UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Background:
The Trucial States of thePersian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states - Abu Zaby, 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn - merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were joined in 1972 by Ra's al Khaymah. The UAE's per capita GDP is not far below those of leading West European nations. Its generosity with oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy stance have allowed the UAE to play a vital role in the affairs of the region.Geography Location:
Middle East, bordering theGulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi ArabiaArea:
total: 82,880 sq km
land: 82,880 sq km
water: 0 sq kmCoastline:
note: includes an estimated 1,606,079 non-nationals; the 17 December 1995 census presents a total population figure of 2,377,453, and there are estimates of 3.44 million for 2002 (July 2003 est.)Population growth rate:
1.57% (2003 est.)Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.65 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 2.56 male(s)/female
total population: 1.47 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
adjective: Emirati Ethnic groups
: Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8% (1982)
note: less than 20% are UAE citizens (1982)Languages:
Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Its wealth is based on oil and gas output (about 33% of GDP), and the fortunes of the economy fluctuate with the prices of those commodities. Since 1973, the UAE has undergone a profound transformation from an impoverished region of small desert principalities to a modern state with a high standard of living. At present levels of production, oil and gas reserves should last for more than 100 years. The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up its utilities to greater private sector involvement.Industries
: petroleum, fishing, petrochemicals, construction materials, some boat building, handicrafts, pearlingAgriculture products
: dates, vegetables, watermelons; poultry, eggs, dairy products; fish
COMMUNICATIONSTelephones main lines in use:
915,223 (1998)Telephones - mobile cellular:
1 million (1999)Television broadcast stations:
AM 13, FM 7, shortwave 2 (1998)Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)Internet users:
: total: 1,088 km
paved: 1,088 km (including 253 km of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (1999 est.)Waterways:
GOVERNMENT Country name:
Conventional long form:United Arab Emirates
conventional short form: none
local long form: Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah
former: Trucial Oman, Trucial States
local short form: noneGovernment type
: federation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emiratesCapital
: Abu Dhabi Administrative divisions:
7 emirates (imarat, singular - imarah); Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi), 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah (Sharjah), Dubayy (Dubai), Ra's al Khaymah, Umm al QaywaynIndependence:
2 December 1971 (from UK) Constitution:
2 December 1971 (made permanent in 1996)Legal system:
federal court system introduced in 1971; all emirates except Dubayy (Dubai) and Ra's al Khaymah are not fully integrated into the federal system; all emirates have secular and Islamic law for civil, criminal, and high courtsExecutive branch:
chief of state: President ZAYID bin Sultan Al Nuhayyan (since 2 December 1971), ruler of Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi) (since 6 August 1966) and Vice President MAKTUM bin Rashid al-Maktum (since 8 October 1990), ruler of Dubayy (Dubai)
note: there is also a Federal Supreme Council (FSC) composed of the seven emirate rulers; the FSC is the highest constitutional authority in the UAE; establishes general policies and sanctions federal legislation; meets four times a year; Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi) and Dubayy (Dubai) rulers have effective veto power
head of government: Prime Minister MAKTUM bin Rashid al-Maktum (since 8 October 1990), ruler of Dubayy (Dubai); Deputy Prime Minister SULTAN bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan (since 20 November 1990)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected by the FSC (a group of seven electors) for five-year terms; election last held 2 December 2001 (next to be held NA 2006); prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the president
election results: ZAYID bin Sultan Al Nuhayyan reelected president; percent of FSC vote - NA%, but believed to be unanimous; MAKTUM bin Rashid al-Maktum elected vice president; percent of FSC vote - NA%, but believed to be unanimousJudicial branch
: Union Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president)Political parties and leaders:
Muslim 96% (Shi'a 16%), Christian, Hindu, and other 4%
Although little is known about the ancient history of this area, archaeological finds suggest that humans have been living here since at least 3000 BC. Other evidence links the peoples of what are now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman to the mysterious Bronze Age Magan civilization. Magan ships sailed to Babylonia, Mesopotamia and beyond, trading copper from Oman and pearls from the mouth of Dubai Creek with the heavyweights of the Bronze Age economy. The Magan civilization waned around 2000 BC, but Dubai's instinct for trade remained.
