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The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Map of United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states formed in 1971 by the then Trucial States after independence from Britain.


Although each state - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain - maintains a large degree of independence, the UAE is governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers made up of the seven emirs, who appoint the prime minister and the cabinet.



Before oil was discovered in the 1950s the UAE's economy was dependent on fishing and a declining pearling industry. But since 1962, when Abu Dhabi became the first of the emirates to begin exporting oil, the country's society and economy have been transformed.

Construction worker and high-rise buildings, Dubai
Boom town: Oil money, business and tourism transformed Dubai
The late Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE at its inception, was quick to seize on the potential of the oil industry.

He oversaw the development of all the emirates and directed oil revenues into healthcare, education and the national infrastructure.


The oil industry has attracted a large influx of foreign workers who, together with expatriates, now make up more than three quarters of the population.

The country's growing business sector and its tourist industry have helped to fuel a construction boom, with billions of dollars being pumped into showpiece schemes. Chic hotels and skyscrapers are emblematic of cities such as Abu Dhabi and cosmopolitan Dubai.


The UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, with other cultures and beliefs generally tolerated. However it is the only state in the region not to have elected bodies.


  • Population: 3.1 million (UN, 2008)
  • Capital: Abu Dhabi
  • Area: 77,700 sq km (30,000 sq miles)
  • Major language: Arabic
  • Major religion: Islam
  • Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 81 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Dirham = 100 fils
  • Main exports: Oil, gas
  • GNI per capita: n/a
  • Internet domain: .ae
  • International dialling code: +971


    President, ruler of Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed

    Sheikh Khalifa was named as president by the UAE Federal Council shortly after the death of his father, Sheikh Zayed Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan, in November 2004. The former president, who was 86, had been in poor health.

    Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed
    Sheikh Khalifa succeeded his father

    Sheikh Khalifa, crown prince of Abu Dhabi since 1969, is said to be a pro-Western moderniser.

    Often referred to as the father of the nation, Sheikh Zayed succeeded his brother as ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and, because of his strong leadership and commitment to forming the federation, he was elected as the first president of the United Arab Emirates in 1971.

    Reelected every five years since 1971, Sheikh Zayed instilled the values of religious tolerance and equality, especially for women, into his policies, which greatly enhanced the stability of the UAE.




  • Vice president, prime minister, ruler of Dubai: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum
  • Ruler of Ajman: Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid al-Nuaimi
  • Ruler of Fujairah: Sheikh Hamad bin Muhammad bin Hamad al-Sharqi
  • Ruler of Ras al Khaimah: Sheikh Saqr bin Muhammad al-Qasimi
  • Ruler of Sharjah: Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi
  • Ruler of Umm al Qaiwain: Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmad al-Mualla




    Dubai aspires to be a regional and international centre for television and media services, alongside Egypt and Lebanon. An Electronic Commerce and Media Zone Authority was created in 2000 to attract regional and international media outlets.


    Dubai Media City and its counterparts offer two key advantages: tax benefits and freedom of speech.


    Major media organisations - including Reuters and Sony - and publishers, artists and writers have moved in. Established satellite broadcaster MBC relocated to Dubai Media City from London.


    Other influential pan-Arab satellite TV stations based in the UAE include Abu Dhabi TV which mounted extensive coverage of the US-led military campaign in Iraq in 2003.


    The constitution provides for freedom of speech but there is strong regulatory and political control of media content.


    A 1988 law requires that publications be licensed and outlines acceptable subjects of reporting. Foreign publications are censored before distribution. Journalists tend to practise self-censorship when reporting on such matters as government policy and ruling families.


    Internet use is extensive; by 2004 there were more than one million users.


    The press

  • Al-Bayan - private, Dubai-based daily
  • Gulf News - Dubai-based, English-language
  • Khaleej Times - private, Dubai-based daily


  • Emirates Dubai TV - pan-Arab broadcaster
  • Abu Dhabi TV - pan-Arab broadcaster
  • Ajman TV
  • Sharjah TV
  • MBC - Dubai-based pan-Arab broadcaster
  • Al-Arabiya - news channel operated by MBC


  • Abu Dhabi Radio
  • Radio Asia - commercial, broadcasts in Hindi, Urdu and Malayalam
  • Ras al Khaimah Radio
  • Al-Arabya FM - commercial
  • Dubai 92 - English-language
  • Dubai 93.9 - Arabic-language
  • City FM - programmes in English and Urdu

    News agency

  • Emirates News Agency (WAM) - official


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