United Arab Emirates

President: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan (2004)

Prime Minister: Sheikh Muhammad ibn Rashid al-Maktoum (2006)

Total area: 32,278 sq mi (83,600 sq km)

Population (2014 est.): 5,628,805 (growth rate: 2.71%); birth rate: 15.54/1000; infant mortality rate: 10.92/1000; life expectancy: 77.09; density per sq mi: 256

Capital (2012 est.): Abu Dhabi, 942,000

Largest city: Dubai, 1.978 million

Monetary unit: U.A.E. dirham

National name: Al-Imarat al-'Arabiyah al-Muttahidah

Current government officials

Languages: Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu

Ethnicity/race: Emiri 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8% (1982)

Religions: Muslim (Islam; official) 76%, Christian 9%, other (primarily Hindu and Buddhist, less than 5% of the population consists of Parsi, Baha'i, Druze, Sikh, Ahmadi, Ismaili, Dawoodi Bohra Muslim, and Jewish) 15%. Note: represents the total population; about 85% of the population consists of noncitizens (2005 est.)

Literacy rate: 90% (2005 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $269.8 billion; per capita $29,900. Real growth rate: 4%. Inflation: 1.3%. Unemployment: 2.4% (2001). Arable land: 0.61%. Agriculture: dates, vegetables, watermelons; poultry, eggs, dairy products; fish. Labor force: 4.588 million; note: 85% of the population in the 15–64 age group is nonnational (2013 est.); services 78%, industry 15%, agriculture 7% (2000 est.). Industries: petroleum and petrochemicals; fishing, aluminum, cement, fertilizers, commercial ship repair, construction materials, some boat building, handicrafts, textiles. Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas. Exports: $368.9 billion (2013 est.): crude oil 45%, natural gas, reexports, dried fish, dates. Imports: $249.6 billion (2013 est.): machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food. Major trading partners: Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand, China, Germany, Iran, U.S., Singapore (2012).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 1.967 million (2012); mobile cellular: 13.775 million (2012). Radio broadcast stations: except for the many organizations now operating in Dubai's Media Free Zone, most TV and radio stations remain government-owned; widespread use of satellite dishes provides access to pan-Arab and other international broadcasts (2007). Radios: 820,000 (1997). Television broadcast stations: 15 (1997). Televisions: 310,000 (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 337,804 (2012). Internet users: 3.449 million (2009).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 4,080 km; paved: 4,080 km; unpaved: 0 km (2008 est.). Ports and harbors: Al Fujayrah, Mina' Jabal 'Ali (Dubai), Khor Fakkan (Khawr Fakkan), Mubarraz Island, Mina' Rashid (Dubai), Mina' Saqr (Ra's al Khaymah). Airports: 43 (2013).

International disputes: Boundary agreement was signed and ratified with Oman in 2003 for entire border, including Oman's Musandam Peninsula and Al Madhah enclaves, but contents of the agreement and detailed maps showing the alignment have not been published; Iran and UAE dispute Tunb Islands and Abu Musa Island, which Iran occupies.


The United Arab Emirates, in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, extends along part of the Gulf of Oman and the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. The nation is the size of Maine. Its neighbors are Saudi Arabia to the west and south, Qatar to the north, and Oman to the east. Most of the land is barren and sandy.


Federation formed in 1971 by seven emirates known as the Trucial States—Abu Dhabi (the largest), Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwain. In addition to a federal president and prime minister, each emirate has a separate ruler who oversees the local government.


Originally the area was inhabited by a seafaring people who were converted to Islam in the 7th century. Later, a dissident sect, the Carmathians, established a powerful sheikdom, and its army conquered Mecca. After the sheikdom disintegrated, its people became pirates. Threatening the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman early in the 19th century, the pirates provoked the intervention of the British, who in 1820 enforced a partial truce and in 1853 a permanent truce. Thus what had been called the Pirate Coast was renamed the Trucial Coast. The British provided the nine Trucial states with protection but did not formally administer them as a colony.

The British withdrew from the Persian Gulf in 1971, and the Trucial states became a federation called the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Two of the Trucial states, Bahrain and Oman, chose not to join the federation, reducing the number of states to seven.

The country signed a military defense agreement with the U.S. in 1994 and one with France in 1995.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the UAE was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers (two of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens). The nation immediately cooperated with the U.S., freezing accounts tied to suspected terrorists and strongly clamping down on money laundering.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE and ruler of the federation since 1971, died in Nov. 2004. His son succeeded him. In Jan. 2006, Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE and the emir of Dubai, died. Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad ibn Rashid al-Maktoum assumed both roles.

The Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, was completed in January 2010 and became the world's tallest building at 2,716 feet (828 meters) and 160 stories. It contains the world's fastest elevators, 20.7 acres of glass, and is expected to use about 250,000 gallons of water per day.

See also Encyclopedia: United Arab Emirates.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: United Arab Emirates
Ministry of Planning http://www.uae.gov.ae/mop/

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