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The UAE - info, facts, figures


Page update - Sep 28, 2022

The UAE (The United Arab Emirates) is a small country in the Persian Gulf, but very interesting, famous, and a popular tourist destination. Some people associate the UAE with extreme luxury, others with mosques and minarets, others with beaches, others with shopping malls and fashion stores.

This page will explain in detail where are the Arab Emirates located, who lives there, what do these people do, who rules the country. Getting ahead of ourselves, we will say at once that most of the information about the UAE on the Internet is more "fairy tales" than reality. The statistics and other information on this page are current as of September 2022.

Where is the UAE located

The United Arab Emirates is located in the Middle East, in the northeast of the Arabian Peninsula, on the shores of the Persian Gulf.

See the map near, click on the map to enlarge to full screen. The UAE is circled in red.

We have cut a piece of the map so that other popular tourist countries are visible: Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, and Bulgaria.

We also have cut a piece of the map so the "hottest" places of the Middle East are shown, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen.

The Arab Emirates' neighbors are Oman to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Iran to the north across the Gulf.

Main figures

The country has an area of 83,600 square kilometers (32,200 square miles), which is comparable to the size of Austria, the Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, or Serbia. Most of this area is occupied by the Arabian Desert. Only 5% of the area is suitable for human habitation and only 1.2% is suitable for agriculture.

The population of the UAE as of 2022 is about 10,030,000 (World Bank data, estimated), which is comparable to the Czech Republic, Sweden, Greece, or Belarus. The composition of the population is very interesting, but we will talk about it in detail later.

Seven Emirates

The federal state of the United Arab Emirates consists of 7 emirates. We have a detailed page about each emirate on our website. Read the pages: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, and Ajman.

See the map below for the relative locations of the emirates, click on the map to enlarge.

The largest emirate is Abu Dhabi with an area of 67,340 sq.km. (26,000 sq.mi.), which is 80.5% of the territory of the UAE. In second place is Dubai, with an area of 3,880 sq. km. (1,500 sq.mi.), which is 17 times less than Abu Dhabi. The smallest is Ajman with an area of only 259 sq.km. (100 sq.mi.).

The most populated emirate is Dubai, with a population of about 3,000,000 people, with Abu Dhabi in second place at about 2,500,000. The smallest population is in Umm Al Quwain, with only 75,000 people.

Each emirate is a constitutional monarchy with a ruling emir. Read more about all of them in the review "Rulers of the Emirates". The sheikh has full power within the limits defined by the constitution, which will be discussed later.

Climate and weather

Summer in the UAE is very hot. The temperature rises to +40-42°C (104-108°F) during the day in the coastal cities and to +50-55°C (122-131°F) in areas of the Arabian Desert. The water in the Persian Gulf can get as warm as +36-38°C (97-100°F) and even become dangerous for long bathing.

Winter somewhat resembles summer in the central and northern parts of Europe. The temperature rises to +23-26°C (74-79°F) during the day.

Read more about the weather in our review "Weather in the UAE by month".



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Tourism in the UAE

As we are a tourist website, we talk about tourism first of all.

Statistics of tourism in the UAE is difficult to count, because each emirate keeps its own count of visitors. A tourist may, for example, come to Dubai airport, but live in a hotel in Abu Dhabi, in which case he/she may be counted twice. Therefore, the tourism statistics in the UAE should be treated with caution.

In the past year 2021, the flow of tourists was naturally low because of the coronavirus.

In 2021 Dubai was visited by 7,280,000 tourists. A drop of almost 2,3 times as 16.7 million tourists visited Dubai in 2019. The year 2022 promises to be much more successful.

The UAE tourism industry is the fastest growing in the world. Back in 2016 there were 17 million tourists, in 2015 there were 14.2 million. The UAE authorities plan to reach the figure of 30 million by 2027.

Now tourism gives the country 68.6 billion dirhams a year (direct contribution to GDP), which is about 18.3 billion US dollars. Tourism accounts twice as much as oil revenues in the GDP of the Emirate of Dubai. And it is only a direct contribution to GDP, that is, tourists' purchases in fashion stores or hotel construction turnovers are not counted.

