Photos of United Arab Emirates



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. For more than three decades, oil and global finance drove the UAE's economy. 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 did not experience the "Arab Spring" unrest seen elsewhere in the Middle East in 2010-11, partly because of the government's multi-year, $1.6-billion infrastructure investment plan for the poorer northern emirates, and its aggressive pursuit of advocates of political reform. The UAE in recent years has played a growing role in regional affairs. In addition to donating billions of dollars in economic aid to help stabilize Egypt, the UAE was one of the first countries to join the Defeat-ISIS coalition, and to participate as a key partner in a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. On 15 September 2020, the UAE and Bahrain signed a peace agreement (the Abraham Accords) with Israel – brokered by the US – in Washington DC. The UAE and Bahrain thus became the third and fourth Middle Eastern countries, along with Egypt and Jordan, to recognize Israel.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.



Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia

Geographic coordinates

24 00 N, 54 00 E

Map references

Middle East


total: 83,600 sq km

land: 83,600 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 115

Area - comparative

slightly larger than South Carolina; slightly smaller than Maine

Land boundaries

total: 1,066 km

border countries (2): Oman 609 km, Saudi Arabia 457 km


1,318 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin


desert; cooler in eastern mountains


flat, barren coastal plain merging into rolling sand dunes of vast desert; mountains in east


mean elevation: 149 m

lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m

highest point: Jabal Yibir 1,527 m

Natural resources

petroleum, natural gas

Land use

agricultural land: 4.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 3.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 3.8% (2018 est.)

other: 91.6% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

923 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

population is heavily concentrated to the northeast on the Musandam Peninsula; the three largest emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah - are home to nearly 85% of the population

Natural hazards

frequent sand and dust storms

Geography - note

strategic location along southern approaches to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil

People and Society


9,856,612 (July 2021 est.)

note: the UN estimated the country's total population was 9,771,000 as of mid-year 2019; immigrants make up 87.9% of the total population, according to UN data (2019)

country comparison to the world: 92


noun: Emirati(s)

adjective: Emirati

Ethnic groups

Emirati 11.6%, South Asian 59.4% (includes Indian 38.2%, Bangladeshi 9.5%, Pakistani 9.4%, other 2.3%), Egyptian 10.2%, Filipino 6.1%, other 12.8% (2015 est.)


Arabic (official), English, Hindi, Malayam, Urdu, Pashto, Tagalog, Persian


Muslim (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% (2005 est.)

note: data represent the total population; as of 2019, immigrants make up about 87.9% of the total population, according to UN data

Age structure

0-14 years: 14.45% (male 745,492/female 698,330)

15-24 years: 7.94% (male 431,751/female 361,804)

25-54 years: 68.03% (male 5,204,618/female 1,592,987)

55-64 years: 7.68% (male 658,892/female 108,850)

65 years and over: 1.9% (male 146,221/female 43,138) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 19.2

youth dependency ratio: 17.7

elderly dependency ratio: 1.5

potential support ratio: 66.4 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 38.4 years

male: 40.4 years

female: 31.5 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 63

Birth rate

10.87 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 180

Death rate

1.51 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 228

Net migration rate

-3.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Population distribution

population is heavily concentrated to the northeast on the Musandam Peninsula; the three largest emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah - are home to nearly 85% of the population


urban population: 87% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 1.71% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

2.921 million Dubai, 1.737 million Sharjah, 1.512 million ABU DHABI (capital) (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.19 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 3.27 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 6.05 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 3.39 male(s)/female

total population: 2.56 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

3 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 180

Infant mortality rate

total: 5.25 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 5.82 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 4.65 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 175

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 79.37 years

male: 78.04 years

female: 80.78 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 61

Drinking water source

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.53 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

1.4 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 98.6% of population

unimproved: total: 1.4% of population (2017 est.)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 93.8%

male: 93.1%

female: 95.8% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 14 years

male: 14 years

female: 15 years (2017)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 6.9%

male: 5%

female: 12.8% (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 153

Major infectious diseases

note: widespread ongoing transmission of a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is occurring throughout UAE; as of 6 April 2021, UAE has reported a total of 472,148 cases of COVID-19 or 4,773.8 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population with 15.29 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population


