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United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

Basic Data
Official Country Name: United Arab Emirates
Region: Middle East
Population: 2,369,153
Language(s): Arabic, Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
Literacy Rate: 79.2%
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 1.8%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 1,584
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 259,509
  Secondary: 123,290
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 89%
  Secondary: 80%
  Higher: 12%
Teachers: Primary: 16,148
  Secondary: 10,061
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 16:1
  Secondary: 13:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 87%
  Secondary: 82%
  Higher: 21%

History & Background

Few countries in history have experienced, in less than four decades, a huge shift in income and development comparable to that of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during the last part of the twentieth century. The UAE developed a public national educational system in a thirty year period that is similar to what Western countries established in over a hundred year period. Since the early 1960s the UAE has emerged from relative obscurity in global affairs to become one of the wealthiest and most dynamic of the smaller countries of the world. The rapid infrastructure development in virtually every corner of the country provides visual evidence of immense change. Public and private construction and modern consumption patterns are in evidence throughout the country.

Developing a diversified economic base and sophisticated modern cities equipped with advanced telecommunications, electricity, and utilities are among many measures being taken by the UAE federal government to provide a high standard of living and quality of life and to advance the skills and human resources of its citizens. Social development efforts, most particularly the nurturing of the country's citizens or "human capital," have been a priority of the UAE government since the early years of the federation. Immense resources have been applied to provide modern social and economic development infrastructure in education, health, and social welfare.

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven independent states located in the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It is in a very tough geopolitical neighborhood. The politics of the region includes differences in geographical names. The "Persian" or "Arabian Gulf" borders the region to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the east. Before the discovery of oil in the 1950s, the UAE was a group of low-income emirates under the protection of the British. Oil brought rapid growth and modernization to the area, and these small states became independent as the UAE in 1971.

Most of the country is desert but the UAE's proven oil reserves make up almost one-tenth of the world's total oil, with about ninety percent of the UAE's oil in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is quite hot during the summer months (May to October), with temperatures reaching 49C (120F).

Population estimates of the country in 2000 ranged from 2.6 to nearly 3 million. About 85 percent of the country's population is urban. Abu Dhabi is the largest city and is the national capital. It serves as the financial, transportation, and communications center of a major petroleum-producing area. Abu Dhabi also has a large port and is home to federal government ministries and embassies. Dubai is the main trading center of the entire Gulf, has the principal port facilities of the UAE as well as its busiest airport, and has several large commercial enterprises. The UAE has four other international airports.

Several features of the UAE's demography are unusual. The population in 1995 was 15 times larger than it was in 1965, largely due to the immigration of male expatriate workers. Four-fifths of the UAE's inhabitants are foreign workers and their dependents. The UAE also has a very youthful population because of the influx of young foreign workers, a cultural preference for large families, and greatly improved medical care. There is a significant imbalance in the sex ratios, with some national expatriate groups having about ten males for every female.

The native population of the UAE is overwhelmingly Arab. Generally a different tribe dominates each emirate. About two-thirds of the UAE's non-native populations are Asians (largely Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, and Filipinos), and the other third are Iranians or Arabs (primarily Jordanians, Palestinians, and Egyptians). Although the huge population share of expatriates has caused some concern over its possible impact on security and on social and cultural values, the level of tensions between the various ethnic communities is slight. The UAE is noted for a very low level of crime; violent behavior is rare. Standards for public conduct are high. Expatriates may be expelled for minor law violations. There are a sizeable number of undocumented residents who have overstayed temporary visas and are casually employed.

Arabic is the official language of the UAE. English is also widely spoken, as are Hindi, Urdu, and Persian. Islam is the official religion of the country and all Emiratis and a majority of the expatriates are Muslims. The constitution guarantees religious freedom and there are some Christian churches in the country. The density of mosques in the urban areas is very high. Two or three mosques may be in sight of one another.

The culture of the UAE is a blend of traditional and modern elements, which is open to many types of influences and change. The religion of Islam and the heritage of a traditional, tribal Arab society form the basis of a stable and conservative social structure. Censorship of media is routine. There is, however, a degree of openness and a tolerant atmosphere that permits expatriates opportunities to enjoy familiar entertainments and leisure activities, including the discreet use of alcohol.

The most conservative arenas of life in the UAE concern women and male-female interaction. For most Emirati women the home remains the basic sphere of activity. Younger women, benefiting from their access to modern education, are playing a wider role in society but, with only about fourteen percent of the small overall Emirati labor force being female, their numbers are few. Arranged marriages are the norm and family members carefully restrict the conduct of young women. Marriage to a cousin or within one's class is a preferred form. The number of Emirati men marrying non-Emirati women has increased in recent years and is considered by the government a threat to national culture that requires intervention. The government is actively involved in promoting marriages among its nationals.

Reflecting a mix of modern and traditional life, clothing styles include Western and indigenous dress and the national dress of several other countries. A great variety of dress is manifest in public places, including that of groups from South and Southeast Asia. Most Emirati men wear the dishdasha, a white, loose-fitting garment that is comfortable in hot weather. Most women wear the black abayah and some also wear a facemask called the burka, although this tradition is less common among younger women.

Most of the population has modern air-conditioned housing, either in apartments or villa-style houses, a great contrast with the simple dwellings of forty or more years ago. The small rural population lives in a more traditional style, and a few Bedouins still live nomadically in tents. Similarly, local foods represent a blend of traditional Arab dishes, such as grilled lamb with spiced rice, with South Asian, Chinese, European and increasingly popular American fast foods readily available in urban areas.

Traditional sports, such as falconry and horse and camel racing, remain popular with newer sports, particularly soccer (football). Tribal identities continue to be expressed through loyalty to some UAE football teams. There are several internationally known and broadcast competitions held each year in the UAE in golf, tennis, horseracing, auto cross, motor-rallying, and powerboat racing. Most Emiratis enjoy family-centered entertainment, including routine visits with a network of friends and relatives and watching video media at home. Cell phones are in common use throughout the country and contribute to daily interaction.

Traditional Islamic rituals remain important, especially the Eid al-Fitr and the Eid al-Adha, the festivals that mark the end of Ramadan (a month of fasting) and the conclusion of the haj (pilgrimage to Mecca) on the Islamic calendar. On special occasions Emiratis perform traditional dances to musical accompaniment. The commitment to preserving traditional arts and culture is evident both at the popular level and in the political leadership. Each emirate devotes considerable resources to maintaining museums and libraries. Sharjah has developed nine museums within extensive arts and culture district and a vast University City complex, which includes the campuses of five institutions of higher learning.

There is a strong commercial tradition in the UAE and trading relationships with other countries are longstanding. Trade with India and China expanded in the early Islamic period, with Julfar (in present-day Ras al Khaymah) one of many areas currently being examined by archaeologists, serving as one of the leading ports.

European intervention in the area began with the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century. From the mid-seventeenth century the British and Dutch competed for domination, with Britain coming out on top. By about 1800, the Qawasim, the ruling clans of Sharjah and Ras al Khaymah today, had become a maritime power in the lower gulf, attacking ships from British-ruled India. Labeling their opponents as "pirates," the British defeated the Qawasim fleet in 1819 and in 1820 imposed the first of several treaties that created and sustained a maritime truce, giving the name "Trucial States" to the emirates. By 1892 the British had taken over the states' foreign relations and external security and the states remained under British protection until 1971.

The British, who were principally concerned with the security of the UK-India trade routes and Gulf maritime commerce, rarely directly intervened in the states' internal affairs. The British drew upon a small but sophisticated group of civil servants to manage political and military relations. The most significant results of British domination were the establishment of an embryonic government bureaucracy, a general peace, the introduction of the Western concept of territorial or nation-states, and the creation in 1952 of the Trucial States Council to promote cooperation among the seven rulers, which provided the basis for the future leadership of the UAE.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The UAE's constitution established a federal government that leaves much power to the emirates. Legal codes differ among the emirates. The government has executive, legislative, and judicial branches, but the executive strongly dominates. There are no political parties and no popular elections. Although the governmental institutions are modern in form, the base of political power is traditional and hereditary, with the ruling family of each emirate representing its dominant tribe and region. Politics is largely a process of satisfying the claims to power of ruling families and their factions as well as merchants and religious leaders.

Because of the UAE's oil wealth, citizens pay no taxes and receive generous social welfare benefits, including free medical and dental care. The UAE has a modern health care system that is comparable to that found in Western industrial societies. Facilities are concentrated in the larger cities, although most people have access to basic care. Citizens may also be sent abroad for specialized treatment.

After the founding of the UAE in 1971, there was tremendous expansion of public education facilities. Section 17 of the Constitution declares that education is fundamental to the progress of society and is to be compulsory at the primary level and free at all levels. Uniforms, books, equipment, and transportation are also free. In the early years of the UAE's existence, education was second only to defense in the federal budget, a pattern that continues today.

Education, as routinely indicated in government policy, is considered a key element in promoting the necessary skills for social and economic development. As in other countries, priority was given to the needs of school-aged children. Increased attention is now being given nontraditional student populations. The Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY), the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR), and higher-level federal authorities routinely promulgate laws and regulations concerning education. Some important laws are included in discussing particular features of education in the UAE.

Educational SystemOverview

Most histories of the Gulf region focus on political and military developments and are oriented toward a readership of Western specialists. The written record of the history of education in the region is very thin. Archaeological excavations in several locations in the UAE are, however, providing new information about many aspects of the region's ancient past, including life in complex urban settlements that existed thousands of years before the coming of Christianity and Islam to the area. More information is becoming available as well about the period of Islamic expansion before significant contact was made with Europeans. Islamic Instruction in the Koran through traditional schools and tutors was common in many places in what is now the UAE hundreds of years before European states became a presence in the late 1400s.

"Western" or "modern" education can be traced to the early 1900s when prosperous pearl merchants in the coastal cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah established three schools. Foreign teachers from other parts of the Arab world, who taught reading, writing, and Islamic studies, staffed the schools. The economic crises of the 1920s and 1930s and the decline in the pearl industry from Japanese competition forced these schools to close, but others reopened when the economy improved.

The British government, controllers of the military and external affairs the Trucial States (the forerunner of the UAE), built the first school offering a comprehensive Western-type curriculum in Sharjah in 1953. Staffed by teachers from other Arab countries, the school had 450 boys between the ages of six and 17 during its first year. Soon after the first modern primary school for girls was established in Sharjah. The British government also built schools in Abu Dhabi, Ras al Khaymah, and Khawr Fakkan. It established an agricultural school in Ras al Khaymah in 1955 and a technical school in Sharjah in 1958.

In 1958 Kuwait started to build schools in the emirates, including facilities in Ajman and Umm al Qaywayn. Kuwait also provided teacher-training programs in the UAE and funded teacher trainees from the emirates to go abroad for training. Until the emirates could afford to pay teachers, Bahrain, Qatar, and Egypt paid teachers to work in the emirates.

After Abu Dhabi Emirate began earning great oil revenues in the early 1960s, it developed and funded its own educational system, while the other emirates that were to become part of the UAE continued to rely on outside assistance. By the 1964-1965 academic year, Abu Dhabi had six schools attended by 390 boys and 138 girls, taught by 33 teachers. In the same year, there were 31 schools outside Abu Dhabi, 12 of which were for girls. Dubai had 3,572 students in 10 schools and 137 teachers. A basic feature of the UAE educational system is its astounding growth since 1964. During the 2000-2001 academic year, 314,217 students were in UAE schools, which numbered 710 institutions with 27,493 teachers and administrators.

One of the consequences of the continuing investments in public education is that the standard of living for UAE citizens has improved greatly since 1971. The UAE was ranked forty-fifth in the United Nations Human Development Index for the year 2000. This index assesses the quality of life based on income, educational standards, life expectancy, and health care in 174 countries worldwide. A comparable measure in the early 1960s would have placed the UAE in the low bottom quartile.

The existing educational structure, which was established in the early 1970s, is a four-tier system covering 14 years of education. The tiers include kindergarten (4-5 years old), primary (6-11 years), intermediate (12-14 years) and secondary (15-17 years) levels.

Instruction is in Arabic. Introductory English is given in the early grades with advanced courses being offered at all of the intermediate and secondary levels. Some technical and scientific courses in English are offered at the secondary level. Instruction by native speakers of English is rare. No other foreign languages are being taught in the public sector. Some private schools, however, offer instruction in European and Asian languages.

The school year starts in September and ends in early June. As in many other Arab and Islamic countries, the government workweek is from Saturday to Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday constituting the "weekend." Islamic and UAE national holidays are observed and a shortened school day is followed during the holy month of Ramadan when it falls during the school year. Summer courses are rare because of the intense heat of that season. A large minority of Emirati families spends part of the summer abroad.

Student, teacher, staff, and school numbers have steadily increased in the private educational sector, in addition to great growth in the public schools. In a recent five-year period the number of private schools increased to 398 in the 1998-1999 school year, from 365 in the 1994-1995 school year, with male and female students increasing by 19 percent from 189,830 to 225,898, and teaching staff from 12,659 to 16,416. UAE national students registered with private schools accounted for 11 percent of their total enrollment in 1995.

The total number of students at primary and secondary level in public and private schools in the UAE has steadily grown each year and reached 563,461 in 1998, up from 480,973 in 1995, an increase of 4 percent per annum. Teaching and administrative staff increased to 43,510 in 1999, up from 37,425 in 1995, while the number of schools increased to 1085 from 901 for the same period.

A large minority of students in the federal school system are the sons and daughters of foreign nationals working in the UAE. The percentage of UAE national students in government schools stood at 66.6 percent in 1998-1999, compared with 33.7 percent for expatriate students. The number of female students increased by 3 percent, while the figure was 2.6 percent for male students.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Emirati women generally stay at home and take care of their younger children, sometimes with the assistance of expatriate domestics from the Philippines or Sri Lanka. Emirati families tend to be large and female family members often provide childcare for their younger relatives. Females make up only about 13 percent of UAE citizens in the work force. Childcare facilities are uncommon and the demand for them modest. They tend to cater to the needs of expatriate families who include a working mother.

Primary school education is compulsory for all UAE citizens starting at age six. Kindergartens, which are for children aged four and five, are generally considered to be part of the primary tier rather than a separate program. Interestingly, kindergarten is the only level where a majority of the teachers, all women, are UAE nationals rather than expatriates. Government policy is to provide teacher-student ratios of 1:20 at kindergarten and primary levels. As shown by recent UAE Government statistics from the Ministry of Education and Youth (2001), current teacher-student ratios are well within this proposed range. The teacher-student ratio of kindergarten and primary levels is 1:17.

Primary education is for six years divided into two three-year cycles, a basic or "junior primary stage" in which one teacher has a single class throughout the day, and the "senior primary stage," in which there are different teachers for the different school subjects. "Preparatory education" includes classes from Grades VII to IX of the first primary sequence or from Forms I to III of the preparatory stage. The school year extends over 32 weeks for both the kindergarten and the basic junior primary stage.

Core subjects in the junior primary stage include Islamic education, Arabic language, English language, mathematics, and science. Activity subjects include art, physical education, music, and family education for girls. The same subjects are taught at the senior primary stage, but the number of periods for some of them is increased. At the senior stage, social studies join the required subjects. The same subjects are taught at the preparatory stage with an increase in content and the number of class periods. Social studies become divided into three separate units that include history, geography and civics.

The Ministry of Education and Youth determines the curricula and defines the number of periods for each subject, pursuant to ministerial resolutions, which take into account curriculum developments and evaluation studies. In the senior stages it consists of 36 weeks and is divided into two terms. The length of the academic year at the different stages and the number of periods for each subject matter are specified in ministerial resolutions. Ministerial Resolution No. 2263/2 of 1995 specifies the number of teaching periods for the different subjects and activities for the primary and preparatory stages of general education. The time allocations include the primary stage with 32 weekly periods (hours) in Grades I-III, and 34 periods (boys) or 36 periods (girls) in Grades IV-VI. The preparatory stage has 34 weekly periods for boys or 36 periods for girls in each form.

Schooling, uniform costs, and related expenses are provided without charge to the students and school transportation is also free. Emirtas, the government establishment for public transportation, is responsible for transporting students to and from schools.

There are two general procedures for evaluation and examinations, one for the primary stage and one for both the preparatory and the secondary stages. A two-term academic year system is in place with each term considered a separate, independent unit. At the end of the academic year, successful students are awarded a certificate and are promoted to the next class. These certificates are authenticated and verified by the school and educational zone officials. The pass rate is generally over 90 percent. Dropout rates are in the 4-5 percent range.

A specific period is set aside at the end of each term for examinations, and students are promoted to higher grades according to their marks in both the examinations and coursework throughout the year. In both the preparatory and secondary stages, a test is held at the end of each term. A coursework mark is added to decide the student's final result. The diagnostic evaluations project for the basic curriculum requires teachers to prepare educational activities and to offer remedial activities to students with learning difficulties or higher cognitive activities to those with very high achievement.

Secondary Education

The secondary stage lasts three years. In the first year students follow a common syllabus. In the second and third years, they specialize in science or literature. At the end of the secondary stage, successful students obtain the Certificate of General Secondary Education (CGSE).

At the secondary level the following subjects are taught in the annual sequence indicated:

  • Year I: Islamic education, Arabic language, English language, history, geography, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, computer science, physical education, and family education (for girls).
  • Years II-III: Islamic education, Arabic language, English language, mathematics, physical education, and family education (for girls). These are the basic subjects. In addition, students can choose to join either the science section or the literary section, and have to study the following additional subjects: history, geography, sociology, and economics in the literary section; physics, chemistry, biology, and geology in the science section.
  • Year III: there is an increase in the number of subjects taught in the second year of secondary in each of the two streams. Literary-section students are taught philosophical subjects, logic, and psychology instead of sociology and economics.

Ministerial Resolution No. 2263/2 for the year 1995 allocated the number of teaching periods for the different subjects and activity subjects for the secondary stage of general education. Thirty-four weekly periods (boys) or 36 periods (girls) are required in the first two years; 36 weekly periods (boys and girls) are required in the third year.

Preparatory education lasts three years (age group 12-14) and qualifies students for general or technical secondary education. General secondary education lasts for three years and is for the age group 15-17 years old. After the first year of core subjects, students can choose to follow either a science or a literary stream. Technical education comprises three main streams: technical, agricultural, and commercial. It is divided into two levels, one for technical preparatory education, and the other for technical, commercial, and agricultural secondary education, each lasting three years. In technical education courses English is used for specialized subjects but all other subjects are taught in Arabic.

At the end of the general and technical secondary stages, students are awarded a certificate after passing the general examination held at the end of each academic year. This certificate qualifies a student to undertake higher studies at university level. In 1996, programs of technical education to be carried out jointly with German technical institutions were initiated. Priorities of the Ministry at the secondary level are to reduce the failure and dropout rates and incidents of truancy and to increase the efficiency of administrators through executive development programs. Secondary education development studies includes research on teaching strategies that take into account individual differences among learners, and directing educational resources for improvements in individualized instruction. A further focus is with educational guidance or counseling, monitoring and directing of students to areas that suits their capabilities and aptitudes.

The School Activities Project seeks to help learners develop their capabilities and interests in science and technology by adding two successive periods for program activities. Activities include electronics, automotive engineering, astronomy, basic electricity, and maritime sciences.

Comprehensive changes have taken place in recent years in the curricula, syllabi, laboratories, and overall framework of technical education to contribute emiratisation and increase the number of technical school graduates in the workforce. A Technical Education Development Plan seeks more direct connections between work and study. Studies for the development of technical education include both the practical and theoretical aspects of different specializations. They also include a worksite participation plan allowing graduates opportunities to work with modern equipment and facilities.

Government policy is to provide teacher-student ratios of 1:15 at intermediate and secondary levels. Current teacher-student ratios are well within this proposed range. The teacher-student ratio of intermediate and secondary levels is 1:10. On the average, from 12 to 14 percent of the students must repeat a grade because of failure.

Private Schools: The UAE employs great numbers of expatriates from various countries, many of whom have children. The different national groups have developed a large number of schools to accommodate their children. Private schools in the country range from excellent to poor.

Private schools follow the curricula of their homeland but they operate under the licensing and supervision of the Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY). The MOEY has a private education department to supervise private schools, providing the regulations, resolutions, and follow-up procedures for the implementation of national policy guidelines.

The ministry supplies textbooks to private schools that follow the national syllabus. It also sends inspectors to supervise private school teachers who may attend the training courses held for their counterparts working in government schools.

The ministry monitors the management of private schools and institutes in an effort to ensure that teacher salaries and privileges are comparable to those of instructional staff in government schools. MOEY teachers' salaries average about US$1,400 a month. In spite of the parity regulations, private school teachers reportedly earn, on the average, about half that amount, even though private schoolteachers' qualifications are very similar to those of government schoolteachers.

The ministry is also responsible for regulations concerning private school management such as complying with teaching load requirements. By law, teaching loads in the private sector are supposed to be the same as that of their counterparts at government schools. In spite of this policy, some private school teachers have many more classroom hours per week than those in the public sector.

Private school syllabi are based on the curricula of their respective national educational systems. These syllabi are to be approved by the appropriate departments at the ministry. Article 17 of Federal Law No. 9 of 1972 specifies that private schools have to teach certain subjects according to the ministry's syllabus, including Islamic education, Arabic language as a basic subject for Arab students and as an additional subject for non-Arab students, and social studies. Private schools in which Arabic is not the medium of instruction are to teach Arabic language to non-Arabic speakers. In this context, the Ministry has approved in conjunction with the Educational Bureau for Arab Gulf States the use of particular texts. If the number of Arab students at a private school is less than 20 percent of the total enrollment, Islamic education and social studies may be taught in English using textbooks prepared by the ministry.

Special & Gifted Education: Most of the resources of the MOEY are used to conduct the routine activities of a large and rapidly expanding national education system. In recent years, however, the educational system in the UAE has recognized the different educational needs of two groups, the gifted and students with special needs. The special education department has initiated several pilot and other projects to address the needs of students with advanced capabilities and aptitudes. These projects seek to provide students who exhibit high degrees of intellectual ability and social and psychological development a wider scope of learning and educational experience. The project follows a methodology of grouping students homogeneously, significantly enriching the content of the curriculum, and promoting students from one stage to another depending on their ability and achievements.

For students with physical and mental disabilities, the ministry has set up classes in general secondary schools as well as adult education centers. From the perspective of the MOEY, these students are not regarded as being handicapped but simply as students with particular needs that should be met to ensure their participation in society.

Centers set up for those with special needs are supervised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and serve those with hearing and physical disabilities, the visually impaired, and others with special needs, including children of school age, most of whom are at the primary and intermediate age levels. This ministry coordinates its programs with the MOEY and is constantly improving its facilities, while at the same time recognizing the customary role of the Islamic family in caring for the disabled. The percentage of disabled people in the UAE is estimated to be similar to the worldwide average of about 10 percent of the population.

New developments to care for those with special needs are in progress, including a large facility in Abu Dhabi with 70 classrooms and 20 training workshops, and the Al Thikka facility, which was officially opened in Sharjah in July 1999. In October 2000, MOEY, together with the Red Crescent Society, also opened a center for autistic children in Abu Dhabi, the first of a number of such centers planned by the ministry.

Higher Education

The UAE's younger citizens also have ready access to higher education at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) in Al Ain, at the recently founded all-women Zayed University in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, at the 11 campuses of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCTs) throughout the country, and at the many internationally accredited private institutions that are being established in the UAE. UAEU, Zayed University, the Higher Colleges, and other federally funded institutions are tuition free. Generous grants are also available for those wishing to study abroad, most of whom are males pursuing degrees in applied and technical fields. In 1998, over 1000 UAE students (mostly male) studied abroad in 32 countries with UAE government grants. Many families use their own resources to provide for their son's undergraduate education in the United States, often in a business or commercial field.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research controls higher education in the UAE. Primary functions of that ministry are to plan and coordinate higher education activities in the UAE. It also is the coordination point for admissions for all federal institutions of higher learning. The oldest of the several postsecondary institutions in the UAE, the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) opened in 1977 at Al Ain with four faculties in the arts, science, education, and political science, and business administration. First-year enrollment was 400. A sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) faculty was added in 1978; faculties in agriculture and engineering were added in 1982. The UAEU has become a leading tertiary institution in education, research, and community service. The university is the most popular destination for students seeking higher education in the UAE with over 15,000 students currently studying at its facilities. Instruction in most courses is in Arabic with several programs being conducted in English. Most courses are segregated on the basis of gender.

The Higher Colleges of Technology were established in 1988, initially offering two-year applied and vocational programs. Located in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, they provide three years of technical training in such areas as business administration, accounting, banking, information systems, computers, engineering, aviation technology, and health sciences. There are separate HCT colleges for men and women. The HCT awarded it first bachelor's degrees in 2001. These colleges are designed to prepare nationals for professional and technological careers in both government and private sectors. Since their foundation, the colleges have grown dramatically, with staff and students increasing by about 30 percent each year. As of 2001, over 10,000 students are taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered by HCT campuses around the country. The HCT are also embarking on an extensive program of off-campus instruction.

Zayed University (ZU) for women, with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, was established in 1998 with the aim of educating Emirati women in English, Arabic, and computer skills as well as in academic areas. It provides four-year undergraduate studies in the arts and sciences, business, communication and media sciences, education, and family sciences. It will also soon provide graduate and continuing education programs for adult male and female students. One such course is the executive MBA program offered by ZU College of Business Sciences. Its current enrollment is about 2,000 students.

As reported annually in the Ministry of Information and Culture's publication, United Arab Emirates Yearbook, public sector higher education continues its expansion. A record 10,703 people sought higher education places in the 2000-2001 academic year, of which 9,794 were declared academically eligible. This means that more than 90 percent of national students leaving high school in the UAE are applying to Zayed University, the UAE University at Al Ain, and the Higher Colleges of Technology. Of all secondary school graduates, this includes 95 percent women and 73 percent of the men, reported to be the highest number of higher education admissions per capita anywhere in the world.

