had tested positive for the disease.[79] Two months later, in March, the government announced the closure of shopping malls, schools, and places of worship, in addition to imposing a 24-hour curfew, and suspending all Emirates passenger flights.[80][81][82][83][84] This resulted in a major economic downturn, which eventually led to the merger of more than 50% of the UAE's federal agencies.[85]

On 29 August 2020, the UAE established normal diplomatic relations with Israel and with the help of the United States, they signed the Abraham Accords with Bahrain.[86]

On 9 February 2021, the UAE achieved a historic milestone when its probe, named Hope, successfully reached Mars' orbit. The UAE became the first country in the Arab world to reach Mars, the fifth country to successfully reach Mars, and the second country, after an Indian probe, to orbit Mars on its maiden attempt.

On 14 May 2022, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected as the UAE's new president after the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.[87]

Geography

Satellite image of United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is situated in 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.[88]

The UAE lies between 22°30' and 26°10' north latitude and between 51° and 56°25′ east longitude. It shares a 530-kilometre (330 mi) border with Saudi Arabia on the west, south, and southeast, and a 450-kilometre (280 mi) border with Oman on the southeast and northeast. The land border with Qatar in the Khawr al Udayd area is about nineteen kilometres (12 miles) in the northwest; however, it is a source of ongoing dispute.[89] 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.[90] The UAE also disputes claim on other islands against the neighboring state of Qatar.[91] The largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, accounts for 87% of the UAE's total area[92] (67,340 square kilometres (26,000 sq mi)).[93] The smallest emirate, Ajman, encompasses only 259 km2 (100 sq mi) (see figure).[94]

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.[95] Most of the coast consists of salt pans that extend 8–10 km inland.[96] The largest natural harbor is at Dubai, although other ports have been dredged at Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and elsewhere.[97] 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 exclaves of Oman separated by the UAE.[98]

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 sand dunes merge into the Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter) of Saudi Arabia.[99] 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 waste water.[100]

Prior to withdrawing from the area in 1971, Britain delineated 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 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.

Biodiversity

Acacia trees growing in desert suburbs near Fujairah

The UAE contains four terrestri ecoregions: Al Hajar montane woodlands, Gulf of Oman desert and semi-desert, Al-Hajar foothill xeric woodlands and shrublands, and Al-Hajar montane woodlands and shrublands.[101]

The oases grow date palms, acacia and eucalyptus trees. In the desert, the flora is very sparse and consists of grasses and thorn bushes. The indigenous fauna had come close to extinction because of intensive hunting, which has led to a conservation program on Sir Bani Yas Island initiated by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the 1970s, resulting in the survival of, for example, Arabian Oryx, Arabian camel and leopards. Coastal fish and mammals consist mainly of mackerel, perch, and tuna, as well as sharks and whales.

Climate

The climate of the UAE is subtropical-arid with hot summers and warm winters. The climate is categorized as desert climate. The hottest months are July and August, when average maximum temperatures reach above 45 °C (113 °F) on the coastal plain. In the Al Hajar Mountains, temperatures are considerably lower, a result of increased elevation.[102] Average minimum temperatures in January and February are between 10 and 14 °C (50 and 57 °F).[103] During the late summer months, a humid southeastern wind known as Sharqi (i.e. "Easterner") makes the coastal region especially unpleasant. The average annual rainfall in the coastal area is less than 120 mm (4.7 in), but in some mountainous areas annual rainfall often reaches 350 mm (13.8 in). Rain in the coastal region falls in short, torrential bursts during the winter months, sometimes resulting in floods in ordinarily dry wadi beds.[104] The region is prone to occasional, violent dust storms, which can severely reduce visibility.

On 28 December 2004, there was snow recorded in the UAE for the first time, in the Jebel Jais mountain cluster in Ras al-Khaimah.[105] A few years later, there were more sightings of snow and hail.[106][107] The Jebel Jais mountain cluster has experienced snow only twice since records began.[108]

Government and politics

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Prime Minister and
Vice President since 2006

The UAE is an authoritarian state.[109][110][111][112] According to The New York Times, the UAE is "an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state".[113] The UAE has been described as a "tribal autocracy" where the seven constituent monarchies are led by tribal rulers in an autocratic fashion.[114] There are no democratically elected institutions, and there is no formal commitment to free speech.[115] According to human rights organizations, there are systematic human rights violations, including the torture and forced disappearance of government critics.[115] 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.[116] The UAE also ranks poorly in the annual Reporters without Borders' Press Freedom Index.