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

etymology: self-descriptive country name; the name "Arabia" can be traced back many centuries B.C., the ancient Egyptians referred to the region as "Ar Rabi"; "emirates" derives from "amir" the Arabic word for "commander," "lord," or "prince"

Government type

federation of monarchies


name: Abu Dhabi

geographic coordinates: 24 28 N, 54 22 E

time difference: UTC+4 (9 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: in Arabic, "abu" means "father" and "dhabi" refers to "gazelle"; the name may derive from an abundance of gazelles that used to live in the area, as well as a folk tale involving the "Father of the Gazelle," Shakhbut bin Dhiyab al Nahyan, whose hunting party tracked a gazelle to a spring on the island where Abu Dhabi was founded

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


2 December 1971 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day (National Day), 2 December (1971)


history: previous 1971 (provisional); latest drafted in 1979, became permanent May 1996

amendments: proposed by the Supreme Council and submitted to the Federal National Council; passage requires at least a two-thirds majority vote of Federal National Council members present and approval of the Supreme Council president; amended 2009

Legal system

mixed legal system of Islamic (sharia) law and civil law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of the United Arab Emirates; if the father is unknown, the mother must be a citizen

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 30 years


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 Emirati citizens

Executive branch

chief of state: President KHALIFA bin Zayid Al-Nuhayyan (since 2 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 announced by the prime minister and approved 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 7 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

description: unicameral Federal National Council (FNC) or Majlis al-Ittihad al-Watani (40 seats; 20 members indirectly elected using single non-transferable vote by an electoral college whose members are selected by each emirate ruler proportional to its FNC membership, and 20 members appointed by the rulers of the 7 constituent states; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held for indirectly elected members on 5 October 2019 (next to be held in October 2023)

election results: all candidates ran as independents; seats by emirate - Abu Dhabi 4, Dubai 4, Sharjah 3, Ras al-Khaimah 3, Ajman 2, Fujairah 2, Umm al-Quwain 2; composition (preliminary) - 13 men, 7 women, percent of elected women 35%; note - to attain overall FNC gender parity, 13 women and 7 men will be appointed; overall FNC percent of women 50%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Federal Supreme Court (consists of the court president and 4 judges; jurisdiction limited to federal cases)

judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the federal president following approval by the Federal Supreme Council, the highest executive and legislative authority consisting of the 7 emirate rulers; judges serve until retirement age or the expiry of their appointment terms

subordinate courts: Federal Court of Cassation (determines the constitutionality of laws promulgated at the federal and emirate level; federal level courts of first instance and appeals courts); the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ra's al Khaymah have parallel court systems; the other 4 emirates have incorporated their courts into the federal system; note - the Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts and the Dubai International Financial Center Courts, the country’s two largest financial free zones, both adjudicate civil and commercial disputes.

Political parties and leaders

none; political parties are banned

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Yusif bin Mani bin Said al-UTAYBA (since 28 July 2008)

chancery: 3522 International Court NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 243-2400

FAX: [1] (202) 243-2432

consulate(s) general: Boston, Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador John RAKOLTA Jr. (since 27 October 2019)

telephone: [971] (2) 414-2200

embassy: Embassies District, Plot 38, Sector W59-02, Street No. 4, Abu Dhabi

mailing address: P. O. Box 4009, Abu Dhabi

FAX: [971] (2) 414-2603

consulate(s) general: Dubai

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and black with a wider vertical red band on the hoist side; the flag incorporates all four Pan-Arab colors, which in this case represent fertility (green), neutrality (white), petroleum resources (black), and unity (red); red was the traditional color incorporated into all flags of the emirates before their unification

National symbol(s)

golden falcon; national colors: green, white, black, red

National anthem

name: "Nashid al-watani al-imarati" (National Anthem of the UAE)

lyrics/music: AREF Al Sheikh Abdullah Al Hassan/Mohamad Abdel WAHAB

note: music adopted 1971, lyrics adopted 1996; Mohamad Abdel WAHAB also composed the music for the anthem of Tunisia


Economic overview

The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Successful efforts at economic diversification have reduced the portion of GDP from the oil and gas sector to 30%.

