United Arab Emirates

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A federation of seven sheikhdoms (emirates) occupying the southern (Arabian) coast of the Gulf between Qatar and Oman, together with its offshore islands.


Abu Dhabi in the west is the largest emirate and also the richest in oil and natural gas. Dubai to the east is the second largest emirate and has oil offshore, as has Sharjah. Further east, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah are predominantly agricultural, while Ajman and Umm al-Qaiwain are very small.


The economy of the UAE is based largely on crude oil, which, with natural gas, dominates exports. In addition, Dubai has a substantial entrepôt trade. Industries include petroleum products, cement, and aluminium-smelting. Agriculture suffers from arid conditions and poor irrigation. There is a large immigrant workforce, mainly of Pakistanis, Indians, and Iranians.


The sheikhdoms concluded several treaties with Britain from 1820 onwards. In 1892, they accepted British military protection, becoming known thereafter as the Trucial States. (The name derived from a maritime truce they made with Britain in 1836). The emirates came together as an independent state when they ended their individual special treaty relationships with the British government, and signed a Treaty of Friendship with Britain in 1971. The large oil resources of Abu Dhabi were first discovered in 1958. Each of the rulers of the seven constituent emirates has autonomy in his own state. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan of Abu Dhabi was President of the Federation from 1979 until his death in 2004; he was succeeded by his son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nurhayyan. The collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce cost Abu Dhabi some $10,000 million.


Abu Dhabi


77,700 sq km (30,000 sq miles)


4,690,000 (2005)


1 UAE dirham = 100 fils


Sunni Muslim 63.0%; Shia Muslim 13.0%; Christian 11.0%; Hindu 7.0%

Ethnic Groups:

South Asian 35.7%; UAE Arab 12.2%; other Arab 35.9%; Persian 5.0%


Arabic (official); other immigrant languages

International Organizations:

UN; GCC; Arab League; OAPEC; OPEC; WTO

Subjects: World History.

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