United Arab Emirates -- Geography --
Official Name: United Arab Emirates
Capital City: Abu Dhabi (pop. 1,000,000)
Languages: Arabic (official), English, Hindi, Urdu, Persian
Official Currency: United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED)
Religions: Muslim (96%), Hindu, Christian
Population: 4,380,000 (2008)
Land Area: 82,880 sq km
Landforms: Largely desert with some agricultural areas.
Land Divisions: Seven states, termed emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain)
United Arab Emirates -- History --
Before The Federation (The Past)
The region now known as the United Arab Emirates was occupied by sea traders who lived along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman. During the 7th century, the Islamic faith spread across the Arabian Peninsula, but due to disputes in the area, the people became pirates and the region was later known as the Pirate Coast in the 16th century.
During the early 19th century, due to the continues harassement of foreign ships, the British influence began, even though both European and Arab naives were patrolling the area. The British issued a general peace treaty in 1820 with all the nine shaikhs (which included Bahrain and Qatar), but raids continued until the shaikhs agreed not to fight at sea in 1835. A signed treaty in 1853 was made between the United Kingdom and the nine sheikhdoms, and the region would be known as the Trucial Coast. The British would provide the Trucial Sheikhdoms with protection and disputes among the shaikhs would be settled by them.
In 1952, the seven emirates establishes a Trucial Council. When the prospect of oil was seen by the British, they needed to set boundaries between the sheikhdoms as none of the local rulers could agree. Oil was found in 1958 and began export in 1962, which transformed the previously poorest emirate into the richest. Dubai on the otherhand was concentrating on building its reputation as the region's busiest trading post, but eventually struck oil in 1966.
The Federation (The Union)
The British announced in 1968 that they would be leaving the Gulf region in 1971, and this would end their treaty relationship. The seven Trucial Coast sheikhdoms, Bahrain and Qatar attempted to form a union of Arab emirates, but were unable to agree on terms of a union, which lead to the independence of Bahrain in August and Qatar in September 1971. When the treaty expired on the 1st of December 1971, six of the seven state (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain) merged together on the 2nd of December 1971 to form the United Arab Emirates and elected Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as President and Sheikh Rashid bin Said Al Maktoom as the Vice-President. Ras Al Khaimah soon after joined the federation on the 11th February 1972.
The individual rulers of each of the seven emirates comprise of the Federal Supreme Council (FSC), which is the highest federal authority. Decisions made by the Council must have the agreement of atleast five of its members, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The President and Vice-President (Prime Minister) are elected by the Council every five years, but unofficially the President will be a member of the Al Nahyan clan of Abu Dhabi and the Vice-President will be a member of the Al Maktoum clan of Dubai.
The Vice-President, with consultation of the President, chooses the executive arm of the government known as the Council of Ministers. The Federal National Council (FNC), which is considered the parliament, is a 40-member council drawn from each of the seven emirates that governs all federal laws. In August 2006, the UAE Nationational Election Committee (NEC) was established to appointed half of members of the Federal National Council, which will allow women to be members of the FNC. The judicial structure is headed by the FSC, but each emirates has its own local government.
After the Federation (The Present and the Future)
The United Arab Emirates has come a long way since its independance and being the world's fourth largest oil-producer, it has transformed from a desert land into a land of six-lane highways, towering skyscrapers, and lush green golf courses. It has also been reported to be the richest state per head of population, and the considered to be the commercial and tourist hub of the Middle East. Also being the first in the region to permit the foreign ownership of real estate, foreign investment in into the country has made it possible to create development projects like the Palm Islands, The World, and Dubailand.
United Arab Emirates -- Economy --
The unprecedented economic transformation which has taken place in the UAE since the formation of the state has been largely funded by the judicious use of oil revenues. However, although oil and gas production remains the primary source of public revenue, the secret of the country's current economic success has been a determined government strategy of economic diversification, leading to the creation of new productive sectors. The immense wealth has been invested in capital improvements and social services in all of the seven Emirates. Petroleum production is centered in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Oil and gas production has been the mainstay of the economy in the UAE and will remain a major source of revenue long into the future, due to the vast hydrocarbon reserves at the country's disposal. Proven recoverable oil reserves are currently put at 98.2 billion barrels or 9.5 per cent of the global crude oil proven reserves. As for natural gas, the proven recoverable reserves are estimated currently at 5.8 billion cubic meters or 4 per cent of the world total. This means that the UAE possesses the third largest natural gas reserves in the region and the fourth largest in the world. At the current rate of utilization, and excluding any new discoveries, these reserves will last for over 150 years.
Lying in the heart of the world's arid zone, the UAE has little rainfall and one would expect it to be a barren place. Barren places, they certainly are, but the process of desertification has very largely been arrested in the country. It is now possible to see forests, fields of grass and wheat where once there were only desert sands and winds.
The UAE has a long tradition of agriculture in its oases where crops have been grown for 5000 years. Underground water was channeled to palm groves and small fields and the technique is still used today. Since the formation of the UAE in 1971, this small scale traditional farming has been complemented by investment that has seen thousands of hectares being cultivated. According to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, agricultural production stands at over Dh 2 billion per year. An average crop season yields over 600,000 tons of crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, lettuce, cabbage and animal feed. Studies have shown that much of the country's soil can be cultivated provided there is water and as a result, there has been an extensive program to drill water wells. The government prepares land for local farmers at no cost along with providing seeds, machinery and advice on pest control. There is also government-funded research on different crops to see how they adapt to the local climate. In an attempt to conserve and use as much water as possible in as many ways as possible, the government has embarked on a three-part program designed to make the most advantageous use of this scarce resource.
