United Arab Emirates

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الإمارات العربيّة المتّحدة
Al-Imārāt al-ʿArabiyyah al-Muttaḥidah

United Arab Emirates
Flag of United Arab Emirates Coat of arms of United Arab Emirates
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: none
Anthem: Ishy Bilady
Location of United Arab Emirates
Capital Abu Dhabi
Largest city Abu Dhabi
Official language Arabic
Government Federal Constitutional monarchy
 - President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan
 - Prime Minister M. bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Establishment December 2 1971 
Area
 - Total 83,600 km² (116th)
32,278 sq mi 
 - Water (%) negligible
Population
 - 2005 estimate 4,496,000 (116th)
 - 2005 census 4,104,695 (2005)
 - Density 54/km² (143rd)
139/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
 - Total $162.3 billion (55th)
 - Per capita $27,957 (23rd)
HDI  (2004) 0.839 (high) (49th)
Currency Dirham (AED)
Time zone GMT (UTC+4)
Internet TLD .ae
Calling code +971

The United Arab Emirates (also the UAE or the Emirates) is a Middle Eastern country situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia on the Persian Gulf, comprising seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajmān, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Before 1971, they were known as the Trucial States or Trucial Oman, in reference to a nineteenth-century truce between Britain and several Arab Sheikhs. It borders Oman and Saudi Arabia. The country is rich in oil.

Contents

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Politics

The Supreme Council consists of the individual rulers of the seven emirates. The President and Vice-President are elected by the Supreme Council every five years. Although unofficial, the Presidency is de facto hereditary to the Al-Nahyan clan of Abu Dhabi and the Premiership is hereditary to the Al-Maktoum clan of Dubai. The Supreme Council also elects the Council of Ministers, while an appointed forty-member Federal National Council, drawn from all the emirates, reviews proposed laws. There is a federal court system; all emirates except Dubai and Ras al-Khaimah have joined the federal system; all emirates have both secular and Islamic law for civil, criminal, and high courts.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the union's president from the nation's founding until his death on 2 November 2004. His son, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan was elected, by the Federal Supreme Council, president the next day.

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Human rights

It is a common practice for employers in the UAE to retain employees' passports for the duration of the employment contract to prevent expatriate employees from changing jobs. This is an illegal practice, but it is almost never investigated, let alone punished by the government. Further, there are court rulings that government departments are also holding their employees' passports. On termination of an employment contract, most categories of expatriates used to be automatically banned from obtaining a work permit in the country for six months and a no entry stamp would be stamped on their passports. However this has recently been revoked (2005) and it requires a petition on the employers part for this to occur. This has created considerable new labour movement in the market since it was implemented. There has also been an increase in labour agitation as a result.

The United States Department of State has cited widespread instances of blue collar labor abuse in the general context of the United Arab Emirates. [1]

The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has characterized the United Arab Emirates "as a destination country for men, women, and children trafficked from South and East Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East for involuntary servitude and for sexual exploitation; an estimated 10,000 women from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, South and East Asia, Iraq, Iran, and Morocco may be victims of sex trafficking in the UAE ..." [2]

The government has been criticized by the human rights agency Human Rights Watch for its inaction in addressing the discrimination against Asian workers in the emirates. Salary structures and treatment based on nationality, sex, age, and race rather than on qualification are common. [3]

According to Ansar Burney Trust (ABT), an illegal sex industry thrives in the emirates, especially in Dubai. This complements the tourism and hospitality industry, a major part of Dubai's economy.[4] A 2004 HBO documentary [5] accuses the UAE of illegally using child jockeys in camel racing, where they are also subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Antislavery.org has documented similar allegations.[6] The ABT, which was featured heavily in the HBO documentary, announced that in 2005 the government of the UAE began actively enforcing a ban on child camel jockeys, and that the issue "may finally be resolved". [7] This has happened and will start with the new camel racing season this year (2006).

The UAE's human rights record, particularly in relation to migrant workers, was widely criticized during the trials of Sarah Balabagan in 1995.

A Web site is campaigning to pressure the government of the UAE into signing up to International Labour Organization core conventions on freedom of association (see [8]). Strikes and unions are currently banned in the UAE and many laborers are virtual prisoners, having paid huge agents' fees in order to obtain jobs and visas.

Foreigners found to be infected by HIV will be deported without exception.[1]

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Migrant workers

Migrant workers, either unskilled or skilled, comprise a large portion of UAE's workforce. A 2003 Human Rights Watch report estimates up to 90 percent of the country's 1.7 million workers are migrants [9]. These migrants, drawn to wages often more than they could make in their home countries, have helped UAE's endless construction projects proceed rapidly. However, unlike many other countries, these foreign workers (also known as expatriates) do not have a claim to UAE citizenship and thus cannot be naturalized. This is generally only possible through marriage to a UAE or GCC citizen. People from neighboring Arab countries or Iran who entered the country illegally during the 1950's and 60's, however, are full UAE citizens because poor border controls existed at that time.