Since the discovery of oil in the UAE nearly 60 years ago, the country has undergone a profound transformation from an impoverished region of small desert principalities to a modern state with a high standard of living. The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up utilities to greater private sector involvement. The country's free trade zones - offering 100% foreign ownership and zero taxes - are helping to attract foreign investors.

The global financial crisis of 2008-09, tight international credit, and deflated asset prices constricted the economy in 2009. UAE authorities tried to blunt the crisis by increasing spending and boosting liquidity in the banking sector. The crisis hit Dubai hardest, as it was heavily exposed to depressed real estate prices. Dubai lacked sufficient cash to meet its debt obligations, prompting global concern about its solvency and ultimately a $20 billion bailout from the UAE Central Bank and Abu Dhabi Government that was refinanced in March 2014.

The UAE’s dependence on oil is a significant long-term challenge, although the UAE is one of the most diversified countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Low oil prices have prompted the UAE to cut expenditures, including on some social programs, but the UAE has sufficient assets in its sovereign investment funds to cover its deficits. The government reduced fuel subsidies in August 2015, and introduced excise taxes (50% on sweetened carbonated beverages and 100% on energy drinks and tobacco) in October 2017. A five-percent value-added tax was introduced in January 2018. The UAE's strategic plan for the next few years focuses on economic diversification, promoting the UAE as a global trade and tourism hub, developing industry, and creating more job opportunities for nationals through improved education and increased private sector employment.

Real GDP growth rate

0.8% (2017 est.)

3% (2016 est.)

5.1% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

-1.9% (2019 est.)

3% (2018 est.)

1.9% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 4

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: AA- (2020)

Moody's rating: Aa2 (2007)

Standard & Poors rating: AA (2007)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$655.789 billion (2019 est.)

$644.968 billion (2018 est.)

$637.384 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 34

GDP (official exchange rate)

$421.077 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$67,119 (2019 est.)

$66,968 (2018 est.)

$67,184 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 13

Gross national saving

28.5% of GDP (2017 est.)

30.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

30.7% of GDP (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 47

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.9% (2017 est.)

industry: 49.8% (2017 est.)

services: 49.2% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 34.9% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 12.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 23% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 1.8% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 100.4% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -72.4% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 80.9 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 94.8 (2020)

Trading score: 74.1 (2020)

Enforcement score: 75.9 (2020)

Agricultural products

dates, cucumbers, tomatoes, goat meat, eggs, milk, poultry, carrots/turnips, goat milk, milk


petroleum and petrochemicals; fishing, aluminum, cement, fertilizer, commercial ship repair, construction materials, handicrafts, textiles

Labor force

5.344 million (2017 est.)

note: expatriates account for about 85% of the workforce

country comparison to the world: 74

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 7%

industry: 15%

services: 78% (2000 est.)


revenues: 110.2 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 111.1 billion (2017 est.)

note: the UAE federal budget does not account for emirate-level spending in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Public debt

19.7% of GDP (2017 est.)

20.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

$26.47 billion (2017 est.)

$13.23 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 14


$308.5 billion (2017 est.)

$298.6 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 24

Exports - partners

India 11%, Japan 10%, Saudi Arabia 7%, Switzerland 6%, China 6%, Iraq 6% (2019)

Exports - commodities

crude petroleum, refined petroleum, gold, jewelry, broadcasting equipment (2019)


$229.2 billion (2017 est.)

$226.5 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 31

Imports - partners

China 15%, India 12%, Untied States 7% (2019)

Imports - commodities

gold, broadcasting equipment, jewelry, refined petroleum, diamonds (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$95.37 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$85.39 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 27

Debt - external

$237.6 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$218.7 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 34

Exchange rates

Emirati dirhams (AED) per US dollar -

3.67315 (2020 est.)