Government

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federal constitutional monarchy made up from a federation of seven hereditary tribal monarchy-styled political system 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.[117] A percentage of revenues from each emirate is allocated to the UAE's central budget.[118] The United Arab Emirates uses the title Sheikh instead of Emir to refer to the rulers of individual emirates. The title is used due to the sheikhdom styled governing system in adherence to the culture of 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 Vice President are elected by the Federal Supreme Council. Usually, a sheikh from Abu Dhabi holds the presidency and a sheikh from Dubai the prime ministership. All prime ministers but one have served concurrently as vice president. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the UAE founding father and 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.[119]

The federal government is composed of three branches:

Entrance to Qasr Al Watan, the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE e-Government is the extension of the UAE Federal Government in its electronic form.[120] 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.[121] In December 2019,[122] the EAU became the only Arab country, and one of only five countries in the world, to attain gender parity in a national legislative body, with its lower house 50 per cent women.[123][124]

The UAE is the only country in the world that has a Ministry of Tolerance,[125] a Ministry of Happiness,[126] and a Ministry of Artificial Intelligence.[127] The UAE also has a virtual ministry called the Ministry of Possibilities, designed to find solutions to challenges and improve quality of life.[128][129] The UAE also has a National Youth Council, which is represented in the UAE cabinet by the Minister of Youth.[130][131]

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.[132][133][134]

Foreign relations

Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (furthest right) at the signing of the Abraham Accords.

The UAE has broad diplomatic and commercial relations with most countries and members of the United Nations. It plays a significant role in OPEC, and is one of the founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The UAE is a member of the United Nations and several of its specialized agencies (ICAO, ILO, UPU, WHO, WIPO), as well as the World Bank, IMF, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement. Also, it is an observer in the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Most countries have diplomatic missions in the capital Abu Dhabi with most consulates being in UAE's largest city, Dubai.

Emirati foreign relations are motivated to a large extent by identity and relationship to the Arab world.[135] The United Arab Emirates has strong ties with Bahrain,[136] China,[137] Egypt,[138] France,[139] India,[140] Jordan,[141] Pakistan,[142] Russia,[143] Saudi Arabia[144] and the United States.[145]

Following the British withdrawal from the UAE in 1971 and the establishment of the UAE as a state, the UAE disputed rights to three islands in the Persian Gulf against Iran, namely Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb. The UAE tried to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice, but Iran dismissed the notion.[146] Pakistan was the first country to formally recognize the UAE upon its formation.[147] The UAE alongside multiple Middle Eastern and African countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 due to allegations of Qatar being a state sponsor of terrorism, resulting in the Qatar diplomatic crisis. Ties were restored in January 2021.[148] The UAE recognized Israel in August 2020, reaching a historic Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement and leading towards full normalization of relations between the two countries.[149][150][151]

In March 2022, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad came to visit the UAE, which was his first visit to an Arab country since the 2011 Syrian civil war. During the historic visit, Assad met Mohammed bin Zayed, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and Mansour bin Zayed. The leaders of two sides discussed how the Emirates could provide Syria with humanitarian and political support. However, the US said it was “profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimize Bashar al-Assad, who remains responsible and accountable for the death and suffering of countless Syrians”.[152][153][154]

Military

United Arab Emirates Air Force F-16 Block 60 "Desert Falcon", taking off from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

The United Arab Emirates military force was formed in 1971 from the historical Trucial Oman Scouts, long a symbol of public order in Eastern Arabia and commanded by British officers. The Trucial Oman Scouts were turned over to the United Arab Emirates, as the nucleus of its defence forces in 1971, with the formation of the UAE, and was absorbed into the Union Defence Force.