During the 2000-2001 application process, Zayed University enrolled 435 new students, 244 at its Abu Dhabi campus and 191 in Dubai. The Higher Colleges of Technology received 5,661 new students. The National Admissions and Placement Office received 3,275 applications from female students and 1,758 from male students for places at the UAE University. About a third of the female students have applied for courses offered by the Humanities and Social Sciences faculty, while the most popular choice among males is engineering and business economics. There are also special federallysupported training colleges with a practical, career-orientated focus, like the Etisalat College (developed by the UAE federal telecommunications agency), the Police Colleges, and the Dubai Aviation College, with a student population of over 900 for the 2000-2001 academic year.

Higher education is also available through the Armed Forces with the Zayed Military Academy in Al Ain, which includes students from throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Many emiratis have an educational experience abroad. Several thousand young people, predominately males in technical areas, travel abroad to study on government scholarships in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe. There is a strong preference for English language, graduate-level degree programs. A number of Emiratis also study English in summer programs in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The UAE private higher education sector also continues to grow, often in the form of extramural degree programs with the participation of both recognized and little-known institutions in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan.

There is great variety in the private higher education sector. Some programs are for-profit private enterprises with a vocational training focus while others have private endowments and an intellectually oriented agenda. The most prominent of the new private institutions is the American University of Sharjah (AUS), located in the emirate that is becoming increasingly recognized as the intellectual, artistic, and cultural focal point of the UAE. With a large, well-equipped and attractive campus and internationally prominent faculty, the AUS promises to become the leading university in the region.

Means of Instruction & Infrastructure: The Curriculum and Textbooks Department of the MOEY carries out evaluation and development studies concerning curricula, teaching methodology, audio-visual aids, and evaluation activities. It is the primary contact point for consulting educational experts, specialized educational bureaus in the Gulf, and other Arab and international organizations.

The 1990s brought the development of a great array of new teaching materials for Islamic education, Arabic language, social studies (history, geography, economics, civics) and sociology, logic, philosophy, and psychology. A total of 99 new textbooks were completed or revised between 1994 and 1996. The curricula for chemistry, physics, biology, and geology was developed and integrated with the Gulf States curricula in coordination with the Arab Educational Bureau. By the mid 1990s, the number of textbooks distributed to schools was about 4.5 million and included 199 titles.

Although the UAE has achieved much expansion in the field of education, there is an awareness on the part of many that a constant updating of policy and continual investment in infrastructure is required to ensure that graduates are equipped to enter the workforce and assist in the country's development. Although quantitative measures of progress are most often found in the press, issues of quality regarding curriculum, pedagogy, and teacher preparation and leadership are increasingly being discussed. The Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY) has produced and revised several policy documents outlining a strategy for further educational development in the UAE up to the year 2020, using a sequence of five-year plans.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Budgeting and financial procedures are under the control of the various central government councils composed of the leaders or designates of each emirate. No distinction is made between the personal fortune of Sheik Zayed, reportedly the fifth richest man in the world, and the national treasury. Budgets are routinely drawn up by ministry officials with the aid of consultants and reviewed at different levels. While a system of checks and balances can be identified and lead to moderation in decision-making, the views of the Sheik and of individual national leaders can be more readily incorporated into public policy than is the case with the weaker and less authoritarian executive branches in the Western democracies.

At the ministerial level, educational issues are the domain of a High Committee including the ministers of education, planning, finance and industry, labor and social welfare, the chancellor of the UAE University, the undersecretary of education, and two MOEY appointees. It coordinates and develops national policies and implementation efforts. A MOEY committee on Regulations and Development drafts policy, budgets and implementation procedures for the High Committee and is composed of the minister and his top five assistants.

The primary focus for the future is to establish and maintain a viable system that keeps pace with international developments and helps students acquire the skills required in a modern labor force. In particular, government strategy ambitiously seeks to introduce the latest information technology at all levels, including a computer for every 10 students at kindergarten, every five students at primary school, every two students at preparatory school, and for every student at secondary school. There are strong advocates for the use of technology but critics also warn of the overemphasis on such tools that can lead to the neglect of traditional learning skills and an emphasis on format rather than content. Cooperation between the public and private sector, which represents a diverse collection of institutions with United States, United Kingdom, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Iranian, and Filipino curricula, along with other institutions, is considered to be a necessity for program success.

As in all sectors of the UAE economy the "emiratisation," (the replacement of expatriate specialists from other countries by local nationals) of teaching staff is ambitiously scheduled to reach 90 percent by the year 2020. The government regards emiratisation as necessary if the UAE's Islamic and Arab traditions are to be perpetuated and suitable employment of educated nationals is to be found. A planning, development, and evaluation Office, directly supervised by the Minister of Education, has been established by the ministry to implement various emiratisation strategies.

The use of advanced educational technology is also being emphasized at the postsecondary level. In keeping with its present educational and national economic development and diversification strategy, the UAE University is seeking to establish an internationally prominent information technology college in Al Ain. Requiring an estimated US$62 million, the UAEU College of Information Technology will be an ultra modern facility located inside the new "University Town" that is planned for Al Maqam. The new area will consolidate various university facilities currently scattered around the city. The IT College, conceived by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of the UAE University, will be housed in a state-of-the-art building, designed to match future requirements. The curriculum will encompass a total of nine degree programs, including software engineering, information systems, telecommunications, educational technology, e-commerce, and information security. Upon completion the IT College anticipates an initial enrollment capacity of 1,300 students, 300 males and 1,000 females. The capacity will be gradually increased to a total of 3,000, 1,200 male and 1,800 female students. The Dubai Emirate Government has also granted land to Zayed University in the large Dubai Internet City complex to enable it to establish an IT facility in premises to be provided by the Zone Authority.

The Department of Information and Research of the MOEY is responsible to undertake theoretical and applied research and field studies and to coordinate and assist other units in carrying out such research. Research topics are either suggested by the leading authorities at the ministry or compiled by the department after reviewing current issues and analyzing data. Educational research is carried out by research teams following an educational research regulatory code. A 1995 ministerial report concluded that "[T]he professional capabilities of the research co-coordinators in educational zones and offices should be developed; studies and trends related to establishing a research center at the Ministry should be encouraged; and, equally, relationships involving information and research exchanges with educational research centers at the local, Arab and international levels should be developed." The documentation and statistics section provides in English all data related to educational research. This section also offers its research services to educational researchers working in the Arabic language through the annual directory of Arab Educational Abstracts.

Educational research is carried out by the MOEY on a variety of topics. Summaries of these efforts are available, usually in Arabic. Research results are more selectively shared than is the practice in North America and Europe. The Ministry of Information and Culture is the primary spokesman for the government on all matters, including educational concerns. UAEU also conducts research, some of which is shared in Arabic- and English-language academic journals. To date, however, most of the research available on education in the UAE comes from doctoral dissertations written by UAE nationals for degrees at American and British universities. The limited amount of research and the fact that that which is accomplished is generally not readily available to other professionals makes keeping abreast of scholarship on education in the UAE a challenging endeavor.

Nonformal Education

Significant achievements in the nonformal education sector of the UAE are apparent. Literacy in the UAE has improved dramatically since the formation of the state. As recently as 1975 the literacy rate among males was 54.2 percent and among females 30.9 percent. By 1998, the adult literacy rate (age 15 and above) was 77.1 percent for females and 73.4 percent for males.

The decline in illiteracy has been facilitated by the widespread availability of literacy classes at adult education centers spread throughout the UAE. In 1999, some 108 adult education centers were in operation, offering educational opportunities for 16,553 mature students. From 2000 to 2001, the number of adult centers increased from 108 to 113, comprising 39 centers for men and 74 for women. The number of mature students in these centers is anticipated to increase from 16,553 to an estimated 24,404, with female students comprising 13,917 of the total and male students numbering 10,487.

Nonformal education efforts focusing on UAE women are worthy of particular attention. The Women's Federation of the UAE has played an important role in providing nonformal educational opportunities for women.

As indicated by the statistics cited, women in the UAE have commonly embraced the formal educational opportunities made available to them since the foundation of the state. Female students are now in the majority at all levels of higher education in the country. Women are also achieving impressive records in their studies, outperforming their male counterparts in many activities. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the wife of the UAE President, Sheik Zayed, has noted that women have "no choice but to excel in education to compensate for the long years that they have endured without the light of knowledge."

The continuing strong endorsement from the nation's leadership for the pursuit of education has given UAE women more opportunity to participate in the affairs of their country. Support from national leaders led to the development of Zayed University for women in 1998. Although their numbers currently remain small, UAE women today are making their presence felt in society as civil servants, university professors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, business women, administrators, and as members of the police force and the army. The policy that women are entitled to play a major role in UAE society is grounded in the UAE Constitution, which guarantees the principles of social justice for all "in accordance with the precepts of Islam." Under the Constitution, women enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, and the right to practice professions as men. The guarantees specified in the Constitution have been promoted by implementing legislation.

A legislative framework by itself would not, however, have been sufficient to achieve the expanding level of emancipation experienced by UAE women today. Non-formal educational programs have played a significant role in improving the condition of UAE women. Understanding that organization was required at the grassroots level, Sheikha Fatima founded the first women's society in the country in 1973, the Abu Dhabi Women's Society. The success of the Abu Dhabi organization led to the creation of the Dubai Women's Development Society, the Sharjah Women's Development Society, the Women's Development Society in Ajman, the Umm al-Qaiwain Development Society, and the Ras al-Khaimah Women's Development Society. These societies were subsequently linked together under the UAE Women's Federation, which was established in 1975. To date, the federation has played an important role in assisting the women of the UAE to increasingly realize their potential.

The UAE Women's Federation (now housed in elegant new premises in Abu Dhabi) is a quasi-governmental autonomous body with its own budget. It has a number of committees to run its activities, such as religious affairs, mother and child care, social affairs, cultural affairs, sports, heritage, and arts. Depending on the geographical size of the emirate, the individual societies in the federation may have more than one branch and there are now a total of 31 branches of the six societies, many operating in remote areas of the country. Activities undertaken by the individual branches, often in association with the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), include illiteracy eradication and health education programs, nursery classes, housekeeping, dressmaking and handicraft classes, art classes, child care information, vocational training projects, job placement programs, religious education, welfare assistance, and family counseling, along with a calendar of social, cultural, and sporting activities.

The priorities of the Women's Federation in the early days were to help women emerge from seclusion, use their leisure time to become literate, and acquire knowledge about the modern world to enable them to raise their families' standards of living. Having made gains in these areas, today's goals are linked to comprehensive social planning, with a view to increasing cohesiveness and national identity in the country.

Despite advances in the emancipation of women in the UAE, much more needs to be done. For example, there is increasing focus on employment opportunities for well-educated women. In 1980 females constituted 3.4 percent of the labor force. By 1995 this figure had only increased to 14 percent, despite the fact that a growing majority of college and university graduates are women.

After examining models used elsewhere, the Centre for Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) has recently launched a countrywide continuing education program for all nationalities. The program has been designed for professional development and personal enrichment for people with an eye for continuing education. Initial project plans include 100 face-to-face instructor-led courses and approximately 100 online courses through a web site ( Courses will be offered through the center and Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, and Ras al-Khaimah. The center is the continuing education and research arm of the HCT, and this will be the first time the HCT will offer special courses to both nationals and expatriates.

Teaching Profession

The remarkable growth of education in the UAE is well documented statistically. The vision and hard work of many contributors in bringing about such an achievement should be recognized. Starting with a situation in which about 90 percent of the population was illiterateand school buildings, books, curriculum, and teachers were nearly unknowna modern comprehensive public educational system has been developed.

Unlike many countries, a lack of financial resources has not been a barrier to the development of the educational system. Lacking teachers in the UAE, the government has been able to recruit teachers from other countries to fill staffing needs. Most such teachers are Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians, and Palestinians. This situation reflects the way in which the UAE fills its needs for labor and professional services in general, by hiring hundreds of thousands of qualified people from other countries on multiple year contracts.

Consequently, the economy relies tremendously on expatriate expertise and labor. An exception to expatriate participation is the government, a primary employer of UAE citizens. Emiratis constitute about 10 percent of the total UAE workforce, and only about 1 percent of government jobs are excluded. In 1994, about 26 percent of the teachers in the UAE were nationals, an increase of 556 percent since 1985-1986. A reported 54 percent of the kindergarten teachers in the UAE were nationals and all were women. The primary school teachers included 6 percent male nationals and 44 percent female nationals; overall, 31 percent were nationals. At the secondary level national males comprised only 5 percent of the teachers while female nationals comprised 36 percent, with nationals making up 23 percent of the total. In the private education sector there is a significantly lower percentage of Emirati teachers.

The selection, training, and effective use of teachers are a MOEY responsibility. The ministry seeks to accomplish high quality teacher training for both pre- and in-service, in addition to improvements in salary scales and job descriptions for teachers.

An often cited goal of the ministry is for all teachers in the UAE to have university degrees and classroom experience before their appointment. Considerable time and expense is devoted to teacher recruitment domestically and in other Arab countries. Expatriate applicants sit for a written examination either in the UAE or in their home country. Those who pass the written test may be selected for a personal interview to determine if they are qualified for teaching and, if so, which stage of education is appropriate. UAE citizens are only required to have interviews.

Graduates of the UAE University are recruited into the teaching profession but their numbers are not enough to meet the needs of the expanding number of classes and the increasing number of students. To address this problem the Ministry collaborates with the UAE University to provide the required teaching staff in various specializations. It also qualifies nationals holding a GSEC (General Secondary Education Certificate) through a pre-service training program that is preliminary to university study, and another program of external tutorial studies for teachers for the primary stage (basic, junior and senior). The pre-service training program has attracted several young men and women to the teaching profession. In coordination with the university, the ministry has also prepared courses, regulations and methods of supervision. There are additional programs offered to kindergarten, family education, and secretarial studies teacher trainees. Other proposals to offer UAEU graduates incentives to work in the teaching profession are under consideration.

Training and preparation programs are intended to raise the scientific and educational skills and cultural background of those who are already teachers. The UAEU education faculty collaborates with the MOEY in carrying out in-service training programs and courses, and practical pre-service training programs. The MOEY pre- and in-service teacher training department is involved in this training through the programs it prepares in coordination with the dducational affairs sector. The departments of primary, preparatory, and secondary education; the educational zones offices; and the inspectorate take part in the training programs.

Teaching training programs and short courses include:

  • Orientation programs and courses held for new teachers and inspectors who are briefed about the UAE, its educational system regulations, and procedures governing work.
  • Inspectors' training courses held in the educational zones and offices for new teachers to familiarize them with basic principles concerning planning, evaluation, teaching, and changes and developments in the curricula.
  • Basic and foundation programs for new UAEU graduates (apart from those trained in the faculty of education). These programs aim at enhancing teaching skills.
  • Qualifying programs given to candidates for supervisory jobs (senior teacher, supervisor, principal, and vice principal).
  • Development programs seeking to train teachers and acquaint them with new developments in curricula, teaching aids, and methods.
  • "Activating programs" conducted in different zones to revise existing academic programs, update their content, and make sure that work is being carried out properly and accurately.
  • Remedial programs respond to teacher efficiency reports that include directives, recommendations and suggestions to improve selected aspects of performance.

There are also training courses outside the ministry. Selected national teachers are allowed to participate in training courses abroad in coordination with the National Committee of Education, Culture and Science and the Educational Bureau for the Arab Gulf Countries.

The average salary of a UAE national teacher in the federal system was reportedly about US$1400 per month in 2000. The salary scale for UAE teachers, according to Cabinet Decree No. 316/4 for the year 1996, ranges from a minimum salary for teachers with a qualification below the GSEC, to a maximum level for university graduates with advanced degrees. There are two scales in use, one for UAE teachers and the other for expatriates. Teachers with a master's degree receive an additional allowance of US$170 per month, while teachers with a Ph.D. receive an additional US$340. Teachers working in distant areas receive a remote area increment in accordance with the Civil Service Law. In addition to their salaries, teachers receive allowances for accommodation, transport and cost of living, plus an annual supplement based on qualifications. A special scale for teachers' salaries has been in force since 1976. A study was submitted to the Cabinet recommended awarding a special allowance amounting to 30 percent of the basic salary to UAE national teachers as an incentive to continue their work as teachers or remain in the profession. This policy is aimed at counterbalancing the rise in salaries in other departments and establishments, which attract distinguished teachers with higher salaries.

Any teacher with an "excellent" grade in his/her annual performance is eligible for promotion to an administrative or technical job. Administrative jobs include administrative supervisor, vice-principal, principal, and administrative inspector. Technical and professional jobs include senior teacher, inspector, and senior inspector. Promotions favor UAE teachers over expatriates and take place after candidates attend specialized courses where their abilities and skills are evaluated. They then attend further training courses and workshops.

In-service training is the responsibility of the preand in-service teacher training department. These courses are compulsory for the newly appointed teachers as well as for candidates for promotion to supervisory position.


The government is responding to the dynamics of the small national population in relation to a very large nonnational population, which could form the basis for future political instability or conflict, by treating expatriates as temporary residents who will be replaced in the future by qualified Emiratis. There is pressure on the educational system to produce graduates who are ready, willing and well qualified to join the work force, and on the Ministry of Education and Youth to get more UAE nationals into teaching positions.

The typical contract for an expatriate teacher is three to five years, though some expatriate teachers have been allowed to stay in the UAE longer. The turnover among expatriate teachers is about 15 to 18 percent per year, requiring the ministry to hire up to 2,300 new teachers a year from among the approximately 25,000 who apply.

Nationals in the system include university and teaching training institute graduates, but others with minimal qualifications are often hired as teachers and thousands have been hired without any formal education in the profession. No specific training levels are required for a national to qualify for a job and nothing like a teaching certificate exists in the UAE. The pay scales for national teachers are about sixty percent higher than for expatriates in the federal schools and national males are given further inducements to become a teacher. Nationals also have great advancement opportunities. About seventy percent of all principals are Emiratis. In spite of such measures, the goal of having a teaching force that is 90 percent Emirati by 2020 appears to have little chance of coming to pass.

Teachers, administrators, academics, and other observers of the UAE educational system have noted with concern poor quality instruction and learning exist in some outlets. Research has shown that teaching methods on the whole are traditional and based on rote memorization. Textbooks are seen as being at the center of learning through memorization. Teacher absenteeism is also a problem. Innovation on the part of teachers is often viewed as very difficult because of the demands of complying with a centralized curriculum and evaluation system enforced by administrators and school inspectors. Explanation and discussion are the most common methods reported with little use of small group, individualized, lecturing, experimental, laboratory, or role-playing methods.

Observers also argue that curricula are outmoded and that innovations, when instituted, are often practices that are going out of fashion elsewhere. Concerns have also been expressed about a culturally based emphasis on group relationships, which impedes individual effort. Performance in many areas is often years behind that of students in other national systems. Dropout rates are high. Expatriate teachers, as temporary guest workers, are contract workers whose views are often not considered by UAE administrators and who are not perceived as stakeholders in the system. Some expatriate teachers are trained for systems in which large class sizes are the rule and there is an intentional "weeding out" of marginal students, blocking their prospects for postsecondary education. The UAE can afford small class size and individualized instruction in environments in which most students can progress. The high turnover in expatriate staff prevents UAE schools from developing a cadre of experienced teachers upon which quality programs depend. Because expatriate teachers are trained in their home countries, the UAE cannot exert control over their training or qualifications or provide for some common basis of experience. Some question the advisability of having foreign teachers as role models for Emirati youth.

The UAE educational system faces considerable challenges but the UAE is one of the few nations on earth in which ample financial resources are available to help resolve them. The vision of the leadership and administrative skill of those guiding such programs within a diverse and complex cultural environment will determine the outcome.


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United Arab Emirates



United Arab Emirates

Al-Imarat al-'Arabiyah al-Muttahidah

CAPITAL: Abu Dhabi (Abu Zaby)

FLAG: The flag consists of a red vertical stripe at the hoist and three equal horizontal stripes of green, white, and black.

ANTHEM: The National Anthem is an instrumental piece without words.

MONETARY UNIT: The United Arab Emirates dirham (ud), introduced as the currency in May 1973, is divided into 100 fils. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 fils and 1 and 5 dirham and notes of 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 dirhams. ud1 = $0.27337 (or $1 = ud3.658) as of January 2003.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system and imperial and local measures are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Accession of the Ruler of Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi only), 6 August; National Day, 2 December; Christmas, 25 December. Muslim religious holidays include Lailat al-Miraj, 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', Hijra New Year, and Milad an-Nabi.

TIME: 4 pm = noon GMT.


Comprising a total area of approximately 82,880 sq km (32,000 sq mi), including some 6,000 sq km (2,300 sq mi) of islands, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in the eastern Arabian Peninsula, consists of seven states: Abu Dhabi, or Abu Zaby; Dubai, or Dubayy); Sharjah; Ra's al-Khaimah, or Ra's al-Khaymah; Fujairah, or Al-Fujayrah; Umm al-Qaiwain, or Umm al-Qaywayn; and 'Ajman. Comparatively, the area occupied by United Arab Emirates is slightly smaller than the state of Maine. Extending 544 km (338 mi) nesw and 361 km (224 mi) senw, the United Arab Emirates is bordered on the n by the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf, on the e by Oman, on the s and w by Saudi Arabia, and on the nw by Qatar, with a total boundary length of 2,185 km (1,358 mi), including a coastline of 1,318 km (819 mi).

In the late 1970s, Saudi Arabia and Qatar reportedly reached a boundary agreement according to which a narrow corridor of land was ceded by Abu Dhabi, thus allowing Saudi Arabia access to the Gulf near the Khawr Duwayhin and eradicating the former Qatar-UAE frontier. However, through 2005, no documents attesting to the accord had been submitted to the United Nations. The remainder of the boundary with Saudi Arabia is not yet fully demarcated. A 1999 border treaty with Oman was reportedly signed and ratified in 2003, but the contents of the agreement had not been published as of late 2005.

The UAE's capital city, Abu Dhabi, is located on the Persian Gulf.


The United Arab Emirates consists mainly of sandy desert. It is bounded on the west by an immense sebkha, or salt flat, extending southward for nearly 112 km (70 mi). The eastern boundary runs northward over gravel plains and high dunes until it almost reaches the Hajar Mountains in the Ra's Musandam near Al 'Ayn. The flat coastal strip that makes up most of the United Arab Emirates has an extensive area of sebkha subject to flooding. Some sand spits and mud flats tend to enlarge, and others enclose lagoons. A sandy desert with limestone outcroppings lies behind the coastal plain in a triangle between the gravel plain and the mountains of the east and the sands of Saudi Arabia to the south. Far to the south, the oases of Al-Liwa' are aligned in an arc along the edge of dunes, which rise above 90 m (300 ft).

The main gravel plain extends inland and southward from the coast of Ra's al-Khaimah to Al 'Ayn and beyond. Behind Ra's al-Khaimah and separating Fujairah from the Persian Gulf is an area of mountains that rise over 900 m (3,000 ft) in height, with isolated cultivation. Finally, alluvial flats on the Gulf of Oman fill the bays between rocky spurs. South of Khor Fakkan (Sharjah), a continuous, well-watered fertile littoral strip known as the Batinah Coast runs between the mountains and the sea and continues into Oman. There are, in addition, many islands, most of which are owned by Abu Dhabi. These include Das, the site of oil operations, and Abu Musa, exploited for oil and red oxide.


The months between May and October are extremely hot, with shade temperatures of between 3849°c (100120°f) and high humidity near the coast. Winter temperatures can fall as low as 2°c (36°f) but average between 1720°c (6368°f). Normal annual rainfall is from 510 cm (24 in), with considerably more in the mountains; most rainfall occurs between November and February.


Apart from cultivated plants, there are two categories of plant life in the United Arab Emirates: the restricted salt-loving vegetation of the marshes and swamps, including the dwarf mangrove, and the desert plant community, which includes a wide range of flora that is most abundant after the fall of rain.

Animal and reptile life is similar to that of Bahrain, with the addition of the fox, wolf, jackal, wildcat, and lynx. Hedgehogs have been seen. More than 250 species of small birds have been seen in the United Arab Emirates, along with many of the larger birdskites, buzzards, eagles, falcons, owls, and harriers. However, the number of breeding species in the country may be much less than 100. Sea birds include a variety of gulls, terns, ospreys, waders, and flamingos. Popular game birds include the houbara (ruffed bustard), as well as species of ducks and geese.


The clearing of natural vegetation, livestock overgrazing on range-lands, and extensive deforestation (in ancient times) have led to desertification. Overpumping of groundwater has brought a rise in soil salinity levels, and effluents from the oil industry have contributed to air pollution. In 1992, the United Arab Emirates ranked among 50 countries with the world's highest levels of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 70.6 million metric tons, a per capita level of 42.28 metric tons. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 58.9 million metric tons.

The nation has about 0.2 cu km of renewable water resources, with 67% of annual withdrawals used for farming activity and 10% used for industrial purposes. The nation's cities produce an average of 0.5 million tons of solid waste per year.

As of 2001, the nation had two land areas protected by environmental legislation. The Al 'Ayn zoological gardens contain some 280 species of wildlife, including the gazelle, which had been on the verge of extinction in the region. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 5 types of mammals, 11 species of birds, 1 type of reptiles, and 6 species of fish. Endangered species in the United Arab Emirates are the peregrine falcon, South Arabian leopard, hawksbill turtle, gray wolf, Arabian oryx, Arabian tahr, green sea turtle, and desert monitor.


The population of United Arab Emirates in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 4,618,000, which placed it at number 115 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 1% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 25% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 214 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 4.4%. Government development policies have resulted in large-scale immigration of foreign workers, contributing to the high growth rate; the government in 2005 viewed the immigration rate as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 6,875,000. The population density was 55 per sq km (143 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 78% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.79%. The capital city, Abu Dhabi, had a population of 475,000 in that year.