Migrant workers in UAE face many challenges. As mentioned above, disparities in salaries and treatment occur for different races, with Arabs and people of European descent getting better pay than their Asian or non-Arab counterparts. Even among Asians there are disparities. For example, a worker from South Asia, China or Philippines may receive lower pay and worse treatment than one from Japan or Singapore.

There are mixed reports on prison conditions; in general, prisons in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai meet international standards. There have been various reports that prisons in remote and rural areas are of lower standards. Al-Wathba prison is a prison complex located outside Abu Dhabi city in close proximity to the Abu Dhabi International Airport. It is one of the main prisons in the UAE and houses inmates waiting execution and deportation and also those who have been handed life sentences. It consists of living quarters, detention center and execution grounds. Executions (a rarity) are carried out by firing squad.

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Administrative divisions

The United Arab Emirates is a federation which consists of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.

Five emirates have one or more exclaves, in addition to the main territory:

In addition there are two areas under joint control: Oman and Ajman; Fujairah and Sharjah.

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Economy

United Arab Emirates has the fourth highest GDP per capita in the world [10]. Though current GDP per capita contracted by 42% in the 1980s, successful diversification helped register positive growth of 48% in the 1990s.

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 over 100 years. Despite higher oil revenues in 1999, the government has not drawn back from the economic reforms implemented during the 1998 oil price depression. The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up its utilities to greater private-sector involvement.

Expatriates from India perform a significant role in the local economy. However, to control illegal immigration into the country, on November 9, 2002, the UAE immigration ministry announced that all Indians visiting the country must have a return ticket.

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Geography

Map showing the Emirates of the United Arab Emirates.
Map showing the Emirates of the United Arab Emirates.
Map of the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE lies in Southwest Asia, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia. It is a flat, barren coastal plain merging into rolling sand dunes of vast desert wasteland; with mountains in the east. Desert land covers over 90% of the country [11]. Its strategic location along southern approaches to the Strait of Hormuz makes it a vital transit point for world crude oil.

The border demarcation treaties of 1974 and 1977 between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were never made public. Therefore the exact border of the two countries is only known to their governments.

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Exclaves and enclaves

There is an Omani enclave inside UAE territory, known as Wadi Madha. It is located halfway between the Musandam peninsula and the rest of Oman, on the Dubai-Hatta road in the Emirate of Sharjah. It covers approximately 75 square kilometres (29 sq mi) and the boundary was settled in 1969. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Khor Fakkan-Fujairah road, barely 10 metres (33 ft) away. Within the enclave is a UAE exclave called Nahwa, also belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is about 8 kilometres (5 mi) on a dirt track west of the town of New Madha. It consists of about forty houses with its own clinic and telephone exchange [12].

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Transportation

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Airlines history

The national airline of Abu Dhabi was formerly Gulf Air, operated jointly with Bahrain and Oman. On September 132005, Abu Dhabi announced that they were withdrawing from Gulf Air to concentrate on Etihad Airways, designated as the new national carrier of the UAE, established in November 2003.

In 1985, Dubai established its airline Emirates, which is now one of the fastest growing airlines in the world [13].

Entry requirements in the United Arab Emirates.

Citizens from different countries will have different requirements for entry into the UAE via Dubai.

It would also be advised that you contact the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in your home country to find out visa information.

Visas and Documentation.

If you are a citizen of one of these countries listed below, you do not need to apply for a visa in advance of travel - a visit visa is stamped directly in your passport by Immigration officials at the port of entry, and is valid for 60 days.

Countries eligible for visa on arrival:

Australia, Andorra, Austria, Brunei, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Look Enakshi, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America and the Vatican.

Holders of British overseas passports issued in Hong Kong or China can obtain a visa on arrival at Dubai Airport.

GCC(Gulf Corporation Council) residents can also visit Dubai without applying in advance for a visa.

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Technology, Media and telecommunications

Dubai skyline
Dubai skyline

Federal Act No. 1 [14] of 1976 establishes the Emirates Telecommunications Corporation as the sole telephone and telecommunications provider in the country, however freezones and modern housing developments are exempt from this and utilise a separate telecommunications company. That company, however, has been ordered to block VoIP in these areas.

For the majority of the UAE, Etisalat has a monopoly on business and personal telecommunications services.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) requires Etisalat to actively censor Internet sites. Material deemed offensive, or "inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates", is usually blocked, as well as pornography and gambling sites. For commercial reasons, there is also a total ban on internet telephony or VoIP, with Skype blocked. The TRA has released conflicting statements regarding when (if ever) the ban will be lifted.

For political reasons, the entire Israeli internet domain, .il, is also blocked. Pro-Israeli content which does not use the "*.il" domain, however, is accessible (e.g. jpost.com - the website of the Jerusalem Post). The ban on MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr was recently lifted, with a few links on MySpace remaining blocked.

