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United Arab Emirates

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Anthem United Arab Emirates00:54

Anthem United Arab Emirates

The flag and national anthem of the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates (Arabic: دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة Dowlat Al-Imārāt al-‘Arabīya al-Muttaḥida, usually called the UAE, or simply the Emirates) is a small, very rich oil country in the Middle East, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. The country is made up of seven Emirates: the two most important are Abu Dhabi and Dubai; the others are Ajmān, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.


The UAE is a desert country, situated on the Arabian Penninsula near the Strait of Hormuz; it shares an undefined boundary with Saudi Arabia and Oman.

  • Area: 82,880 sq. km. (30,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Maine.
  • Cities (2002 est.): Capital--Abu Dhabi (pop. 1,000,000); Dubai (pop. 860,000).
  • Terrain: Largely desert with some agricultural areas.
  • Climate: Hot, humid, low annual rainfall.


Only 15-20% of the total population of 4.4 million is U.A.E. citizens. The rest include significant numbers of other Arabs--Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Yemenis, Omanis--as well as many Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Iranians, Afghans, Filipinos, and west Europeans.

The majority of U.A.E. citizens are Sunni Muslims with a very small Shi'a minority. Many foreigners also are Muslim, although Hindus and Christians make up a portion of the U.A.E.'s foreign population.

Educational standards among U.A.E. citizens population are rising rapidly. Citizens and temporary residents have taken advantage of facilities throughout the country. The UAE University in Al Ain had roughly 17,000 students in 2004. The Higher Colleges of Technology, a network of technical-vocational colleges, opened in 1989 with men's and women's campuses in each emirate. Zayed University for women opened in 1998 with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Zayed University will establish separate male campuses for the 2007-2008 academic year. American University Sharjah had over 4,500 students enrolled in 2007. Many foreign universities, including ones from the U.S., U.K., and Australia, also have campuses in the U.A.E.

  • Population (2007 est.): 4.4 million.
  • Population growth rate (2007 est.): 4.0%.
  • Ethnic groups: Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Egyptian, Jordanian, Iranian, Filipino, other Arab; (15-20% of residents are U.A.E. citizens).
  • Religions: Muslim (96%), Hindu, Christian.
  • Languages: Arabic (official), English, Hindi, Urdu, Persian.
  • Education: Years compulsory--ages 6-12. Literacy (U.A.E. citizens)--about 80%.
  • Health: Life expectancy--about 76 yrs.
  • Work force (2006) 2.968 million (93% foreign in 15-64 age group): Agriculture--2.3%; industry--61.9%; services--35.8%.


The U.A.E. was formed from the group of tribally organized Arabian Peninsula Sheikhdoms along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman. This area was converted to Islam in the Seventh century; for centuries it was embroiled in dynastic disputes. It became known as the Pirate Coast as raiders based there harassed foreign shipping, although both European and Arab navies patrolled the area from the 17th century into the 19th century. Early British expeditions to protect the India trade from raiders at Ras al-Khaimah led to campaigns against that headquarters and other harbors along the coast in 1819. The next year, a general peace treaty was signed to which all the principal sheikhs of the coast adhered. Raids continued intermittently until 1835, when the sheikhs agreed not to engage in hostilities at sea. In 1853, they signed a treaty with the United Kingdom, under which the sheikhs (the "Trucial Sheikhdoms") agreed to a "perpetual maritime truce." It was enforced by the United Kingdom, and disputes among sheikhs were referred to the British for settlement.

Primarily in reaction to the ambitions of other European countries, the United Kingdom and the Trucial Sheikhdoms established closer bonds in an 1892 treaty, similar to treaties entered into by the U.K. with other Gulf principalities. The sheikhs agreed not to dispose of any territory except to the United Kingdom and not to enter into relationships with any foreign government other than the United Kingdom without its consent. In return, the British promised to protect the Trucial Coast from all aggression by sea and to help out in case of land attack.

In 1955, the United Kingdom sided with Abu Dhabi in the latter's dispute with Saudi Arabia over the Buraimi Oasis and other territory to the south. A 1974 agreement between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia would have settled the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border dispute; however, the agreement has yet to be ratified by the U.A.E. Government. The border with Oman also remains officially unsettled, but the two governments agreed to delineate the border in May 1999. Since that time, the U.A.E. has constructed a border fence along the entire length with both Oman and Saudi Arabia. The new fence and checkpoints will likely be finished by 2008-2009.

In 1968, the U.K. announced its decision, reaffirmed in March 1971, to end the treaty relationships with the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms which had been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection. The nine attempted to form a union of Arab emirates, but by mid-1971 they were unable to agree on terms of union, even though the termination date of the British treaty relationship was the end of 1971. Bahrain became independent in August and Qatar in September 1971. When the British-Trucial Sheikhdoms treaty expired on December 1, 1971, they became fully independent. On December 2, 1971, six of them entered into a union called the United Arab Emirates. The seventh, Ras al-Khaimah, joined in early 1972.

The U.A.E. sent forces to help liberate Kuwait during the 1990-91 Gulf War. U.A.E. troops have also participated in peacekeeping missions to Somalia, Lebanon, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, and Kuwait.

In 2004, the U.A.E.'s first and only president until that time, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, died. His eldest son Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan succeeded him as Ruler of Abu Dhabi. In accordance with the Constitution, the U.A.E.'s Supreme Council of Rulers elected Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan as U.A.E. Federal President. Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan succeeded Khalifa as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. In January 2006, Sheikh Makotum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, U.A.E. Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, passed away and was replaced by his brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MbR), Ruler of Dubai and U.A.E. Minister of Defense. On February 9, 2006, the U.A.E. announced a cabinet reshuffle. Several ministries were eliminated or renamed, while others were created.

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