About 80% of the UAE's population originates from outside its borders. In the early 1980s, the government took steps to reduce the immigration rate by limiting the number of visas issued to foreign workers. By 2003, foreigners were 90% of the 1.7 million work force, with over 50% from India, and 400,000 foreigners arriving annually. The government aimed at nationalization of the workforce by prohibiting foreigners in some jobs, and by instituting a "cultural diversity policy" aimed at favoring Arabic-speakers over Asian.

In 2000, there were some 1,922,000 migrants living in the United Arab Emirates. This includes the small number of refugees. The net migration rate for 2005 was estimated as 0.84 migrants per 1,000 population, a considerable drop from 15.0 migrants per 1,000 in 1990.


Only about 19% of the population were native Emirati. South Asians accounted for 50% of the total population at last estimate, while other Arabs and Iranians made up 23%. Other expatriates, including Westerners and East Asians, totaled 8%. Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis, and Bahrainis are employed throughout the bureaucracy, including the educational system.


Arabic is the official and universal language. Hindi and Urdu are minority languages. English is widely used in business. Farsi is spoken in Dubai.


Islam is the official religion of all seven emirates. As such, about 76% of the population are Muslims, primarily Sunnis with a Shia minority. In emirates that officially recognize and grant legal identity to non-Muslim groups, only a limited number of Christian groups are granted this recognition. While recognizing the difference between Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity, the authorities make no other legal distinction between Christian groups, particularly Protestants. About 9% of the population are Christians. Other faiths include Hindus, Buddhists, Parsis, Baha'is, and Sikhs.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion within the scope of established customs. The government retains the right to enforce certain restrictions, such as a prohibition on proselytizing of non-Muslim faiths and limited rights of assembly. Many non-Muslims meet in private homes.


With most of the population concentrated in coastal towns and the Al 'Ayn oasis, road links between these centers have been given priority. There is now a paved coastal road linking Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, 'Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, and R'as al-Khaimah. Roads linking the interior to the main towns have been constructed; of particular importance is the transpeninsular road from Fujairah through the Hajar Mountains. A six-lane, 209-km (130-mi) highway has been built between Abu Dhabi and Al-'Ayn, and two bridges connect Abu Dhabi island with the mainland. Another highway links the UAE coastal network with the Trans-Arabian Highway at As-Silah on the Qatar border. In 2002, there were 4,835 km (3,004 mi) of paved highways. Of registered vehicles in 2003, there were 240,573 passenger cars and 70,000 commercial vehicles in use. There are no railways or waterways in the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates is well provided with port facilities. Dubai's Port Rashid, with its deep-water berths and warehouses, is one of the largest artificial harbors in the Middle East. Other ports are the Jabal 'Ali complex, also in Dubai, completed in 1980. Abu Dhabi's Port Zayid; Sharjah's Port Khalid; and the deepwater port at Ra's al-Khaimah. Sharjah constructed a new port at Khor Fakkan in the early 1980s; the Fujairah port became fully operational in 1983. Jabal 'Ali in Dubai is the largest man-made port in the world. In 2005, the merchant fleet consisted of 56 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 578,477 GRT.

In 2004, there were an estimated 35 airports. As of 2005, a total of 22 had paved runways, and there were also two heliports. A new international airport in Abu Dhabi, on the mainland across from the island, opened in 1982. The other international airports in the United Arab Emirates are in Dubai, Sharjah, and Ra's al-Khaimah. In July 1991, a "cargo village" opened at Dubai Airport, designed to handle 250,000 tons of cargo per year by 1997. The village operations can transfer cargo received at the port into air containers ready for airlift in three hours, and have the facilities to handle frozen and hazardous goods. In 2003, about 11.384 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Although the Trucial Coast has for centuries been situated on one of the main trade routes between Asia and Europe, very little is known about the early history of the states that now make up the United Arab Emirates. The northern states of the United Arab Emirates, and in particular Ra's al-Khaimah, first came into historic prominence during the period of Portuguese occupation in the 16th and early 17th centuries, when Portugal used the territories as a base to fight a rear guard action against Persia. At that time and down to the mid-18th century, neighboring Oman played an integral role in the history of the maritime states.

Abu Dhabi island was settled by its present ruling family, Al Nahyan, toward the end of the 18th century, and Dubai was founded by an offshoot of the same family in 1833. The late 18th and 19th centuries brought the division of the area between the Nahyan and the Qawasim, who ruled Ra's al-Khaimah and neighboring territories and whose clashes with British and Indian shipping led to British naval expeditions against what came to be known as the Pirate Coast. Treaties concluded in 1820 and 1835 established a formal relationship between the states of the southern Gulf and Britain that was to last until 1971. In 1853, the sheikhs agreed to a "perpetual maritime truce" to be enforced by the British navy. Under a treaty signed in 1892, the United Kingdom promised to protect the Trucial Coast from all aggression by sea and to lend its good offices in case of land attack. In 1955, the United Kingdom effectively intervened on the side of Abu Dhabi in the latter's dispute with Saudi Arabia over the Buraymi oasis, control of which is now shared by Abu Dhabi and Oman.

When, in 1968, the United Kingdom announced its intention to withdraw its forces from the area, a decision to establish a federation of Arab emiratesembracing the seven Trucial States, Bahrain, and Qatarwas agreed on in principle. However, it proved impossible to reconcile the differences among all the members. Six Trucial States (excluding Ra's al-Khaimah) agreed on the establishment of the United Arab Emirates, which was officially proclaimed a sovereign, independent nation on 2 December 1971, with Ra's al-Khaimah joining in early 1972.

Externally, the move to independence in 1971 placed the United Arab Emirates in difficult straits with its two powerful neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia asserted a territorial claim on a group of oases in the south of the United Arab Emirates, and Iran laid claim to its offshore islands. In 1974, a border agreement on the Liwa' oases was signed with Saudi Arabia, but apparently has not been fully recognized by the rulers of either country. The dispute with Iran over the Abu Musa and Tumb Islands became tense when Iranian forces unilaterally asserted control over the UAE section of Abu Musa in 1992. In 1996, Iran rejected a proposal by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to put the dispute over the islands to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration. In 2005, Iran still occupied the islands. In the dispute, the United Arab Emirates has received support from the GCC, UN, and the United States.

The United Arab Emirates became a founding member in 1981 of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a political and economic alliance directed, at least implicitly, against Iran. During the Iran-Iraq war, the United Arab Emirates gave aid to Iraq but also maintained diplomatic relations with Iran and sought to mediate the conflict.

In the Gulf War, forces from the United Arab Emirates participated with allied troops and the government gave some $4.5 billion to the coalition war effort. Subsequently, the United Arab Emirates has increasingly looked to the GCC, the United States, and friendly Arab states for its security protection. The UAE's generosity with foreign aid to Arab states made it a significant player in the affairs of the region. In the years immediately after the war, the United Arab Emirates accepted the stationing of US troops on its soil.

During the Yugoslav civil war, the United Arab Emirates airlifted wounded Bosnian Muslim women and their families to Abu Dhabi, where they were given free medical treatment and housing, and financial support for one year. The country has also given heavily to Red Crescent relief organizations in Bosnia. Unlike its neighbors and partners in the GCC, Oman and Qatar, the United Arab Emirates did not establish liaison offices in Israelalthough it relaxed the Arab-wide boycott of Israel in the hope that lasting peace between the Palestinians and Israel would be forthcoming as a result of the Oslo Accords.

In 1991, the Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI), which was based in the United Arab Emirates and largely owned by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, collapsed, causing repercussions all around the world. Accused of fraudulent dealings, the bank was officially liquidated in 1996, and the UAE cabinet resigned the following year. A sharp decline in oil prices in 1998 strongly affected the economy of the United Arab Emirates, which recorded a drop of almost 6% in its GDP. At the end of 1999, the United Arab Emirates celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding, and the 30th anniversary of rule its president, Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the United States called upon the nations of the world to implement counterterrorism measures. In November, the United Arab Emirates ordered financial institutions in the country to freeze the assets of 62 organizations and individuals suspected by the United States of supporting terrorist movements.

During 2002 and into 2003, the United Arab Emirates, along with the other countries of the Persian Gulf, were confronted with the situation of a potential US-led war with Iraq. In November 2002, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on Iraq to immediately disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to allow the immediate return of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UN weapons inspectors. The United States and the United Kingdom began amassing troops in the region, and by the end of February 2003, the number of troops in the Persian Gulf was approximately 200,000. At a 1 March 2003 Arab League summit held at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahyan called upon Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to relinquish power and leave Iraq in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Iraq would be placed under the tutelage of the UN and the Arab League until a new government could be formed. Bahrain and Kuwait supported the UAE proposal. However, on 19 March 2003, the United States launched air strikes against Baghdād, and war began.

Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE and its first president, died on 2 November 2004. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan. A 40-day period of mourning was held for Sheikh Zayid, who was much loved by the people.


According to the provisional constitution of the United Arab Emirates, promulgated on 2 December 1971, the executive branch of the UAE government consists of the Federal Supreme Council, headed by the president, and the Council of Ministers. The Federal Supreme Council (FSC), composed of the hereditary rulers of the seven emirates, has responsibility for formulation and supervision of all UAE policies, ratification of federal laws, and oversight of the union's budget. Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahyan, emir of Abu Dhabi, was elected president upon independence and was continuously reelected to five-year terms until his death on 2 November 2004. His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nahyan, was unanimously elected by the FSC to succeed his father. The president is assisted by the Council of Ministers, or cabinet, headed by the prime minister. Sheikh Maktum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, served as vice president and prime minister since 1990, succeeding his father upon the latter's death. His positions were reaffirmed in January 2006. The member states are represented in the cabinet in numbers relative to their size and importance.

After extending the 1971 interim constitution at five-year intervals for 25 years, the Supreme Council and the Federal National Council approved a measure removing the term "interim" in 1996, making the document a permanent constitution. The Federal National Council, consisting of 40 delegates from the member emirates, appointed by their respective rulers for two-year terms, can question cabinet ministers and make recommendations to the Supreme Council, but it has no legislative powers. The constitution stipulates the distribution of the 40 seats as follows: Abu Dhabi and Dubayy, 8 each; Sharjah and Ra's al-Khaymah, 6 each; and 'Ajmān, Umm al-Qaywayn, and Al Fujayrah, 4 each. The Supreme National Council meets only occasionally.

Most of the emirates are governed according to tribal traditions, including open meetings in which citizens express themselves directly to their rulers.


No political parties exist in the UAE. Arab nationalist feeling has developed, however, and there is growing sentiment, particularly among urban youth, in favor of political liberalization and accelerated economic development. Several small clandestine groups with ties to radical Arab organizations or militant Islamic groups are believed to be active and are watched closely by the federation's security services.


The major institutions of local government are the municipalities of Abu Dhabi town, Al-'Ayn, Dubayy, Sharjah, Ra's al-Khaymah, Al Fujayrah, 'Ajmān, and Umm al-Qaywayn and a handful of traditional councils known as majalis and amiri diwans.


Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah have developed relatively sophisticated judicial systems based, as in other Gulf states, on a combination of Shariah laws and contemporary legal codes. The 1971 constitution established a Federal Supreme Court and an indeterminate number of courts of first instance. The Supreme Court consists of a president and a maximum of five judges, all of whom are appointed by presidential decree upon approval of the Federal Supreme Council. The Supreme Court president and member judges are deemed independent of the executive and legislative branches; once appointed, they cannot be removed. In 1983 a comprehensive law governing the federal judiciary was issued, creating a full federal judicial system, though the member emirates retain significant and varying degrees of judicial autonomy. The federal system consists of primary courts, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court.

Shariah courts in each emirate are subject to review in the Federal Supreme Court. There is no separate national security court system. Military tribunals try only military personnel and apply a system based on Western military judicial procedure.

Court systems in the Emirates of Dubai and Ra's-al-Khaymah function independently of the federal system. Each system has multiple levels of appeal and verdicts in capital cases are appealable to the president.

There are no jury trials. Under the Criminal Procedural Code, the accused has a right to counsel in capital cases and in those involving a possible penalty of life imprisonment. Due process rights are uniform under both the civil court and the Shariah court procedure.


The armed forces of the UAE were placed under a unified command in 1976, and the forces of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ra's al-Khaimah, and Sharjah were merged. In 2005, the combined forces totaled 50,500 active personnel. The Army had 44,000 soldiers including the Royal Guard. Equipment included 469 main battle tanks, 76 Scorpion light tanks, 113 reconnaissance vehicles, 430 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 860 armored personnel carriers, and over 501 artillery pierces. The Navy was comprised of an estimated 2,500 personnel. Major naval units included 2 frigates, 2 corvettes, and 14 patrol/coastal vessels. The Air Force had 4,000 active personnel and was outfitted with 146 combat capable aircraft, including over 57 fighter ground attack aircraft. The service also had 30 attack helicopters.

Many military personnel are expatriates from Oman, Jordan, and other countries. The US maintained a 1,300-manned military presence in the UAE. The defense budget for 2005 totaled $2.65 billion.


On 9 December 1971, shortly after achieving independence, the United Arab Emirates became a member of the United Nations, and it now belongs to ESCWA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the World Bank, the IAEA, FAO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. The country is a member of G-77, WTO, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab League, the Arab Monetary Fund, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Islamic Development Bank, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), OAPEC, and OPEC. The UAE is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, the United Arab Emirates is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


The economy of the UAE centers primarily on oil and oil-based industries, but the share of this contribution to the GDP fell from 70% in 1980 to an estimated 22% in 1998. This was principally the result of falling oil prices, but also reflected the growth in other sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, finance and insurance, real estate, and government services.

In 2002, the oil industry's share was at 24%, but manufacturing had reached 15.1% of GDP from only 3.8% in 1980. The oil industry accounts for about 30% of exports and provides 7080% of government revenues. In Abu Dhabi, by far the wealthiest of the seven emirates, oil revenues are supplemented by income from a huge investment fund. Dubai joined the ranks of the oil producers only in 1971, and entrepôt trade continues to play a major role in its economy. In 2000, Abu Dhabi completed a capacity expansion program has increased the UAE's crude oil production capacity to 2.6 million barrels per day (million barrels per day). Third quarter production in 2002 was 1.99 million barrels per day, somewhat over the official OPEC quota of 1.89 million barrels per day.

Although 'Ajman has a small shipbuilding and ship repair yard and a cement company, and Umm al-Qaiwain has a fish hatchery, a cement plant, and some small handicraft operations, these poorer emirates depend on federal aidin effect, on revenue sharing by Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Oil production in Sharjah began in July 1974, and manufacturing and tourism there have been expanded. The number of factories in Sharjah rose from 74 in 1974 to 931 in 2000, increasing 13.4% from 1998. Ra's al-Khaimah has six large cement plants (three built since 1998), a pharmaceutical factory, a lime kiln, and the gulf's first explosives plant. Fujairah remains predominantly agricultural, but the emirate's government has also been developing an industrialization program, with emphasis on establishing mining-based industries. In 2002 it had 33 factories, a third producing nonmetallic metal products.

In 2003, the GDP growth rate was 7.0% (up from 1.9% in 2002), but by 2004 it fell to 5.9%; in 2005, it was expected to grow back to 6.8%. Inflation has remained fairly constant, at around 3%. There is no recent data for the unemployment numbers, although the unemployment rate is believed to be somewhere around 2.5%.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2001 the United Arab Emirates' gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $51 billion. The per capita GDP was estimated at $21,100. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.6%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 10.5%. The annual rate of GDP growth between 1988 and 1998 was about 4.2%. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange. Petroleum extraction accounts for approximately 34.2% of GDP; manufacturing, 11%; wholesale and retail trade, 10%; government services, 9.6%; business, 8%, and construction, 7.4%. Foreign aid receipts amounted to about $1 per capita.


In 2005, the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) workforce was estimated at 2.8 million. As of 2001, (the latest year for which data was available) the service sector provided jobs for 78% of the workforce, with industry amounting to 15%, and agriculture 7%. For that same year, the unemployment rate was 2.4%. Around 74% of the UAE's population, between the ages of 15 and 64 years, is made up of foreign nationals.

The UAE leans heavily on skilled labor, technology, and management abilities provided by foreigners. Non-UAE Arabs are employed at all economic levels, including the government bureaucracy and civil service. Manual labor is largely performed by Pakistanis and Iranians, while many Indians are to be found in clerical positions. Most domestic servants are women from Sri Lanka or the Philippines. There is a high proportion of Europeans at management levels. The large influx of immigrants was insufficient to cope with labor needs. A 1984 decree guarantees UAE nationals priority in hiring, in order to reduce dependence on expatriates.

Unionization is prohibited by law. Collective bargaining provisions do not exist, and strikes are strictly prohibited in the public sector. Rather, all labor contracts are reviewed by the Ministry of Labor to ensure that the pay will satisfy the employee's basic needs and secure a means of living.

There is no minimum wage. A standard workweek of eight hours per day, six days per week and minimum occupational health and safety requirements are not effectively enforced. Foreign workers are especially vulnerable to abuse. Widespread and credible reports indicate that foreign workers have had their passports confiscated, pay withheld, and are forced to work excessively long days far beyond the statutory maximum. Women working as domestic servants have also reported being sexually and physically abused. Foreign workers have little redress for their grievances. UAE administrative bodies virtually never rule against a UAE employer, and UAE employers can prevent a foreign worker from switching to another employer.


Only about 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of land are cultivated. About 24% of cultivated land is used to grow vegetables, 30% fruit, 10% feed crops, and 36% for other uses. The most productive region is Ra's al-Khaimah, which receives underground water supplies from the nearby mountains of Oman and which enjoys the most plentiful rainfall. The main crops are tomatoes, melons, and dates.

The Digdagga Agricultural Trials Station in Ra's al-Khaimah is central to all agricultural research and training efforts in the UAE. Abu Dhabi has two large wheat farms at Al 'Ayn, and experimental farms at Rawaya and Mazaid (near Al 'Ayn) are designed to encourage local Bedouins to take up settled farming. The Abu Dhabi Arid Land Research Center on Sadiyat Island produces vegetables through special irrigation and hydroponic techniques. In 2004, UAE agriculture produced 506,400 tons of vegetables and melons, and 786,000 tons of fruit. Produce includes citrus, mangos, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, peppers, and fodder crops.

Crop production during 200204 was down 40% from 19992001. Dates, traditionally grown on oases by nomads, are becoming less important because of vegetable and fruit production. In 2004, the UAE produced 760,000 tons of dates. The UAE satisfies about 60% of its domestic fruit and vegetable demand; bans on imports of certain vegetables and government incentives and subsidies are used to encourage domestic production. Roses and chrysanthemums are grown for export to Europe.


Livestock production has risen sharply in recent years. In 2005, the UAE had 1,520,000 goats, 570,000 sheep, 250,000 camels, and 115,000 head of cattle. Dairy farming is centered in Ras al-Khaimah, with other dairy farms in Al Ain, Umm Al Quwain, Sharjah, and Dubai. The UAE produces about 90% of its dairy needs. Local poultry and egg production satisfy 27% and 40% of domestic demand, respectively. Five major producers account for 75% of the domestic chicken production. The poultry farm at Fujairah has the capacity to supply over 15% of domestic demand for broilers and eggs. Ras al-Khaimah and Al Ain are other centers of poultry production. Production of poultry meat reached 36,000 tons in 2005, with imports of poultry meat (mainly from France, Denmark, the United States, and Brazil). The UAE also re-exports poultry meat, mostly to Oman, former Soviet republics, and Iran.


Fishing is an important source of domestic food and fodder. Per capita annual consumption of fish and shellfish in the UAE is more than any other country in the Middle East. UAE coastal waters abound in fish and shellfish, and the country borders two high-potential fishing regions, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Many varieties of fish are caught, including rock cod, tuna, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, jack, marlin, red mullet, bream, and snapper. Over 70% of the catch typically is dried and processed into animal feed and fertilizer. The fish catch in 2003 was 97,450 tons, which supplied about 50% of local demand. Modern fishing techniques have been introduced with government assistance, and two new ports permitting the use of larger fishing boats were opened in 1981. The government also provides facilities for ship maintenance pro bono, as well as interest-free loans for the purchase of fishing boats and equipment. More than 3,000 fishing vessels annually operate in UAE waters. Umm Al Quwain is the site of a new 1,300 sq m marine farm which will research fish breeding. A fishmeal plant is in operation in Ra's al-Khaimah.


Natural woodland is scarce, apart from palm groves along the northern and eastern coasts. Forested areas covered 321,000 hectares (793,000 acres), or about 3.8% of the total land area in 2000. The Forestry Department planted 80 million trees during 198095, at a cost of over $3 billion, resulting in a 2.8% increase in the forested area during 19902000. Imports of forest products totaled $322.7 million in 2004.


Apart from oil and natural gas, the minerals sector included fertilizer production and production of construction materials, marble, and stone quarried from the Hajar Mountains. Copper and chromium have been found in Fujairah and Ra's al-Khaimah. In 2003, an estimated: 10,000 metric tons of chromium; 421,000 metric tons of ammonia (nitrogen content); and 400,000 metric tons of urea (nitrogen content) were produced. Lime, gypsum, hydraulic cement, and, presumably, common clays, diabase, gravel, limestone, marble sand, and shale were also produced.


The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven emirates, contains almost 8% of the world's proven oil reserves and is ranked fifth in the world by the size of its natural gas reserves. The UAE is also a significant exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

As of 1 January 2005, the UAE's proven reserves of crude oil totaled 97.8 billion barrels, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. Of that amount, the emirate of Abu Dhabi holds 94%, or around 92.2 billion barrels, followed by the emirate of Dubai with an estimated 4 billion barrels, and the emirates of Sharjah with 1.5 billion barrels and Ras al-Khaima with 100 million barrels of oil. In 2004, oil production was estimated at 2.76 million barrels per day, of which crude oil accounted for 2.38 million barrels per day. Domestic consumption of oil in that year averaged an estimated 430,000 barrels per day, with net exports estimated at 2.33 million barrels per day. As a member of OPEC, the UAE is subject to OPEC's crude oil production quota. As of March 16, 2005, the quota was set at 2.50 million barrels per day, which is total production capacity. In 2004, Japan accounted for an estimated 60% of the UAE's crude oil exports, with the rest of Asia accounting for 20%. As of 1 January 2005, the UAE's crude oil refining capacity was estimated at 514,250 barrels per day.

The UAE's proven natural gas reserves, as of 1 January 2005, were estimated at 212 trillion cu ft, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. The largest reserves are located in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, with 196.1 trillion cu ft, with smaller reserves in the emirates of Sharjah (10.7 trillion cu ft), Dubai (4.1 trillion cu ft), and Ras al-Khaimah (1.2 trillion cu ft). In 2002, the UAE's output of natural gas was estimated at 1.28 trillion cu ft, with exports that year estimated at 0.25 trillion cu ft. Domestic consumption of natural gas has been spurred by a growing demand from the country's petrochemical and electric power industries.

All electricity is thermally generated from oil or natural gas. Electric power production was 39.622 billion kWh in 2002. Consumption of electricity that year was 36.848 billion kWh. Total installed capacity in 2002 was 5.820 million kW.


The process of industrialization gathered momentum after the formation of the federation in 1971. By 2002, manufacturing was second only to the oil sector in contributions to economic output. To diversify the economy, in the early 1990s the UAE introduced new industries, including aluminum, cement, pharmaceuticals, fabricated metals, processed foods, fertilizer, and explosives. Manufacturing as a percentage of GDP rose from 3.8% in 1980 to 7.7% in 1990 to 8.7% in 1995 to 15.1% in 2002.

The Ar-Ruwais industrial complex in Abu Dhabi includes an oil refinery with a processing capacity of 120,000 barrels per day; a fertilizer factory, with a production capacity of 1,000 tons of ammonia and 1,500 tons of urea per day; and a gas liquefaction installation. In June 2002 agreement was reached on a contract to expand the refinery capacity Ruwais refinery to 500,000 barrels per day to be completed by 2005. The UAE has five other smaller refineries: In Abu Dhabi, a 88,5000 barrels per day capacity facility run, like the Ruwais refinery, by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC); in Fujairah, a 90,000 barrels per day refinery run by Metro Oil; in Dubai, the 120,000 barrels per day Jebel Ali condensate refinery run by the Emirate National Oil Company (ENOC), first opened in 1999; near Jebel Ali, a 40,000 barrels per day second-hand gasoline unit run by ISO Octane, opened May, 2000; and in Sharjah, another second-hand unit with 71,250 barrels per day capacity opened in 2001 and run by the Sharjah Oil Refining Company (SORC). The UAE's crude oil refining capacity as of January 2001 was 514,750 barrels per day.

Near Umm An-Nar, a large plant belonging to National Chlorine Industries produces salt, chlorine, caustic soda, and hydrochloric acid. In Dubai the industrial port complex at Jebel 'Ali is the largest manmade port in the world and includes the largest dry dock in the world with capacity of one million tons. The Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZ) is the UAE's most developed free trade zone, including close to 200 factories, prominent among them being a major power plant with water desalination units, a steel fabrication plant, and an aluminum smelter, built in 1979, producing 290,030 tons of aluminum products per year. Plans have been announced to expand the Dubai Aluminum Company's capacity to 372,600 tons per year. Dubai's older industrial zone of Rashidiya is the site of some 40% of the emirate's processing industries. The other emirates have developed industries that produce construction-related materials such as cement, asphalt, and concrete blocks.

According to the statistics of UAE's Ministry of Finance and Industry (MOFI), there were 2,153 registered industrial establishments in 2000 (up from 1,261 in 1995) employing 176,260 people. Forty percent of the units854were in Dubai, which also accounted for 46.7% of industrial investment ($3.6 billion of $7.76 billion). Abu Dhabi accounted for 25% of investment ($2 billion) but only 10% of industrial units (235). Sharjah and Ras Al-Kaimah had industrial investment of $790 million and $763 million, respectively, each about 10% of the total. Outside of the oil sector, chemicals commanded the largest portion of investment (14.5%), with food and beverages second (11.2%). Metal production accounted for 3.6% of industrial investment and garments 0.8%.