Although initially small in number, the UAE armed forces have grown significantly over the years and are presently equipped with some of the most modern weapon systems, purchased from a variety of western military advanced countries, mainly France, the US and the UK. Most officers are graduates of the United Kingdom's Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, with others having attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Royal Military College, Duntroon in Australia, and St Cyr, the military academy of France. France and the United States have played the most strategically significant roles with defence cooperation agreements and military material provision.[155]

Some of the UAE military deployments include an infantry battalion to the United Nations UNOSOM II force in Somalia in 1993, the 35th Mechanised Infantry Battalion to Kosovo, a regiment to Kuwait during the Iraq War, demining operations in Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, American-led intervention in Libya, American-led intervention in Syria, and the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. The active and effective military role, despite its small active personnel, has led the UAE military to be nicknamed as "Little Sparta" by United States Armed Forces Generals and former US defense secretary James Mattis.[156]

The UAE intervened in the Libyan Civil War in support of General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army in its conflict with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).[157][158][159]

Examples of the military assets deployed include the enforcement of the no-fly-zone over Libya by sending six UAEAF F-16 and six Mirage 2000 multi-role fighter aircraft,[160] ground troop deployment in Afghanistan,[161] 30 UAEAF F-16s and ground troops deployment in Southern Yemen,[162] and helping the US launch its first airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria.[163]

The UAE has begun production of a greater amount of military equipment, in a bid to reduce foreign dependence and help with national industrialisation. Example of national military development include the Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding company (ADSB), which produces a range of ships and is a prime contractor in the Baynunah Programme, a programme to design, develop and produce corvettes customised for operation in the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf. The UAE is also producing weapons and ammunition through Caracal International, military transport vehicles through Nimr LLC and unmanned aerial vehicles collectively through Emirates Defence Industries Company. The UAE operates the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon F-16E Block 60 unique variant unofficially called "Desert Falcon", developed by General Dynamics with collaboration of the UAE and specifically for the United Arab Emirates Air Force.[164] The United Arab Emirates Army operates a customized Leclerc tank and is the only other operator of the tank aside from the French Army.[165] The largest defence exhibition and conference in the Middle East, International Defence Exhibition, takes place biennially in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE introduced a mandatory military service for adult males, since 2014, for 16 months to expand its reserve force.[166] The highest loss of life in the history of UAE military occurred on Friday 4 September 2015, in which 52 soldiers were killed in Marib area of central Yemen by a Tochka missile which targeted a weapons cache and caused a large explosion.[167]

Administrative divisions

Ras Al KhaimahFujairahFujairahRas al-KhaimahUmm al-QuwainAjmanSharjahDubaiDubaiSharjahSharjahAbu DhabiUAE en-map.png
About this image


The United Arab Emirates comprises seven emirates. Dubai is the most populous emirate with 35.6% of the UAE population. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has 31.2%, meaning that over two-thirds of the UAE population lives 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 Persian 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 Persian 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.

There is an Omani exclave surrounded by UAE territory, known as Wadi Madha. It is located halfway between the Musandam peninsula and the rest of Oman in the Emirate of Sharjah. It covers approximately 75 square kilometres (29 square miles) and the boundary was settled in 1969. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Khor Fakkan-Fujairah road, barely 10 metres (33 feet) away. Within the Omani exclave of Madha, is a UAE exclave called Nahwa, also belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is about eight kilometres (5.0 miles) on a dirt track west of the town of New Madha. It consists of about forty houses with its own clinic and telephone exchange.

Flag Emirate Capital Population Area
2018 % (km2) (mi2) %
Flag of Abu Dhabi.svg Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi 2,784,490 29.0% 67,340 26,000 86.7%
Flag of Ajman.svg Ajman Ajman 372,922 3.9% 259 100 0.3%
Flag of Dubai.svg Dubai Dubai 4,177,059 42.8% 3,885 1,500 5.0%
Flag of Fujairah (1952–1972).svg Fujairah Fujairah 152,000 1.6% 1,165 450 1.5%
Flag of Ras al-Khaimah.svg Ras al-Khaimah Ras al-Khaimah 416,600 4.3% 2,486 950 3.2%
Flag of Sharjah.svg Sharjah Sharjah 2,374,132 24.7% 2,590 1,000 3.3%
Flag of Umm al-Qaiwain.svg Umm al-Quwain Umm al-Quwain 72,000 0.8% 777 300 1%
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg UAE Abu Dhabi 9,599,353 100% 77,700 30,000 100%

Law

The UAE has a federal court system. There are three main branches within the court structure: civil, criminal and Sharia law. The UAE's judicial system is derived from the civil law system and Sharia law. The court system consists of civil courts and Sharia courts. UAE's criminal and civil courts apply elements of Sharia law, codified into its criminal code and family law.

Corporal and capital punishment

Dubai Police helicopter flying at sunset.

Flogging is a punishment for criminal offences such as adultery, premarital sex and drug or alcohol use.[27][168] According to Sharia court rulings, flogging ranges from 80 to 200 lashes.[27][169][170] Verbal abuse pertaining to a person's honour is illegal and punishable by 80 lashes.[171] Between 2007 and 2014, many people in the UAE were sentenced to 100 lashes.[172][173] More recently in 2015, two men were sentenced to 80 lashes for hitting and insulting a woman.[174] In 2014, an expatriate in Abu Dhabi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 80 lashes after alcohol consumption and raping a toddler.[175] As of November 2020, alcohol consumption for Muslims and non Muslims is legal. In the past, many Muslims have been sentenced to 80 or 40 lashes for alcohol consumption.[176][177] Illicit sex is sometimes penalized by 60 lashes.[178] Eighty lashes is the standard number for anyone sentenced to flogging in several emirates.[179] Sharia courts have penalized domestic workers with floggings.[180] In October 2013, a Filipino housemaid was sentenced to 100 lashes for illegitimate pregnancy.[181] Drunk-driving is strictly illegal and punishable by 80 lashes; many expatriates have been sentenced to 80 lashes for drunk-driving.[182][183] Under UAE law, premarital sex is punishable by 100 lashes.[184]

Stoning is a legal punishment in the UAE. In May 2014, an Asian housemaid was sentenced to death by stoning in Abu Dhabi.[185][186] Other expatriates have been sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery.[187] Between 2009 and 2013, several people were sentenced to death by stoning.[188][189] Abortion is illegal and punishable by a maximum penalty of 100 lashes and up to five years in prison.[190] In recent years, several people have retracted their guilty plea in illicit sex cases after being sentenced to stoning or 100 lashes.[191][192] The punishment for committing adultery is 100 lashes for unmarried people and stoning to death for married people.[193]

Amputation is a legal punishment in the UAE due to the Sharia courts.[194][195][196] Crucifixion is a legal punishment in the UAE.[197][198][199] Article 1 of the Federal Penal Code states that "provisions of the Islamic Law shall apply to the crimes of doctrinal punishment, punitive punishment and blood money."[200] The Federal Penal Code repealed only those provisions within the penal codes of individual emirates which are contradictory to the Federal Penal Code. Hence, both are enforceable simultaneously.[201]

A man pictured with alcoholic beverages in Dubai. Alcoholic beverages were not widely available in the UAE before 2020

In recent history, the UAE has declared its intention to move towards a more tolerant legal code, and to phase out corporal punishment altogether.[202] With alcohol and cohabitation laws being loosened in advance of the 2020 World Expo, Emirati laws have become increasingly acceptable to visitors from non-Muslim countries.[203]

Sharia courts and family law

(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Dubai Police super-car motorcade at Jumeirah Road

Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction over family law cases and also have jurisdiction over several criminal cases including adultery, premarital sex, robbery, alcohol consumption and related crimes. The Sharia-based personal status law regulates matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody. The Islamic personal status law is applied to Muslims and sometimes non-Muslims.[204] Non-Muslim expatriates can be liable to Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce and child custody.[204]

Emirati women must receive permission from a male guardian to marry and remarry.[205] This requirement is derived from the UAE's interpretation of Sharia, and has been federal law since 2005.[205] In all emirates, it is illegal for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.[206] In the UAE, a marriage union between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is punishable by law, since it is considered a form of "fornication".[206] The UAE Marriage Fund reported in 2012 that a majority of women over 30 were unmarried; this had tripled from 1995, when only one-fifth of women over 30 were unmarried.[207]

Kissing in certain public places is illegal and could result in deportation.[208] Expats in Dubai have been deported for kissing in public.[209][210][211] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[212] A new federal law in the UAE prohibits swearing in WhatsApp and penalizes swearing by a 250,000 AED fine and imprisonment;[213] expatriates are penalized by deportation.[213][214][215] In July 2015, an Australian expatriate was deported for swearing on Facebook.[216][217][218][219][220]

Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital offence in the UAE.[221][222] In 2013, an Emirati man was on trial for being accused of a "gay handshake".[222] Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years, while article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy.[223]

In November 2020, UAE announced that it decriminalised alcohol, lifted ban on unmarried couples living together and ended clement punishment on honor killing. Foreigners living in the Emirates were allowed to follow their native country's laws on divorce and inheritance.[224]

Blasphemy law