United Arab Emirates: Facts & country profile

UAE

The United Arab Emirates (the UAE) is a federation of seven tiny independent states - Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, al-Fujaira, Ras al-Khaymah, al-Shariqah (Sharjah), and Umm al-Quwayn.

The UAE is a Muslim country which lies at the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula bordering the Arabian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia. It has a land size of 82,880 sq km.

Once known as the Trucial States in the 19th century, the UAE is now considered a Middle East hub for business, media and a major tourist destination.

In particular, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two most prosperous states, are a model for rapid economic development and hugely popular with foreign investors from around the world because of their expanding leisure facilities and relaxed laws.

The city of Abu Dhabi, located in the emirate of the same name, is the federal capital and the largest city in the country.

Rapid modernisation

Regional threats of war and revolution did not harm the country's quest for development under the leadership of Shaikh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who used oil revenues to establish and strengthen the business and tourism sectors as well as promote the UAE's regional security.

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

There are no political parties. There has been some slow movement toward democratisation, however, with limited elections for a new assembly, but the rulers hold power on the basis of their dynastic position and their legitimacy in a system of tribal consensus.

Lately Shaikha Lubna al-Qasimi was appointed as minister of education to be the first female minister in the UAE.

With Dubai the leading destination in the Gulf for shopping and business, the UAE's per capita GDP is comparable to leading west European nations.

Its generosity with oil revenues, both in spending within the country and pan-Arab contributions, has allowed the UAE and its president Shaikh Zayid to play a vital role in the affairs of the region.

Country statistics

Official name: United Arab Emirates

Capital: Abu Dhabi

Form of government: Federation of emirates

Gained independence: 2 December 1971

Currency: Dirham (AED) - 1 USD = (app) 3.67 AED

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas

Major industries: Oil, fishing, petrochemicals, construction materials, boat building, handicrafts, pearling

GDP: $71bn (2002 est)

GDP annual growth rate: 1.8% (2002 est)

Per capita GDP: $22,000 (2002 est)

Imports: $34bn (2002 est)

Exports: $46bn (2002 est)

Military budget: $1.6bn (2002 est)

Army size: 41,500 active troops

Population: 2,995,000 (2003 est)

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

Religions: Islam 96% (official; Shia 16%)

Ethnic diversity: Arab and Iranian 42%, Indian 50%, other 8%

Literacy rate: 77.9%

Important media: Al-Bayan newspaper, Gulf News English newspaper, Khaleej Times English newspaper, Emirates Dubai TV (pan-Arab broadcaster), Abu Dhabi TV (pan-Arab broadcaster), Abu Dhabi Radio, Free FM (English radio station), City FM (radio station; programmes in English and Urdu)

Source: Aljazeera