United Arab Emirates
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
Climate: Hot, humid, low annual rainfall.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--U.A.E.,
Population (2004 est.): 4.3 million.
Annual growth rate: 6.9%.
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,
Education: Years compulsory--ages 6-12.
Literacy (U.A.E. citizens)--about 80%.
Health: Life expectancy--About 74 yrs.
Work force (2003) 2.485 million (93% foreign in
15-64 age group): Agriculture--8%;
Type: Federation of emirates.
Independence: December 2, 1971.
Provisional constitution: December 2, 1971.
Branches: Executive--7-member Supreme
Council of Rulers, which elects president and
vice president. Legislative--40-member
Federal National Council (consultative only).
Judicial--Islamic and secular courts.
Administrative subdivisions: Seven largely
Political parties: None.
Central government budget (2006): $7 billion.
GDP (2004): $102 billion.
Annual growth rate: 7%.
Per capita GDP (2004): $21,600.
Inflation rate (2004 est.): 4.6%.
Natural resources: Oil and natural gas.
Agriculture (3.0% of GDP): Products--vegetables,
dates, dairy products, poultry, fish.
Petroleum: 31.9% of 2003 GDP.
Other industry: 25% of 2002 GDP.
Services (44% of 2003 GDP): Trade, government,
Trade (2004 est.): Exports--$82.3
billion: petroleum, gas, and petroleum products.
Major markets--Japan, India, Singapore,
Iran. Imports--$54.2 billion:
machinery, consumer goods, food. Major
suppliers--western Europe, Japan, U.S.
(6.5%), China, India.
Foreign economic aid (2003): In excess of $5.25
Only 15-20% of the total population of 4.041
million are U.A.E. citizens. The rest include
significant numbers of other
Arabs--Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians,
Yemenis, Omanis--as well as many Iranians,
Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Afghanis,
Filipinos, and west Europeans.
The majority of U.A.E. citizens are Sunni
Muslims with a small Shi'a minority. Most
foreigners also are Muslim, although Hindus and
Christians make up a portion of the U.A.E.'s
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.
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 7th 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.
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 liberate Kuwait
during the 1990-91 Gulf War.
In 2004, the U.A.E.’s first and only
president, 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 Maktum bin Rashid Al Maktum, 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, Crown
Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defense. On
February 9, 2006, the U.A.E. announced a cabinet
Administratively, the U.A.E. is a loose
federation of seven emirates, each with its own
ruler. The pace at which local government in
each emirate evolves from traditional to modern
is set primarily by the ruler. Under the
provisional constitution of 1971, each emirate
reserves considerable powers, including control
over mineral rights (notably oil) and revenues.
In this milieu, federal powers have developed
slowly. The constitution established the
positions of President (Chief of State) and Vice
President, each serving 5-year terms; a Council
of Ministers, led by a Prime Minister (head of
government); a supreme council of rulers; and a
40-member National Assembly, a consultative body
whose members are appointed by the emirate
Principal Government Officials
President, Ruler of Abu Dhabi--Sheikh Khalifa
bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Vice President, Prime Minister, Minister of
Defense, Ruler of Dubai--Sheikh Mohammed bin
Rashid Al Maktoum
Deputy Prime Minister--Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed
Deputy Prime Minister--Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed
Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces,
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince--Sheikh Mohammed bin
Zayed Al Nahyan
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Sheikh Abdullah bin
Zayed Al Nahyan
Minister of Finance and Industry--Sheikh Hamdan
bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Minister of Economy--Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi
Minister of Interior--Major Gen. Sheikh Saif bin
Zayed Al Nahyan
Minister of Justice--Mohammed Nakhira Al Daheri
Minister of Energy--Mohammed bin Dha’en Al
Minister of Higher Education--Sheikh Nahyan bin
Mubarak Al Nahyan
Minister of Education--Dr. Hanif Hassan
Minister of State for Financial and Industrial
Affairs--Dr. Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs--Mohammed
Hussain Al Sha’ali
Minister of Federal National Council
Affairs--Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash
Ambassador to the United States--Saqr Ghobash
Ambassador to the United Nations--Abd al-Aziz
Bin Nasir al-Shamsi
The U.A.E. maintains an embassy in the United
States at 3522 International Court, NW,
Washington, DC, 20008 (tel. 202-243-2400). The
U.A.E. Mission to the UN is located at 747 3rd
Avenue, 36th Floor, New York, NY 10017 (tel.
The relative political and financial
influence of each emirate is reflected in the
allocation of positions in the federal
government. The ruler of Abu Dhabi, whose
emirate is the U.A.E.'s major oil producer, is
president of the U.A.E. The ruler of Dubai,
which is the U.A.E.'s commercial center, is vice
president and prime minister.
Since achieving independence in 1971, the
U.A.E. has worked to strengthen its federal
institutions. Nonetheless, each emirate still
retains substantial autonomy, and progress
toward greater federal integration has slowed in
recent years. A basic concept in the U.A.E.
Government's development as a federal system is
that a significant percentage of each emirate's
revenues should be devoted to the U.A.E. central
The U.A.E. has no political parties. There is
talk of steps toward democratic government, but
nothing concrete has emerged. The rulers hold
power on the basis of their dynastic position
and their legitimacy in a system of tribal
consensus. Rapid modernization, enormous strides
in education, and the influx of a large foreign
population have changed the face of the society
but have not fundamentally altered this
traditional political system.