Industry made up 58.5% of the economy in 2002, and employed around 15% of the populationwhich indicates that this sector is highly productive; agriculture participated with 4% to the overall GDP, and employed approximately 7% of the working population; services contributed with 37.5% to the economy, and represented around 78% of the labor force.


Advanced technology in the United Arab Emirates has been imported mostly by foreign oil companies and is limited largely to heavy industry. Nearly all of its technological specialists are foreigners. In the 1980s, the United Arab Emirates took major steps to decrease its reliance on foreign scientists and technicians. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has a research center in Ra's al-Khaimah. United Arab Emirates University, founded in 1976 at Al Ain, has faculties of sciences, engineering, agricultural sciences, medicine and health sciences. Ajman University College of Science and Technology was founded in 1988, Etisalat College of Engineering at Sharjah in 1989, and the Higher Colleges of Technology at Abu Dhabi in 1988. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 24% of college and university enrollments. High technology exports in 2002 were valued at $17 million, or 2% of all manufactured exports.


Dubai remains the most important center of trade and commerce, both for the nation and the region. Many food importers also serve as wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. There are about four or five large companies controlling most of the food retail sector. Franchising has become very popular in a variety of retail sectors including, restaurants, clothing, hardware supplies, beauty products, health care products, toys, sporting goods, etc.

Business hours tend to vary, although general hours of 8 am to 1 pm and 4 to 7 pm are observed; most offices are closed Thursday afternoon, and Friday is the weekly holiday. Banks are open from 8 am to noon, Saturday through Thursday.


UAE's commodity exports were crude oil (45%), natural gas, reexports, dried fish, and dates as of 2000. Imports include machinery, vehicles, electrical equipment, aircraft, cosmetics, tobacco, steel, furniture, plastics, chemicals, and food products.

In 2004, UAE's exports grew to $69.5 billion (FOBFree on Board), while its imports followed from behind at $46.7 billion (FOB). Export commodities mainly went to Japan (which received

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 32,668.9 30,544.3 2,124.6
Japan 9,932.0 182.9 9,749.1
Areas nes 6,328.4 73.0 6,255.4
Other Asia nes 6,116.4 50.8 6,065.6
Kuwait 820.1 820.1
Bahrain 537.5 537.5
India 519.3 658.1 -138.8
Other Africa nes 344.2 344.2
Iran 225.7 520.6 -294.9
United States 210.7 206.0 4.7
Saudi Arabia 142.5 394.6 -252.1
() data not available or not significant.

24.9% of total exports), South Korea (9.9%), India (5.4%), and Thailand (5.2%). Imports chiefly came from China (10%), India (9.8%), Japan (6.8%), Germany (6.5%), the United Kingdom (6.2%), France (6.1%), and the United States (6%), and included machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, and food.


Oil and natural gas exports have allowed the UAE to sustain a trade surplus for many years, but changes in oil prices cause the surplus to fluctuate widely from year to year. In the early 2000s traders in the UAE were beginning to seek out new markets in locales such as Russia, the Central Asian states, and East and South Africa. The government does not provide statistics for workers' remittances, investment income, oil and gas export revenues, foreign direct investment transactions, and capital transactions, which seriously compromises the compilation of balance of payments statistics.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of the United Arab Emirates' exports was $47.6 billion while imports totaled $28.6 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $19 billion.

Exports of goods and services reached $82.7 billion in 2004, and were expected to grow to $103.7 billion in 2005. Imports were expected to reach $60.2 billion in 2005, up from $54.2 in 2004. The UAE have thus managed to keep both a positive resource balance ($28.5 billion, and $43.5 billion respectively), and a positive current account balance ($12.7 billion in 2004, and an expected $26.2 billion in 2005).


The UAE Currency Board came into existence with its issuance of the UAE dirham in May 1973. In 197576, statutes came into force providing for the board's gradual transformation into a central bank, including powers to impose minimum liquidity ratios and other credit regulations. The board was replaced in 1980 by the UAE Central Bank, with enhanced authority to regulate the banking system. Capitalized at $81.7 million, the bank was granted additional capital of $2 billion from the government in 1982, which was to increase by 20% per year until a total deposit of $4 billion had been reached.

The oil boom of the 1980s brought with it the proliferation of commercial banks, making the UAE one of the most overbanked countries in the world. By 1987, strains were beginning to show and two banks collapsed. Bad loans were prevalent and some borrowers used the Islamic prohibition on riba (interest) as an excuse not to repay debts.

UAE banks were hit hard by the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when partial withdrawals amounted to an estimated ud7 billion ($1.9 billion), or 7% of total deposits. In 1991, the Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI), based in the United Arab Emirates and owned in large part by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, was accused of fraudulent dealings, and closed, damaging the credibility of the UAE banking system. However, because of improvements in the banking system, in 1999 the government cleared the way for establishment of an offshore banking center to be based in the free zone on Saadiyat Island, to enable UAE to compete with Bahrain. Also in 1999, the merger of two banksNational Bank of Dubai and Emirates Bank Internationalwas announced. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $10.7 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $42.6 billion.

As of 2000, the United Arab Emirates was planning a stock exchange as part of the financial center on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.


Because of tightening federal regulations, the number of insurance companies declined from 126 in 1980 to 56 in 1987. The Federal Insurance Companies and Agents Law of 1984 requires all insurance companies established in the UAE to be public joint-stock companies, with equity wholly owned by UAE nationals. Companies already established in the country can obtain a concession from the local equity provision. Minimum capital must be ud10 million. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $971 million, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $744 million. In that same year, Dubai was the country's leading life insurer, with gross written life insurance premiums of $22.3 million. There was no data on the UAE's top nonlife insurer. In 1999, there were 19 National Insurance companies practicing in UAE, and 28 foreign insurance companies.


A federal budget is prepared according to the UAE's development policy, while each emirate is responsible for municipal budgets and local projects. Conservative public expenditure policies became necessary in the 1980s and 1990s, when oil revenues declined; by the 2000s, oil revenues had rebounded. Abu Dhabi's oil income accounts for the bulk of federal revenues; under the constitution, each emirate contributes 50% of its net oil income to the federal budget.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 the United Arab Emirates' central government took in revenues of approximately $34.9 billion and had expenditures of $29.4 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $5.5 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 17.5% of GDP. Total external debt was $30.21 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1999, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were ud20,217 million and expenditures were ud20,050 million. The value of revenues was us$5,505 million and expenditures us$5,459 million, based on a official exchange rate for 1999 of us$1 = ud3.6725 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 20.8%; defense, 30.1%; public order and safety, 13.8%; economic affairs, 4.5%; housing and community amenities, 1.6%; health, 7.2%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.4%; education, 17.3%; and social protection, 3.2%.


Each emirate has its own decrees on corporate taxation. Corporate taxes are paid only by oil companies (at rates that vary among emirates) and branches of foreign banks (at 20%). Municipal taxes are 5% on residential and 10% on commercial rents. A 5% tax is

Revenue and Grants 20,217 100.0%
     Tax revenue 3,481 17.2%
     Social contributions 92 0.5%
     Other revenue 16,644 82.3%
Expenditures 20,050 100.0%
     General public services 4,167 20.8%
     Defense 6,027 30.1%
     Public order and safety 2,763 13.8%
     Economic affairs 910 4.5%
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities 329 1.6%
     Health 1,448 7.2%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 290 1.4%
     Education 3,474 17.3%
     Social protection 642 3.2%
() data not available or not significant.

imposed on hotel services and entertainment. There is no personal income tax.


Dubai, the major area for foreign trade, is a free trade zone and free port with no restrictions on imports or exports. The individual emirate governments exert no control over imports, except for licensing. Customs duties are levied ad valorem; the rates differ among the emirates but are generally nominal (4% for most goods), except for a duty of 50% on alcoholic beverages (importation of which requires special permission). The duty on tobacco was is 90% of the CIF (cost, insurance, and freight) value. Duty-free imports include machinery, construction materials, foodstuffs, medicine, and printed matter. Food imports require a health certificate and meats require a certificate from a slaughterhouse that has been approved under Islamic law. Import licenses are required for all firms desiring to engage in importation. The United Arab Emirates is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) along with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The GCC has been in discussions for a common external tariff (CET) for some years.


All the emirates are eager to attract foreign investment. One obstacle to foreign investment may be the federal requirement that investments must be on a joint venture basis with the local partner owning at least 51% of the venture. The exception is investment in the free trade zones where 100% foreign ownership is allowed. In 2002, there were 11 free trade zones in the UAE in various stages of development. Most provide 100% import and export tax exemption, 100% exemption from commercial levies, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, multiyear leases and other services, including assistance with recruiting labor. The largest and most successful is the Jebel Ali industrial free zone (JAFZ) in Dubai incorporating close to 2,000 companies from over 100 countries. The JAFZ has attracted more than $3 billion of foreign investment. In 2002, three new zones were announced: The Dubai International Financial Centre; the Dubai Metals and Commodities Centre; and the Mohammed bin Rashid Technology Zone. In 2000, Dubai Internet City, the world's first e-commerce free zone, was opened, and in 2001, the Dubai Media City began was launched. Other free zones are located in the Dubai International Airport, and in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah. Principal foreign investors are the United Kingdom, the United States, France, India, Japan, and Germany. Though reliable statistics are not available for the UAE, some reports suggest that US investment in 1999 was about $500 million. Multinational companies operating in the Jebel Ali industrial zone include the following: Samsung (ROK); Pioneer (Japan); General Motors, IBM, Mobil, and Toys "R" Us (US); and Ericsson (Sweden).

In 1996, UAE created the Abu Dhabi Free Zone Authority to regulate the development of Saadiyat Island, where there will be few restrictions on foreign companies. Companies opening offices there will be exempt from taxes, will be allowed to repatriate all profits and capital, to import labor; in addition, there will be no requirements to establish UAE partners. In 1999, the Emirates Global Capital Corporation was granted a 50-year contract to develop the 26 sq km (10 sq mi) zone, where a stock, commodities, and futures exchange was planned. However, in 2002 this project was on hold.

The UAE does not offer any statistical information on inward flows of capital, but UNCTAD estimates show that FDI totaled $480 million in 2003, down from $834 million in 2002. Despite the relative low levels of capital inflows, analysts think that FDI will play an increasingly important role in the future. Current leading sectors for investment in the UAE are oil and gas-field machinery and services, power and water, computer/peripherals, medical equipment and supplies, airport development and ground equipment, telecommunications, and franchising.


The discovery of oil opened the way for the UAE into the industrial age. The federation, formed in 1971, used its vast oil wealth during the 1970s to transform the national economy through expansion of roads, ports, airports, communications facilities, electric power plants, and water desalination facilities, as well as construction of huge oil-processing complexes. With the completion of major infrastructural projects by the early 1980s, the focus of development shifted to diversifying the economy by establishing capital-intensive industries based on oil and gas resources.

The country's major industrial projects are the Jabal 'Ali industrial zone in Dubai and the refinery complex at Ar-Ruwais in Abu Dhabi. Jabal 'Ali includes the Dubai Aluminum Co. smelter, a natural gas liquefaction plant, a cable factory, and a desalination plant that is one of the world's largest, with an output of about 25 million gallons of water daily. In mid-1995, 822 companies were operating in the Jabal 'Ali Free Zone. By 2002, this number had risen to about 2000, representing investments from over 100 countries. The United Arab Emirates now hosts 11 free trade zones. The Dubai Internet City, launched in 2000, was the world's first e-commerce free trade zone. Dubai Multi-Media City was established in 2001. In 2002 three new specialized free zones were founded: the Dubai International Financial Centre, the Dubai Metals and Commodities Centre, and the Mohammed bin Rashid Technology Park.

In 1997 the Industrial Loan Fund was set up to provide finance through the Gulf Industrial Corporation (GIC) established in 1979 in Abu Dhabi. The GIC now owns a large number of industries which produce a wide variety products, including cement blocks, fodder, flour, PVC pipes, mineral waters, and aluminum.

In relation to GNP, the UAE is one of the world's major aid donors; the principal vehicle for bilateral aid has been the Abu Dhabi Fund for Arab Economic Development. The UAE makes regular annual payments to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the PLO. Responding to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the UAE made significant financial contributions to assist the frontline states and to share the cost of the foreign military forces.

In 2004, the UAE government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion, and is looking for ways to enhance the role of the private sector in the management of its utilities. Although oil will continue to be the backbone of the economy for years to come, the country's leaders recognized that a diverse and dynamic economy will prove more sustainable in the long run. Some of the main areas of economic diversification include: security and safety equipment; IT equipment and services; medical equipment, services and supplies; architecture, construction, and engineering services; building products; air conditioning and refrigeration equipment; environmental and pollution control equipment; and sporting goods and equipment.


There is no social security law in the UAE, but many welfare benefits are available to citizens, among them free hospital treatment and medical care and subsidies for education. Relief for any domestic catastrophe is provided from a disaster fund. If the father of a family is unable to work because of illness, disability, or old age, he receives help under the National Assistance Law; should he die or divorce his wife, the woman's future is secured. UAE nationals receive many government services, including health care, water, and electricity, free of charge.

Female employment is growing in government service and in occupations such as education and health.

Women continue to suffer from official discrimination, as dictated by Islamic law. Divorce is available but difficult for a woman to obtain. Men may have more than one wife, but not more than four at one time. Women who remarry may have to give up custody of children from a previous marriage. While abuse against women does exist, it does not seem to be a pervasive problem. Child abuse is not prevalent. Many domestic servants are foreigners who are sometimes subjected to mistreatment or abuse, and poor pay.

The government restricts democratic freedoms and also limits freedoms of speech, assembly, association, press, and the right to a speedy trial.


Health facilities have been expanded rapidly since independence. Modern hospitals have been built in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and other towns. As of 2004, there were an estimated 202 physicians, 418 nurses, and 33 dentists per 100,000 people. In the same year, total health care expenditure was estimated at 8.4 % of GDP. Approximately 95% of the population had access to health care services, and more than 95% of the population had access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

Average life expectancy in 2005 was 75.24 years and the infant mortality rate was 14.51 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 18.3 and 3.9 per 1,000 people. Children up to one year old were immunized against tuberculosis, 98%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 90%; polio, 90%; and measles, 90%. The rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 94% and 95%.

Typhoid fever and tuberculosis are rare; malaria remains a problem. The goiter prevalence was 40.4 per 100 school children. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.18 per 100 adults in 2003.


The federal government is attempting to make modern low-cost homes available to poorer families, supplying them with amenities such as piped water, sewerage systems, and electricity. The Ministry of Housing constructed about 4,000 houses for free distribution to poor families between 1978 and 1981. In 1993, government spending for housing was at about 30% of the total budget.

In 1980, 33% of all housing units were flats, 30% were traditional Arabic dwellings, 9% were low-cost housing, 8% were shacks, and the remainder were sheds, caravans, single rooms, tents, and other facilities. About 85% had water closets and 26% had electricity, piped-in water, and access to a sewage system.

At the 1995 census there were 413,178 housing units in the nation; 37% were located in Abu Dhabi and 27% were in Dubai. In 1995, the Abu Dhabi Department of Social Service and Commercial Buildings (est. 1976) began construction of 504 residential buildings and had 417 other projects in the planning stages. The department has built over 40,000 housing units since 1976.


The educational system of the United Arab Emirates has burgeoned since 1971. Education in the six northern emirates, formerly financed and administered by Kuwait, has been managed by the UAE Ministry of Education since 1972. Education is compulsory for six years at the primary level, from age six, and is free to all UAE citizens, as are school uniforms, books, equipment, and transportation. Arabic is a compulsory subject and segregation of classes by sex is required. At the secondary level, children go through six years of education in two stages, three years of preparatory studies and three years of specialized studies in either sciences or the arts. Students may also choose to attend a six year technical, agricultural, or commercial school program at the secondary level. There are religious schools offering secondary studies as well. The academic year runs from September to June.

In 2001, about 70% of children between the ages of four and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 83% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 71% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 71.5% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 15:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 14:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 53.8% of primary school enrollment and 38.1% of secondary enrollment.

The United Arab Emirates University is a major state-sponsored institute. Dubai University College, a private college, was founded in January 1997. In 2003, it was estimated that about 35% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs; 21% for men and 53% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 77.3%, with 75.6% for men and 80.7% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.6% of GDP, or 22.5% of total government expenditures.


The National Library in Dubai holds 800,000 volumes, including a collection known as the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Library. The library of the Juma Al-Majid Heritage & Cultural Centre holds a collection of over 320,000 volumes. The Dubai Public Library system consists of one main and six branch locations. The Higher Colleges of Technology library (175,000 volumes) and the United Arab Emirates University library (300,000 volumes) are in Abu Dhabi.

The Dubai National Museum is housed in the Al Fahidi Fort. The Al 'Ayn Museum (1971) is an archeological institution. Sharjah is home to the Sharjah Archeology Museum, the Sharjah Heritage Museum, the Sharjah Natural History Museum, the Sharjah Science Museum, and a children's museum called the Discovery Center.


The communications system has been dramatically improved and expanded in recent years. Telecommunications operations in the emirates are all handled by ETISALAT. The Jabal 'Ali earth satellite station in Dubai maintains telephone and telegraph traffic, telex data transmission, and color television broadcasting; computer-controlled automatic telex systems have been installed in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In 2003, there were an estimated 281 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 736 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Nearly all of the television and radio broadcasting stations are owned and operated by the government through Abu Dhabi Radio and TV or Emirates TV. There is a Media Free Zone in Dubai where private stations are located, including those broadcasting in English and Arabic. In 2004, there were about 13 AM and 8 FM radio stations. The same year, there were 15 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 309 radios and 252 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 129 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 275 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 173 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

Arabic-language dailies published in the UAE in 2002 included: Al-Khalij (2002 circulation, 85,000), Al-Ittihad (Unity, 58,000), Al-Fajr (The Dawn, 50,000), Al-Wahdah (30,000), and Al-Bayan (32,650). There were three English-language dailies: the Gulf News (91,530) and Khaleej Times (72,000), published in Dubai, and the Emirates News (21,150), published in Abu Dhabi.

The provisional constitution provides for free expression; however, the government restricts expression in practice. All published materials must be licensed by the Ministry of Education, which governs content and allowable subjects. The media practice self-censorship on the subjects of government policy, the ruling families, national security, religion, and international relations.


There are national chambers of commerce in the larger states. There are also several associations representing foreign businesses. The Federation of United Arab Emirates Chambers of Commerce and Industry is located in Abu Dhabi. There are active professional associations in several different fields, such as journalism and medicine. Various social and sporting clubs provide outlets for philanthropic work and recreation. National youth organizations include the National Union of Students of the Emirates and the Emirates Scout Association. There is a national chapter of the Red Crescent Society.


Except for Gulf nationals and citizens of the United Kingdom, most visitors must secure a visa in advance. Tourism is encouraged by all the emirates, whose varied scenery includes mountains, beaches, deserts, and oases. Activities include visits to Bedouin markets, museums, zoos, and aquariums. Many large world-class hotels have opened in recent years. The emirates attract tourists from Western Europe during the winter, when the main attractions are the beaches and sunny climate. Tourists numbered 5,871,023 in 2003.

The daily cost of staying in Dubai, according to 2005 US Department of State estimates, was $376 from June through August, and $219 the rest of the year. Estimated daily expenses for travel in Abu Dhabi were $219 that year.


Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahyan (19182004) was ruler of Abu Dhabi after 1966 and president of the UAE from 1971 until his death in 2004. His son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nahyan (b.1948) became president of the UAE upon his father's death.


The UAE has no territories or colonies.


Abu-Baker, Albadr S.S. Political Economy of State Formation: The United Arab Emirates in Comparative Perspective. N.p., 1996.

American University. Persian Gulf States: Country Studies. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994.

Clements, Frank. United Arab Emirates. (rev. ed.). Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1998.

Henderson, Edward. This Strange Eventful History: Memoirs of Earlier Days in the UAE and the Sultanate of Oman. Dubai, U.A.E.: Motivate Publishing, 1993.

Oman and the United Arab Emirates. London: Lonely Planet, 2000.

Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Stannard, Dorothy. (ed.) Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Singapore: APA Publications, 1998.

Vine, Peter. United Arab Emirates: Profile of a Country's Heritage and Modern Development. London: Immel, 1992.

. United Arab Emirates in Focus. London: Trident, 1999.

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United Arab Emirates


Major Cities:
Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah

Other City:
Al-Ain, Ras al-Khaimah


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated January 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE) lies between Qatar and Oman on the southeastern shore of the Persian Gulf. Until the exploitation of large oil reserves, the small population engaged in pearling, trading, nomadic herding and oasis agriculture. Britain held a degree of political control over the sheikhdoms of the region from early in the nineteenth century until the emirates joined to form an independent federation in 1971. Before independence the British called the region the Trucial Coast or Trucial Oman, and Arabs called it the Oman Coast.

The seven emirates which comprise the U.A.E. differ markedly in size, population, and natural resources.

Their rulers, though united under one national flag, maintain a large degree of autonomy and have imprinted their individual characters on the development of their emirates. This diversity gives the social and political scene in the country a unique and dynamic flavor. The UAE's efforts to reach an effective balance between Federal and Emirate authorities is reminiscent of the political development of the United States, where to this day individual states and the Federal government continue to find new ways to make "one out of many."

Because Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate in size and population, and possesses the most oil resources, it plays a dominant role in the federation's political and economic affairs. A small fishing and pearling settlement before the discovery of oil, Abu Dhabi city has grown since independence into a modern capital with broad, tree-lined streets amid rows of skyscrapers lining the Corniche. The sedate character of the city is shaped by the dominant presence of central government institutions, financial institutions, and oil companies. In contrast, the mood in Dubai is more socially vibrant, economically open and cosmopolitan. Bustling markets, an active shipping trade, and a lively sporting and entertainment calendar put Dubai in the region's economic and social fast lane. In both cities, a walk downtown reveals the large proportion of foreigners working in the country.

Americans coming to the UAE will find a small country in the midst of rapid social and economic transformation. The seven emirates are each distinct in resources and character, ranging from the poorer, smaller emirates of the north to the dynamic commercial center of Dubai and the staid, oil-rich Abu Dhabi. These last two cities are pockets of wealth where five-star hotels feature cuisine from around the world and shops sell expensive fashions from Europe and electronics from Japan. Despite outward appearances like this, however, the UAE is still a developing country in important respects. For example, while the telephone system has the latest technologies, public hospitals are for the most part far below standard in many areas. And while UAE citizens control the country, it is foreign nationals from places like New Delhi, Dhaka, Manila, and Cairo who actually sit behind cash registers, build skyscrapers, and repair plumbing. In this sense, since the majority of the country's residents are foreigners, it is easy for foreigners to feel at home.


Abu Dhabi

In 2000, Abu Dhabi, the U.A.E. capital, and its surrounding metropolitan area had a population of 928,000. It is located on a small, flat island connected to the mainland by two bridges. The island is about 30 square miles in area, much of it reclaimed land, crisscrossed by an expanding road network. First a fishing village, then a small oil company town, Abu Dhabi is now a medium-sized city, which is still expanding. Most buildings are high-rise apartments, offices, and residential areas with single-and three-unit dwellings (townhouses).


Several American and European-style supermarkets stock most basic items. Spinneys, Prisunic, Abela, Choitram's, and Al-Kamal are modern supermarkets that sell American, French, Mexican, Japanese, and Arab foods. Fresh foods include meat, seafood, produce, and dairy products, which are available year round. A wide and varied array of packaged and canned foods is available as in any comparable supermarket in the U.S. Fresh meat is flown in from Australia and Europe. Frozen meats and vegetables are also available. Except for occasional shortages of certain items, you will find almost any food item in Abu Dhabi stores, including an increasing amount of American brands. Pork products are available in special "non-Muslim" sections of some stores.


Local shops and boutiques carry various types of clothing, usually European brands and styles, but they are expensive, and quality varies. Cotton or cotton-blend clothes are strongly recommended for summer; synthetics are too hot to wear. A sweater or shawl is useful for overly air-conditioned receptions. It is cool during winter (December-February), and houses hold dampness. Light woolens and synthetics are comfortable, and sweaters are useful.

Shoes, including sandals, to suit American tastes are difficult to find, and the sand makes them wear fast. A good supply is needed throughout your tour. Locally made sandals and shoes are inexpensive, but not durable.

Dry-cleaning facilities are adequate, but bring as few items that need dry-cleaning as possible. White and light-colored fabrics are subject to stains from rusty water, but filter attachments help prevent this problem.

Men: "Gulf or Red Sea rig," sometimes specified for dressy summer occasions, consists of an open-necked dress shirt and dress trousers with cummerbund. A business suit with tie is normally worn during working hours and is suitable for most evening functions.

Women: Use discretion when choosing clothes for the U.A.E., which is a Moslem country with conservative dress customs. Low-cut, short hemlines, sleeveless tops, or revealing/see-through clothes are not worn in public. Slacks are worn in public, but shorts are not advised, except for recreation. Typical evening dresses (bare shoulders, low-cut, etc.) may be worn at private functions, depending on the guest list and location. Tailored dresses are always appropriate.

Children: Teenage girls in the American school are expected to wear knee-length clothes. Bring the same type of clothes as children would wear in Washington, D.C., but light, winter clothessweaters, jackets, and long pants, etc. Children's shoes are expensive.

Supplies and Services

Unless you have strong brand preferences, most items needed can be purchased in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai, but are expensive.

Tailoring and dressmaking can be reasonable. Shoe repair is available, but quality is fair. Beauty and barbershops are available and reasonably hygienic.

Religious Activities

Catholic, Anglican, and Syrian Orthodox services are held in Abu Dhabi in English, French, Arabic, and various Indian dialects. The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), a nondenominational American missionary group, also holds regular services.


