The United Arab Emirates (UAE; Arabic: الإمارات العربية المتحدة al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyah al-Muttaḥidah), or simply the Emirates (Arabic: الإمارات al-ʾImārāt), is a country in West Asia, in the Middle East. It is located at the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula and shares borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia, while having maritime borders in the Persian Gulf with Qatar and Iran. Abu Dhabi is the nation’s capital, while Dubai, the most populated city, is an international hub.
The United Arab Emirates is an elective monarchy formed from a federation of seven emirates, consisting of Abu Dhabi (the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Each emirate is governed by a ruler and together the rulers form the Federal Supreme Council. The members of the Federal Supreme Council elect a president (as of 14th May 2023, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan) and vice president (Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum) from among their members. In practice, the ruler of Abu Dhabi serves as president while the ruler of Dubai is vice president and also prime minister. In 2013, the country had a population of 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million were Emirati citizens and 7.8 million were expatriates. As of 2023, the United Arab Emirates has an estimated population of roughly 10.2 million.
Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language. The United Arab Emirates’ oil and natural gas reserves are the world’s sixth and seventh-largest, respectively. Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the country’s first president, oversaw the development of the Emirates by investing oil revenues into healthcare, education, and infrastructure. The United Arab Emirates has the most diversified economy among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In the 21st century, the country has become less reliant on oil and gas and is economically focusing on tourism and business. The government does not levy income tax, although there is a corporate tax in place and a 5% value-added tax was established in 2018.
Human rights organisations consider the UAE substandard on human rights, citing reports of government critics being imprisoned and tortured, families harassed by the state security apparatus, and cases of forced disappearances. Individual rights such as the freedoms of assembly, association, the press, expression, and religion are also severely repressed.
Human occupation in the region has been traced back to the emergence of anatomically modern humans from Africa circa 124,000 BCE through finds at the Faya-2 site in Mleiha, Sharjah. Burial sites dating back to the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age include the oldest known such inland site at Jebel Buhais. Known as Magan to the Sumerians, the area was home to a prosperous Bronze Age trading culture during the Umm Al Nar period which traded between the Indus Valley, Bahrain and Mesopotamia as well as Iran, Bactria and the Levant. The ensuing Wadi Suq period and three Iron Ages saw the emergence of nomadism as well as the development of water management and irrigation systems supporting human settlement in both the coast and interior. The Islamic Age began with the expulsion of the Sasanians and the subsequent Battle of Dibba. The region’s history of trade led to the emergence of Julfar, in the present-day emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, as a regional trading and maritime hub in the area. The maritime dominance of the Persian Gulf by Arab traders led to conflicts with European powers, including the Portuguese Empire and the British Empire.
Following decades of maritime conflict, the coastal emirates became known as the Trucial States with the signing of the General Maritime Treaty with the British in 1820 (ratified in 1853 and again in 1892), which established the Trucial States as a British protectorate. This arrangement ended with independence and the establishment of the United Arab Emirates on 2 December 1971 following the British withdrawal from its treaty obligations. Six emirates joined the UAE in 1971; the seventh, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the federation on 10 February 1972.