There is more to agriculture than simply growing crops. One area that has seen dramatic growth is the poultry industry. The same is true for the dairy products industry. Herds of imported cattle have adapted to the climate and are now raised for the production of milk, cheese and yogurt for the local market.
The discovery of oil ushered the UAE into the industrial age. This process of industrialisation gathered momentum following the formation of the Federation. During the last two decades, with the Government's increasing emphasis on diversification and basic components such as capital and energy readily available, the manufacturing sector has made significant progress in the UAE.
Free zones have played an instrumental role in attracting manufacturing industries (see section on Business Environment) and today, hundreds of factories covering a wide range of manufacturing are distributed throughout the country. Cement, building materials, aluminium, chemical fertilizers and foodstuffs industries top the list, followed by garments, furniture, paper and carton, plastics, fiber glass and processed metals.
In 1999 the number of factories operating in the UAE reached 1,695 employing more than 145,000 people and with investments estimated at more than Dh 14 billion.
Sharjah has the largest number of firms followed by Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras al-Khaimah. Nearly 140 units were established in 1998 - roughly the pace at which new manufacturing units were formed in 1997 - and employment saw a 20 percent increase. The strongest growth was in chemicals (see section on Oil and Gas). The chemicals and non-metallic industries had the greatest number of establishments and employed the most people. Food and beverages -- in the consumer goods sector - were most successful at substituting imports. Industry in the Northern Emirates focused on small factories especially textiles, most of them in Ajman.
Dating back to the mid-1970s, the cement industry is one of the oldest manufacturing industries in the UAE. The first factory, Al Ittihad Cement Company of Ras Al-Khaimah, started its commercial production in 1975. This was followed by the construction of several other factories in Al Ain, Sharjah, Dubai, Fujairah, Ajman and Umm al-Qaiwain.
United Arab Emirates -- Culture --
United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi - Dubai - Sharjah - Al Ain Culture as opposed to nature is often regarded as learned behavior. UAE that came into existence in 1971 as a result of the unification of seven self-governing sheik-ruled emirates- Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain has also developed its own culture over the years. As the culture of a country plays a very important role in the material progress and development of vital industries like tourism it is very important to understand the culture of UAE.
As 96% of the population is Muslim the culture of UAE is influenced by Islamic tradition and beliefs. But it does not mean that the culture of UAE is determined by Islam. Tolerance is a liberal value that UAE upholds and cherishes. Many churches and Hindu temple and a Sikh Gurudwara exist in UAE. The first written manuscript in UAE is al Jawaher wal lali. There are also many Asian and European influenced schools and restaurants, which have helped to make the UAE culture liberal. 88% of the population is urban but through the Abu Dhabi Cultural foundation the Government is also committed to conserve the traditional art and culture of UAE.
Cultural identity in the UAE is a rich blend of traditional Arab, Islamic and contemporary elements. Following the foundation of the state and the increased availability of educational opportunities private and public cultural centers and libraries began to spring up around the country, helping to promote cultural awareness and assisting in the preservation of the country's rich heritage.
The main objective of the Ministry of Information and Culture is to promote and support the country's cultural activities at home and abroad. The Ministry has under its administration 11 public libraries throughout the state's seven emirates. This is in addition to 30 cultural groups, which perform dance, drama and music during festivals, exhibitions and ceremonies in the UAE or held outside the country. The Ministry's Cultural Department also plays an important role, publishing books related to heritage, culture art and theatre, organizing lectures, seminars and other cultural activities and participating in international book fairs. The Ministry's Exhibitions Department participates in international exhibitions which serve to introduce the UAE's rich heritage to a global audience.
United Arab Emirates -- Political system, law and government --
Since the establishment of the federation in 1971, the seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have forged a distinct national identity through consolidation of their federal status and enjoy an enviable degree of political stability. The UAE's political system, a unique combination of the traditional and the modern, has underpinned this political success, enabling the country to develop a modern administrative structure while, at the same time, ensuring that the best of the traditions of the past are maintained, adapted and preserved.
Over the course of 2007, major steps have been taken, both at a federal and at a local level, in terms of reforming the structure of government, these steps being designed both to make it more responsive to the needs of the country's population and to ensure that it is better equipped to cope with the challenges of development, in all spheres, in a manner that is in keeping with current best practices in administration and the delivery of services, as well as being more cost-effective.
The process has been directed, at a federal level, by the country's President, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and has been devised and guided at an executive level by the Vice President and Prime Minister, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who has also overseen reforms in Dubai. Similar programmes have been launched in other member emirates of the federation, in particular by its largest component, Abu Dhabi, again directed by HH Sheikh Khalifa, as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and implemented by the Crown Prince and Chairman of Abu Dhabi's Executive Council, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The most important development during 2007 was the formal launching, early in the year, of a UAE Government Strategy for the years ahead. Covering 21 individual topics, in the six sectors of social development, economic development, public sector development, justice and safety, infrastructure and rural areas development, the strategy is based upon the National Programme unveiled by President HH Sheikh Khalifa in December 2005.