School-aged American children may attend the American Community School (ACS), which offers pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Of the about 500 pupils enrolled, nearly 40% are American. The remainder of the student body is multinational. All instruction is in English, and the American curriculum is followed. French is taught in the high school only, and the Arabic language and culture is taught from the lower school.

The typical school year is from September to June. Classes are held Saturday through Wednesday, from 7:25 am to 2:25 pm. As a college preparatory high school, ACS does not have programs for students with special needs. The school has two large and well-equipped science labs, a large art room, a photography lab, a music room with two adjacent practice rooms, and a cafeteria/all-purpose room, two computer labs, a gymnasium with stage, an athletic field, tennis courts, and a swimming pool.

Both the lower school (pre-kindergarten through grade 6) and the upper school (grades 7 through 11) are accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The school went through re-accreditation that was completed in the fall of 1993 (which will include grade 12). The curriculum reflects that of a small American School in the U.S. The courses offered in the high school are college preparatory, and the academic load is demanding.

Several other schools exist in Abu Dhabi, some of which are listed below:

National College of Choueifat
P.O. Box 7212
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

Al-Worood School
P.O. Box 46673
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

(Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary schools)

International School of Abu
P.O. Box 25898 Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

(Opened in September 1992; U.S. curriculum; no U.S. accreditation as yet.)

Al Manhal Canadian School
P.O. Box 3110
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

(Accreditation by the Minister of EducationOntario)

Special Educational Opportunities

No special programs are available for students with learning disabilities.


Water-skiing, scuba diving, sailing, bowling, tennis, squash, handball, etc., are offered by various recreation clubs around town. Sports activities (with the exception of water sports) diminish during the long, hot summers when outdoor activities are kept to a minimum. Swimming pools in major recreation clubs are temperature controlled. Good fishing is available in local waters. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have ice-skating rinks. To save money, bring your own sports equipment and clothing, although most items can be purchased locally.

Recreation clubs include The Club, Hiltonia, Meridien, Intercontinental Hotel, Palm Beach, Sheraton Hotel, the Marina, Dhabi Health (Al Ain Palace Hotel) and the Khalidiya Palace Hotel.

An organized slow-pitch softball league is sponsored by some of the major American oil companies. Games are played during the cool season.

The Abu Dhabi Golf Club is an 18-hole sand course with Astroturf for fairway shots. An entrance fee of is required; as is an annual membership fee, which is higher for men than for women. There is a 12-month waiting period for men and 4 months for women. Golf enthusiasts with handicaps stand a better chance of admission. A new golf course is being planned.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Except for a small area on the east coast, scattered oases, and the northern tip of the country, the U.A.E. is desert. The mainland across from Abu Dhabi island is especially desolate. Nevertheless, driving trips to the oasis of Al-Ain, about 100 miles inland, to the beaches of Fujairah and Khor-Fakkan on the east coast, and northward to the greener areas of Ras-Al-Khaimah all provide interesting changes of scenery. Camping on the east coast is popular. A Hilton Hotel at Fujairah and the Oceanic Hotel at Khor-Fakkan are modern, attractive lodges that help to ensure overnighting for noncampers as well. At these sites, one can find boating, fishing, picnicking, swimming, and tennis.

Dubai, Al-Ain, and Ras-Al-Khaimah all have small but interesting museums, and Sharjah has an archeology museum. Al-Ain has an extensive, well-run zoo, which is worth a visit during cool weather, as well as "Fun City," an amusement park popular with families. Dubai also has a small zoo, and with its picturesque creek filled with dhows and with its historic wind towers, offers weekend diversions. Several archeological sites have been discovered and can be reached easily. The Heritage Village in the Bateen airport area and the Abu Dhabi Women's Handicrafts Center are worthwhile visiting. Visitors can stay overnight in Al-Ain at either the Hilton Hotel or the Intercontinental Hotel and in Dubai at one of the several large, modern hotels there. A shopping trip to the souks in any Arab country is a must. The U.A.E. is no exception. The gold souk in Dubai has a large selection of 18 and 21/22 carat gold. Sharjah has a new souk, an impressive building in its use of mosaic tiles and traditional designs. There you will find a varied selection of Persian handmade carpets and tribal rugs, plus hundreds of other items, mostly imported.

A visit to Oman is worth the effort. An agricultural and trading center for centuries, Oman's more settled population has had time to develop interesting architecture and crafts, which are lacking among the Bedouin population of the U.A.E. The old souks and towns retain an unspoiled atmosphere. The Musandam peninsula, which juts out into the Strait of Hormuz, can be reached by four-wheel-drive vehicles and is rightly considered the "Norway" of the Middle East with its spectacular "fjord-like" sea inlets.


The Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation offers various cultural activities throughout the year. Most hotels have good restaurants and disco nightclubs. Performing artists are sponsored by the hotels, USIS, the British Council, the French Cultural Center, and private businesses. Performances usually take place in the hotels.

Local groups include the Abu Dhabi Choral Group, Emirates Natural History Group, the Thespians of Abu Dhabi Society or TOADS (drama), and various sporting societies.

Social Activities

The diplomatic and foreign community is large. The American community, although not formally organized, participates with the U.S. Embassy staff in such events as U.S. Navy ship visits and Fourth of July activities. The ACS is also a focus of American activity. Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops and a PTA are active.

International contacts can be made at any cultural activity, but more specifically, at the Emirates Natural History Group and the Women in Abu Dhabi monthly meetings. Both organizations present guest speakers, activities, slide shows, and exhibits. They also sponsor excursions for members to places of interest.


Dubai is actually just one of the U.A.E.'s largest metropolitan areas. It is a tri-city region of over one million people, that includes not only Dubai, but the contiguous cities of Sharjah and Ajman as well. This metropolitan area is the commercial center of the U.A.E. For decades, the Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman area has been an important stop on the Eastern trade routes.


Several large Western-style grocery stores operate in Dubai. Safeway, Spinneys, and Choitram's carry American and international brands of food and fresh meat, produce, and dairy products. There are also large, open-air markets that sell fresh produce, meat, and fish.

Religious Activities

Services are held in English at the Protestant and Catholic churches.


The American School of Dubai has about 650 (about 55% are American) students from kindergarten to grade 11. Send records in advance to:

The Headmaster
Jumairah International School
P.O. Box 2222
Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The school follows the U.S. curriculum and calendar. It is owned by a group of companies and accredited by both the Middle States and Southern States School Associations. Classes are held Sunday through Thursday from 7:50 am to 2:45 pm, September to June.

The National College of Choueifat at Sharjah, some 10 miles from Dubai, has classes for students ages 4-18. An offshoot of the parent school in Beirut, which was founded in 1886, the school prepares students for the International Baccalaureate Degree, O and A levels. The medium of instruction is English, French, and Arabic. The academic year is from September to June. The school week is Saturday through Wednesday from 8 am to 4 pm. For more information, write to:

The Director
National College of Choueifat
P.O. Box 2077
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates


Water sports are popular, and, for most people, they are the only outdoor activities during the hottest part of the year. Most sports activities center around five social clubs.

The Hilton Beach Club is popular among the foreign community at large. In addition to beach facilities, it has two swimming pools, lighted tennis courts, squash courts, exercising and fitness center, and a restaurant/bar. Family membership is over $1,100 plus an entrance fee of over $500.

The Metropolitan Beach Club offers tennis, squash, billiards, gymnasium, sauna, windsurfing, and a swimming pool. Annual membership fee is About $900 plus $200 joining fee, and over $600 plus $130 joining fee for singles.

The Emirates Golf Club Dubai offers a 27-hole golf course, tennis courts, squash courts, gymnasium, and a swimming pool. Annual subscription for a family with two children is about $4,100; single man $3,000; single lady $2,100.

The Dubai Country Club has a 36-hole sand golf course, tennis and squash courts, and a swimming pool. The club has a restaurant/bar, which is open daily. Membership is limited to 1,500 people, and waiting periods of several months occur. Family memberships is $1,096 annually; $712 for a single man and $438 for a single woman.

The Dubai Offshore Sailing Club has limited facilities for those who like sailing. Owning a boat is a prerequisite for membership. The Club has three boats for rent by members only. It has a bar, restaurant, moorings, and a small beach with showers and changing rooms. Annual dues are about $410 to join and $136 annually.

Several hotels offer swimming, sports, and health club services at individual rates of about $500 a year.


Dubai has many good restaurants offering Chinese, Japanese, Continental, Indian, Pakistani, and Arab cuisine. Several hotels, including the Hilton, Hyatt Regency, Intercontinental, and Sheraton, offer extensive luncheon buffets, which feature Arab-style "mezzas" (smorgasbord). Several nightclubs have bands and dancing nightly. Most hotels offer live entertainment in the evenings.

A new cinema, Al-Nask, now shows current English-language movies.

Three lending libraries are available: the Dubai Municipal Library, the British Council Library, and the Dubai Lending Library.

Social Activities

Most of the estimated 4,500 Americans in the U.A.E. live in the Dubai Sharjah area, and many important U.S. firms have offices in Dubai. This American community, coupled with a Consular Corps representing 20 countries, insures an active social life for Americans in Dubai.


Sharjah, chief city in the emirate of the same name, is the third largest city in the U.A.E., with a population of 314,000 (2000 est.). A former British protectorate, the city was the site of a British base until 1971. Once the principal town in the area, Sharjah declined until oil was discovered offshore in 1974. Connected by roads to the northern emirates, Sharjah experienced a construction boom in the mid-1970s. Tourism is also important in Sharjah. In recent years, a deep water port has been constructed at Khor-Fakkan and light industries expanded. The U.A.E.'s fisheries research station is located here.


Two English-language schools are located in Sharjah. The International School of Choueifat at Sharjah, some 10 miles from Dubai, has classes for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 13. An off-shoot of the parent school in Beirut which was founded in 1886, the school offers a British curriculum and prepares students for the International Baccalaureate degree. The medium of instruction is English, French, and Arabic. The academic year is from September to June. School days run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., five days per week, Saturday through Wednesday. Enrollment is 1,300; there are 77 full-time instructors. Facilities include 16 buildings, science and computer laboratories, a covered play area, and a 5,000-volume library. The school's address is: P.O. Box 2077, Sharjah, U.A.E.


AL-AIN , (population 226,000, 1995 est.) is the largest city in the Buraimi Oasis, an area which spans the border between Abu Dhabi and Oman. Surrounded by red sand dunes and a breathtaking mountain range, it has earned the nickname "The Garden City Of The Gulf." As the birthplace of Shaikh Zayed, the current ruler of Abu Dhabi, funding for a variety of cultural, educational, and social attractions has been quite substantial and travelers can enjoy all the modern accommodations of a larger city while still experiencing the uniqueness of the Arab culture.

The Al-Ain Zoo and Aquarium is a favorite attraction which showcases such animals as Arabian antelope and deer; oryx, eland, gazelle and lechwe; and big cats, such as lion, tigers, pumas, black and spotted leopards and jaguars. A large Camel Souk (market) can be found in Al-Ain. It's open every Friday, since that is the same day as the famous camel races during the winter months. Tour guides are usually around to arrange camel safaris that range from a short trek of an hour or two to an overnight journey with a stay in a Bedouin tent.

The Al-Ain Museum is a great touring site for those interested in Bedouin history and culture. he museum contains exhibits on life in pre-oil days, as well as jewelry, weaponry, and musical instruments of the Bedouins. he museum also holds the collection of rare and unusual gifts received by the Shaikh, including the Order of Isabel the Catholic and a bullet from a Palestinian commando leader who hijacked three aircraft to Jordan in 1970.

Al-Hili Fun City, the largest theme park in the Gulf area, has been called the Disneyland of the Middle East. Located just northeast of city center, the park has a nice variety of thrill rides ranging from roller coasters to large slides. A Dynamic Motion Theater is also part of the parks attractions. Admission is just about US$3.

There are several small public parks within the city, including, Al-Slmi Park, Al-Jahli Park (for ladies and children only), Al-Basra Park (ladies), and Al-Maqam Park (ladies).

The mountain range above Al-Ain is Jabal Hafit. It is the highest point in the country and tourists can reach the peak along an excellent mountain road. Several picnic and parking areas are located along the road. The slopes around the mountain contain caves that can be explored through group tours. Visitors can also enjoy the hot springs at the bottom of the mountain. The Ain Al-Fayadah Resort, located on the west of the mountain, offers typical tourist accommodations. There are two swimming pools in the resort, one for men and one for women. Other facilities include a bowling center and Western and Eastern style restaurants.

If you have a chance, Buraimi, the Omani sister city to Al-Ain, can be visited without a separate visa. The Buraimi Souk offers a provincial open air market of fruits and vegetables and a small-town atmosphere that is quite different from Al-Ain.

Al-Ain is a two hour drive east from Abu Dhabi. There are plenty of buses and taxis within the city.

RAS AL-KHAIMAH city is an ancient seaport near which archaeo-logical remains have been discovered. The city and the emirate are the most agricultural in the U.A.E., producing vegetables, dates, fruit, and tobacco. The city's industries include cement factories, a lime factory, and an explosives plant. In 1982, oil and gas were discovered offshore. The city's population is about 130,000 (2000 est.). The Ras al-Khaimah English Speaking School, founded in 1976, offers a U.K. curriculum for nursery school through grade six. The school's mailing address is: P.O. Box 975, Ras al-Khaimah, U.A.E.


Geography and Climate

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) became a sovereign, independent country on December 2, 1971, after being a British protectorate. It comprises a federation of seven small Arabian emirates formerly known as the Trucial States: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah, and Fujairah.

The U.A.E. (about the size of Maine) has an area of about 34,000 square miles, with a 386-mile coastline on the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. All the main towns, with the exception of the oasis of Al-Ain, are on the coast. Apart from a mountain range in the north and scattered oases, much of the U.A.E.'s territory is sandy desert, and salt marshes. A few offshore islands belong to or are claimed by the U.A.E.

Rainfall is low, but coastal humidity is uncomfortably high. May to October is extremely hot, with shade temperatures of 29°C (85°F) to 50°C (122°F) and frequent 100% humidity. During the cool season (December-February) the weather is damp and seems colder than the 10°C (50°F) the thermometer sometimes indicates. During the rest of the year, the climate is pleasant, except for occasional sandstorms and hot, dry winds, which blow off the Empty Quarter of Arabia.


Figures published in 2000 put the population of the country at more than 2.4 million, with about 60% males and 40% females. Recent population figures show a total of more than 2 million. U.A.E. citizens constituted about 20% of the total. The other 80% represent different nationalities who live here, which include foreign Pakistanis, Indians, and Iranians, Filipinos, and various Arab and European nationalities.

Many men from India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Oman have left their families to seek their fortunes in the U.A.E., working at unskilled and semiskilled jobs, and earning wages higher than any they could hope to earn in their own countries. This influx, coupled with the Arab tradition of secluding women, creates the overwhelmingly male crowds seen on streets in the souk (market place), in restaurants, and in other public places.

Islam is the predominant religion throughout the country, but with such a large foreign population, Hinduism and Christianity are also evident. Churches (which include the Roman Catholic, Anglican/Episcopalian, and other denominations) conduct their services in English and several other languages. Arabic is the official language, but English, Persian, Hindi, Tagalog, and Urdu are widely spoken.

Public Institutions

The U.A.E. is governed by a Supreme Council composed of the rulers of the seven emirates. There is an executive Council of Ministers and a consultative Federal National Council consisting of 40 nominated members. The Constitution guarantees basic personal, legal, and social rights. It also defines the role of the Federal Government and its relationship to individual emirate governments.

The Federal Government has responsibility for foreign affairs; armed forces and defense; internal security; law and government affairs in the capital; affairs of Federal employees and the judiciary; Federal finance, taxes, fees, and royalties; postal and telegraphic services; road construction and maintenance of main highways; air traffic control and licensing; education; public health and medical services; currency, information; and passport, immigration, and nationality matters.

The U.A.E., whose armed forces consists of 60,000 troops, contributes a few hundred troops to the Gulf Cooperation Council's "Peninsula Shield" force, headquartered in Saudi Arabia. These forces participated in the Gulf War.

In the past, many of these services were performed by the individual emirates. Now, however, the Federal Government, headquartered in Abu Dhabi and organized into functional ministries, is active throughout the country. Ministers are drawn from ruling families and leading citizens of the seven emirates. The individual emirates, however, retain a remarkable measure of control over their own internal and economic affairs, including petroleum concessions, industrial development, public works and utilities, security, customs, and town planning.

Civil and criminal legal systems have been codified. There is a dual system of Sharia (religious) and secular courts, each of which deals with criminal and civil law. Secular Courts fuse Sharia law with legal principles found in Jordanian, Egyptian, Sudanese, and English legal systems. No political parties or organizations exist.

Rapid modernization, enormous strides in education, and the influx of a large foreign population have changed the face of the society but have not fundamentally altered this traditional political system.

Arts, Science, and Education

The rapid introduction of large amounts of wealth, technology, and foreign workers into the UAE has resulted in the wholesale transformation of social and cultural life. Before this transformation, the Oman Coast's urban culture was influenced by Oman and Iran. What local traditions that existed were often oral, employing poetry, singing, and story-telling. Material culture, from architecture to handicrafts, was at a basic level. Since most settlements were on the coast and relied on the products of the local waters for a livelihood, much of what can be considered traditional UAE culture revolves around pearling, fishing, and seamenship. In addition, Bedouin influences are also strong, and the ruling family's Bedouin origins ensure that the culture and sports of the desert (camel racing, falconry, and Bedouin song and dance, for example) are closely intertwined with the national image and an integral part of national celebrations.

The government supports a number of organizations dedicated to preserving U.A.E. traditional handicrafts and folklore practices. the U.A.E. Women's Association operates a handicraft center in Abu Dhabi where basketry and weaving are carried out. Sharjah, which was the region's most important city in the 19th century, has made a special effort to rebuild its traditional urban quarters. Visitors can get an idea of the way of life before the coming of oil by walking through the city's renovated Old Souq and the Ethnographic Museum, the former house of a wealthy pearling family. Archeologists continue to find evidence of early habitation of the region, and museums in Al Ain and Sharjah, for example, have displays of many artifacts. An as evidence to how far they have come since the coming of oil, the UAE has produced artists in the fields of painting, theater, music, and literature who contribute to the cultural development of their country and the enrichment of Arab culture in general.

The few Western-style cultural outlets include English-language movie theaters, and touring singers and theater troupes whose performances are sponsored by major hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

As in other parts of the Islamic world, for many years mosques served as a center for teaching in Coastal Omanprincipally reading, writing, and recitation of the Quran, Islam's Holy Book. In the early part of the 20th century, leading pearl merchants established schools staffed by foreign teachers in the main coastal towns. The first school offering a comprehensive curriculum was built by the British in 1953. For a period during the 1950s and 1960s, Kuwait and other Arab States contributed to the educational system. (Only recently have UAE nationals begun replacing Arabs as school teachers at all levels.) The founding of the UAE saw a tremendous expansion of education, with spending for this area second only to defense in the first national budgets.

Education through the secondary level is compulsory and free through college for UAE nationals. United Arab Emirates University opened in 1977 in Al Ain and has faculties in arts, science, education, political science, business administration, Islamic jurisprudence, agriculture, medicine, and engineering. Enrollment in 1991-92 was around 10,000, with more than twice as many women as men. Many UAE nationals pursue higher degrees overseas, most going to the U.S. Technical and agricultural training is provided at the Higher Colleges of Technology, which have branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Al Ain. There are many private schools (including American Schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai), which cater to the various foreign communities. The literacy rate in 1995 was estimated at 79%.

Commerce and Industry

The U.A.E.'s economy depends on its oil income, estimated at $20.6 billion in 2000, giving its citizens one of the world's highest per capita GDP income figures at about $22,800.

The major centers of economic activity are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. Abu Dhabi produces about 85% of the country's oil and imports building materials, machinery, food, electrical appliances, cars, medicines, and almost everything else. Dubai, which produces most of the rest of the U.A.E.'s oil, also engages in a sizable reexport trade. It reexports textiles, consumer electronics, cameras, watches, gold, motorscooters, and perfumes to Iran, India, Pakistan, and other Gulf states. Most reexport trade is carried by motorized dhows (locally built triangular-rigged sailing vessels). Dubai has been called the Hong Kong of the Gulf because of its mercantile and entrepot activity and the atmosphere of free enterprise that prevails there. Dubai also has the Jebel Ali Free Zone, the largest and most successful in the Middle East. Sharjah has become a big gas producer and is the manufacturing center of the U.A.E.

The Abu Dhabi port, Mina Zayid, is being expanded and will have 29 berths. However, it remains under-used. Sharjah and Fujairah have developed ports on the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, respectively, which feature facilities for containerized cargo. In addition to Dubai's large central port of Mina Rashid, the Dubai government built a huge 180-berth port in the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

The demand for goods, most of which must be imported, resulted in rapid inflation during the 1970s and early 1980s. With the later fall in oil prices; however, the economy went into recession, and local prices have now stabilized, although at a level high, by U.S. standards.

The typical Abu Dhabi investor shuns long-term industrial investments in favor of commerce or housing construction projects, which offer more immediate returns. Although houses with Western-style floor plans are still in short supply, apartments in high-rise buildings are readily available. Rents in Abu Dhabi are kept at artificially high levels by a government-run scheme designed to benefit U.A.E. nationals who own rental property.

Industrial development in the U.A.E. is still in its early stages and is concentrated in hydrocarbon-related projects. Dubai has constructed an aluminum plant and a drydock capable of handling the largest supertankers.

In recent years, the U.A.E. has expanded its agricultural production significantly through the extensive application of large, government subsidies, and seasonal surpluses of some vegetables are even exported. A project established by the Arid Lands Research Center of the University of Arizona has produced good results with hydroponic cultivation of vegetables; another team from the same university has a prototype commercial farm based on saltwater irrigation near Fujairah. Other horticultural projects are flourishing in Al-Ain and Digdaga. An import tax on vegetables now exists to protect the market for locally grown vegetables. The government is encouraging livestock and poultry production and expanded commercial fishing. It is unlikely, however, that the U.A.E. will become self-sufficient in foodstuffs.



Although getting around by taxi is relatively easy, most travelers prefer the convenience of a personally owned vehicle. Taxis are plentiful and fares reasonable but costly for intercity travel. Meters are used for trips within Abu Dhabi. Taxis are scarce during peak hours, late at night, and in the early hours of the morning, particularly off the main streets. Not all drivers understand English. Al-Ghazal taxis offer round-the-clock service and are similar to a limousine service. They may be booked by telephone or found outside major hotels. Some areas in the cities are served by public buses, but most travelers prefer to use personally owned vehicles.


Abu Dhabi emirate covers 30,000 square miles, or almost 90% of the U.A.E. land area, with the remaining emirates making up only 4,000 square miles. The bulk of the population is concentrated in eight main townsthe seven emirate capitals and the oasis of Al-Ain in Abu Dhabi emirate. A network of good, hard-surfaced roads connects these cities.

Abu Dhabi proper is linked with Al-Ain and the other emirates by fourlane divided highways. Other highways link the U.A.E. with neighboring Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The U.A.E. has six international airports. The two largest airports are located in the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


Telephone and Telegraph

The UAE has an excellent telecommunications infrastructure, with direct-dial international links and services such as pagers, mobile phones, faxes, and connection to the Internet. There are locally based operators for AT&T, MCI, and Sprint.

Radio and TV

Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al-Khaimah, and Umm Al-Kuwait all have radio stations. Abu Dhabi's AM band broadcasts in Arabic, French, Urdu, Bengali, and Tagalog and 2 hours in English. English is also broadcast on the FM band for 17 hours and on SW for 2 hours. Dubai broadcasts in English on FM and Arabic on AM band. Ras Al-Khaimah and Umm Al-Kuwait broadcast Arabic on the AM band. Many Americans also listen to the BBC and VOA on shortwave radios; however, reception is sometimes poor.

The emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah have TV stations. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have two channels each, one in Arabic, and the other mostly in English. U.A.E. viewers with good antennas can also receive transmissions from neighboring countries.

The U.A.E now abides by intellectual property agreements. Pirated audio and video cassettes, once prevalent in the market, have largely disappeared from store shelves. Selections of legitimately licensed product are only fair, but are improving. Prices for CD's and cassette tapes are roughly equivalent to U.S. prices. Prerecorded video tapes are more expensive, and selection is sparse, though improving. All music and video programs sold in the UAE are subject to Government censorship.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

The country has five Arabic daily papers, three in Abu Dhabi, one in Dubai, and one in Sharjah. Abu Dhabi has one English-language daily paper and Dubai has two, all of which are available throughout the U.A.E. All papers feature stories from the Western wire services, such as Reuters, AP, and UPI. News is fairly current, but some may be censored. The International Herald Tribune, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal can be purchased locally 1-3 days after publication. The major British dailies can also be purchased.

Distribution of Time, Newsweek, and the Economist is timely, although articles offending local moral or political sensitivities are censored. Some bookstores carry a wide selection of English-language magazines, but at high prices (i.e., five or more times U.S. prices).

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have several government hospitals, including OB/GYN hospitals, capable of handling emergencies and routine medical care. However, they are not up to Western standards. Personnel at the hospitals are usually recruited from Egypt, Lebanon, India, and the Philippines.

There are several private clinics and laboratories available. Dental clinics staffed by dentists from the U.S., Sweden, U.K., and France are satisfactory.

Local pharmacies are well stocked with medications from Europe. However, bring your own supply of prescription medication.

Community Health

The government is working to improve the water and sewage systems, and residential areas are fumigated regularly.

Preventive Measures

Tap water in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is generally safe to drink; however, tanks and pipes may be rusty or contaminated. Most people prefer to drink bottled water, which is available for inexpensive home delivery. Malaria is a risk only in the mountainous area near the Omani border.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Most major airlines have daily flights from Europe to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

A passport and visa are required. In addition, an AIDS test is required for work or residence permits; testing must be performed after arrival. A U.S. AIDS test is not accepted. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Suite 700, 1255 22nd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 243-2400.

