country profile - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Background: The Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states - Abu Dhabi, 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn - merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were joined in 1972 by Ra's al Khaymah. The UAE's per capita GDP is on par with those of leading West European nations. Its high oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy stance have allowed the UAE to play a vital role in the affairs of the region. For more than three decades, oil and global finance drove the UAE's economy. However, in 2008-09, the confluence of falling oil prices, collapsing real estate prices, and the international banking crisis hit the UAE especially hard. The UAE has essentially avoided the "Arab Spring" unrest seen elsewhere in the Middle East, though in March 2011, political activists and intellectuals signed a petition calling for greater public participation in governance that was widely circulated on the Internet. In an effort to stem potential further unrest, the government announced a multi-year, $1.6-billion infrastructure investment plan for the poorer northern Emirates.
geography  
Location: Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia
Area: total: 83,600 sq km
land: 83,600 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Land boundaries: total: 1,066 km
border countries (2): Oman 609 km, Saudi Arabia 457 km
Coastline: 1,318 km
Climate: desert; cooler in eastern mountains
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas
people  
Population: 5,779,760
note: the UN estimates the country's total population to be 9,445,624 as of mid-year 2014; immigrants make up more than 80% of the total population, according to 2013 UN data (2014) (July 2015 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.85% (male 616,669/female 588,546)
15-24 years: 13.57% (male 466,663/female 317,735)
25-54 years: 61.38% (male 2,704,889/female 842,852)
55-64 years: 3.18% (male 137,753/female 46,214)
65 years and over: 1.01% (male 36,725/female 21,714) (2015 est.)
Median age: total: 30.3 years
male: 32.1 years
female: 25.1 years (2015 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.58% (2015 est.)
Birth rate: 15.43 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate: 1.97 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Net migration rate 12.36 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.47 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 3.21 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 2.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.69 male(s)/female
total population: 2.18 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
Nationality: noun: Emirati(s)
adjective: Emirati
Ethnic groups: Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8% (1982)
note: less than 20% are UAE citizens (1982)
Religions: Muslim (Islam; official) 76%, Christian 9%, other (primarily Hindu and Buddhist, less than 5% of the population consists of Parsi, Baha'i, Druze, Sikh, Ahmadi, Ismaili, Dawoodi Bohra Muslim, and Jewish) 15%
Languages: Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.8%
male: 93.1%
female: 95.8% (2005 est.)
government  
Country name: conventional long form: United Arab Emirates
conventional short form: none
local long form: Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah
local short form: none
former: Trucial Oman, Trucial States
abbreviation: UAE
Government type: federation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates
Capital: name: Abu Dhabi
geographic coordinates: 24 28 N, 54 22 E
time difference: UTC+4
Administrative divisions: 7 emirates (imarat, singular - imarah); Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi), 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah (Sharjah), Dubayy (Dubai), Ra's al Khaymah, Umm al Qaywayn (Quwayn)
Independence: 2 December 1971 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 2 December (1971)
Legal system: mixed legal system of Islamic law and civil law
Suffrage: limited; note - rulers of the seven Emirates each select a proportion of voters for the Federal National Council (FNC) that together account for about 12 percent of the native Emirati population
Executive branch: chief of state: President KHALIFA bin Zayid Al-Nuhayyan (since 3 November 2004), ruler of Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi) (since 4 November 2004); Vice President and Prime Minister MUHAMMAD BIN RASHID Al-Maktum (since 5 January 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Vice President MUHAMMAD BIN RASHID Al-Maktum (since 5 January 2006); Deputy Prime Ministers SAIF bin Zayid Al-Nuhayyan, MANSUR bin Zayid Al-Nuhayyan (both since 11 May 2009)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected by the Federal Supreme Council - composed of the rulers of the 7 emirates - for a 5-year term (no term limits); election last held 3 November 2009 (next election NA); prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the president
election results: KHALIFA bin Zayid Al-Nuhayyan reelected president; FSC vote NA
note: there is also a Federal Supreme Council (FSC) composed of the seven emirate rulers; the FSC is the highest constitutional authority in the UAE; establishes general policies and sanctions federal legislation; meets 4 times a year; Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi) and Dubayy (Dubai) rulers have effective veto power
Legislative branch: unicameral Federal National Council or Majlis al-Ittihad al-Watani (40 seats; 20 members appointed by the rulers of the 7 constituent states and 20 indirectly elected by an electoral college whose members are selected by each emirate ruler proportional to its FNC membership; members serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held on 3 October 2015 (next to be held in 2019); note - the electoral college was expanded from 129,274 electors in the December 2011 election to 224,279 in the October 2015 election; elections for candidates rather than political parties; 347 candidates including 78 women ran for 20 contested FNC seats
election results: elected FNC seats by emirate - Abu Dhabi 4, Dubai 4, Sharjah 3, Ras al-Khaimah 3, Ajman 2, Fujairah 2, Umm al-Quwain 2; note - only 1 woman (from Ras Al Khaimah) won an FNC seat
Judicial branch: highest court(s): Federal Supreme Court (consists of the court president and 4 judges)
judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the federal president following approval by the Federal Supreme Council, which includes the rulers of the 7 emirates; judge term NA
subordinate courts: Federal Court of Cassation (determines the constitutionality of laws promulgated at the federal and local (emirate) levels; federal level courts of first instance and appeals courts; each emirate has its own court system
Political parties and leaders: none; political parties are not allowed
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ABEDA, AfDB (nonregional member), AFESD, AMF, BIS, CAEU, CICA, FAO, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OIF (observer), OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and black with a wider vertical red band on the hoist side
communications  
Telephones - fixed lines: total subscriptions: 2.1 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 37 (2014 est.)