The tourism industry directly employed 317,500 people, about 3% of the population, and this figure is growing every year.

The main tourist destination within the country is the Emirate of Dubai. Of the country's 20 million visitors, 16.7 million came to Dubai (pre-pandemic 2019 statistics).

In 2018, Dubai overtook London to take first place as the best "shopping mecca" in the world. Stores of 334 global brands are present there. In the next five years, Dubai will further strengthen its position - another 1,500,000 square meters (16,145,000 square feet) of retail space will be commissioned.

It would seem that in 2018 the growth of tourism and retail should have stopped because of the new tax. However, nothing bad happened, the growth continues. Recall that until 2018, trade in the UAE was not taxed at all, and it was not until January 1, 2018 that a 5% VAT tax was introduced.

Prices in Dubai continue to remain low, as we discussed in detail in our review "Shopping in the UAE".

The UAE is actively preparing for an increase in tourist traffic. Dubai has adopted a program for 2015-2020 to build new hotels with a capacity of 57,000 rooms. The program is almost fulfilled, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to shopping, tourists in the UAE are attracted by magnificent sandy beaches of the Persian Gulf and the world-famous attractions: the Burj Khalifa; the Dubai Mall; the Dubai Fountain; Yas Island with the World Ferrari Park, Yas Waterworld and Yas Mall; Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque; and others.

Dubai is also known as the center of gastronomic tourism. More than 200 nations live there, and there are thousands of restaurants of hundreds of national cuisines of the world.



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Political system

The UAE is a federation of seven emirates, each with its own ruler, but his power is limited.

According to articles 120 and 121 of the UAE Constitution, the following areas are under federal jurisdiction: foreign policy, defense and security, citizenship and migration, education, health, circulation of the UAE dirham currency, communications, air traffic control and aircraft licensing.

Federal structures also now deal with: labor relations, regulation of the banking sector, delimitation of territorial waters, extradition of criminals.

The rest of the issues are dealt with at the local level, that is, under the administration of the emirs.

The top officials of the state: the President and the Prime Minister. Pictured near are the Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (left), and the Acting President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (right).

The main authorities are the Federal Supreme Council, the Council of Ministers, the Federal National Council, and the Federal Supreme Court.

The Federal Supreme Council is the supreme executive and legislative institution, consisting of seven emirs.

The Federal Supreme Council elects (or dismisses) the President and the Prime Minister of the country, ratifies all federal laws, and makes the most important decisions.

The Federal Supreme Council takes its decisions by voting. A decision is made if 5 emirs, including the emirs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, vote "for". If at least 3 emirs are against it, or the emir of Dubai is against it, or the emir of Abu Dhabi is against it, the decision is not made. A very interesting form of democracy.

The Federal Supreme Council meets four times a year or in emergencies. One of the meetings is shown in the photo below, click on the photo to enlarge.

The Council of Ministers. Once the Prime Minister is appointed by decision of the Federal Supreme Council, he proposes the composition of ministers to the President. If the President approves, the cabinet begins work. The Council of Ministers decides all important current issues in the country. The Council of Ministers consists of 22 main ministers (there are more minor ministers).

The Federal National Council is the parliament of the United Arab Emirates and consists of 40 deputies: 8 from each Abu Dhabi and Dubai, 6 from each Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, 4 from each Ajman, Fujairah, and Umm Al Quwain.

The Federal National Council discusses laws and constitutional amendments, reviews the federal budget, comments on international treaties and conventions, and advises the government.

In fact, the Federal National Council has no power. It is just an advisor. However, the emirs listen to it, because it is composed of sensible, experienced, and knowledgeable people in their fields.

The Federal Supreme Court is the highest authority of the judiciary. As in any modern civilized state, in the UAE the judiciary is separate from the executive.

The Federal Supreme Court consists of five judges appointed by the Federal Supreme Council. The judges determine the constitutionality of federal laws and arbitrate disputes between emirates and disputes between the federal government and emirates.

This system of government may seem authoritarian, but it is natural to the Emirati people, developed as a result of the country's history.



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History

As far back as 8,000 years ago an ancient civilization, the Umm an-Nar culture, emerged on the territory of the modern UAE. The climate then was much milder, which allowed the full development of agriculture. Over time, desertification occurred and the ancient culture died out.

There were no major settlements there until the 12th century. The area was inhabited by nomads, coastal fishermen, and oases inhabitants. In 632, one of the most important battles of the Ridda Wars, the Battle of Dibba, took place in the territory of the modern Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.

From the 12th to 16th centuries, port cities prospered, emirates participated in the developed trade network of the Indian Ocean, cultural and commodity exchange flourished. In the 16th century, the Portuguese came to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, capturing some of the ports.

In the 17th century, Portugal lost its power and the Dutch gained control of the Persian Gulf. In the 18th century, they were replaced by the British. For a long time, the emirates fell under British influence and partial control.

In 1971, Britain withdrew its naval forces from the Persian Gulf, and the seven emirates were united into a single federal state - the United Arab Emirates. The author of the union and the first president was Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Read about him in detail in our review "Sheikh Zayed - the father of the nation".

For a detailed history, read our large and interesting review "History of the UAE".

Who lives in the UAE

Now (note: this page was updated in September 2022) only 10% of the population are local Arabs (citizens). The rest are temporary workers from India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, Egypt, and other countries.

Their relations are complicated, as we wrote about in detail in the review "Population of the UAE".

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the official language of the country, but local Arabs speak their own dialect in everyday life. The de facto language of the country has long been and is English. Read more in our review "What language is spoken in the UAE".

Laws

The UAE has a very complex legal system, but it is also very interesting. This is a unique fusion of Islamic and Anglo-Saxon legal traditions.

Each emirate chooses whether to have its own judicial system or to join the federal one. At the moment (note: this page was updated in 2022) only Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah have their own judicial system.

Sharia is not a law in the UAE, but much of the legislation is based on Sharia law. There are Sharia courts in the country, which handle cases of divorce, custody, and family disputes. Criminal and administrative cases are handled by secular courts.

Islamic punishments are used in the UAE. For example, flogging is used, and several dozen people a year receive such punishment. Stoning as a form of capital punishment is legalized, although it is not used now.

Many things that we are used to are prohibited and punishable in the UAE:

- Verbal abuse with sexual overtones can be punishable by imprisonment or 80 lashes;

- Abortion is punishable, up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to 10,000 dirhams;

- Apostasy from Islam is punishable by death;

- Homosexuality is punishable by up to 12 years in prison;

- You can go to jail for drunken driving or even for drinking in a public place, as we discussed in the review "Alcohol in the UAE".

An interesting fact is that crime in the UAE is very "young". According to statistics in 2015, about 40% of all offenses were committed by minors (persons under 18 years).

About what is not recommended for tourists, we explained in detail in the review "What you can't do in the UAE". For tourists we recommend two more of our pages "What you can and cannot bring into the UAE" and "What you can and cannot take out of the UAE".

Economy

Many people think of the UAE as a place where they extract oil and do nothing else. This is a big misconception.

Not all seven emirates extract oil, and only Abu Dhabi and Dubai have oil reserves. There is also a small offshore gas field in Umm Al Quwain, but it is not worth serious consideration. For a map of the oil fields see below, click to enlarge.

The economy of five of the seven emirates does not involve oil at all. The Emirate of Dubai has one offshore field. As of 2021, oil accounts for less than 4% of the GDP of the Emirate of Dubai.

All of the oil wealth is located in Abu Dhabi - under the desert sands and offshore. Oil now accounts for 60% of Abu Dhabi's GDP.

In all emirates, all sectors of the economy are actively developing. Even agriculture is actively growing, although only dates are grown there well. For details see our review "Dates in the UAE". Financial sector, insurance business, the service sector are actively developing.

Each emirate has a "Free-Zone" - free economic zones, where businesses are exempt from duties and taxes. Thousands of manufacturing, international trade, and high-tech companies open every year in the UAE.

The authorities are trying "not to put all the eggs in one basket", trying to develop all sectors of the economy. The emiraties place great emphasis on the tourism industry, which we discussed in detail at the beginning of this page.

Transportation makes a significant contribution to GDP.

Transport

The UAE has achieved the greatest success in the development of air and sea transport.

The UAE is home to several major airlines: Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia, FlyDubai. An interesting point is that none of them are among the 10 largest in the world in terms of fleet size. But Emirates Airlines is one of the world leaders in terms of "number of passengers X distance traveled". That is, Emirates is strong on long-haul and connecting routes.

Dubai International Airport is one of the largest air hubs in Europe and Asia. It was (before the pandemic) the 4th largest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic, second only to airports in Atlanta (USA), Beijing (China) and Los Angeles (USA). In 2019, Dubai Airport welcomed 86,397,000 passengers.

In 2021, Dubai Airport (29.1 million passengers) was not even in the top ten (ranked 27th). The fact is that due to the coronavirus pandemic, international flights were severely limited, but local flights were mostly at full capacity. As a result, Chinese and U.S. airports were mixed in the top ten.

The UAE is the biggest hub for sea trade and the most popular transshipment point between Asia and Europe. Warehouses in Dubai are very popular for temporary storage of goods. In Dubai, Jebel Ali is the world's largest artificial harbor. Even aircraft carriers of the U.S. (The Navy's Fifth Fleet) are docked there.

Domestic transportation in the country does not lag behind. Dubai already has a subway, one of only four in the Arab countries. The Dubai Metro has one world record behind it - it is the largest automated (no driver in the trains) subway in the world. Read our review "Dubai Metro - map, fares, features".

In addition to the subway, Dubai has a streetcar (Dubai Tram) and a monorail (Dubai Monorail). In other emirates, there is only bus service. Cabs are popular, convenient and inexpensive, read our review "Taxis in the UAE" for fares and features.

UAE Armed Forces

The UAE has a small army of only 65,000 men. This is not surprising, because the military service is not taken by newcomers from India and Pakistan. They take only citizens on service, which there are only about 1 million in the country.

The Air Force consists of about 100 tactical fighters F-16 and Mirage 2000, two AWACS aircraft, about 30 transport aircraft, 13 helicopters, and a dozen reconnaissance aircrafts.

The Navy consists of 72 ships. These are Coast Guard patrol ships and Marine Corps transport ships.

The UAE ground forces are a fearsome force in their region. They are armed with the newest French Leclerc tanks - 388 tanks (on the photo next to it, click to enlarge). In comparison, France itself has 406 of these tanks.

In addition there are English light tanks FV101 Scorpion (76), armored vehicles AMX-10P and BMP-3. The UAE army has a lot of armored vehicles and is one of the leaders in the world in terms of "number of armored vehicles/number of people.

A big disadvantage of the Emirati army is its lack of combat experience. The UAE army has had limited involvement in Desert Storm and is currently involved in the war in Yemen.

More interesting things about the UAE

- Weekends in the UAE from January 3, 2022 are Friday at 12 pm (noon), Saturday, and Sunday. Why so, read our review "Friday in the UAE";

- The UAE have long been a British protectorate. And the legacy of the British can be felt. For example, the British sockets format remains there. Read about them in our review "Sockets in the UAE". The main language of the country is English. But the traffic on the roads there is right-handed;

- For a list and descriptions of national holidays see the review "Holidays in the UAE".

We have briefly described all the most interesting things about the UAE. Read interesting details on our pages (see the list of the pages below).

TIPS

Tips for Tourists in the UAE

IMPORTANT FOR TOURISTS

What to Take for the UAE

What You Should Not Do in the UAE

To the UAE with Kids

Sharks in the UAE

Weather in the UAE by Month

Holidays in the UAE

Are Unmarried Young Women
Allowed to Enter the UAE?

All-Inclusive in the UAE

Power Sockets & Voltage in the UAE

Hotels in the UAE with Own Beach

GENERAL INFORMATION

The UAE - Info, Facts, Figures

What Language is Spoken in the UAE

Population and Citizens of the UAE

History of the UAE

Flag of the UAE

Friday and Weekend in the UAE

Ramadan in the UAE

Sheikh Zayed - Father of Nation

Sheikhs of the UAE

GIFTS AND CUSTOMS LAW

What to Bring from the UAE

What You Can and Not Bring In the UAE

What You Can and Not Take Out the UAE

VAT Refund in the UAE

Shopping in the UAE - Why is Cheap

Date Fruits in the UAE

Camel Milk and Dairy Products

Bakhoor and Oud

MONEY AND EXPENSES

Money in the UAE - Emirati Dirham

Currency Exchange in the UAE

How Much Money to Take to the UAE

Food Prices in the UAE

Tourist Taxes in the UAE

Alcohol in the UAE

Cigarettes and Smoking in the UAE

Vape and iQos in the UAE

TRANSPORT

Dubai Metro - Fares and Map

Taxi in the UAE - Fares and Guide

NOL Transport Card Dubai

Dubai Tram

Dubai Monorail

Buses in the UAE

FROM AIRPORT TO CITY

From Dubai Airport (DXB) to City

From Al Maktoum Airport (DWC) to City

From Abu Dhabi Airport (AUH) to City

From Sharjah Airport (SHJ) to City

TRIPS BETWEEN EMIRATES

From Dubai to Abu-Dhabi

Free Buses Dubai - Abu-Dhabi

From Sharjah to Dubai

From Ras Al-Khaimah to Dubai

From Ajman to Dubai

From Fujairah to Dubai

From Umm Al-Quwain to Dubai

TELECOM

Internet in the UAE

Cheap Calls from the UAE

Free SIM-card in Dubai

UAE Phone Codes

EMIRATES

Dubai

Deira

Bur Dubai

Dubai Marina

Jumeirah

Downtown

TOP Attractions in Dubai

Beaches in Dubai

Abu Dhabi

Al Ain

Yas Island

Beaches in Abu Dhabi

Sharjah

Beaches in Sharjah

Ajman

Ras Al Khaimah

Umm Al Quwain

Fujairah

ATTRACTIONS IN THE UAE

Best Attractions in the UAE

Free Attractions in the UAE

DUBAI

Burj Khalifa

Dubai Fountain

Excursions in Dubai

How to Save on Entertainment in Dubai

DUBAI MALL

The Best in Dubai Mall

Dubai Aquarium

Candylicious in Dubai Mall

Waterfall in Dubai Mall

DUBAI DEIRA

Gold Market in Dubai

Al Mamzar Beach and Park

Deira Clock Tower

City Centre Deira Mall

JUMEIRAH DISTRICT

Burj Al Arab

Wild Wadi Water Park

Jumeirah Mosque

Dubai Marina Mall

Madinat Jumeirah

Jumeirah Beach

PALM JUMEIRAH

Aquaventure

The Lost Chambers

Dolphin Bay

Palm Fountains

The View at the Palm

DUBAI PARKS AND RESORTS

LEGOLAND

MOTIONGATE

LEGOLAND Water Park

BLUEWATERS ISLAND

Ain Dubai

Madame Tussauds

BUR DUBAI

The Dubai Frame

Dubai Dolphinarium

Al Fahidi Fort Museum

Museum of the Future

DUBAI - SOUTH-EAST

Global Village

Miracle Garden

Butterfly Garden

IMG Worlds of Adventure

MALL OF THE EMIRATES

Mall of the Emirates

Ski Dubai

ABU DHABI CITY

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace

Observation Deck at 300

Sheikh Zayed Memorial

Heritage Village

Corniche Waterfront

Sir Bani Yas

YAS ISLAND

Ferrari World

Formula Rossa

Galleria Ferrari

Warner Bros Park

Yas WaterWorld

Yas Marina & Formula 1

Yas Mall

SHARJAH

Sharjah Fountains

Sharjah Aquarium

Museum of Islamic Civilization

Al Noor Mosque

Mega Mall

AJMAN

Ajman Fish Market

Ajman Fort and Museum

City Centre Ajman Mall

UMM AL QUWAIN

DreamLand Water Park

NATIONAL CUISINE

Emirati Cuisine - What to Taste

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