Page update - Sep 24, 2022
What does the UAE flag look like? What do its colors mean? Who designed it and when? What flags did the seven emirates have before unification? Read the answers on this page.
The flag of the United Arab Emirates was first hoisted by Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan on December 2, 1971. This day went down in history as the founding day of the UAE. Read more in our reviews "History of the UAE" and "Sheikh Zayed - Father of the UAE".
The flag of the United Arab Emirates consists of one vertical stripe of red on the left and three strips of green, white, and black (listed from top to bottom) on the right.
The width to height ratio is 2:1. The red vertical stripe's width is 25% of the flag's width. The height of each of the horizontal stripes is 33.3% of the flag's height.
We showed the proportions visually in the picture near, click on the picture to enlarge it to full screen.
It is allowed to turn the UAE flag vertically, but only with the red stripe upwards.
The colors were not chosen by chance. They are the so-called "common Arab colors" or "pan-Arab colors". We should talk about them in detail.
These are the four colors: white, black, green, and red. These colors are used in the flags and symbols of almost all Arab countries. It is considered to unite the Arab countries and the Arab nation. Only Qatar has a white and burgundy flag.
These colors have historical and cultural meaning to the Arabs. Each color symbolizes an era in the history of the Arab nation.
Black is the color of the flag of the Prophet Muhammad and the Rashidun Caliphate.
White is the color of the Umayyad Caliphate.
Green is the color of the Fatimid Caliphate.
Red is the color of the Hashemite dynasty and the Ottoman Empire.
The first flag based on the pan-Arab colors appeared in 1916. It was the "Banner of the Arab Revolution" - the liberation movement of Arabs against the Ottoman Empire. With the support of the British, the Arabs made great progress at that time, but most Arab countries eventually fell under the rule of England and France, but some gained full-fit independence, such as Saudi Arabia.
These four colors were described as the symbol of the Arab nation by the poet Safi Al-Din Al-Hilli in the 14th century. He wrote, "White is our deeds, black is our battles, green is our fields, red is our swords". White is a symbol of piety and virtue. Black is the symbol of strength and courage. Green is the symbol of fertility. Red is the color of the blood of enemies.
Of course, now the symbolism has changed, but we will talk about that a little later in this review. Now let's tell the history of creation.
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We know the history of the creation in all the details. The fact is that the author of the design, Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, is now alive and even in public service, despite his age. At the time this page was updated (2022), he was already 70 years old and working as a diplomat.
Naturally, Mr. Al Maainah has already told this story in great detail on more than one occasion. In our narrative, we will cite his quotes from an interview with The National. See his photo below, click on the photo to enlarge.
Three months before the unification of the emirates into a single state, a competition was announced for the flag design. All comers were invited to the contest, and the terms of the contest were published in the local newspaper Al Ittihad.
Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, 19, read about the contest just two days before the deadline for entries. He found colored paper, scissors, and measuring tools. From several of his designs, he chose the best one and submitted it to the contest.
A total of 1,030 entries were submitted for the contest. The best of them became nominees and were published in local newspapers. Abdullah Al Maainah could not tell if he had made it to the finals because the newspapers were black and white and the red and green colors in the pictures were shown in gray.
It was not until December 2, 1971 that Abdullah Al Maainah saw his flag flying over the Al Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi. An interesting fact is that he did not realize it at once. There was no wind that day and the flag was not flying.
Abdullah Al Maainah recalls, "I didn't know my flag had been chosen until I ran to the Al Mushrif Palace and from behind the fence, standing on tiptoe, I saw it. There was no wind that day, and I waited for at least a faint breeze to blow to make sure it was my flag. My feelings were impossible to describe".
A few months later, Abdullah Al Maainah was congratulated and presented with a cash prize of 4,000 dinars, at that time a weighty sum. Recall that the UAE did not have its own currency at the time, the currency "UAE dirham" was introduced only in 1973.
In today's UAE, the colors are interpreted differently from what the poet Al-Hilli did in the 14th century.
Red is the main color in the UAE flag. The main meaning of the vertical red stripe is the symbol of the unity of all the emirates. Red in Arab culture symbolizes courage, bravery, perseverance, strength.
Green is the symbol of the country's wealth. Not much has changed since the 14th century, the fertility symbol has become a symbol of prosperity. Green is also a symbol of joy, optimism, and love.
White is a symbol of peace, honesty, purity. Of course, white even today symbolizes piety, but nowadays they try not to mention it, as the flag is a secular symbol, not a religious one.
Black is a symbol of a strong mind and victory over enemies.
According to many people, the color black symbolizes oil. Initially, Abdullah Al Maainah (the author of the design) had no such thoughts. In 1971, oil was already being extracted, but only the wisest realized the wealth that oil would bring to the Arab Emirates.
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It looks the same as the national flag, but with the UAE coat of arms in the center of the white stripe. See the picture to the right.
It is raised only in the presence of the UAE President. Read our detailed review "Rulers of the Arab Emirates" about the President and other sheikhs.
Used by civilian ships and on land-based civilian facilities. Most often, the civil flag and the national flag are the same. In the UAE, the civil flag is different.
It is red in color. In the canton (upper left quarter) is the UAE national flag, which is separated from the main red part by a white border.
The United Arab Emirates is a union of the seven emirates (seven kingdoms). Six of the seven emirates have their own flags. Only the Emirate of Fujairah has refused its own flag in favor of the UAE national flag since 1976.
All flags of the emirates are red and white. Originally, all emirates used a simple red rectangle to symbolize homage and devotion to the Prophet Muhammad.
However, in the 1820s the emirates signed protective treaties with Great Britain. Under the treaties, the Emiratis added white elements to their flags to distinguish their ships from pirate ships.
The flag of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is red with a white rectangle in the upper left corner.
The flag of the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain has a narrow white stripe on a red background on the left and a symbol of a star and crescent in white.
The flag of the Emirate of Fujairah until 1976 is entirely red with a white inscription with the name of the emirate.
Since 2013, there is the new holiday in the UAE - National Flag Day. It is celebrated on November 3. Read about all the holidays in the UAE in our review "National holidays in the UAE".
Have a great holiday in the UAE, and read our interesting pages about this country (see the list of the pages below).
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