UAE customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from UAE of items such as firearms, including fireworks, pornographic materials, medications, religious materials and communication equipment. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of UAE in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Americans living in or visiting the UAE are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the Consulate General in Dubai, where they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the UAE. the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is located on 11th St., also known as Al-Sudan St., P.O. Box 4009. The telephone number is (971) (2) 443-6691, and the Consular Section fax number is (971) (2) 443-5786. The after hours telephone number is (971) (2) 443-4457. The Embassy internet web site is The U.S. Consulate General in Dubai is located on the 21st floor of the Dubai World Trade Center, P.O. Box 9343. The telephone number is (971) (4) 331-3115, and the Consular Section fax number is (971) (4) 331-6935. The workweek for both the Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Consulate in Dubai is Saturday through Wednesday.

Social Customs & Laws

Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.

The penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal substances are strict in the UAE, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Legislation enacted in January 1996 imposes the death sentence for convicted drug traffickers. A variety of drugs normally taken under a doctor's supervision in the United States are classified as narcotics in the UAE. A doctor's prescription should be carried along with any medication that is brought into the country.

In addition, the UAE's tough antinarcotics program also includes poppy seeds on its list of controlled substances. The importation and possession of poppy seeds in any and all forms is strictly prohibited. Persons found to possess even very small quantities of any controlled substances listed by the UAE are subject to prosecution by the authorities and may be given lengthy prison terms of up to 15 years. Travelers with questions regarding the items on the list of controlled substances should contact the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai.

If suspected of being under the influence of drugs, individuals may be required to submit to blood and/or urine tests so that local authorities may make a determination as to usage. UAE authorities have been known to arrest travelers upon their arrival into the UAE and, based on recent prior drug use, to prosecute these travelers.

Crimes of fraud, including passing bad checks and non-payment of bills (including hotel bills), are regarded seriously in the UAE and can result in imprisonment, as well as fines. Penalties are generally assessed according to religious law. If imprisoned, bail is generally not available to non-residents of the UAE.

Drinking or possession of alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal and could result in arrest and/or fines and imprisonment. Alcohol is served at bars in most major hotels. However, this alcoholic beverage service is for those persons who are staying at the hotel. Persons not staying at the hotel who come in to use the facility's bar technically are required to have their own personal liquor license. Liquor licenses are obtainable only by non-Muslim persons who possess UAE residency permits. Drinking and driving is considered a serious offense.

While individuals are free to worship as they choose, and facilities are available for that purpose, religious proselytizing is not permitted. Persons violating this law, even unknowingly, may be arrested and imprisoned.


UAE customs authorities also impose additional requirements for the importation of pets into the country. Prior permission in the form of a permit from the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries must be secured before the pet's travel. To obtain the permit, the following items will need to be submitted to the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries at the following address: P.O. Box 213, Abu Dhabi, UAE, telephone number 971-2-662-781 or 971-2-485-438. a). the pet's travel itinerary; b). copies of veterinary health certificates, showing that the animal is free of disease and indicating all shots which have been given to the pet; c). the sex and color of the pet; and d). a completed import permit application form (available from the ministry).

Some American and British brands of pet food and cat litter are stocked in all supermarkets.

Firearms & Ammunition

No weapons or ammunition may be imported or acquired in the country.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

Basic currency is the U.A.E. dirham (DH), which is divided into 100 fils. The dirhams come in 500, 200, 100, 10, and 5-bill denominations, and coins in 1 Dirham, 50, 25, 10, and 5 fils. Exchange generally averages about DH 3.67 = US$1 (1998). Many banks provide full banking services. Dollar and sterling travelers checks are readily available.


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Aug. 6Sheikh Zayed Accession Day

Dec. 2 & 3 U.A.E. National Day

Mawlid an Nabi*

Id al-Fitr*


Id al-Adha*




These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Abdallah, Muhammad Morsy. The United Arab Emirates: A Modern History. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1978.

Al-Otaiba, Mana Saeed. Petroleum and The Economy of The United Arab Emirates. London: Croom Helm, 1977.

Anthony, John Duke. Arab States of the Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum. Washington, D.C.: The Middle East Institute, 1975.

Area Handbook for the Persian Gulf States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, latest edition.

Belgrave, Charles. The Pirate Coast. London: Bell, 1966.

Bibby, Geoffrey. Looking for Dilmun. New York: Knopf, 1969.

Bousted, Hugh. The Wind of Morning. London: Chatto & Windus, 1971.

Buharna, Hussain. The Arabian Gulf States, Their Legal and Political Status. Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1975.

Busch, Briton Cooper. Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1894-1914. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967.

Dickson, H.R.P. The Arab of the Desert. London: Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1949.

Fenelon, K.G. The United Arab Emirates. London: Longman, 1976.

Gerard, Bernard. The United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.: Ministry of Information, 1973.

Guillaume Alfred. Islam. Penguin Books: Baltimore, 1961.

Halpern, Manfred. The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Hawley, Donald. The Trucial States. London: Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1970.

Heard-Bey, Frauke. From Trucial States to United Arab Emirates. London: Longmans, 1982.

Hitti, Philip K. History of the Arabs. MacMillan: London, 1956.

Hogarth, David George. The Penetration of Saudi Arabia. Beirut: Khayats, 1966.

Holden, David. Farewell to Arabia. London: Faber and Faber, 1966.

Hourani, George Fadlo. Arab Sea-faring. Beirut: Khayats, 1964.

Kelly, J.B. Eastern Arabian Frontiers. London: Faber and Faber, 1964.

Mann, Clarence C. Abu Dhabi: Birth of an Oil Sheikhdom. Beirut: Khayats, 1963.

Mansfield, Peter. The New Arabians. Chicago: J.G. Ferguson Publishing Co., 1981.

Marlowe, John. The Persian Gulf in the Twentieth Century. London: The Cresset Press, 1962.

Morris, Claud. The Desert Falcon. London: Grosvenor Press, 1974.

Niyes, James H. The Clouded Lens, Persian Gulf Security and U.S. Policy. Stanford University: Hoover Institution Press, 1979.

Nyrop, Richard F., ed. Persian Gulf States, A Country Study (area Handbook Series). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1984.

Peck, Malcolm C. United Arab Emirates: A Profile. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985.

. The United Arab Emirates, A Venture In Unity. Colorado: Western Press, 1986.

Philby, H. Sir John B. The Empty Quarter. London: Constable and Co., Ltd., 1933.

Qafishet, Hamdi A. Basic Gulf Arabic. Beirut: Khayats, 1970. Raban, Jonathan. Arabic Through the Looking Glass. London: Collins Harvill, 1979.

Ramahi, Seif A. El-Wady. Economics and Political Evolution in the Arabian Gulf States. New York: Carlton Press, Inc., 1973.

Taryam, A.O. The Establishment of The United Arab Emirates 1950-1985. London: Croom Helm, 1977.

Thesiger, Wilfred. Arabian Sands. New York: Viking Press, 1984.

Tomkinson, Michael. The United Arab Emirates. London: Tomkinson Pub., 1975.

Watt, Montgomery W. Mohammed: Prophet and Statesman. Oxford University Press: Oxford, England, 1961.

Wilson, Sir Arnold F. The Persian Gulf. Westport, CT: Hyperion Pr., 1981.

Zahlan, Rosemarie Said. The Origins of The United Arab Emirates: A Political and Social History of The Trucial States. New York: St. Martin's, 1978.

. Modern Gulf States. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

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United Arab Emirates




The United Arab Emirates (UAE) controls the southeastern portion of the Arabian peninsula south of the states of Bahrain and Qatar. The federation covers 82,820 square kilometers (31,976 square miles) and is bordered on the north by the Persian Gulf and Iran, on the east by Oman, and on the south and west by Saudi Arabia. The UAE separates Oman from the Musandam peninsula and extends 90 kilometers (145 miles) along the Gulf of Oman, an area known as the al-Batinah coast. The UAE is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Maine.


The population of the UAE is between 2.8 million and 3 million. About 85 percent of them live in cities that straddle the country's Arabian/Persian Gulf coastline. UAE cities tend to be ethnically heterogeneous and male, while there are more women and UAE nationals in rural areas. The 3 largest emiratesAbu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjahcollectively govern 84.3 percent of the population. Close to 80 percent of the population is comprised of expatriate nationals and nearly 63 percent of the population is male. Nearly 96 percent of Emiratis are Muslim. South Asians, mainly Indians and Pakistanis, make up 50 percent of the population. The next 3 largest expatriate ethnic groups are Iranians (2.5 percent), Arabs from other parts of the Middle East (13 percent), and Westerners (1 percent).

By all accounts the population is growing very rapidly. According to the UAE's Central Bank, the UAE's population grew by 5.5 percent between 1993 and 1997. The UAE government expects population to double by 2010, whereas Dubai projects the emirate's population to double by 2005. The World Bank projected a 37 percent increase in population, but with 30 percent of the current population under the age of 15, this still represents an important demographic shift. By contrast, the United Nations anticipates the UAE's population to double by 2029.

The principal causes of this rapid population growth are the federation's booming economy and the govern-ment's encouragement of UAE nationals to have large families. The UAE government provides substantial financial incentives for UAE nationals to marry each other and to raise large families. The UAE government hopes that this would help to balance the federation's population, which is overwhelmingly composed of expatriates.


The UAE is a tribal federation of 7 emirates occupying a portion of the southeastern Arabian peninsula. It is one of the most economically secure states in the world. The UAE controls 98 billion barrels of oil10 percent of the world's proven oil reservesas well as 212 trillion cubic feet of gas, the fourth largest amount in the world after Russia, Iran, and Qatar. The UAE has employed its natural resources and its strategic location to become one of the most modern and wealthiest states in the world. It boasts both large petroleum and non-petroleum sectors. Economic growth in large part has hinged on the price of oil and the ability of UAE governments, whose proceeds come almost entirely from oil sales, to invest in large infrastructure projects.

For much of the last 2 centuries, the inhabitants of the UAE depended on pearling, fishing, commerce, and, allegedly, piracy of commerce in the Indian Ocean. To protect its trade routes to India, Great Britain attacked many communities along the UAE's Arabian/Persian Gulf coast in 1819 and 1820 and for the next 50 years extended an informal protectorate (protection and partial control of one region or dependent country by another country) over the region, which became known as the "Trucial Coast" because of the non-aggression pacts (or truces) that Great Britain forced regional emirates to sign with each other and Britain.

The region "entered" the 20th century in the 1950s with the discovery of oil in Abu Dhabi and subsequent discoveries of oil in Dubai and Sharjah in the 1960s. Following Britain's withdrawal from the Trucial Coast in 1971, the UAE became an independent state composed of 7 of the original 9 emirates. The other 2 emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, became separate independent states. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and to a lesser extent, Sharjah, used the proceeds from oil sales to build modern, urban societies. Dubai, with substantially smaller oil supplies than Abu Dhabi, sought to build commercial institutions, leisure industries, manufacturing, port and transportation facilities, and other service industries that were not dependent on oil proceeds. The crown jewel of this project is the Jebel Ali Free Zone , which opened in 1985 and now boasts 1,600 international companies from over 70 different nations. Sharjah too has sought to broaden its economy by investing in manufacturing. Since the early 1980s, Abu Dhabi has invested billions of dollars in nonoil industries, including manufacturing, services, and agriculture. After the Gulf War, the UAE used the glut in the world arms industry to mandate an "offsets" program requiring all firms selling weapons to the federation to invest in its non-oil related industries.

Because the UAE had a relatively poor and unskilled population when oil was discovered there, the federation has depended on expatriate laborers and managers to meet close to 90 percent of its labor demands. The vast majority of these expatriate workers are South Asian, though there are large numbers of Arab and Western expatriate workers. Expatriates earn half as much as UAE nationals but present 3 significant problems. First, expatriate workers may undermine the UAE by promoting their own governments' interests or that of organized crime within the federation. Second, expatriate workers often require high payments for social services and send virtually all of their salary home rather than spending it in the UAE. Third, expatriate workers intensify preexisting social divisions within the UAE since they tend to be the principal workers in non-oil UAE industries, while UAE nationals generally prefer to work for the government.

The federation cannot regularly feed itself or meet its water and electrical needs without significant imports or technological assistance. The UAE's hot and arid climate has few regions hospitable to large-scale farming. While the UAE has invested heavily in new technologies and irrigation systems, the federation's agricultural production cannot produce adequate amounts of the most basic commodities. Nor can the UAE meet the water needs of the federation for much longer due to the gradual poisoning through salinization (to become concentrated with salt) of the federation's extensive underground network of wells. Similarly, the demand for electricity is quickly outpacing supply and forcing the UAE to turn to desalinization plants as a way to provide adequate water and power resources for the federation since they generate energy as a byproduct of turning salt water into fresh water. These problems are particularly acute in the northern emirates, which lack the resources to meet the demand of their population for either water or electricity.

Still, the UAE has the financial and institutional resources to solve these problems. The UAE can depend on the proceeds from the sale of its petroleum and natural gas. Abu Dhabi has US$150 billion in overseas assets that can either cover budget shortfalls due to excessive spending or a sharp decline in oil prices. Equally importantly, the UAE's free market system and open economy has fostered the creation of numerous medium and large corporations that produce highly competitive goods for the regional and world markets.


The UAE is a federation of 7 tribally-based emirates (Arab royal houses): Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman, Fujairah, and Umm al-Qawain. Even though it has a central government based in Abu Dhabi, each emirate controls its own economy and retains broad autonomy. The federation's highest constitutional authority, the UAE Supreme Council of Ministers, is composed of the 7 emirate rulers; it establishes federal policies and sanctions legislation. Most council decisions are reached through a consensus of the emirates' rulers and leading families. Since the council meets 4 times a year, the UAE cabinet runs the day-to-day affairs of the federation. Through an informal agreement, the ruler of Abu Dhabi serves as president, and the ruler of Dubai serves as vice president and prime minister. The president chooses the cabinet and members of the federal judiciary. The Federal National Council, composed of representatives appointed by the ruler of each emirate, can comment on legislation proposed by the UAE cabinet. There is also a UAE Supreme Court composed of 5 judges that carries out 3 functions: it settles disputes between different emirates, settles disputes between individual emi-rates and the federal government, and decides on the constitutionality of federal laws.

Throughout the UAE's 3 decades of existence, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Shaykh Zayid al-Nahyan, has served as the federation's president and worked to unite the emi-rates, which had previously been virtual protectorates of Britain (the so-called Trucial States) from the 1820s until the 1970s. Zayid has used his political skills and Abu Dhabi's oil wealth to keep the federation together through times of crisis which strained the sometimes tenuous ties of the 7 emirates. Zayid has been most successful in mediating Abu Dhabi's rivalry with Dubai and convincing Dubai's ruling family to take on key positions in the UAE federal government. In recent years, however, Zayid's advanced age and poor health have forced him to delegate greater responsibility to his eldest son, Shaykh Khalifa. While it is certain that Khalifa will succeed Zayid as UAE president and ruler of Abu Dhabi, it is not clear how strong of a ruler he will be because of his fierce rivalry with his half brother, Shaykh Muhammad, the chief of staff of the UAE army.

Though the UAE's permanent constitution stipulates that each emirate provide half of its revenues to the federal government, Abu Dhabi annually uses the proceeds from its oil sales to provide between 60 percent to 90 percent of the UAE's federal budget. Dubai and revenues from the UAE ministries generally have covered the remainder. These revenues come from the 20 percent surcharge foreign banks pay on their profits, taxes and royalties from the proceeds on foreign oil companies, and a 4 percent customs duty on all imported products except tobacco and alcoholic beverages. Another key problem is the fact that there is little transparency in UAE budgets, and it is estimated that as much as a third of UAE's oil revenues do not appear on national accounts. Over the last 4 years, the UAE budget has been US$7 to US$8 billion in deficit, but this is not considered a great problem because the income from Abu Dhabi's US$150 billion in overseas investments more than covers budget deficits of that size. In addition, the UAE government maintains an extensive cradle-to-grave social welfare system . There are no income or consumption taxes within the UAE.


The UAE has a modern infrastructure that has made it a regional transportation center. According to government statistics, the UAE has 1,088 kilometers of roads (676 miles) as of 1998, all of which are paved. The Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway has been upgraded several times, and the links from Dubai to the northern emirates are in

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
United Arab Emirates 156 345 294 N/A 210 21.0 106.2 39.44 400
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Saudi Arabia 57 321 262 N/A 31 N/A 49.6 1.17 300
Iran 28 265 157 0.0 6 N/A 31.9 0.05 100
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

good repair as well. Rashid and Jebel Ali in Dubai are the largest of the UAE's 15 ports; together they handled 2.84 billion 20-foot container equivalent units of cargo in 1999, among the largest volumes in the world. Dubai has also won port and free zone management contracts in Djibouti, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Beirut since 1998. Dubai's airport is the largest of the UAE's 40 airports and, following the completion of the Shaykh Rashid terminal in March 2000, is now widely considered a first-class international airport. A significant expansion of the Abu Dhabi airport is expected to be completed in 2005. There are no railroads in the UAE, nor is there any domestic air transportation network.

Average annual rainfall in the UAE is very low (generally 42 millimeters) and there are few fertile areas except in the north (where annual rainfall is 150 mm per year) and among the oases. The U.S. State Department expects the UAE demand for water to increase by 50 percent by 2015 and warns that the demand will soon outstrip supply. The UAE has addressed this problem through the development of underground wellswhich have rapidly depleted the water tableand desalinization. Many underground wells have gone dry or were rendered unusable because of increased salinity from salt leaching into ground reservoirs. Today, 82 desalinization plants, many of which are also power plants, meet 75 percent of the UAE's total non-agricultural water needs. Due to the depletion of renewable resources through farming and excessive urbanization, there is no alternative to desalinization. Other options, such as importing water from Turkey via pipeline, are not considered viable because of security considerations.

The UAE's desalinization plants are key components of an electrical network that witnessed phenomenal growth in recent decades from 5.5 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 1980 to 19 billion kWh in 1998. Installed generating capability is 7,466 megawatts, with Abu Dhabi accounting for 45 percent of the total and Dubai 26 percent. Especially acute is the demand for gas; in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, demand doubled from 1996 to 2000. The UAE expects to spend $3.5 billion on new projects over the next 4 years to meet increased demand for electricity, which is expected to be 10 percent annually between 2000-2001. Among the most important of these projects is the $10 billion Dolphin Gas Project which aims to ship gas from Qatar's North Field to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, and Pakistan. A federation-wide electrical network is also being planned and will most likely be connected to the Omani electric grid. This would be the first step towards creating an electrical network throughout all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. In addition, the UAE federal government and the largest emirates have privatized most of the power system along with the water system.

Telecommunications services in the UAE are among the most advanced in the world. They are managed by Etisalat, which is 60 percent owned by the UAE government. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are 915,223 main phone lines in use in the UAE and nearly 1 million mobile cellular phones. In 2000, the country had 1 Internet provider but there should be many more by 2005 as the UAE deregulates its telecommunications industry to comply with World Trade Organization guidelines. The management of Dubai Internet City has also confirmed that independent Internet service providers will be allowed to operate in Dubai.


The UAE is a mixed free-market economy based on oil and natural gas production, and these industries combined take up more than a quarter of UAE gross domestic product (GDP). Over the past 2 decades, the UAE's economic diversification program has led to the rise of several non-oil sectors that now make up a significant percentage of the UAE's GDP: manufacturing (12.6 percent), commerce and hotels (11.4 percent), real estate (9.1 percent), construction (8.6 percent), transportation (7.3 percent), and finance and insurance (6.4 percent). The UAE also has a strong re-export sector. Government services account for nearly 11 percent of GDP. Industrial growth has been assisted by free trade zones, including Jebel Ali in Dubai, which have been magnets for international firms. In recent years Dubai has succeeded in attracting high-profile technology firms to the emirate's "Internet City," including Microsoft, Oracle, Hewlett Packard, and Cisco Systems.

Nonetheless, the health of the UAE's economy as a whole continues to fluctuate with the world price of hydrocarbons and the economic vitality of its largest trading partners, particularly Japan, which accounts for close to a third of UAE petroleum exports. In part this is due to the large percentage of GDP taken up by petroleum and in part to the fact that government revenues70 to 80 percent of which come from oiland spending are closely linked to oil prices. These links have meant that different sectors of the economy have risen rapidly in recent years as oil prices increased sharply after oil prices hit historic lows in 1998. One exception to this trend is the demand for electricity and power: demand for power grew by nearly 400 percent between 1980 and 1998.

Among the most important corporations based in the UAE is the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). It manages the petroleum and gas extraction operations in Abu Dhabi along with the 2 major petroleum refineries in the UAE. Other key corporations are: Dubai state-owned Dubai Aluminum, a leading supplier of aluminum to the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council; Etisalat, the Abu Dhabi state-owned telecommunications firm; and Emi-rates Airlines, Dubai's state-owned airline. The airline has won a plethora of international "Best Airline" awards and maintains one of the most modern airline fleets in the world. It has outclassed "Gulf Air" (a consortium owned by Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman), which remains one of the leading airlines in the Arabian/Persian Gulf region despite experiencing steep losses in the 1990s.


Agriculture accounts for only 3 percent of the UAE's GDP due to the federation's severe climatic conditions, although it accounts for 20 percent of all water consumed, much from rapidly-depleting natural water supplies or desalinization projects. The UAE's agricultural sector annually produces about 600,000 tons of produce. The federation's chief crops are cereals. The UAE produces enough poultry and salad to meet its needs for most of the year. Some crops, such as tomatoes, are grown in quantities greater than what the UAE consumes in a whole year. The agriculture sector also produces water-melons, eggs, cucumbers, gherkins, aubergines (egg-plants), green chilies, peppers, and dates.

For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, fishing and pearl diving were mainstays of UAE commerce. Today the government works to conserve fish stocks and protect the economic livelihood of the remaining fishing communities. The annual fish catch96,000 tons slightly exceeds domestic consumption.

Because a high proportion of UAE nationals are employed in fishing and agriculture, these 2 sectors receive a disproportionate amount of federal and local funding. For political reasons, the UAE government will continue to encourage agricultural self-sufficiency but it is aware that this goal is unattainable in either the short-or long-term.



Oil is the foundation of the UAE's economy and will be so for many years to come. Current estimates suggest that the federation has more than a century of oil supplies. Oil production represented more than a third of GDP in 1999 and virtually all of the government's revenues. These revenues are also important to government spending, on which most non-oil UAE industries are dependent. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras al-Khaimah all have some level of oil production, but Abu Dhabi dominates both the UAE's production and reserves. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), Abu Dhabi has crude reserves of 92.2 billion barrels, or slightly less than 10 percent of the world's total, and 92 percent of UAE reserves. The EIA also reported that total UAE oil production for 2000 reached 2.29 million barrels of oil a day but that Abu Dhabi's recent investments could push production closer to 2.7 to 2.9 million barrels. Generally Abu Dhabi has reduced its production to ensure that the UAE stays within OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) production guidelines.

The UAE is also blessed with the fourth largest gas reserves in the world: 212 trillion cubic feet, which is about 4 percent of the world's total. These reserves are expected to last for about 150 to 170 years. Abu Dhabi controls 92 percent of the UAE total, while Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras al-Khaimah control the rest. The UAE has soaring domestic demands for gas production. Abu Dhabi has initiated a multi-billion-dollar program to address this need. The most ambitious part is the Dolphin gas project, which proposes to ship gas from Qatar's North Field to the UAE (principally Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Oman, and eventually to Pakistan. Significant funding is still needed for the project, but the Economist expected managers will be able to find the necessary funding because the project involves 4 national governments.

Finally, there is copper in Fujairah and Ras al-Khaimah, talc in Fujairah, and manganese in all of the northern emirates. It not clear whether there is enough of any of these minerals to justify commercial mining.


The Economist estimated that the UAE has invested $6.8 billion in industrial development over the last 30 years, spurring the creation of 1,000 factories with more than US$20 billion in direct investment. The dominant industries have been chemicals and plastics (closely connected to UAE crude oil supplies) along with aluminum. Dubai Aluminum is a leading supplier of aluminum to the GCC states and accounts for 60 percent of Dubai's non-oil exports. The UAE government also has made significant investments in petrochemicals and other "downstream" hydrocarbon industries "downstream" meaning those that involve refining petroleum. In addition, the government is encouraging local-foreign ventures to invest in manufacturing and offering low-interest loans through the Emirates Industrial Bank to private financiers willing to invest in manufacturing in the UAE. Fifty percent of all manufacturing centers are in Abu Dhabi, while Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah collectively controlled 93 percent of the UAE's industrial production in 1998.


A key source of local-foreign investment in manufacturing is the "offsets" program, launched in 1991. It requires arms manufacturing and military aerospace firms to invest 60 percent of the value of their sales to the UAE in non-oil UAE industries. It is designed to take advantage of the current glut on the world arms market and to escape the traditional dilemma of choosing between spending on guns or food. By law, a UAE citizen must retain 51 percent of the capital in the partnership. Virtually all offset projects must be completed within 7 years. If the obligations are not met by the target dates, the company is penalized 8.5 percent of the unfulfilled portion of the obligation.


Another key contributor to UAE industry has been free trade zones. The most important free trade zone is Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone in Dubai. Jebel Ali in 1999 boasted 1,600 corporations and nearly $2.5 billion in investments. The zone's principal advantage was that it allowed companies investing more than Dh1 million (US$272,479) to be 100 percent foreign owned. It also boasts some of the best transportation facilities in the world and has become a regional transportation center, servicing the U.S. Navy, among others. Since the founding of Jebel Ali in 1985, the other UAE emirates established their own free trade zones, which have sought to replicate Jebel Ali's success.