Recently, a new Telephone company and Internet Service Provider called "du" [15] has been established. du includes the telecommunications arm of Emaar properties, previously called "Sahm". Sahm as a telecomms operator for Emaar, a commercial and residential real estate developer, was in competition with the state-run Etisalat, and was arbitrarily absorbed into Dubai Holding Company/TECOM/Dubai government prior to the formation of du. As such, du services are only available in Dubai Holding Company/Emaar properties at present. Public services, competitive to Etisalat, should commence at the end of 2006. Number portability will not be immediately available.

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Media

While media is one of the first industries that the emirate of Dubai has sought to develop through a number of micro-cities, there remain major issues concerning freedom of speech throughout the UAE. Dubai Media City has helped to make Dubai the media hub for the region, encompassing both the creation of media, from print through television and new media, and the advertising and marketing industry.

A number of international news organizations, including Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Press, Bloomberg, Dow Jones Newswires, CNN and the BBC, all have a presence in Dubai Media City, and enjoy complete freedom to report on local and regional events. However, local media operate under a number of restrictions, and are strictly forbidden from criticizing the royal family.

The leading English-language newspapers in the UAE are:

Monthly English-language magazines, based in Paris, France:

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Demographics

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UAE has one of the most diverse populations in the Middle East. Since the mid-1980s, people from all across South Asia have settled in the UAE. UAE's better living standards and high economic opportunities have made it an attractive destination for Indians and Pakistanis. In 2006, there were approximately 1.2 million Indian nationals and 300,000 Pakistani nationals in the UAE, making them the largest expatriate community in the oil-rich nation[2].

  • Emiratis (local Arabs)
  • Other Arabs
  • South Asians
  • Western and East Asian

11%
21%
57%
11%

The most populated city is Dubai, with approximately 1.2 million people. Other major cities include Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Sharjah, and Fujairah.

About 88% of the population of the United Arab Emirates is urban.[3] The remaining live in tiny towns scattered throughout the country or many of the desert oilfield camps.

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Culture and religion

Rooted in Islamic culture, the UAE has strong ties with the rest of the Arab world and Islamic world. The government is committed to preserving traditional forms of art and culture, primarily through the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation.

Many churches are present in the UAE, as in several other Muslim countries that are tolerant of other religions. For instance, there is one hindu temple in Dubai which contains many of the Hindu gods. Due to the fact the many Asians have made UAE their second home, there is a variety of Asian restaurants and cultural centres. There also exist a few European centres and schools, not to mention many European style restaurants such as Italian.

The first known manuscript in UAE is Al jawaher wal la'li.

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Sport

New sports are becoming popular alongside traditional camel racing. Examples of these new sports include golf, with two European Tour events in the country (the Dubai Desert Classic and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship) and the world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, held annually in March [16].

The U.A.E. football team qualified for the World Cup in 1990 - with Egypt it was the third consecutive World Cup with two Arab nations qualifying after Kuwait and Algeria in 1982 and Iraq and Algeria again in 1986.

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Holidays

Date English Arabic
1 January New Year's Day رأس السنة الميلادية
variable Day of the Sacrifice Eid ul-Adha عيد الأضحى
variable Islamic New Year Ra's Al Sana Al Hijria رأس السنة الهجرية
variable The Night Journey Isra'a wa al-Miraj الإسراء و المعراج
2 December   National Day Al-Eid Al Watani العيد الوطني
variable End of Ramadan Eid ul-Fitr عيد الفطر
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See also

  • Communications
  • Dubai Ports World controversy
  • Emirates Scout Association
  • Foreign relations
  • Gay rights
  • Military
  • Schools
  • Transport
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Lists

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References

  1. Muslim, Nina, Al Khan, Mohammed. "466 HIV patients being treated, reveals ministry", Gulf News, 2006-08-08. Retrieved on 2006-12-20.
  2. http://www.arabwideweb.com/english/Events_News.asp?id=280
  3. Table 3.10 Urbanization (PDF). World Development Indicators. World Bank Group. Retrieved on 2006-10-24. (link to HTML page with the PDFs)
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External links

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Government

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General information

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UAE communities and forums

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Non-governmental organisations

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Media

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Sport

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UAE-based newspapers

Flag of United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates


Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC)

مجلس التعاون لدول الخليج العربية

Bahrain | Kuwait | Oman | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | United Arab Emirates


Current monarchies
African: Lesotho | Morocco () | Swaziland (*)
Asian: Bahrain () | Bhutan (*) | Brunei (*) | Cambodia (!) | Japan | Jordan () | Kuwait () | Malaysia (!) | Nepal | Oman (*) | Qatar (*) | Saudi Arabia (*) | Thailand | Tonga | United Arab Emirates (!)
Commonwealth Realms: Antigua and Barbuda | Australia | Bahamas | Barbados | Belize | Canada | Grenada | Jamaica | New Zealand | Papua New Guinea | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Solomon Islands | Tuvalu | United Kingdom
Other European Monarchies (including the EU): Andorra (!) | Belgium | Denmark | Liechtenstein () | Luxembourg | Monaco () | Kingdom of the Netherlands | Norway | Spain | Sweden | Vatican City (Holy See) (*!)
* absolute monarchy, semi-constitutional monarchy, ! electoral monarchy
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