3.67315 (2019 est.)

3.67315 (2018 est.)

3.673 (2014 est.)

3.673 (2013 est.)


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 2,380,238

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 24.18 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 51

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 19,749,674

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 200.63 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 62

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: modern fiber-optic integrated services; digital network with rapidly growing use of mobile-cellular telephones; key centers are Abu Dhabi and Dubai; 5G capabilities launched in 2019; two operators are competitive, but majority owned by the government; HSPA (high speed packet access) + LTE networks cover most of the population; low cost smart phones readily available; mobile penetration levels among the world's highest; well-established fiber-broadband network provides future growth (2020)

domestic: microwave radio relay, fiber-optic and coaxial cable; fixed-line 24 per 100 and mobile-cellular 201 per 100 (2019)

international: country code - 971; landing points for the FLAG, SEA-ME-WE-3 ,-4 & -5, Qater UAE Submarine Cable System, FALCON, FOG, Tat TGN-Gulf, OMRAN/EPEG Cable System, AAE-1, BBG, EIG, FEA, GBICS/MENA, IMEWE, Orient Express, TEAMS, TW1 and the UAE-Iran submarine cables, linking to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia and Australia; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian) (2020)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

except for the many organizations now operating in media free zones in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, most TV and radio stations remain government-owned; widespread use of satellite dishes provides access to pan-Arab and other international broadcasts; restrictions since June 2017 on some satellite channels and websites originating from or otherwise linked to Qatar (2018)

Internet users

total: 9,550,945

percent of population: 98.45% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 54

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 3,024,565

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 31 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 44


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 10 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 497

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 95,533,069 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 15,962,900,000 mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 25 (2013)

over 3,047 m: 12 (2013)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2013)

under 914 m: 2 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 18 (2013)

over 3,047 m: 1 (2013)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 6 (2013)

under 914 m: 6 (2013)


5 (2013)


533 km condensate, 3277 km gas, 300 km liquid petroleum gas, 3287 km oil, 24 km oil/gas/water, 218 km refined products, 99 km water (2013)


total: 4,080 km (2008)

paved: 4,080 km (includes 253 km of expressways) (2008)

country comparison to the world: 154

Merchant marine

total: 640

by type: container ship 3, general cargo 120, oil tanker 19, other 498 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 37

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Al Fujayrah, Mina' Jabal 'Ali (Dubai), Khor Fakkan (Khawr Fakkan) (Sharjah), Mubarraz Island (Abu Dhabi), Mina' Rashid (Dubai), Mina' Saqr (Ra's al Khaymah)

container port(s) (TEUs): Dubai Port (15,368,000), Khor Fakkan (Khawr Fakkan) (Sharjah) (2,321,000) (2017)

LNG terminal(s) (export): Das Island

Military and Security

Military and security forces

United Arab Emirates Armed Forces: Land Forces, Navy Forces, Air Force, Presidential Guard; Ministry of Interior: Critical Infrastructure Coastal Patrol Agency (CICPA) (2021)

Military expenditures

5.2% of GDP (2017)

6% of GDP (2016)

7% of GDP (2015)

5.8% of GDP (2014)

6.1% of GDP (2013)

no public data available for 2015 or after 2016

country comparison to the world: 4

Military and security service personnel strengths

the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces have approximately 63,000 total active personnel (44,000 Land Forces; 2,500 Navy; 4,500 Air Force; 12,000 Presidential Guard) (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the UAE Armed Forces inventory is comprised of wide variety of mostly modern imported equipment; since 2010, the UAE has acquired military equipment from more than 20 countries with the US as the leading supplier by far, followed by France and Russia (2020)

Military deployments

est. a few thousand Yemen (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18-30 years of age for compulsory military service for men; 17 years of age for male volunteers with parental approval; 24-month general service obligation, 16 months for secondary school graduates; women can volunteer to serve for 9 months regardless of education (2019)

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