BANKING. According to the CIA World Factbook, nearly 60 percent of the UAE workforce is involved in the service sector of the economy. The most important of these industries is banking, which has grown far too large. The National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce estimated that there were 20 UAE-owned banks with more than 200 branches and 28 foreign banks with 119 branches in the UAE. Much of the industry is controlled by the "big five" commercial banksAbu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Emi-rates Bank International, National Bank of Dubai, MashreqBank, and National Bank of Abu Dhabi. The UAE Central Bank is responsible for regulating the UAE banking industry and preventing fraud, a continuing problem in the UAE banking system in the 1990s. The UAE was closely involved in the 1991 Bank of Commerce and Credit International scandal and eventually paid nearly US$2 billion in compensation. In 1998 it was revealed that the Dubai Islamic Bank lost US$200 million due to the actions of a corrupt employee. A year later, Madhav Bhagubhai Pater, an Indian businessman, fled from Sharjah, leaving behind debts of US$130.5 million to UAE and foreign creditors.


The UAE has a thriving tourist industry centered in Dubai, which has 70 percent of the country's hotels. Dubai features horse races, desert safaris, golf courses, and a number of five-and four-star hotels. The emirate also has shopping festivals, such as the Dubai Shopping Festival, where goods are heavily discounted. The purpose of these festivals is to attract visitors. According to the festivals' organizers, nearly 2.5 million people vacationed in the emirates in 2000: they came mostly from Britain, from surrounding states, and from the states of the former Soviet Union. Fujairah, which faces the Indian Ocean, has witnessed a considerable upsurge in vacationers in recent years. Retail has generally benefited from this upsurge except when a strong yen increases the price of imported Japanese consumer goods .


For much of the 1980s and 1990s, the UAE underwent a building boom with new office buildings rising daily in the UAE's major cities, particularly Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In recent years, there have been reports that the boom is slowing, that UAE developers are taking a more reasoned/scientific approach to building, and that there is even a sign of a glut of office space in Dubai. Still, Dubai continues to build new hotels. The Saadiyat project in Abu Dhabi promises 28,000 new homes, a bridge valued at US$220 million, and a new trade center valued at US$95 million.


Finally, a rapidly emerging sector in the UAE economy is re-export, whose value, according to UAE government statistics, almost doubled between 1990 and 1998. At that time, foreign trade hit US$10.6 billion. The center of UAE re-export trade is Dubai, which accounted for 40 percent of the federation's re-export trade in the late 1990s. Among the most important markets for Dubai's re-export trade are Iran and the southern countries of the former Soviet Union. Reportedly Dubai also served as an entryway for smugglers attempting to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran imposed in the mid-1990s.


Since independence, the UAE has maintained an open, free market system with close links to the international economy. Historically the UAE's prime industries were pearling and fishing. Since the discovery of oil in the 1960s, the federation's closest trading partners have been industrialized nations in Europe and Asia, primarily France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, India, and South Korea. The UAE exchanged crude oil for machinery, cars, transportation equipment, and food. Japan is critical since it usually accounts for a third of UAE petroleum exports: the EIA estimated that 80 percent of the UAE's crude oil exports in 1999 went to Japan and other east Asian countries. The UAE's modern infrastructure and port facilities also have allowed it to serve as an important re-export and transportation hub, particularly for Iran through Dubai.

Generally the health of the UAE's economy has depended on the price of oil and the economic vitality of its leading trading partners. At the same time, the federation's economy also has been impacted adversely by the politics of the Arabian/Persian Gulf region. Because of the UAE's perceived support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, Iran attacked UAE oil tankers in the Arabian/Persian Gulf

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): United Arab Emirates
Exports Imports
1975 7.262 2.685
1980 20.676 8.746
1985 14.043 6.549
1990 23.544 11.199
1995 N/A 20.984
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

and compelled the UAE government to seek the protection of the U.S. Navy through a reflagging operation (UAE ships hoisted the U.S. flag and carried U.S. servicemen). The UAE and Iran also continue to dispute ownership over 3 islands in the Arabian/Persian Gulf: Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. During the Gulf War, the UAE sought a close relationship with the United States as a way to protect the federation's economic assets from Iraqi threats. The UAE also benefited from the relocation of a number of businesses from Kuwait to the federation, especially to Dubai. Still, it is important to remember that the UAE's dependence on desalination plants for power and water ensures that the state's economy is especially vulnerable because economies of scale dictate that desalination plants should be large and located on the coast.

Since the Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UAE has faced new competitors and steadily increased its trade with China, the United States, and the former Soviet republics. Throughout the first two-thirds of the 1990s, large numbers of Russians traveled to the UAE and purchased products for sale at home, often using small transport planes or traveling through the emi-rate of Sharjah. U.S. firms also have made steady inroads into the UAE, helping the United States overtake Japan in 1996 as the leading exporter to the federation. U.S. exports to the UAE increased by 14.5 percent alone in 1999. Finally, erstwhile GCC-ally Saudi Arabia fought hard but ultimately failedto steal the UAE's share of the Japanese petroleum market throughout the late 1990s.


Since 1981, the UAE's currency, the Emirian dirham, has been linked directly to the U.S. dollar at a rate of Dh3.67 to $1. The connection reflects the fact that crude oilthe UAE's chief export and the driving force in its economyis denominated and sold in U.S. dollars. It also reflects the desire of the UAE government to ensure that domestic interest rates will move in sequence with those prevailing in the United States.

Exchange rates: United Arab Emirates
Emirian dirhams (Dh) per US$1
2001 3.6725
2000 N/A
1999 N/A
1998 N/A
1997 3.6711
1996 3.6710
Note: Central bank mid-point rate of 3.6725 has been in effect since 1998.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

The UAE has achieved this stability through a tight monetary policy that regulates domestic liquidity under an open exchange and payments system: there are no prohibitions on the import or export of currencies into the UAE except for Israeli currency and countries subject to United Nations sanctions. The UAE Central Bank also adjusts the stock of domestic liquidity through the issuance of certificates of deposit (CDs) to the federation's commercial banks. The UAE is currently considering introducing an auction system for these CDs. The UAE government has no external debt , and its private debt-to-service ratio has been improving steadily since the 1980s.

Generally the dirham linkage has helped the UAE maintain macroeconomic stability and relatively low rates of inflation , generally between 4 percent and 5 percent annually. The principal problem for the system occurred in the late 1980s and again in the mid-1990s as the U.S. dollar dropped in value against the Japanese yen. This process created balance of payments concerns for the UAE since its principal trading partner at the time was Japan. There have been periodic discussions over the last decade of linking the dirham to a "basket" of currencies, including the U.S. dollar, the Japanese yen, and leading European currencies.

Dubai Financial Market (DFM), the UAE's first fully-regulated stock exchange, and its sister exchange, the Abu Dhabi Financial Market, both opened in 2000. Although initial interest in the stock exchanges was light, the UAE Central Bank expects that investors will flock to the 2 markets over the next decade. There have been discussions between representatives of DFM and the U.S. NASDAQ about a possible link up of the bourses (stock exchanges). The UAE Central Bank also has encouraged the development of a local bond market but has been hindered by several high-profile fraud cases involving large UAE investors.


The United Arab Emirates is one of the wealthiest nations in the world and its citizens enjoy the highest

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
United Arab Emirates 37,520 37,841 24,971 20,989 16,666
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Saudi Arabia 9,658 11,553 7,437 7,100 6,516
Iran 1,611 1,129 1,208 1,056 1,275
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

standard of living in the Middle East: per capita income was estimated at US$17,700 in 1999. Although illiteracy was relatively high for wealthy nations at 25.4 percent in 1998, more than 90 percent of the UAE population has access to safe water, health services, and sanitation. In comparison, nearly 57 percent of the population was illiterate in 1975. The UAE government spends close to 16 percent of its annual budget on schools and has produced one of the lowest student-to-teacher ratios in the world, 12 pupils per teacher. Generous spending on health care has produced similar results in a number of key health indicators that are far better than the world average: life expectancy, infant mortality rates, births attended by trained physicians, and numbers of doctors per 100,000 people in the population. Overall, UAE citizens can depend on a cradle-to-grave welfare state that has few peers in the world.

There are enormous socio-economic cleavages in the UAE, however, as wealth is not distributed evenly. Collectively, Abu Dhabi and Dubai control 83.2 percent of the UAE's GDP in large part because of Abu Dhabi's large oil production and Dubai's oil supply and commercial base. Sharjah has built its economy on trade and oil but has also depended on manufacturing. It is held back by large loans taken out in the 1970s and 1980s, reportedly receiving annual subsidies from Saudi Arabia. All 3 emirates feature modern cities that are as advanced as any in the major industrialized nations.

The other 4 emirates have little oil. In 1999 together they accounted for only 6.9 percent of GDP. They depend heavily on subsidies from the UAE central government. The economic future of these poorer emirates may revolve mostly around who emerges as the dominant figure in UAE affairs after Zayid's death. The Economist reported that Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Shaykh Khalifa wants to limit Abu Dhabi's assistance to the poorer emirates and accelerate privatization programs of large state industries. Army Chief of Staff Shaykh Muhammad favors a more federal system in which Abu Dhabi would help develop the economy of the entire federation.

Within individual emirates, there are also clear economic distinctions based on nationality and gender. While many basic social services are provided to expatriates at reduced rates, UAE citizens command salaries roughly double those of expatriates in similar jobs and have access to numerous subsidies, grants, loans, free services, and pensions unavailable to expatriate workers. UAE citizens also receive preferential treatment for many government jobs. Women are routinely discriminated against in hiring decisions. Very infrequently, they are sent abroad for post-secondary education in the United States or Europe. Increasingly, members of the UAE elite are educated in foreign universities rather than in the UAE.


One of the most striking features of the UAE is the demographic composition of its workforce and the striking differences between the working conditions. Nearly 70 percent of the UAE government's workforce is comprised of Emirati nationals, while expatriates overwhelmingly dominate the private sector . There is no minimum wage. All workers are prohibited from organizing unions, bargaining collectively, and going on strike. In 1995 the United States suspended the UAE from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation Insurance Program because of the government's failure to comply with internationally recognized worker rights and standards.

The UAE, however, does regulate workplace health and safety standards rigorously, and injured workers are entitled to fair compensation by law. Forced and compulsory labor is illegal and rare. Children under the age of 15 are not permitted to work, and there are special regulations for workers between the ages of 15 and 18. Most UAE workers work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, and are not required to work outside when the temperature exceeds 44 degrees Celsius (112 degrees Fahrenheit)a key consideration in a climate as hot as that of the UAE. The UAE Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA) generally rejects contracts that provide excessively low wages and attempts to investigate all complaints made by workers. Workers also may seek redress in courts, including special labor courts established by the MLSA. Unemployment rates are believed to be very low.

Still, these labor regulations do not cover government employees, domestic servants, agricultural workers, and women. Such groups are at times obliged to work longer than mandatory hours, and domestic servants are often victims of abuse or work conditions approaching indentured servitude. Even expatriate workers, who are covered by labor laws, frequently are not protected because the costs of seeking redress in the courts can be prohibitively high and because the MLSA is understaffed. Expatriate workers also face the threat of immediate deportation because many are in the UAE on temporary work visas. Though not officially sanctioned, discrimination is often practiced against women. As a result, unemployment for female university graduates is far higher than that of their male counterparts.

Child laborers perhaps are in the greatest danger. There have been consistent reports for at least a decade of underage boyssometimes as young as 5-or 8-years oldworking as camel jockeys. Although the government in 1993 prohibited children younger than 15 serving as camel jockeys, the State Department's 1999 Human Rights Report for the UAE speculated that the employers of underage camel jockeys are from powerful Emirati families considered to be above the law. Equally vulnerable are the large number of women from the former Soviet Union, Africa, and Asia who engage in prostitution and other acts associated with organized crime.


1820. Britain imposes a non-aggression pact on the rulers of the UAE for disrupting Indian-bound trade.

1892. Britain and the local rulers agree to transform the region into a British protectorate.

1958. Large quantities of oil are discovered in Abu Dhabi.

1971. Iran seizes 3 UAE administered islands: Abu Musa and the Tunb islands.

1971. Britain withdraws. The UAE is formed with all of the current emirates except Ras al-Khaimah.

1971. The UAE joins the United Nations and the Arab League.

1972. Ras al-Khaimah joins the UAE.

1973. OPEC raises the price, and cuts the supply, of oil. UAE GDP growth is 10 percent annually in the 1970s.

1981. Iran-Iraq war begins. The UAE financially supports Iraq. The UAE joins the Gulf Cooperation Council and pegs the dirham to the U.S. dollar.

1985. Dubai launches the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

1991. Gulf War begins. The UAE pays US$10 billion to support the anti-Iraq coalition.

1996. The UAE constitution becomes permanent. Abu Dhabi city is recognized as the UAE capital.

1996. The UAE agrees to a defense pact with the United States.

1999. Dubai Internet City and the Dolphin Gas Project are both unveiled.

2000. The first regulated UAE stock market, Dubai Financial Markets, opens for trading.


There appears to be little doubt that the UAE has a bright economic future. The UAE controls nearly a century of oil reserves, maintains a modern infrastructure and a stable political system, lacks significant overseas debt, and has the financial resources necessary to address the economic, environmental, and social challenges of demographics, the dominance of oil in the state, and the paucity of water supplies before they become overwhelming. At the same time, the UAE's economic and social problems are very real and will intensify if they are not addressed.

Most of the UAE's proposed solutions to these problems have exacerbated certain aspects of them. The gap in wealth between the poorer and richer emirates could exacerbate tensions in the future. Abu Dhabi has combined its privatization programs with deep cuts in subsidies to the northern emirates, a move that has only enlarged this gap. This issue will be paramount if Shaykh Khalifa emerges as the dominant figure in the UAE government after the death of Shaykh Zayid. Privatization also favors the UAE's service sector, which is dominated by expatriates. This, too, could cause very serious social tensions. In addition, the offset program is contingent upon the UAE's spending billions on arms for decades, an expenditure that is likely to become a great burden. Thus, the UAE's principal challenge in the next century will be to build a viable society whose economic success does not undermine its economic and political stability.


United Arab Emirates has no territories or colonies.


Cordesman, Anthony. Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE: Challenges of Security. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997.

El-Din, Amin Badr. "The UAE Offsets Program." Middle East Policy. Vol. 5, January 1997.

Economist Intelligence Unit. United Arab Emirates Country Profile. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 1998.

Economist Intelligence Unit. United Arab Emirates Country Report. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 1997.

Emirate of Dubai Official Trade Statistics and Commerce Statistics. 2000.

Energy Information Agency. Country Analysis Brief: UAE. <>. Accessed January 30, 2001.

Foley, Sean. "The UAE: Political Issues and Security Dilemmas." Middle Eastern Review of International Affairs. Vol. 3, No. 1, March 1999.

Gause, F. Gregory. Oil Monarchies: Domestic Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994.

International Monetary Fund. Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund Press, 1999.

Kelly, J.B. Arabia: The Gulf and The West. New York: Basic Books, 1980.

Kemp, Geoffrey, and Robert E. Harkavy. Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Brookings Institution, 1997.

National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. 2000 Commercial and Economic Guide: UAE. <>. Accessed January 14, 2001.

Rugh, William. "The Foreign Policy of the United Arab Emirates." Middle East Journal. Vol. 50, Winter 1996.

. "What Are the Sources of UAE Stability?" Middle East Policy. Vol. 5, September 1997.

Schofield, Richard. "Border Disputes in the Gulf: Past, Present and Future." The Persian Gulf at the Millennium: Essays on Politics, Economics, Security, and Religion, edited by Gary G. Sick and Lawrence G. Potter. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987.

Sick, Gary. "The Coming Crisis in the Persian Gulf." The Persian Gulf at the Millennium: Essays on Politics, Economics, Security, and Religion, edited by Gary G. Sick and Lawrence G. Potter. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

al-Shayeji, Abdullah. "Gulf Views of U.S. Foreign Policy in the Region." Middle East Policy. Vol. 5, September 1997.

United Nations. Human Development Report. London: Oxford University Press, 2000.

. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World Population Projections to 2150. New York: United Nations, 1998.

. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision. New York: United Nations, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of Commerce. 1997 Country Commercial Guide: United Arab Emirates. Washington, DC: United States Printing Office, 1997.

U.S. Department of State. "1998 Report on Economic Policies and Trade Practices: United Arab Emirates." Tradeport. <>. Accessed January 30, 2001.

. "1999 Report on the United Arab Emirates Human Rights Practices." <>. Accessed January 31, 2001.

. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: United Arab Emirates. Washington, DC: United States Printing Office, 2000.

U.S. Library of Congress. United Arab Emirates: A Country Study. <>. Accessed January 1, 2001.

World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

World Bank. World Population Projections 1994-1995. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Sean Foley


Abu Dhabi.


Emirian dirham (Dh). One Emirian dirham equals 100 fils. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 fils and 1 and 5 dirhams. Paper notes include 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 dirhams.


Crude oil, natural gas, re-exports, dried fish, and dates.


Machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, and food.


US$54 billion (2000 est.).


Exports: US$46 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$34 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

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United Arab Emirates


Federation of seven shaykhdoms at the southern end of the Persian Gulf.

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) is bounded on the north by a small portion of Qatar, the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, and a detached segment of Oman. The country shares a long, undefined border with Saudi Arabia (west and south) and Oman (east). It has an area of just over 32,000 square miles, about the size of the state of Maine. Abu Dhabi occupies nearly 87 percent of the total; Dubai, less than 5 percent; and Sharjah, just more than 3 percent. The emirates of Raʾs al-Khayma, Fujayra, Umm alQaywayn, and Ajman occupy the remainder. The country has a flat coastal plain; an interior desert, part of the Empty Quarter (Rub al-Khali); an elevated plateau; and the Hajar Mountains, shared with Oman. Principal oasis regions are Liwa and Buraymi. Rainfall is highly seasonal, localized, and scanty. Summer temperatures often reach 115°F on the humid coast, and higher in the dry interior. From October to March the weather is mild and pleasant.

The U.A.E.'s population has risen from about 180,000 in 1968 to approximately 3.1 million in 2000; the influx of expatriate workers and their dependents account for most of the growth and some 80 percent of the total population. The U.A.E. is overwhelmingly urban, and the largest cities are (in descending order) Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and Raʾs al-Khaymah. Nearly all U.A.E. nationals and expatriates are Muslims; significant exceptions include some Indians, Filipinos, and Westerners. Sunnis account for about 85 percent of all Muslims. Tribal affiliation remains very important among Emiratis, whose rulers are drawn from the leading families of the dominant tribes.


Most of the current ruling families took power in the early part of the nineteenth century when Great Britain imposed a general truce after a series of violent clashes with the Qawasim seafaring forces who had opposed Britain's military and commercial ascendancy in the lower Persian Gulf. A series of treaties between these rulers and Britain codified Britain's predominant position and gave rise to the region being called the Trucial Coast or Trucial Oman. The area was known as Sahil Oman (Oman Coast) by Arabic-speakers. These treaties had a tendency to reinforce the leading role of the local rulers and create a powerful political status quo. However, local politics, mainly in the form of family disputes and alliances, have resulted in some changes. For example, Dubai became independent of Abu Dhabi in 1833, Raʾs al-Khayma seceded from Sharjah in 1869, and Fujayra gained independence from Sharjah in 1952. A treaty in 1892 further codified British power in the region, prohibiting rulers from engaging in diplomacy with non-British powers or ceding their territories to outsiders without British approval. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, fishing, pearling, trade, and agriculture were the main sources of income for the inhabitants of the emirates. However, the world depression of the 1930s and the collapse of the Persian Gulf pearl market plunged the region into great poverty, forcing many to migrate elsewhere.

Britain instigated the first efforts at federation when it established the Trucial Council in 1952, an administrative body made up of the seven rulers. However, rivalries and philosophical differences prevented the rulers from joining in federation until 1971, when all but Raʾs al-Khaymah formed the U.A.E. (Raʾs al-Khaymah joined the federation the following year.) The ruler of Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest emirate, Shaykh Zayid ibn Sultan alNahayyan, became president of the U.A.E., and Dubai's Shaykh Rashid ibn Saʿid al-Maktum became vice president. While much of the political history of the emirates has revolved around relations among the ruling families, it also has been affected by interactions with regional powers such as Oman, the rulers of Najd (later Saudi Arabia), Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran. At its inception Abu Dhabi's dispute with Saudi Arabia and Oman over the Buraymi (al-Ayn) Oasis remained unresolved; traditional rivalries among the seven amirs threatened the federation's viability; and Iran coerced Sharjah into a joint occupation of Abu Musa island (which contributed to a coup attempt that took the life of Sharjah's ruler, Shaykh Khalid ibn Muhammad), and forcibly seized the Tunb Islands from Raʾs al-Khayma.


Since the early 1960s, when Abu Dhabi began exporting oil, the U.A.E. economy has been dominated by this sector. The country's proven oil reserves, 94 percent of which were located in Abu
Dhabi emirate, amounted to some 98 billion barrels in 2001, more than 9 percent of the world's total. Dubai possesses 4 billion barrels; Sharjah, 1.5 billion; and Raʾs al-Khayma, 100 million. Abu Dhabi also has the bulk of the country's 212 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. The gap in economic development between Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, on the one hand, and the rest of the emirates is considerable, though it is moderated by federal government spending on infrastructure, with most of the funding from Abu Dhabi. Dubai, long the major trading center of the lower Gulf, is the region's leading entrepôt with the most extensive port facilities. Its Jabal Ali free zone has helped expand the U.A.E.'s nonoil sector to 60 percent of total GDP. Promotion of traditional economic activities, including agriculture and fishing, has created employment opportunities in the poorer emirates and achieved significant import substitution.

Government and Politics

The U.A.E.'s constitution provides for federal legislative, executive, and judicial institutions. The political system is a mix of presidential and parliamentary features, with the greatest power in the executive Federal Supreme Council, whose members are the rulers of the seven member states. Zayid has been president since independence, and Rashid served as both prime minister and vice president, posts assumed by his son Maktum in 1986, following Rashid's incapacitation. The legislature, called the Federal National Council, has only consultative powers, despite being given a somewhat greater role in the 1990s. Its forty members are appointed by the rulers: eight each from Abu Dhabi and Dubai,
six each from Sharjah and Raʾs al-Khayma, and four apiece from the remaining emirates. Real legislative authority resides in the Council of Ministers, which initiates most laws, oversees implementation of federal laws, and prepares the federal budget.

Considerable powers are left to the individual emirates, each governed in an essentially traditional manner by a hereditary ruler. Even in foreign affairs, defense, and finance, theoretically federal concerns under the constitution, the individual emirates act autonomously. Each emirate has pursued its own oil policy. Dubai and Sharjah maintained business as usual with Iran while the federal government tilted toward Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (19801988). Zayid has championed a centralized U.A.E., whereas others, especially his former rival, Rashid, have favored the loose federal arrangement.

Foreign Relations

The U.A.E. maintains generally friendly relations with its neighbors, although these can be complicated by the independent actions of various emi-rates. It has played an active role in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which promotes economic and security ties to the other five conservative Gulf Arab states. Zayid has assumed a major role in the Arab world as a force for moderation, as in his efforts to promote Egypt's reintegration into the Arab League. Relations with the United States have been friendly, though sometimes strained because of what is seen as a one-sided American policy toward the Arab-Israel conflict. The United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom are the U.A.E.'s major trading partners. After the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, the U.A.E. cooperated closely with the United States and other members of the anti-Iraq coalition. However, during the late 1990s the country modified its stance, sending food and medicine to Iraq, and opposing a U.S. attack on the country. In a dramatic break from precedent among countries in the Arab League, the U.A.E. suggested in early 2003 that Saddam Hussein step down as leader of Iraq as a way to avoid imminent war with the United States.

see also abu dhabi; ajman; buraymi oasis dispute; dubai; fujayra; raʾs al-khayma; rub al-khali; sharjah; trucial coast; umm al-qaywayn.


Anthony, John Duke. Arab States of the Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum. Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 1975.

Ghareeb, Edmund, and Abed, Ibrahim al-, eds. Perspectives on the United Arab Emirates. London: Trident Press, 1997.

Heard-Bey, Frauke. From Trucial States to United Arab Emirates: A Society in Transition. New York; London: Longman, 1982.

Lienhardt, Peter. Shaikhdoms of Eastern Arabia, edited by Ahmed Al-Shahi. New York; Houndmills, U.K.: Palgrave, 2001.

Metz, Helen Chapin, ed. Persian Gulf States: Country Studies, 3d edition. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1994.

Peck, Malcolm C. The United Arab Emirates: A Venture in Unity. Boulder, CO: Westview Press; London: Croom Helm, 1986.

Taryam, Abdullah Omran. The Establishment of the United Arab Emirates, 19501985. New York; London: Croom Helm, 1987.

malcolm c. peck
updated by anthony b. toth

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United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

B asic D ata
Official Country Name: United Arab Emirates
Region (Map name): Middle East
Population: 2,369,153
Language(s): Arabic, Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
Literacy rate: 79.2%

Previously known as the Trucial States, The United Arab Emirates (Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah or UAE) is located just north of Oman and is bordered on the east by the Arabian Sea and on the west by Saudi Arabia. The UAE was formed in 1971 upon gaining its independence from Great Britain; in 1972 the final emirate (imarah ) joined creating the current composition of the country. Composed of seven emiratesAbu Zaby (Abu Dhabi), 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah (Sharjah), Dubayy (Dubai), Ra's al Khaymah, Umm al Qaywayn each functioning with significant autonomy, the UAE is ruled by a Supreme Council of Rulers composed of one emir from each emirate. The council appoints the prime minister and the cabinet. The president and vice president are elected by the seven council members.

