The United Arab Emirates


The United Arab Emirates consists of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Fujairah, Ajman and Ra’s al-Khaimah. Four-fifths of the UAE is desert but has contrasting landscapes—from the towering red dunes of the Liwa to the rich palm-filled oases of Al Ain, from the precipitous Hajar Mountains to the more fertile stretches of its coastal plains.
Though small in size (similar to the size of Scotland), the UAE has become an important player in regional and international affairs.
In 1971, the late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan unified the small, underdeveloped states into a federation—the only one in the Arab world. With his visionary leadership, oil wealth was used to develop the UAE into one of the world’s most open and successful economies.
In 2004, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan became president and has since continued to strive towards an ambitious vision for the UAE.

Globalized and Open:
In just over three decades, the nation has transformed from a tribal culture reliant on agriculture and fishing to an entrepreneurial success story with world-class infrastructure. The leadership has improved education (effectively eliminating illiteracy), advanced health care and embraced change as the UAE modernizes, consistent with its history and cultural values.
The UAE is also strengthening institutions of government to ensure a transparent legal system with full regard for the quality of life of all citizens and residents. Four members of the Federal Cabinet are women.
The UAE is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Today the UAE is a strong, vibrant and modern nation that is open to the world.


The UAE’s rich history is rooted in trade and tied to Islam, which came to the region in AD 630. Its location between Europe and the Far East attracted merchants from India and China and was prized by Europeans, in particular the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.
While Europeans sought control of the coasts, inland, the ancestors of the Bedouin made the sandy deserts of Abu Dhabi and Dubai their home. The town of Abu Dhabi became an important center.
In the 19th century, the British signed a series of agreements with the individual emirates that resulted in the area becoming known as “The Trucial States.” They 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 coast from all aggression by sea and to help in case of land attack.
The pearling industry thrived in 19th and early 20th centuries, providing income and employment to the people of the Gulf. Many inhabitants were semi-nomadic, pearling in the summer and tending date gardens in the winter. But the economic depression in the late 1920s and early 1930s, coupled with the Japanese invention of the cultured pearl, irreparably damaged the industry.

New Beginnings:

In the early 1930s the first oil company teams conducted geological surveys. In 1962, the first shipment of crude was exported from Abu Dhabi. With oil revenues growing year by year, the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was chosen as Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966. He undertook a massive programme of construction of schools, housing, hospitals and roads.
One of Sheikh Zayed’s early steps was to increase contributions to the Trucial States Development Fund. Abu Dhabi soon became its largest donor. In the meantime, the Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, de facto Ruler of Dubai since 1939, developed shipping to replace pearling revenues. When Dubai’s oil exports started in 1969, Sheikh Rashid was able to use oil revenues to improve the quality of life of his people.
At the beginning of 1968, when the British announced their intention to withdraw from the Arabian Gulf, Sheikh Zayed acted rapidly to establish closer ties with the emirates. With the Late Sheikh Rashid, the Late Sheikh Zayed called for a federation that would include not only the seven Emirates that together made up the Trucial States, but also Qatar and Bahrain.
Agreement was reached between the rulers of six of the Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Fujairah and Ajman), and the Federation to be known as the United Arab Emirates was formally established on 2 December 1971. The seventh Emirate, Ra’s al-Khaimah, acceded to the new Federation the following year.
Since then, the seven Emirates have forged a distinct national identity. The UAE’s political system combines traditional and modern and enabled the country to develop a modern administrative structure while ensuring that traditions of the past are maintained, adapted and preserved.

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi (Father of the Gazelle) is the federal capital of the United Arab Emirates and the largest emirate in the UAE. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the President of the UAE. 
Not long ago, Abu Dhabi was largely empty desert inhabited only by nomadic Bedouin tribes, with a sprinkling of villages around the more fertile areas. The discovery of oil in 1958 brought radical change. Revenues have been wisely invested and have helped to facilitate a transformation, which has turned Abu Dhabi into a thriving and modern emirate.
Whilst recognizing the success of the oil sector, Abu Dhabi is working hard to reduce its hydrocarbons reliance and broaden the emirate’s economy. Investment in infrastructure, tourism, transport, health and education is continuing and in line with the government’s 2030 urban plan. Tourism is playing an integral role in Abu Dhabi’s economic development, with the emirate targeting 2.3 million hotel guests by 2012. Major investment in new luxury resorts and business hotels is underway.
Abu Dhabi has many things to offer to its visitors and residents: a versatile landscape, thriving investment hub, and a friendly environment boasting one of the highest per capita incomes and one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Abu Dhabi City will soon be home to the world’s largest concentration of premier cultural institutions including the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi. 
Abu Dhabi has become a center for world-class sporting events such as the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the prestigious Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge cross-country rally, and the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Abu Dhabi’s famous Liwa oasis in the south of the emirate is home to some of the largest and most beautiful sand dunes in the world, while the garden city of Al Ain, Abu Dhabi’s second largest city, lies in the foothills of Jebel Hafeet, one of the famous peaks of the Hajar Mountains. 
Abu Dhabi has an Executive Council chaired by its Crown Prince, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, under which separate departments function like ministries. It also has several autonomous agencies with clearly specified powers and a 60-member National Consultative Council comprising representatives of the main tribes.
The Western and Eastern Region of the emirate and its oil terminal of Das are headed by Rulers Representatives, while its main cities, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, are administered by municipalities. A municipal authority for the Western Region has been created.


Originally a small fishing and trading settlement, Dubai is now an exciting, cosmopolitan city, and a global hub for trade and finance, where traditional Arab-Islamic culture flourishes alongside the ultra-modern. It is the second largest emirate by land area after Abu Dhabi and is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE.
In 1833, some 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe, led by the Maktoum Family, settled at the mouth of the creek in Dubai. The creek was a natural harbor and Dubai soon became a center for the fishing, pearling and sea trade. By the turn of the 20th century, Dubai was a successful port. The souk on the Deira side of the creek was the largest on the coast with 350 shops and a steady throng of visitors and businessmen. By the 1930s Dubai\’s population was nearly 20,000, a quarter of whom were expatriates.

In the 1950s the creek began to silt, a result perhaps of the increasing number of ships that used it. The late Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, decided to have the waterway dredged. It was an ambitious, costly, and visionary project. The move resulted in increased volumes of cargo handling in Dubai. Ultimately it strengthened Dubai\’s position as a major trading and re-export hub.
The discovery of oil in 1966 transformed the emirate and its way of life. Dubai\’s first oil exports in 1969 were followed by a period of rapid development that laid the foundations for today\’s modern society. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Dubai took a strategic decision to emerge as a major international-quality tourism destination. Investments in tourism infrastructure have paid off handsomely over the years.
Dubai’s economy is no longer reliant on oil, but is more diversified, relying heavily on trade, services, and finance sectors. The past decade has witnessed change and growth throughout all sectors of the Dubai economy. The emirate’s government is constantly working to improve its commercial transparency and introduce dynamic regulations that aid the formation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and have the ability to react to global financial challenges.
With year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches, luxurious hotels and shopping malls, fascinating heritage attractions and a thriving business community, Dubai receives millions of leisure and business visitors each year from around the world. Dubai is known worldwide as a shopping destination.
Dubai is now a city that boasts world-class hotels, architecture, entertainment and sporting events. The Burj Al Arab hotel presides over the coastline of Jumeira beach and is the world\’s only hotel with a seven-star rating. The Emirates Towers and the Burj Khalifa are two of the many structures that reflect the emirate’s commercial confidence.
Although Dubai is seen as a relatively young destination, it has a fascinating history which can be explored at the Dubai Museum inside Al Fahidi Fort, one of Dubai’s oldest buildings dating back to 1787.

Dubai is the venue of many major world class sporting events including the Dubai Desert Classic Gulf Tournament, the ATP-sanctioned Dubai Tennis Championships, the Dubai Sevens, the Emirates Grand Prix (off-shore Power Boat Championship), the UAE Desert Challenge, and the Dubai World Cup, the world\’s richest horserace.


Sharjah, known as The City of Knowledge, is a close neighbour to Dubai. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi. Sharjah is the third largest Emirate and the only one to have land on both the Arabian Gulf Coast and the Gulf of Oman.

The Emirate of Sharjah has developed a unique reputation as a cultural, heritage and family tourist destination providing visitors with the ideal getaway at any time of the year. Holidaymakers can enjoy a break in the sun, relax on the beach, shop in the traditional souks and modern malls, explore the heritage sites and state of the art museums, admire the beautiful mosques and minarets, stroll around the lagoons, as well as experience the natural beauty of the Arabian desert, the mountains and the seas.

Sharjah has developed from a small trading town, relying on fishing and pearl diving, to one of the most modern, dynamic commercial and trade centers in the region. It was the most important port on the lower Arabian Gulf from the time of the early trading with the East into the first half of the 19th century.

Sharjah was also the first place in the region to develop tourism and has been a growing destination in the Middle East since 1932 when international flights were operated out of Sharjah, now historic airport. Beautiful sandy beaches and the clear blue seas of the Gulf of Oman have made this coast a haven for swimming, diving, fishing and relaxing. The inland desert is quite spectacular with impressive red sand dunes.

Sharjah City, the capital, overlooks the Arabian Gulf. The central region of the emirate combines lush green oases, gravel plains and rolling red sand dunes. To the east the emirate reaches the Gulf of Oman coast where the landscape changes to a spectacular rocky coastline backed by mountains.

Sharjah is a manufacturing hub, responsible for 48% of the UAE’s total industrial production. It is also home to 5% of the UAE’s gas reserves, which are located offshore and in the interior desert area.

Sharjah is renowned throughout the Arab world for its commitment to art, culture and heritage. It was named the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 in recognition of its contribution to preserving and promoting Arab culture. 

The city of Sharjah has a population of 800, 000, making it the third largest city in the UAE.


Ajman is centrally located on the western coast of the UAE. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi.

Ajman has a strong maritime tradition which includes shipbuilding, fishing and traiding. The Ajman Free Zone and an influx of people from Dubai, Sharjah and abroad has driven the emirate’s economic growth in recent years. Ajman City is now ranked third among the emirates for industrial development, and also has the third largest property market in the UAE.

The high Musfoot mountains, southeast of Ajman City are particularly appealing to tourists. The Al-Manama region, directly east of Ajman city, is a region of desert sands and mountains rich in magnesium and chrome, with fertile valleys that support agriculture.

Um Al Quainn

Umm al-Qaiwain is a small emirate situated between Sharjah to the south-west and Ras Al Khaimah to the north-east. Its name means “Mother of Two Powers,” which refers to the strong seafaring tradition among its tribes. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu\\\’alla.

Umm Al Qaiwain features lush coastal mangroves on the Arabian Gulf, large rolling sand dunes in the interior and fertile land around the hinterland town Falaj Al Moalla. Seneyah Island, located 1 km from the capital, shelters enormous colonies of cormorants and other seabirds, gazelles, turtles, and sea cows. 

Umm Al-Qaiwain provides numerous recreational activities, from sailing to skydiving. The biggest tourist draw however is Dreamland, the UAE’s largest water park. Traditional sports are also popular in the emirate, and included dhow building, falconry, and camel racing.

Although the traditional occupations of fishing and date cultivation are still important in Umm al-Qaiwain, a mariculture research centre, port and economic free zone have boosted investment and business in the emirate.

Ras Al Khaimah

Covering 1,700 square kilometers, Ras Al Khaimah or RAK, which means “top of the tent,” is located near the northernmost point of the United Arab Emirates, and shares a mountainous border with the Sultanate of Oman to its south east. His Highness Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi has been appointed the new ruler of Ras Al Khaimah on the 27th of October 2010 after the death of His Highness Shaikh Saqr Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, the late ruler of the emirate.

The city of Ras Al Khaimah, the capital of the emirate, is divided into two parts by a creek. The western part, known as old Ras Al Khaimah, consists of government departments, educational institutions, shopping malls, hotels as well as residential areas and new construction projects. The eastern part, known as Al Nakheel, houses the Emiri Court, markets, Ras Al Khaimah Exhibition Centre, hospitals and residential areas housing the majority of the city\’s population. Ras Al Khaimah has a rich history and was renowned for its prosperous port and its exquisite pearls, which were famous for being the whitest and roundest in the world.

Today, Ras Al Khaimah’s is reinventing itself as a tourism hub. It is often described as the most scenic of the Emirates because of its diverse landscape. On the plains, farmers grow date-palms, while the coastal areas are home to pearl divers, fishermen and traders. Bedouin tribes live in the desert, and the Shihuh and Habus tribes live in the mountainous regions.


Fujairah a mountainous emirate that lies on the eastern side of the UAE, along with the Gulf of Oman. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi.

Fujairah\’s economy is based on fishing and agriculture. Like Ras Al Khaimah, the land in Fujairah is irrigated by rainwater from the Hajar Mountains, making it ideal for farming. Its location also offers access to the major shipping routes of the world, and Fujairah is home to the world\’s largest livestock shipping companies, which use its port as a holding station for sheep and cattle destined for the Arabian Peninsula. Other local industries include mining and stone crushing, which have benefited from the recent boom in construction in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Fujairah Free Zone, surrounding the port of Fujairah, promotes foreign investment in banking and trade.

Because of its easterly location, Fujairah’s climate is more moderate than that of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Thousands of weekend visitors looking to escape the heat are drawn to Fujairah’s by relaxed, peaceful atmosphere.

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