Excavations at Jumeira, about 10km south of Dubai, recently unearthed a 6th-century AD caravan station, proving that the area's population was still keeping the trade routes well oiled. Around this same time, the Sassanids, a Persian dynasty who had inhabited the mouth of Dubai Creek since AD 224, were driven out by the Umayyads, who came to stay and brought Islam with them.
Exploiting their prime location between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, the new inhabitants, working with the old, began reestablishing old trade routes and spreading the word of Allah, all the while making folks fantastic deals for the lowest everyday prices in the Gulf. As trade began to match pearl diving's importance to the local economy, merchant dhows sailed as far as China, returning with silk and porcelain for Middle Eastern and European markets. This maritime madness reached its peak between AD 750 and 1258.
Soon everyone wanted a piece of the Gulf's action. By the late 16th century the Portuguese were attempting to control local trade. Their success was such that many coastal settlements were practically abandoned, and the tribes took refuge in oases far from the coast. The British finally gained control of the region's waterways in 1766. Dubai was caught between local power struggles and the Europe's imperial dreams, but somehow turned this bad situation to its advantage, expanding its pearl trade through every channel.
In 1833 a neighboring tribal power, the Bani Yas, decided that Dubai would be its new turf. Eight hundred Bani Yas moved into the Bur Dubai area under the leadership of Maktoum bin Butti, founder of the Al-Maktoum dynasty that still rules the emirate today.
The region's two economic epicentres, neighboring Sharjah and Lingah in modern-day Iran, were already losing business to bustling Dubai. Sheikh Maktoum decided to capitalize on the opportunity. In 1892 he signed an exclusive business deal with the British and in 1894 permitted a full tax exemption for foreign traders. Persian merchants were the first group of expats to take advantage of the deal, but traders the world over were on the way. In 1903, when the Sheikh convinced a major British steamship line to make Dubai a port of call, a 25-year boom began.
The Great Depression, compounded by the emergence of artificial pearls in 1929, cast a dark cloud over Dubai's newfound prosperity. Young Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum, convinced that the pearl trade was dead, decided that this cloud had a 24-karat lining. Dubai wasn't duty-free for nothing. Soon, the re-export business, whereby goods were cheaply imported into a duty-free port and immediately exported to another market, exploded. After Dubai Creek was dredged in 1963, allowing almost any boat safe harbor, gold smuggling took off like a rocket.
Dubai's lucky streak had only just begun. In 1966, oil was discovered and the economy kicked into overdrive. The British had already decided to pack up the empire and head home, and in 1971, Dubai became the seventh emirate of the newly formed UAE. Sheikh Rashid agreed to a formula that gave the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai the most weight in the federation, and made sure that Dubai would continue living life in the fast lane. Border disputes and friction about the integration of the Emirates led to some tension, but in 1979, Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi sealed a compromise; in effect, Dubai would remain a bastion of free trade while Abu Dhabi imposed a tighter federal structure on the rest of the Emirates.
When Sheikh Rashid, the architect of Dubai's success and unrivaled financial freedom, died in 1990, his son Sheikh Maktoum took the reins of power( but let Adam Smith's invisible hand continue to do most of the steering). The core of Maktoum's policies is economic freedom and the no-holds-barred promotion of Dubai, which makes the city a very fun place. By the mid-1990s, the Dubai Desert Classic had become a well-established stop on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tour. World-class tennis tournaments, boat and horse races, desert rallies and one of the largest air shows in the world attract millions of visitors to the city. Other high profile events, such as the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises, bring hordes of tourists into town. Tourism matches trade and oil in importance to the emirate's economy.
The story of Dubai reads like a rags-to-riches tale, and indeed, it is hard to imagine anywhere else in the world that has developed at such a pace, in such a short time, for so many different people.