The UAE hosts the region's largest free trade zone in Dubai, seeks to attract tourists, actively tries to diversify its economy, and is considered one of the more liberal/ tolerant countries in the region. Yet there remains much of the rigidity typically found in the Gulf region. For instance, the constitution and a 1996 telecommunications law guarantees freedom of speech, but strong regulatory/ political media content control is practiced. Seeming to contradict the constitution, a 1988 law was implemented requiring the licensing by the Ministry of Education of all publications and also outlines topics of reporting that are allowable. While there are gray areas left open to conjecture, journalists practice self-censorship on subjects concerning members of ruling families, government policy, religion/morals, national security, and neighboring states in order to avoid sanctions.

The press is subsidized by government funding, but is essentially privately owned. Foreign press is censored at point of entryas is typical in the Gulf regionagain seeming contradictory to free speech laws. Notwithstanding, the press is burgeoning.

Newspaper dailies in the country include: Al Bayan (The Official Report, circulation of 68,845), Al Eqtisadiah (75,000), Al Fajr (The Dawn, 28,000), Emirates News (21,150), Gulf News (91,354), The Gulf Today (36,000), Al-Ittihad (Unity, 58,000), Al Khaleej (The Gulf, 114,800), Khaleej Times (66,204), UAE and Abu Dhabi Official Gazette, and Al Wadah (Unity, 20,000). Additionally, there are a plethora of other publications produced spanning the spectrum of commerce (business and consumer), political and religious concerns.

In February 2000 an electronic/broadcast free-zone was created and officially inaugurated in 2001 on the outskirts of Dubai. Within this zone are Dubai Media City (DMC) costing U.S. $817 million to build, and two other projects called Dubai Internet City (DIC) and the Dubai Idea Oasis (DIO). All organizations working from within this zone are not subject to the UAE's press/broadcast laws; they are completely free to practice their trade. This has prompted an enthusiastic response from media organizations. Many are locating an arm of their organization or completely relocating to the area. Included are: Reuters, Microsoft, MasterCard, Oracle, Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC, a Saudi-owned organization that is the Arab world's largest satellite television station relocating from London), Sony, Zen TV, Middle East Business News, and the like. A good example of the new freedoms allowed includes Zen TV. Zen TV is being broadcast from the DMC and is one of the most open programs ever to be broadcast in the Arab region. It is aimed at 16-to 35-year-olds and covers topics normally taboo, such as sex, love and politics. The new policies of the DMC are bringing the UAE into competition with Egyptian and Lebanese programs that traditionally have dominated the market.

However, outside of the free-zone, all electronic media remain constrained and subject to the UAE's press laws. Yet, even in traditional UAE space Direct Satellite Broadcasting (DBS) has hampered the government's efforts to control content. Despite this, satellite dishes are legally allowed, with around 70 percent of the population owning one.

Most of the radio (13 AM, seven FM, and two short-wave) and television (15 total) stations available outside the free-zone are owned by the government with a few notable exceptions. These stations broadcast to around 820,000 radios and 310,000 televisions in the country.

Internet users in the UAEestimated at 400,000 or around 17 percent of the populationare the largest number of users by country in the Persian Gulf, but there is only one Internet service provider in the country, the government-operated Etisalat.


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Clint B. Thomas Baldwin

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United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

Official name: United Arab Emirates

Area: 82,880 square kilometers (32,000 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Yibir (1,527 meters/5,010 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 4 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 544 kilometers (338 miles) from northeast to southwest; 361 kilometers (224 miles) from southeast to northwest

Land boundaries: 867 kilometers (539 miles) total boundary length; Oman 410 kilometers (255 miles); Saudi Arabia 457 kilometers (284 miles)

Coastline: 1,318 kilometers (819 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The United Arab Emirates is located in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the Persian Gulf. Seven emirates (states) make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE): Abu Dhabi, Dubayy, Ash Shāriqah, Ra's al Khaymah, Al Fujayrah, Umm al Qaywayn, and 'Ajmān. With an area of 82,880 square kilometers (32,000 square miles), the UAE is nearly as large as the state of Maine.


The United Arab Emirates has no territories or dependencies.


The climate is arid and subtropical. The months between May and October are extremely hot, with shade temperatures of between 39° and 49°C (100° and 120°F). Humidity on the coast can exceed 85 percent. Winter temperatures can fall as low as 2°C (36° F) but average between 17°C and 20°C (63°F and 68°F). It is cooler in the eastern mountains. Normal annual rainfall is from 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches), with considerably more in certain regions; the mountains receive an average of 14 to 20 centimeters (5 to 8 inches) and the eastern coast receives an average of 10 to 14 centimeters (4 to 5 inches). The wettest months are February and March. Prevailing winds, including the cool Shamal from the northeast and the Khamsin from the south, produce sandstorms. Influenced by monsoons, they vary by season and location.


Abu Dhabi, extending along the Persian Gulf coast and into the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, occupies about four-fifths of the UAE's territory. The remaining six emirates are clustered together on the Musandam Peninsula to the northeast. The UAE is mostly a flat, sandy desert except for the easternmost region, where the northern tip of the Al Hajar Mountains stretches into the country from Oman to the east.


The northern, and longest, part of the UAE's coastline borders the Persian Gulf, with a short section to the east bordering the Gulf of Oman.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

There are coral reefs in the shallow waters off the UAE's eastern coast on the Gulf of Oman. Shoals lie off the UAE's Persian Gulf coast, which has no natural deepwater harbors, unlike the Gulf of Oman coast, which has several.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The UAE is situated at a strategic location along southern approaches to the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and is a vital transit point for global crude oil shipments.

Islands and Archipelagos

The UAE includes more than one hundred islands, most of them owned by Abu Dhabi. The country's capital, the city of Abu Dhabi, is located on an island of the same name. Other islands, including the island of Dās, are used for oil and gas operations related to offshore drilling.

Coastal Features

Six of the emirates have coasts on the Persian Gulf, while the seventh, Al Fujayrah, lies along the Gulf of Oman to the east. The Persian Gulf coast has numerous islands as well as lagoons and other indentations, and the shore is sandy with many salt flats (called sebkhas ). The alluvial flats bordering the Gulf of Oman on the eastern coast are an extension of the fertile coastal strip that runs between the mountains and the sea in Oman, known as the Al Batinah coast.


There are no lakes in the UAE.


There are no perennial rivers in the UAE; however, there are small areas of wetlands.


More than two-thirds of the UAE's total area is a sandy and largely uninhabited desert, running from the westernmost tip of Abu Dhabi east to the land border with Oman and north to the Musandam Peninsula. Sand dunes in the southeast can reach heights of 100 meters (330 feet). The two major oases are the al-Liwa' Oasis in south-central Abu Dhabi and the Buraimi Oasis at Al 'Ayn, on the border with Oman.


Most of the UAE is very flat, including its coastal lowlands and desert interior.


The UAE's eastern region comprises barren, rugged mountains that are the northernmost extension of neighboring Oman's Al Hajar range. The highest peak in the country, Mount Yibir, which rises to 1,527 meters (5,010 feet), is located in this region.


There are many caves in the Al Hajar Mountains in the eastern part of the UAE.


Except for the mountainous area in the east, the UAE is a low-lying country with no significant plateaus.


All of the UAE's major ports are man-made, including Port Jabal 'Ali and Port Rashid, two of the largest artificial harbors in the Middle East. Irrigation canals support farming near the Buraimi Oasis at Al 'Ayn.



Crocetti, Gina L. Culture Shock! United Arab Emirates. Portland, OR.: Graphic Arts Center, 1996.

Johnson, Julia. United Arab Emirates. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.

Kay, Shirley. Seafarers of the Gulf. Dubai: Motivate Pub., 1992.

Web Sites

Etisalat: UAE Pages. (accessed April 18, 2003).

Ministry of Information and Culture: UAE Interact. (accessed April 18, 2003).

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United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates, federation of sheikhdoms (2005 est. pop. 2,563,000), c.30,000 sq mi (77,700 sq km), SE Arabia, on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The federation, commonly known as the UAE, consists of seven sheikhdoms: Abu Dhabi (territorially the largest of the sheikhdoms), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Qaiwain. The city of Abu Dhabi (1991 est. pop. 798,000) in Abu Dhabi is the capital.

Land and People

The land is largely hot, dry desert. Located in the eastern portion of the federation is a portion of the Jabal al Akhdar Mts. Less than half of the inhabitants of the UAE are Arabs, while South Asians make up about 40%, and there are also Iranians, East Asians, and Westerners. Only about 20% of the UAE's population are native citizens. The nonindigenous population was first attracted by the employment provided by the UAE's petroleum boom. Muslims comprise 96% of the population (80% of these are Sunni, the balance Shiite) and the remaining 4% are largely Christian or Hindu. The official language is Arabic, but Farsi and English are widely used, and Hindi and Urdu are spoken by many of the South Asians.


Industries involving the area's oil and natural-gas deposits are still critical to the economy, and provide the bulk of export earnings. However, the country's increasingly diversified economy relies also on international banking, financial services, regional corporate headquarters, and tourism. The traditional occupations of fishing and pearling are still practiced, and there is some agriculture (dates, vegetables, watermelon, poultry). Aluminum, fertilizer, and textiles are manufactured, and there is commercial ship repair. Imports include machinery and equipment, chemicals, and food; trading partners are Japan, India, Great Britain, South Korea, and China. The UAE has a large trade surplus.


The UAE is governed under the constitution of 1971, which was made permanent in 1996. A Federal Supreme Council (FSC), composed of the seven emirate rulers, is the highest constitutional authority in the UAE. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by the FSC for a five-year term, with no term limits. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The highest legislative body is the unicameral Federal National Council, with 40 members. The members were previously all appointed by the rulers of the constituent states, but beginning in 2006 elections (initially participated in only by a select group of voters) were held for half the members; the rest are still appointed. Local matters are dealt with by the sheikhs. Administratively, the country is divided into the seven 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.


See D. Hawley, The Trucial States (1971); E. Mallakh, The Economic Development of the United Arab Emirates (1981); M. Peck, The United Arab Emirates (1986); A. O. Taryam, The Establishment of the United Arab Emirates (1987).

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United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates (UAE)


83,600sq km (32,278 sq mi)



capital (population):

Abu Dhabi (942,463)

Federation of the seven independent sheikhdoms of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, Fujairah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Qaiwain. It is bordered by the Persian Gulf (n), Oman (e), Saudi Arabia (w and s), and Qatar (nw). The terrain is flat, consisting mainly of desert. Abu Dhabi is more than six times the size of the other states put together, has the largest population, is the biggest oil producer, and provides the federal capital, the city of Abu Dhabi. The other significant populations are Dubai and Sharjah. The population is almost exclusively Muslim (mostly Sunni), although the great majority of inhabitants are expatriate workers. Formerly known as the Trucial States, the area was a British Protectorate from 1892. After World War 2, the Sheikhdoms gained autonomy. In 1971, British troops withdrew from the Arabian Gulf and the United Arab Emirates was formed. Crude oil and natural-gas production dominate the economy, accounting for about 50% of its GDP. Oil was first discovered in Abu Dhabi in the early 1960s, and the 1973 rise in oil prices transformed a relatively impoverished region into one of the world's wealthiest (2000 GDP per capita, US$22,800). Sheikh Zahid succeeded his brother as ruler in 1966. The UAE was part of the coalition against Iraq in the Gulf War (1991).

Political map

Physical map


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United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

Culture Name

Emirati (in Arabic, Al-Thaqafa Al-Emaratiya )


Identification. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of the seven small emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, and Fujairah, which were united as a federal state on 2 December 1971. Before the establishment of the oil economy in the early 1960s, two main orientations shaped traditional Emeriati culture: the nomadic desert-oriented Bedouins with small oasis farming within the broader context of the desert economy and culture, and the sea-oriented culture that revolved around pearling and sea trading. These subcultures were economically, politically, and socially interdependent, creating a common culture and social identity. The UAE shares significant aspects of its culture with neighboring Arab countries and the larger Arab culture.

Location and Geography. The UAE covers 32,278 square miles (83,600 square kilometers) and is located on the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. It shares land borders with Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The seven emirates vary greatly in size. Abu Dhabi represents 85 percent of the land, and the smallest emirate is Ajman. Each emirate is named after its capital city, and Abu Dhabi City is the permanent capital of the nation. The inland area is mostly desert with a few oases, and the barren Hajar Mountains run through the country. The UAE has a dry climate with very high temperatures and humidity in the summer.

Demography. Relative to its size and oil wealth, the UAE has a small population, estimated at 2,624,000 in 1997. Before 1970, the local population was tiny (estimated at eighty-six thousand in 1961) and lacked most of the technical skills needed for a modern society. The commercial production of oil triggered rapid population growth as a result of an increase in the national population from improvements in diet, health care, and living standards and the importation on a large scale of mostly male foreign laborers. The latter factor has generated a dependence on expatriate labor; the UAE has become a multiethnic society, and Emirati nationals account for only about 20 percent of the population. This has created an imbalanced population composition in favor of males; in 1997, there were 1,755,000 males and 869,000 females.

About two-thirds of the immigrants are Asians, mainly from India, Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. The remainder are Arabs, Europeans, and Americans.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is Arabic. Among the immigrant population, English, Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, and Filipino are spoken. English is the language of commerce.

Symbolism. National Day symbolizes one of the most successful experiments in unity in the modern Arab world. The main metaphor is that of the family, with the president referred to as a father. The colors of the national flaggreen, red, white, and blackare shared with other Arab countries. Other cultural symbols are the falcon, camel, Arabian horse, pearling boat, coffeepot, and date palm. They are used to invoke a historical community that survived harsh conditions and now enjoys the benefits of unity and prosperity. These emblems appear on banknotes, coins, and stamps.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Before 1971 the seven emirates were collectively known as the Trucial States, a name that originated from maritime agreements between the British and the leading sheikhs of the tribes inhabiting the southern coast between Qatar and Oman in the first half of the nineteenth century. The economic life of the UAE depended heavily on pearl diving and sea trade in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. This led to the settlement of different ethnic groups from countries along the trade routes, such as Iran and India. Trade activities with east Africa led to the importation of Africans as laborers in the pearling industry in the late nineteenth century. The African and Iranian ethnic populations have been fully integrated as citizens.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Before 1960, the only settlements were small towns and villages. Oil resources have enabled massive modernization. Towns have been transformed from mud-walled communities into commercial capitals integrated in the global economy. Because of the small population and harsh desert interior, 80 percent of the population lives in the coastal capital cities, leading social scientists to describe them as city-states.

Urbanization has been characterized by unparalleled growth. Abu Dhabi is one of the most modern cities in the world. UAE cities have been heavily influenced by the global city type. Dominant urban features include skyscrapers in the commercial city centers, multistory residential buildings, large shopping malls, wide boulevards, an extensive network of highways, and sprawling new suburbs.

The cities have a multiethnic composition, with segregated housing areas for nationals and the immigrants. Housing is subdivided further according to class, social power, ethnicity, and nationality.

To create a balance between their global and local aspects, in municipalities have adopted policies projecting Arab-Islamic architectural design, particularly arched windows, gates, and decorative stucco. Recently, more urban settings have exhibited decorative designs with local themes related to the national heritage. Preservation of the urban heritage also is seen in the renovation of old forts, palaces, souks (marketplaces), and mosques. Date palm trees, symbols of the local culture, have been planted extensively along city roadsides.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Before the 1960s, food consisted mainly of fish, rice, bread, dates, yogurt, homegrown vegetables, and meat from sheep, goats, and camels. 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. Many Emiratis prefer the traditional style of eating with the right hand. There are strict Muslim taboos against pork and alcohol, and meat must be slaughtered according to the Islamic halal method.

Emiratis are known for their hospitality; they feel honored when receiving guests and socializing with friends and relatives. Guests are welcomed with coffee and fresh dates. Incense is passed around so that guests can catch the fragrance in their headwear. With the immigrant population have come restaurants offering a wide variety of ethnic foods, and fast-food restaurants have also become popular.

Basic Economy. Income is among the highest in the world, but there are large differences between the emirates, with Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah producing the most oil. The other emirates have benefitted from oil wealth through the federal welfare system and employment in state institutions.

With declining oil prices, the government has attempted to diversify the national economy. This has led to the growth of industry, construction, commerce, free trade zones, transportation, tourism, farming, fisheries, and communications. The rapid development of these sectors has reduced the nation's dependence on oil. In 1998, the gross domestic product was estimated at $45,590 million, 70 percent from the nonoil sector.

The national currency name is called the Emirian Dirham.

Major Industries and Trade. The UAE is the third largest exporter of crude oil and gas in the Gulf. It is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Division of Labor. Citizens account for 10 percent of the total labor force. Almost all nationals (99 percent) work in the state sector because of the attractive benefits and are employed mainly in nontechnical jobs in education, the army, the police, and the civil service. They also own all Emirati businesses. Immigrants are employed in both the public and private sectors in manual, technical, and professional occupations.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Emirati society is divided into two social categories: the nationals (Al-Muwateneen ) and the foreign immigrants, referred to as the incomers (Al-Wafedeen ). Citizens are subdivided into four main social classes: (1) the ruling sheikhly families, whose members hold the highest political positions and power and have immense wealth and prestige, (2) the merchant class, known as al-tujjar, traditionally pearling merchants who now sell international consumer goods, (3) the new middle class, represented by increasing numbers of professionals who have benefitted from free state education, and (4) the low-income groups, represented by newly settled Bedouin nomads and former pearl divers and oasis farmers.

Among the immigrants there are hierarchical groups that receive different economic and social rewards: (1) top professionals and technocrats with international contracts, who earn high salaries and other benefits, (2) middle-range professionals such as school teachers, skilled technicians, and company salesmen, and (3) low-paid semi-skilled and unskilled workers, primarily Asian. In general, nationals are a privileged minority, and benefit from state laws and business regulations.

Symbols of Social Stratification. The symbol of a male national as a distinct social category is seen most visibly in the traditional dress of a white robe (kandoura ) 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 ).

Political Life

Government. The UAE has a federal government that is made up of several organs: the president and his deputy, the Supreme Council, the cabinet, the Federal National Council, and an independent judiciary with a federal supreme court. The Supreme Council has both legislative and executive powers and includes the rulers of the seven emirates. The cabinet consists of ministers drawn mainly from the ruling families of the emirates.

Leadership and Political Officials. The fact that the traditional tribal system of government each emirate was based on similar political principles facilitated the establishment of the UAE. Hereditary dynastic family rule still operates in each emirate as a local government system under the umbrella of the federal system. Members of the ruling families occupy the most important positions in their political administrations. While the political system continues to retain some of its traditional values at formal and informal levels, it has been able to keep pace with economic and social change. The sheikhs are highly regarded for performing the dual roles of modernizers and guardians of the cultural heritage. They still have traditional majlis where citizens have access to their leaders.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The development of the infrastructure has been impressive. The welfare system offers womb-to-tomb free state services for all nationals, including high-quality health care, education up to the tertiary level, social security, family allowances, subsided electricity and water, and housing for low-income groups. This is a major way of distributing oil wealth among the national population. The immigrant population also benefits to some extent, particularly in regard to medical care.

NonGovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

There were 103 Associations of Public Benefit in 1999, serving interests of many groups and identified with heritage preservation, immigrant communities, professional groups, culture, women, religion, sports, and general humanitarian services. Their role is seen as complementary to that of governmental institutions.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Modern economic roles and social status reflect both change and continuity for women. Schools and universities are segregated, and levels of enrollment of girls and their performance are impressive. In higher education, female students outnumber males two to one. However, women's participation in the labor force remains one of the lowest in the world at 6 percent in 1990. In spite of new employment opportunities, most women opt for marriage and raising children. UAE society places a high value on those roles. Conservative cultural attitudes lead women to seek jobs that do not involve mixing with men or commuting far from home. Subsequently, most women are employed in education, health, and civil service.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Official statements affirm that men and women have equal rights and opportunities to advance themselves and the nation, yet patriarchy as a generalized ideology is still visible in social life. Men continue to receive employment preferences in high state administration and private businesses. Women do not play a significant role in politics and religious life, as these areas are considered male domains.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Arranged endogamous marriage within the kinship (tribal) units was the preferred pattern in the preoil period, but this pattern has changed somewhat. Individuals now have greater choice, yet many nationals still prefer arranged marriages. Emiratis are strongly discouraged from marrying nonnationals, and a young man receives $19,000 from the Marriage Fund if he marries a national. As prescribed by Islam, a man is allowed up to four wives, but most men have only one wife.

Domestic Unit. The traditional household unit of the extended family has been undermined, as over 80 percent of national households live as nuclear families in their own houses. Large families are encouraged by the state as a national policy, and family size is six to eight children. The husband's authority is declining, while the wife is gaining importance as a mother and the manager of the domestic unit. On average, each household employs two live-in domestic servants, usually Asian.

Kin Groups. UAE society is family- and kin-oriented. Tribal kinship units play a significant role in social identification and one's standing in the community. Most families prefer to live in the same neighborhood as their kin.


Child Rearing and Education. Children are showered with care, affection, and physical contact. They are raised to be respectful toward their parents and elders and grow up to be skilled in interaction with a large number of relatives. Up to age 5, a child is referred to as jahel ("the one who does not know"), and there is a tolerant attitude toward children's behavior. Most families employ maids to share child caretaking, and this has introduced a foreign cultural element to child socialization, although a maid's influence is viewed as negative. The school system has undertaken a greater role in children's socialization, significantly reducing the family's role in this process.

Higher Education. The government views higher education as a major instrument for development. The UAE has one of the highest ratios of students entering higher education in the world. There are seven universities and eleven higher colleges of technology.


Social customs are shared throughout the Gulf Arab countries. An Islamic greeting (al-salam alaykom )is the most appropriate, and men follow this with a quick nose-to-nose touch while shaking hands. Women greet each other by kissing several times on both cheeks. Men normally do not shake hands with women in public. It is customary to ask about the health of a person and his or her family several times before beginning light conversation. Refreshments usually are served before serious matters are discussed.

It is customary not to use first names but to say "father or mother of (oldest son)." Respect and courtesy are shown to elders, and in their presence young men are expected to listen more and speak less. Sex segregation is still evident in social life. Men are entertained in majlis (large living rooms, often with a separate entrance), while women entertain friends in the home. It is customary to take off one's shoes before entering a private house.

Emiratis stand close to each other when interacting. It is acceptable for men or women to hold hands. The presence of many ethnic groups has led Emiratis to be tolerant of other social customs, yet they remain conscious of their own customs as markers of cultural identity.


Religious Beliefs. Islam dominates all aspects of life. Most Emiratis are members of the Sunni sect. Matters relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance, economics, politics, and personal conduct are affected by Sharia (Islamic) law.

Emaritis are tolerant toward other religions, and immigrants of other faiths are allowed to have their own places of worship. Large numbers of Asian and Arab immigrants also follow Islam.

Rituals and Holy Places. The main Muslim religious ritual is prayer five times a day. This requires wodou (ablution) for purification. Usually people go to the nearest mosque or pray at home. The rituals involved in the pilgrimage (Haj ) to Mecca are the most elaborate. One must remove the shoes before entering a mosque. In large mosques, there are separate areas for women.

Medicine and Health Care

Before 1960, there were few hospitals, and the population relied on traditional folk medicine. Cautery, bloodletting, and the use of herbs were common, and a religious teacher (muttawe ) dealt with cases of mental illness. Life expectancy was around forty-five years. Today Emiratis have a free modern health care system with numerous hospitals, primary health care centers, and private clinics staffed primarily by immigrants. With improved diet and health care, life expectancy is now seventy-two years, and there has been a reduction in infant mortality. The extended family provides its sick members with support in the form of frequent hospital visits, and traditional medical practices are still used to deal with mental illnesses.

Secular Celebrations

The UAE national day, 2 December, is the most important secular celebration. Cities are decorated with colored lights, and folklore troops perform in heritage villages. 1 January is a holiday but is not celebrated by nationals. Expatriate communities celebrate their own religious and secular holidays.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The state generously supports writers, painters, actors, and folk dancers. Sharjah is particularly active in promoting culture and was chosen by UNESCO as the Arab Cultural Capital in 1998.

Literature. The oral tradition remains strong, particularly storytelling and poetry, and most state events are accompanied by poetry readings. Written literature is increasing in popularity.

Performance Arts. Conservative elements of the society still impede women's participation in performance arts. In 1999, the first college for theater arts opened in Sharjah. Emiratis rely on theater and television programs produced in other Arab countries.


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United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates


South Asians (Asian Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans) account for about 45 percent of the population of the UAE, followed by Arabs (about 33 percent), and Iranians (17 percent). Westerners (Americans and Western Europeans) account for about 5 percent. Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis, and Bahrainis are employed throughout the government bureaucracy.

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e·mir·ate / əˈmi(ə)rˌāt; əˈmi(ə)rit; ˈemərit/ • n. the rank, lands, or reign of an emir.

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emirate •gamut •imamate, marmot •animate •approximate, proximate •estimate, guesstimate, underestimate •illegitimate, legitimate •intimate •penultimate, ultimate •primate • foumart • consummate •Dermot •discarnate, incarnate •impregnate • rabbinate •coordinate, inordinate, subordinate, superordinate •infinite • laminate • effeminate •discriminate • innominate •determinate • Palatinate • pectinate •obstinate • agglutinate • designate •tribunate • importunate • Arbuthnot •bicarbonate • umbonate • fortunate •pulmonate •compassionate, passionate •affectionate •extortionate, proportionate •sultanate • companionate •principate • Rupert • episcopate •carat, carrot, claret, garret, karat, parrot •emirate • aspirate • vertebrate •levirate •duumvirate, triumvirate •pirate • quadrat • accurate • indurate •obdurate •Meerut, vizierate •priorate • curate • elaborate •deliberate • confederate •considerate, desiderate •immoderate, moderate •ephorate •imperforate, perforate •agglomerate, conglomerate •numerate •degenerate, regenerate •separate • temperate • desperate •disparate • corporate • professorate •commensurate • pastorate •inveterate •directorate, electorate, inspectorate, protectorate, rectorate •illiterate, literate, presbyterate •doctorate • Don Quixote • marquisate •concert • cushat • precipitate

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