Telephones - mobile cellular: total: 16.8 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 299 (2014 est.)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern fiber-optic integrated services; digital network with rapidly growing use of mobile-cellular telephones; key centers are Abu Dhabi and Dubai
domestic: microwave radio relay, fiber optic and coaxial cable
international: country code - 971; linked to the international submarine cable FLAG (Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe); landing point for both the SEA-ME-WE-3 and SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable networks; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean) and 1 Arabsat; tropospheric scatter to Bahrain; microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia (2011)
Broadcast media: except for the many organizations now operating in Dubai's Media Free Zone, most TV and radio stations remain government-owned; widespread use of satellite dishes provides access to pan-Arab and other international broadcasts (2007)
Internet country code: .ae
Internet hosts: 337,804 (2012)
Internet users: total: 5.2 million
percent of population: 93.2% (2014 est.)
transportation  
Airports: 43 (2013)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 25
over 3,047 m: 12
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 2 (2013)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 18
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 6 (2013)
Heliports: 5 (2013)
Pipelines: condensate 533 km; gas 3,277 km; liquid petroleum gas 300 km; oil 3,287 km; oil/gas/water 24 km; refined products 218 km; water 99 km (2013)
Roadways: total: 4,080 km
paved: 4,080 km (includes 253 km of expressways) (2008)
Waterways: 3,997 km (navigable rivers and canals) (2007)
Merchant marine: total: 61
by type: bulk carrier 3, cargo 13, chemical tanker 8, container 7, liquefied gas 1, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 24, roll on/roll off 4
foreign-owned: 13 (Greece 3, Kuwait 10)
registered in other countries: 253 (Bahamas 23, Barbados 1, Belize 3, Cambodia 2, Comoros 8, Cyprus 3, Georgia 2, Gibraltar 5, Honduras 1, Hong Kong 1, India 4, Iran 2, Jordan 2, Liberia 37, Malta 1, Marshall Islands 12, Mexico 1, Netherlands 4, North Korea 2, Panama 83, Papua New Guinea 6, Philippines 1, Saint Kitts and Nevis 8, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 3, Saudi Arabia 6, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 10, Tanzania 3, Togo 1, UK 8, Vanuatu 1, unknown 8) (2010)
Ports and terminals: major seaport(s): Al Fujayrah, Mina' Jabal 'Ali (Dubai), Khor Fakkan (Khawr Fakkan), Mubarraz Island, Mina' Rashid (Dubai), Mina' Saqr (Ra's al Khaymah)
container port(s) (TEUs): Dubai Port (12,617,595), Khor Fakkan (Khawr Fakkan) (3,234,101)
LNG terminal(s) (export): Das Island
transnational issues  
Disputes - international: boundary agreement was signed and ratified with Oman in 2003 for entire border, including Oman's Musandam Peninsula and Al Madhah enclaves, but contents of the agreement and detailed maps showing the alignment have not been published; Iran and UAE dispute Tunb Islands and Abu Musa Island, which Iran occupies
Illicit drugs: the UAE is a drug transshipment point for traffickers given its proximity to Southwest Asian drug-producing countries; the UAE's position as a major financial center makes it vulnerable to money laundering; anti-money-laundering controls improving, but informal banking remains unregulated
Update: This page was last updated on 10 November 2015
Sources: CIA, The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ae.html