The Trucial Oman Scouts, long the symbol of
public order on the coast and commanded by
British officers, were turned over to the U.A.E.
as its defense forces in 1971. The U.A.E. armed
forces, consisting of 65,500 troops, are
headquartered in Abu Dhabi and are primarily
responsible for the defense of the seven
The U.A.E. military relies heavily on troop
forces from other Arab countries and Pakistan.
The officer corps, however, is composed almost
exclusively of U.A.E. nationals. The air force
is linked into a joint air defense system with
the other six national of the Gulf Co-operation
Council (GCC) aimed at protecting the airspace
of the allied states.
The U.A.E. air force has about 4,000
personnel. The air force has begun receiving the
first of its 80 advanced U.S. F-16 multirole
fighter aircraft. Other equipment includes
French Mirage 2000-9s, British Hawk aircraft, 36
transport aircraft and U.S. Apache and French
Puma helicopters. The U.A.E. has taken delivery
of two of five Triad I-Hawk batteries. The U.A.E.
navy is small--about 2,500 personnel--and
maintains 12 well-equipped coastal patrol boats
and 8 missile crafts. Although primarily
concerned with coastal defense, the navy is
currently expanding and modernizing its force to
include blue water capabilities.
The U.A.E. contributes to the continued
security and stability of the Gulf and the
Straits of Hormuz. It is a leading partner in
the campaign against terrorism, providing
assistance in the military, diplomatic, and
financial arenas since September 11, 2001. The
U.A.E. military currently provides humanitarian
assistance to Iraq.
Prior to the first exports of oil in 1962,
the U.A.E. economy was dominated by pearl
production, fishing, agriculture, and herding.
Since the rise of oil prices in 1973, however,
petroleum has dominated the economy, accounting
for most of its export earnings and providing
significant opportunities for investment. The
U.A.E. has huge proven oil reserves, estimated
at 98.8 billion barrels in 2003, with gas
reserves estimated at (212 trillion cubic feet);
at present production rates, these supplies
would last well over 150 years.
In 2005, the U.A.E. produced about 2.5
million barrels of oil per day--of which Abu
Dhabi produced approximately 94%--with Dubai,
and Sharjah to a much lesser extent, producing
Major increases in imports occurred in
manufactured goods, machinery, and
transportation equipment, which together
accounted for 70% of total imports. Another
important foreign exchange earner, the Abu Dhabi
Investment Authority--which controls the
investments of Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest
emirate--manages an estimated $250 billion in
More than 200 factories operate at the Jebel
Ali complex in Dubai, which includes a
deep-water port and a free trade zone for
manufacturing and distribution in which all
goods for re-export or transshipment enjoy a
100% duty exemption. A major power plant with
associated water desalination units, an aluminum
smelter, and a steel fabrication unit are
prominent facilities in the complex.
Except in the free trade zone, the U.A.E.
requires at least 51% local citizen ownership in
all businesses operating in the country as part
of its attempt to place Emiratis into leadership
As a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),
the U.A.E. participates in the wide range of GCC
activities that focus on economic issues. These
include regular consultations and development of
common policies covering trade, investment,
banking and finance, transportation,
telecommunications, and other technical areas,
including protection of intellectual property
The U.A.E. joined the United Nations and the
Arab League and has established diplomatic
relations with more than 60 countries, including
the U.S., Japan, Russia, the People's Republic
of China, and most western European countries.
It has played a moderate role in the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries,
the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting
Countries, the United Nations, and the GCC.
Substantial development assistance has
increased the U.A.E.'s stature among recipient
states. Most of this foreign aid (in excess of
$15 billion) has been to Arab and Muslim
Following Iraq's 1990 invasion and attempted
annexation of Kuwait, the U.A.E. has sought to
rely on the GCC, the United States, and other
Western allies for its security. The U.A.E.
believes that the Arab League needs to be
restructured to become a viable institution and
would like to increase strength and
interoperability of the GCC defense forces.
The U.A.E. is a member of the following
international organizations: UN and several of
its specialized agencies (ICAO, ILO, UPU, WHO,
WIPO); World Bank, IMF, Arab League,
Organization of the Islamic Conference,
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries,
Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting
Countries, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
The United States has enjoyed friendly
relations with the U.A.E. since 1971. Private
commercial ties, especially in petroleum, have
developed into friendly government-to-government
ties which include security assistance. The
breadth, depth, and quality of U.S.-U.A.E.
relations increased dramatically as a result of
the U.S.-led coalition's campaign to end the
Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. In 2002, the U.S.
and the U.A.E. launched a strategic partnership
dialogue covering virtually every aspect of the
relationship. The U.A.E. has been a key partner
in the war on terror after September 11, 2001.
The United States was the third country to
establish formal diplomatic relations with the
U.A.E. and has had an ambassador resident in the
U.A.E. since 1974.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Martin Quinn
Political Officer--Joel Maybury
Economic Officer--Oliver John
Consular Officer--Robert Dolce
Management Officer--Debra Smoker-Ali
Public Affairs Officer--Hilary Olsin-Windecker
Commercial Officer--Christian Reed
Embassy mailing address--PO Box 4009, Abu
Dhabi; tel: (971) (2) 414-2200, PAO (971)(2)
414-2410; fax: (971)(2) 414-2603; Commercial
Office: (971)(2) 414-2304; fax: (971)(2)
414-2228; Consul General in
L. Davis; PO Box 9343; tel: (971) (4) 311-6000;
fax: (971)(4) 311-6166, Commercial Office: