United Arab Emirates

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الإمارات العربية المتحدة

al-Imārāt al-ʿArabiyya al-Muttaḥida
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates flag
United Arab Emirates coat of arms
flag emblem
Official language Arabic
Capital Abu Dhabi
State and form of government federal absolute monarchy
Head of state President
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Head of government Prime Minister
Sheikh Muhammad bin Raschid Al Maktum
surface 71,023.6 km²
population 9,890,000 (2020)
Population density 118.3 inhabitants per km²
Population development +1.25% per year
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 421.1 billion ( 30. )
  • $ 683.5 billion ( 34. )
  • 39,180 USD ( 26. )
  • 63,590 USD ( 10. )
Human Development Index 0.89 ( 31st ) (2019)
currency UAE Dirham (AED)
independence December 2, 1971
(from the UK )
National anthem ʿĪschī bilādī
Time zone UTC + 4
License Plate UAE
ISO 3166 AE , ARE, 784
Internet TLD .ae
Phone code +971
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The United Arab Emirates ( Arabic الإمارات العربية المتحدة, DMG al-Imārāt al-ʿArabiyya al-Muttaḥida ; official: Arabic دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة, DMG Dawlat al-Imārāt al-ʿArabiyya al-Muttaḥida  'State of the United Arab Emirates'), UAE for short and often colloquially abbreviated to the Emirates , are a federation of seven emirates in the east of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia . Located on the coast of the Persian Gulf and with access to the Gulf of Oman , the country borders Saudi Arabia and Oman . It consists of the emirates of Abu Dhabi , Ajman , Dubai , Fujairah , Ra's al-Khaimah , Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain .

The capital of the UAE is Abu Dhabi , as one of the five major cities in the country alongside Dubai , Sharjah , Ajman and Al-Ain , it is also an important economic and cultural center.

Before independence in 1971, the UAE was known as the “Treaty Coast” or “Contracting States” because of the protectorate treaties that native rulers made with the United Kingdom in the 19th century . The political system is based on the 1971 constitution. Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language. The seventh Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah was added in 1972.

The UAE has the seventh largest oil reserves in the world, is the most developed economies in the Middle East and one of the richest countries in the world with a per capita gross domestic product of USD 63,590 (adjusted for purchasing power in 2019). The United Nations Development Program ranks the country among the countries with a very high level of human development. The International Monetary Fund classifies the UAE as a “ high income developing economy ”.

The country is a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as a member state of the Arab League , the United Nations , the Organization for Islamic Cooperation , OPEC and the World Trade Organization .



Early history

An 18th century watchtower in Hatta

Archaeological finds at Sila are 7,000 years old.

Other finds on the island of Umm an-Nar near Abu Dhabi suggest that there was a settlement as early as the 4th millennium BC. Close. At Al-Ain there were also evidence of a c. 2500 BC. A culture dated to the 3rd century BC that mined and traded copper in the Hajar Mountains . Long-distance trade gained through the domestication of the camel at the end of the 2nd millennium BC. A great boom.

The land route from Syria to what is now southern Iraq was joined by the sea route via the Persian Gulf to India , including via the important port of Omana (probably today's Umm al-Qaiwain ). Pearl diving has been an important line of business since ancient times. Large fairs were held in Dibba, among other places, to which merchants from the region and even China came.

Beginning of the Islamic era

Christianity spread along the ancient trade routes to India into the southern part of the Persian Gulf in the 6th century. The Christian monastery of Sir Bani Yas , discovered in the 1990s on an offshore island (Sir Bani Yas Island), existed until the 8th century and was apparently abandoned without any armed conflict. In 630, messengers from the Prophet Mohammed arrived from Mecca and converted the indigenous tribes to Islam. After the death of Muhammad in 632, they terminated the alliance and broke away from the new religion. The decisive battle of the subsequent Ridda Wars took place in Dibba and brought the defeat of the renegade non-Muslims and the final triumph of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula.

In 637 Julfar (now Ra's al-Khaimah) was one of the starting points for the invasion of Persia and in the following centuries developed into a rich port and center of the pearl trade, whose dhows traveled the entire Indian Ocean .

In the 7th century the coast came under the influence of the Kharijites . From the 9th to the 11th centuries, the area belonged to the Shiite Qarmatian state .

Portuguese control

At the beginning of the 16th century, the area came under the direct influence of the Ottoman Empire , but it was soon ousted by the Portuguese , who built bases on the Gulf to secure the trade route to India. In his search for the “ spice route ” to Asia , which eventually led him to India, Vasco da Gama had to rely on the help of Ahmad ibn Majid , a navigator and cartographer from Julfar.

The Portuguese controlled the Persian Gulf until they were driven out by Omani tribes around 1650.

From the "pirate" to the "treaty coast"

Flag of the Trucial States
British topographic map of Oman and the Pirate Coast from 1838

In 1747 the Bedouins of the Qawasim settled on the southern Gulf coast and used the power vacuum in the Gulf to not only operate pearl fishing, but also piracy against merchant shipping, which led to the designation "pirate coast". The centers were the ports of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah. By 1780 the power of the Qawasim had grown so much that they were able to muster a fleet of 60 ships with 20,000 sailors, so that they also ruled large parts of the Persian Gulf coast and threatened the trade of Oman. Oman counterattacks were unsuccessful. Since piracy also threatened the Indian trade , Great Britain undertook several punitive expeditions between 1806 and 1819, which culminated in a peace treaty with all the Emirates in 1820. Thereafter there were repeated attacks on merchant ships until a declaration of "perpetual sea peace" was made in 1853. The emirates gradually became British protectorates and referred to as "Pacified Oman", "Treaty Man" or "Treaty Coast" ( Trucial States ).

The treaty of 1892 between Great Britain and a number of Gulf emirates cemented the close relationship and stipulated that the sheikhs were not allowed to sell any territory or enter into relationships with other states without British consent. In return, Great Britain vowed to protect the "treaty coast" against attacks from sea and land.

The rise and fall of the pearl industry

al-Fahidi fortress in Dubai around 1959

When Sheikh Shakbuth bin Diab took over power in 1793, the Al-Nahyan family of the Bani-Yas tribe moved from the Liwa inland oasis to Abu Dhabi (founded in 1761), which had developed into an important center of pearl fishing. There he founded a fort and extended his power to the oasis of al Ain. Despite their new coastal capital, the root and heart of the Bani-Yas tribes lay in their Bedouin roots.

The Qawasim formed the second major tribal association. This tribe controlled a large part of the northern Emirates. Her strengths were not so much pearl diving, but trade and seafaring.

A few decades later, another branch of the Bani Yas migrated northward, split off from the family and founded Dubai in the area of ​​today's Creek in 1833 (the settlement of Bar Dubai is mentioned for the first time in 1822), which not only operated pearl fishing, but also became an important trading center. Pearls were one of the most important industries well into the 20th century. The Great Depression of 1929 and the spread of cheaper cultured pearls from Japan led to the decline of the pearl industry in the Gulf. In the following years there were always sometimes armed conflicts between the tribes.

Oil boom

In the early 1930s, the first oil companies obtained concessions to drill in the "Trucial States" area. Large quantities of oil were found in the early 1960s and the first shipload was exported from Abu Dhabi in 1962.

Unlike his predecessor and first-born brother, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan al Nahyan, from 1966 onwards, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi used the increasing income from oil production for an extensive development program from which the poorer neighboring emirates also benefited. After Dubai began to export oil in 1969, Sheikh Raschid bin Said Al Maktum , de facto ruler of the emirate since 1939, was also able to use the new wealth to improve the quality of life of his people.


In the border disputes between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia over the southern border of the Emirates, Great Britain helped to resolve the dispute from 1955 onwards. In 1952 the Saudis, who at that time already had money from oil trading, offered Sheikh Zayed $ 42 million - this was the highest bribe for an individual for a number of years - if he should give up his fight against her and her claim to buraimi . However, the later founder and father of the UAE refused the sum on the grounds that he was only interested in the welfare of his people.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and the UAE greatly improved when King Faisal came to power and Sheikh Zayed became ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966. In 1974 they signed a border agreement that put an end to the 170 year struggle for the Buriami area. Immediately thereafter, Saudi Arabia recognized the UAE. As part of this agreement, the connection (port of Khor al Udaid and other petroleum-bearing country) between Qatar and Abu Dhabi was severed. In 1974 the two states reached an agreement that resolved these disputes. However, this has not yet been ratified by the UAE government and the Saudi government has not yet recognized this agreement. The border between the two states is therefore largely a de facto border. The exact course of the border has not played a major role so far, as there is a sandy desert in the border area.

The border to Oman, which is also controversial at the Al-Ain / Buraimi oasis, has not yet been officially established, but the two governments agreed in May 1999 to mark it.

Sheikh Zayed and the Union of Emirates

From 1952, increasingly after the onset of oil production, closer cooperation between the emirates had developed. During the 1960s, British oil companies increasingly lost influence in favor of US companies.

The existing British development bureau was replaced by the Trucial States Council, a coordinating council set up by the rulers of the Emirates, and Adi Bitar, legal advisor to Sheikh Rasheed bin Said Al Maktum , was appointed as its secretary general and legal advisor .

Britain proclaimed the East of Suez Policy in 1967 , according to which it would withdraw from its military bases and other commitments east of the Suez Canal by the end of 1971 . This would also end the protection treaties with the areas of the Persian Gulf - apart from the Trucial States, Bahrain and Qatar - on December 31, 1971.

The rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai decided to unite their emirates, have a constitution drawn up (by Adi Bitar), and then invite the rulers of the other five emirates to join the union.

Great Britain granted independence to the Trucial States on December 2, 1971. On the same day, the rulers of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai and Umm al-Qaiwain met. Under the direction and mediation of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, they founded the United Arab Emirates, with Sheikh Zayed himself as President, who joined the United Nations a week later on December 9th . On February 11, 1972, Ras al-Khaimah joined the UAE as the seventh and last emirate of the former Trucial States.

Recent history

In 1981 the Gulf Cooperation Council was founded with Saudi Arabia, Qatar , Bahrain , Kuwait and Oman . After the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990, the UAE supported the UN measures to liberate the country. The UAE air bases were used by the Western allies as a starting point for military strikes against Iraq during the Second Gulf War . Defense alliances were formed with the United States and France in 1994 and 1995, respectively.

The UAE is supporting the US and other coalition forces in their operations in Afghanistan, where the UAE has also sent troops, as well as in Iraq and in the fight against terrorism mainly from the Al Dhafra Air Base.

Death of the sheikhs Zayid and Maktum

On November 2, 2004, the first president and founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, died . His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan , succeeded him as ruler of Abu Dhabi; he was also constitutionally elected President of the UAE by the Supreme Council of Rulers. Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan , a brother of Sheikh Chalifa, accordingly became Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Maktum bin Raschid Al Maktum , the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, died in January 2006 ; his brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammed bin Raschid Al Maktum , succeeded him.

Political system

State order

Since the founding of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, the Emirates have steadily developed their national identity and benefited from a very high level of political stability for the region. According to the Provisional Constitution of 1971, the UAE is a federation of seven autonomous emirates . In May 1996, the Federal Supreme Council approved amendments to the constitution defining Abu Dhabi as the capital and declaring the previously provisional constitution final. The German Foreign Office defines the state as a “patriarchal presidential system with traditional consultation mechanisms”. It is a combination of traditional and modern elements, with the government trying to consolidate a strong modernization course with the preservation of Islamic and regional traditions.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE

At the federal level, constitutional law provides for the Federal Supreme Council, the Federal Cabinet, a Council of Ministers, a Federal National Council and an independent judiciary headed by the Federal Supreme Court Court) stands before. The members of the Supreme Rulers' Council elect the President and Vice-President from among their number, who each remain in office for five years until re-election takes place. Usually the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi holds the presidency; The Prime Minister usually acts as Vice-President. The current president is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan .

The rulers' council has both legislative and executive powers. He ratifies federal laws and decrees, sets the guidelines of politics, approves the Prime Minister's nomination, and accepts his resignation. He can also remove the Prime Minister from office on the recommendation of the President.

The Council of Ministers and the Cabinet, described in the Constitution as the “executive authority of the Federation”, know the usual ministerial portfolios and are led by the Prime Minister. This is elected by the President in consultation with the other members of the Supreme Rulers' Council and is usually the Sheikh of Dubai. The Prime Minister (since January 4, 2006 Muhammad bin Raschid Al Maktum ) proposes the ministers who are appointed by the President.

The individual emirates, for their part, form the member states whose succession to the throne is hereditary . From a political science perspective, the UAE is a federally organized constitutional monarchy ; In fact, it is an autocracy in a modern legal guise. The member states are themselves absolutist wrote hereditary monarchies .

The Federal National Council

The Federal National Council ( Engl. Federal National Council, shortcuts FNC) is the Federal Parliament. Its composition is derived from the emirates, based on their population figures. Since the end of 2006, half of its members have been determined by indirect elections.

The FNC plays an important role in consolidating the Shura in the UAE and has both legislative and supervisory roles under the constitution. Its duty is to investigate and, if necessary, to amend drafts of all federal laws. He can convene a federal minister at any time and ask about the efficiency of his ministry. The chairman of the FNC is elected from among the members.

Since the elections to the Federal National Council in the United Arab Emirates in 2006 , the FNC has taken on an increasingly proactive role. As part of the ongoing political reform in the UAE, the Federal National Council is to become a fully elected institution in the long term. The FNC is a member of the Inter -Parliamentary Union and the Arab Parliamentary Union (APU).

The United Arab Emirates has an administration-appointed, hand-picked electorate for the election of half of the members of the Federal National Council. In 2006, the first ever elections, there were 1163 female and 6595 female voters, according to Adams. Since the conditions for women and men are the same, this is considered here as a general active and passive right to vote for women . In 2006 and 2011 a woman was elected to parliament.


At the emirate level

In parallel to the federal institutions, each of the seven emirates has its own government. The complexity of the government varies from emirate to emirate, depending on factors such as population, area and the degree of development.

The largest emirate in terms of area, Abu Dhabi, has its own central government apparatus, the Executive Council. This in turn includes various ministries. The emirate of Abu Dhabi is divided into two regions: the Western Region and the Eastern Region, which in turn are led by official representatives of the ruler. The two largest cities, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, are administered by municipalities, each with a city council subordinate to the Department of Municipalities and Agriculture . A new city authority has been set up for the Western Region. The Abu Dhabi National Consultative Council is made up of 60 members from leading tribes and families and has a role roughly equivalent to that of the Federal National Council at the federal level.

Sheikh Muhammad bin Raschid Al Maktum , Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE

In the Emirate of Dubai, the Dubai Executive Council, founded in 2003, performs similar functions as the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi. At the end of 2006, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Raschid Al Maktum, the son of the ruler of Dubai, was appointed chairman of the council. The Executive Council supports the ruler of the emirate and Prime Minister of the UAE, Sheikh Muhammad bin Raschid Al Maktum , in the preparation of development plans for Dubai and in the formulation and implementation of laws at the emirate and federal level. The most important projects in recent years have included the restructuring of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority and the Land Department, both of which play a crucial role in the rapid development of the emirate.

The Emirates of Sharjah and Ajman also have Executive Councils. Sharjah also has a Consultative Council that is responsible for the entire emirate. In its three distant enclaves on the east coast of the country, Sharjah has given various powers to the local governments, particularly in Kalba and Khor Fakkan .

In the other emirates there is a similar pattern of city councils, ministries, authorities and independent institutions. In the smaller and distant towns, the ruler of each emirate can appoint a local representative, an emir or wali , through whom the concerns of the residents can be brought before the emirate government. Often times the representatives are members of the leading local tribes.

Federal government

The competencies of the various federal institutions and their relationships with the individual local governments have changed over the years. According to the constitution, the rulers can hand over certain powers to the federal government. A historical example of this was the unification of the armed forces in the mid-1970s. To this day, the relationship between the federal and local governments has been subject to continuous change; however, the traditional mechanisms of government remain at their core and evolve.


Traditionally in the UAE the ruler of an emirate - the sheikh - is the leader of the most powerful, but not necessarily the most populous, tribe, while each individual tribe has its own leader. The sheikhs could only maintain their rule as long as they had the support of the people. An essential part of this process of rule was the unwritten but central principle that the population should have free access to the sheikh, and that the emir should often hold an open Majlis in which every citizen could freely express his or her opinion.

To this day, the institution of the Majlis has retained its importance in the UAE's political system. In the larger emirates, not only the rulers but also other high-ranking members of the ruling families hold regular open Majlis meetings, in which anyone interested can address any topic of personal or general interest. In the smaller emirates, the Majlis of the ruler himself or his heir apparent or deputy ruler remains the main focus. These gatherings are attended by traditionally minded tribesmen, among others, who wait months to present their concerns or complaints directly to the emir instead of going through the authorities structured according to the modern western model. In this way, the tried and tested methods of traditional rule have retained their importance and play a key role in the further development of the political system.

Political indices

Political indices issued by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 38.1 out of 120 152 of 178 Stability of the country: very stable
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 2.70 out of 10 145 of 167 Authoritarian regime
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = complete democracy
Freedom in the World 17 out of 100 --- Freedom status: not free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 43.13 out of 100 131 of 180 Difficult situation for freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 71 of 100 21 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020


The UAE consists of the following seven emirates:

UAE en-map-2.png
Location of the individual emirates
The smaller emirates northeast of Abu Dhabi

emirate Area
census 2005
Abu Dhabi 59,434.7 1,399,484 1,967,659
Umm al-Qaiwain 702.2 49,159 65,000
Fujairah 1,579.9 125,698 163,751
Ras al-Khaimah 2,447.1 210.063 413,000
Sharjah 2,564.4 793.573 1,060,000
Dubai 4,027.1 1,321,453 1,837,610
Ajman 268.2 206.997 263,000
UAE 71,023.6 4,106,427 5,770,020
Emirates (Arabic name) flag location information
Abu Dhabi (Arabicأبو ظبي / Abū Ẓaby ) Flag of Abu Dhabi Location of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi ('father of the gazelle') is the largest of the seven emirates and has around 1.5 million inhabitants. By far the largest city in the emirate is Abu Dhabi, which is also the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Ajman (Arabicعجمان / ʿAǧmān ) Flag of Ajman Location of ʿAdschmāns in the United Arab Emirates The Ajman area is divided into three parts and, at 260 km², is the smallest of the United Arab Emirates. The sheikdom is ruled by the an-Nuʿaimi family and is the poorest emirate due to a lack of oil supplies or opportunities for agriculture, which makes it dependent on subsidies from its rich neighbors.
Dubai (Arabicدبي / Dubayy ) Flag of Dubai Location of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates Since 99% of the residents of the emirate of Dubai live in the city ​​of the same name , almost the entire economic, social and political life of the emirate takes place there. Dubai is best known for its many spectacular construction projects such as skyscrapers, hotels, shopping malls, man-made islands and amusement parks. It also has the main port. It is of particular importance as an international trading center v. a. as a gold and diamond transshipment point, as a site for re-exporting consumer goods and as a free zone for communication and technology.
Fujairah (Arabicالفجيرة / al-Fuǧayra ) Flag of Al Fujairah Location of al-Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates Fujairah ('sunrise') consists of two main areas. When Hamad II came to power in 1975, he abolished the previous completely red flag and took over the federal flag of the United Arab Emirates
Ra's al-Khaimah (Arabicرأس الخيمة / Raʾs al-Ḫayma ) Flag of Ras al-Khaimah Location of Ra's al-Khaimas in the United Arab Emirates The Emirate of Ra's al-Khaimah ('tip of the tent'), which consists of two sub-territories, lives mainly from tourism, trade and agriculture. Various archaeological excavation sites show some of the history of the emirate.
Sharjah (Arabicالشارقة / aš-Šāriqa ) Flag of Sharjah Location Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates Sharjah ('Shone by the Sun') consists of five sub-territories and is the third largest of the United Arab Emirates. It was the most important in the UAE until the mid-1950s, but could not keep up with the growth of Abu Dhabi and Dubai due to the comparatively low oil reserves. The Kalba exclave was an independent emirate separated from Sharjah from 1903 to 1952.
Umm al-Qaiwain (Arabicأم القيوين / Umm al-Qaywayn ) Flag of Umm al-Qaiwain Location of Umm al-Qaiwains in the United Arab Emirates The territory of Umm al-Qaiwain ('mother of two forces') consists of a contiguous piece and not, like most other emirates, of partial territories. It has the smallest population and occupies about one percent of the total area of ​​the UAE. Fishing and date cultivation are important for the economy of the Emirates.

Foreign policy

Embassy of the UAE in Berlin

The UAE is a member of the United Nations (UN), the Arab League , the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (formerly: Organization of the Islamic Conference), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporters Countries (OAPEC).

UAE embassies and consulates in the world
Countries with embassies and consulates in the UAE

In the 1970s, the border between Saudi Arabia and the UAE was made binding. However, the exact course of the border was not published at first. In 1995 the contract was submitted to the UN. However, the UAE never ratified the treaty. In 2004, Saudi Arabia incorporated the land corridor that had previously connected the emirate of Abu Dhabi with Qatar. This had a huge impact on road traffic between Qatar and the UAE. On the one hand, there were time-consuming border controls, and on the other, women could no longer cover this route without a male driver because they were not allowed to drive vehicles in Saudi Arabia. For this reason, a bridge over the sea between the UAE and Qatar was under discussion. Since June 2018 women have been allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

The United Arab Emirates are an important ally of the United States . Relations with Iran are tense due to three islands ( Abu Musa ) that have been occupied since 1971 . In 2008 the Emir of Abu Dhabi allowed France to set up a naval base; the construction of two French nuclear reactors was also agreed.

The UAE supports the Libyan warlord Chalifa Haftar in his campaign against the Libyan government in Tripoli during the civil war in Libya since 2014 . The UAE is considered to be a supplier of supplies for its army. Among other things, an air force base in Eritrea is used for this purpose .

As the third Arab state after Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates established diplomatic relations with Israel in August 2020 and signed the peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on September 15, 2020 .

Development Assistance

The UAE has continued to provide large-scale aid to conflict and natural disaster stricken countries and regions in the developing world . The primary development agency in the UAE is the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), which was founded in 1971 and has since provided more than 12.6 billion dirhams ($ 3.45 billion) in aid. Together with other expenses, the fund and the government of Abu Dhabi totaled 24 billion dirhams (6.54 billion US dollars), supplying 258 different projects in 52 countries.

Other support agencies are the UAE Red Crescent Department, Dubai Cares and Noor Dubai.

Armed forces

A UAE F-16

The armed forces of the United Arab Emirates (Union Defense Force, UDF) comprise 63,000 soldiers (as of 2020) and consist of the army (44,000 men), the navy (2,500 men), the air force (4,500 men) and the presidential guard (12,000 men). In absolute terms, the size of the armed forces of the UAE can be compared to the size of the armed forces of the Netherlands or Canada . General conscription was introduced in 2015. The staff is 70% local. Mariam al-Mansuri is the first female fighter pilot in the UAE armed forces, which caused an international sensation.

The commander-in-chief of the UDF is the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan . During the day, the army is commanded by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan . Defense Minister is Sheikh Muhammad bin Raschid Al Maktum , the ruler of Dubai.

The United States plays a central role in the defense policy of the UAE. An agreement ratified in 1996 allows them to store military material and use airfields. Alongside France, the USA is also one of the main arms suppliers. Soldiers and officers from the UAE regularly practice in US military facilities.

The UAE spent $ 23.5 billion on defense in 2016, according to US data. The defense spending as a proportion of economic output among the highest in the world.


The United Arab Emirates have a dual legal system made up of secular and Islamic law. While the constitution of the UAE names Islamic law, the Sharia , as the main source of law, according to the German Foreign Office this does not play a role in the practical application of civil law, with the exception of family law matters. At the same time, secular law is based on Sharia law insofar as old and new laws are always checked for their compatibility with Islamic law and should be compatible with it. According to information from the German diplomatic mission in Dubai, the “relevant legal sources in the order of their importance” are therefore: “1. Constitution, 2. Federal and emirate legislation, 3. Sharia law, 4. Commercial customs and practice. "

The independence of the judiciary in matters of civil, criminal and public law is constitutionally established in the UAE. In legislative and executive matters, the Supreme Council of Rulers, consisting of the rulers of the seven emirates, is the highest authority at the federal level.

The highest judicial instance in the state is the High Federal Court of the Union. This consists of a chief attorney, the Chief of Justice, and no more than five judges, who are appointed by the President. The High Federal Supreme Court is empowered to review the case law; it can also arbitrate or pass judgments in disputes between the federal government and the emirates or between the emirates. Last but not least, the Federal Supreme Court has the power to prosecute and punish legal violations and misconduct on the part of cabinet members and senior government officials. The federal legal system consists of several federal courts of first instance. These are responsible for matters within their territorial area of ​​competence or matters that are reserved for them according to the constitution. The judgments passed by these federal courts can be challenged in the next higher courts, the Federal Appellate Courts and, in the last instance, the High Federal Court (Supreme Federal Court, see above). The emirates of Dubai and Ra's al-Khaimah are an exception, whose local courts are responsible for areas of legal competence that do not necessarily belong to the federal courts.

Criminal law and Sharia law

Rape is not prosecuted under civil criminal law, but, as in many Islamic countries, under Islamic Sharia law. As a result, the burden of proof in the case of rape rests with the rape victim. Without reliable evidence, the rape victim could be convicted of “sex outside of marriage”. On November 7, 2020, the government announced that it would in future punish honor killing and other so-called honor crimes just as harshly as all other crimes. Criminal and family law will be comprehensively revised.

Consumer protection

Although work has been going on for years on a law to define the rights of private consumers, there is still no binding regulation. This means that there is no statutory guarantee ; the seller can always refer to the position bought as seen . In practice, however, many large department stores and supermarket chains offer some generous exchange options, for example a return if you do not like it within a week. In the event of disputes with small traders, however, the authority can assist in resolving the dispute.

Labor law, social security

In the UAE there is a labor law that is strongly geared to the interests of employers and regulates most aspects such as working hours, leaving the company and the right to dismiss . The employment of foreign workers generally requires the approval of the Ministry of Labor. The work and residence permit is issued for three years, since 2011 only for two years, and can be renewed. It applies to a specific job, but can be transferred to another job with the consent of the employer when changing employers.

The normal working time is eight hours a day, six days a week; H. 48-hour weeks are the rule. In the retail trade, as well as in the catering and hotel industry, these working hours can be extended to nine hours per day. In contrast, in physically demanding jobs, for example, working hours are often shortened and divided into shifts, which is particularly common in the construction industry. In government agencies that employ a relatively large number of local residents, a 35-hour week is the norm. As in many Muslim countries, Friday is free. Traditionally, the weekend for office workers was Thursday afternoon and Friday. In the meantime, however, a five-day week is being introduced more and more frequently, with Friday and Saturday being free. During Ramadan , regular working hours are reduced to two hours a day. Otherwise, sometimes unpaid overtime is not uncommon.

There are ten public holidays each year. In addition, there are vacation days, the number of which depends on the length of employment. Those who work between six and twelve months get two additional days a month. Those who have been employed for more than a year receive 30 days of paid vacation from the second year onwards in addition to public holidays, sick leave and (for women) maternity leave and childcare leave.

There are no trade unions in the UAE, freedom of association for workers and employee participation are unknown. In the event of a dispute between the employee and the employer, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs acts as an arbitrator and tries to mediate. If, in the opinion of either party, these efforts are unsuccessful, the proceedings may be brought to court. Strikes are banned in the UAE, limited work stoppages e.g. B. due to lack of wages or gross violations of labor standards, however, it has already existed.

It is common practice in the UAE to agree on a trial period. Three months after a successful probationary period, the right to continued payment of wages in the event of illness begins , but the employer is entitled to terminate the contract after 90 days of absence from work. Only in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is there a statutory health insurance requirement; Dubai is planning to introduce it. Since there is no compulsory unemployment or pension insurance in the UAE, every employee has to make private provision himself.


Homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and can be punished by the law with the death penalty. According to the Federal Foreign Office , homosexuality and extramarital intercourse as well as the exchange of caresses in public and cross-dressing are prohibited and will also be punished if reported.


For the cities see List of Cities in the United Arab Emirates .

The UAE's population is one of the fastest growing in the world. When it was founded in 1971, 240,000 people lived in the Emirates; the last official estimate at the end of 2008 indicated 4,765,000 inhabitants. In 2016, according to UN estimates, there were already 9,267,000 inhabitants.

The rapid population growth is mainly due to the large number of immigrants.

Of the 9,157,000 inhabitants, 1,062,000 are citizens of the UAE and 8,095,000 are foreign labor migrants, which corresponds to a foreigner quota of almost 90% (as of 2015). Of the domestic citizens, 70% are Arabs , including 10% nomads . The remaining 30% are made up of ethnic Iranians , Indians , Bangladeshis , Pakistanis and Filipinos . Almost 60% of the total population came from South Asia in 2015 . In 2016, 20.9% of the population were younger than 15 years. Because most of the migrant workers are men, the UAE has one of the most unbalanced sexes in the world. In 2016, there were 218 men for every 100 women. UAE laws generally do not provide for naturalization . Children born in the country will only be granted UAE citizenship if the father is a UAE national . In the Emirate of Dubai, people born there from the age of 30 can be naturalized under certain conditions. It is possible for foreigners to obtain an unlimited residence permit in order to permanently settle in the UAE.

About one percent of the country's area is populated; the degree of urbanization was 85.6% in 2016. Life expectancy in the period from 2010 to 2015 was 76.7 years (men: 76.1, women: 78.1). The official language is Arabic ; In addition to Hindi , Urdu and Persian spoken; English is the language of business and is increasingly used as a " lingua franca " between ethnic groups in everyday life . 76% of the total population (citizens and immigrants combined) are Muslims , 9% of the population are Christians and the remaining 15% are mainly Hindus and Buddhists. According to other information, the proportion of Christians is said to be significantly higher, especially among foreigners. Among the citizens, the proportion of Muslims is 96%.

Population development

Population development in millions of inhabitants
Age pyramid in 1000 inhabitants
year population year population year population
1950 70,000 1985 1,391,000 2020 9,890,000
1955 80,000 1990 1,860,000
1960 93,000 1995 2,449,000
1965 150,000 2000 3,155,000
1970 235,000 2005 4,580,000
1975 554,000 2010 8,271,000
1980 1,042,000 2015 9,154,000

Source: UN


According to the UN, there were around 8,095,000 migrant workers in the UAE in 2015. Many employees from Asia and Africa use the Kafala system in the UAE. The following numbers of the countries of origin are estimates of the respective embassies (selection, data from most Arab countries are missing):

Immigrant workers

The UAE has an unusual population structure. Around 80% of the population are migrant workers ( called expatriates ), which corresponds to one of the highest proportions of foreigners in the world. Foreign workers who find employment, regardless of their origin, immediately receive a residence and work permit, although they still have to pass a health test. The rule that the employee must leave the country after 30 days if they lose their job if they cannot find a new job during this period was abolished in 2009. The wages for both unskilled workers and highly qualified experts are usually significantly higher than in the countries of origin. The wages for unskilled workers are, however, much lower than the wages for qualified specialists. There have been isolated reports of domestic employers failing to pay their ordinary foreign employees' wages for months. Such offenses on the part of employers now lead to severe penalties. Migrants from industrialized countries usually receive extensive compensation packages with high basic salaries and additional salaries. This has led to an influx of western labor migrants since the 1990s, mainly from Great Britain (120,000) and the USA (28,000), but also increasingly from France (10,000) and Germany (8,000).

The Bedoons , stateless people of Arab origin , also play a certain role . They are often of Bedouin descent . Bedoon status is inherited and results in significant social discrimination .


Oil is the UAE's main product.

The UAE is one of the most oil-rich countries in the world and is located in the so-called strategic ellipse . The GDP per capita is among the highest in the world. In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, the UAE ranks 16th out of 138 countries (as of 2016-17). In 2017, the country was ranked 8th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom . The UAE is now one of the most liberal economies in the world. However, the economic differences between the emirates are extreme, as only three of the seven emirates produce oil. Oil export revenues have fluctuated considerably in recent years due to fierce competition in the international oil market. Nevertheless, GDP grew by 3.0% in 2016. In the same year, 0.7% of GDP was generated in agriculture, 44.6% in industry and 54.7% in the service sector. Military spending in 2003 was 3.1% of GDP, spending on education at 1.6% and spending on health at 3.3%. In 2000, 8% of the population were employed in agriculture, 33% in industry and 59% in the service sector. The unemployment rate was only 1.6% in 2016, and there is full employment . However, unemployment among the local population is expected to rise. The total number of employees is estimated at 5.8 million for 2017; 12.4% of them are women and approx. 85% foreigners. Inflation averaged 1.5% in 2016.

Due to the unevenly distributed oil and natural gas reserves in the individual emirates, a solidarity-based income equalization is practiced at the level of state income in the UAE. In balanced gradations, money flows from richer emirates like Abu Dhabi to economically disadvantaged and resource-poor areas, like Ra's al-Khaimah, for example, in order to ensure uniform economic development.

Although the UAE is less and less dependent on income from oil and gas production, related exports still play a major role, especially in Abu Dhabi. A construction boom, expanding manufacturing economy, and thriving trade and services sectors are helping the UAE to diversify its economy. There are currently $ 350 billion worth of construction projects across the country. These include the Burj Khalifa , currently the tallest building in the world, the Dubai World Central International Airport , three artificial palm islands, the Dubai Mall and, in Abu Dhabi, the Saadiyat and Yas islands for culture and motor sports.

The tourism now has a high economic importance for the country. With over 14.9 million tourists, the UAE was the 24th most visited country in the world in 2016. Tourism revenue for the same year was $ 19.4 billion. The number of visitors has doubled since 2010, with the country benefiting from its modern infrastructure and favorable geographical location. Most of the tourism income goes to the two emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Smaller emirates are also increasingly trying to promote tourism in a targeted manner.

Finished products, machines and transport equipment together make up 80% of imports.

The largest investment agency, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), manages approximately $ 360 billion in foreign investments and has approximately $ 900 billion in assets.


Al-Ain is one of the few places in the UAE where agriculture can be practiced.

Since the 1970s, many desert areas have been turned into agriculturally usable areas through systematic irrigation . Often fossil groundwater supplies are tapped for irrigation, mostly very salty and not potable, and the drying up is foreseeable. Tobacco , vegetables , dates and citrus fruits can therefore be grown , even if only in small quantities. Agriculture and cattle breeding can also be practiced in the groundwater-rich areas around al-Ain and in the Hajjar Mountains . Poultry farming was greatly expanded. In the Emirates of Ajman and Umm al-Qaiwain, fishing is the main source of income.

Natural resources and industry

Abu Dhabi produces by far the largest amounts of oil and natural gas ; Dubai and Sharjah follow. Aside from crude oil and natural gas processing, there is aluminum production (with natural gas as the energy base), production of fertilizers, cement and other building materials, and metal processing. Abu Dhabi has most of the industry.

Trade and services

There is (except in the free trade zones ) a general import duty of 5%; exceptions apply to certain product groups. The non-oil-producing emirates rely on trade and, in recent years, increasingly on tourism . The city of Dubai is at the forefront in this regard. The IT sector with its own districts for company branches is also the most developed in Dubai. The country is also increasingly investing in new service and technology sectors in order to make itself more independent of the raw materials market. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), among others, plays an important (state) role . Business start-ups by foreigners are only possible with at least 51% participation of local residents (companies), with the exception of branches.

The Nasdaq Dubai stock exchange , the former International Financial Exchange (DIFX), is located in Dubai and offers not only domestic stocks but also certificates on funds or foreign indices.

Ownership structure

At least 51% of all companies (except in free trade zones) must be owned by a local resident. This law is intended to ensure that only emirates hold executive positions. However, the local resident often only acts as a so-called "sponsor", which means that through contractual arrangements an attempt is made to achieve that the foreign partner receives control over the management and a larger share of the profit than corresponds to his participation in the company. In the many free trade zones, companies can generally be run by foreigners independently of a local citizen. In most cases, however, no commercial traffic may take place from a free trade zone into the Emirates, although this rule is hardly observed. The government is running a campaign that aims to ensure a certain quota of local workers in all government agencies, such as the post office, police, administration, banks or the military. This campaign is called “Emiratisation”.

Copyright and trademark law

The fight against counterfeit branded products is pursued very differently in the individual emirates. It ranges from regular raids on shops and imposing prison sentences on dealers in Dubai to open sales in the state-run Cooperative Society department stores in Abu Dhabi. Dubai is particularly keen to show international companies that it takes the protection of intellectual property seriously.

Tax policy / double taxation

There are no direct taxes in the UAE. Administrative costs are funded by fees and a 30% tax is payable on alcohol. On January 1, 2018, a value added tax of 5% was introduced together with Saudi Arabia . The other GCC countries - Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar - do not want to take this step until 2019 [obsolete] . The aim of the introduction is to develop new sources of income in order to counteract tax shortfalls caused by the lower oil price. Income or company tax laws have been in place for decades, but the tax rate is fixed at 0%, which means non-taxation.


The Federal Republic of Germany concluded a double taxation agreement (DBA) with the UAE in 1996 . It was the only one of its kind in Germany with a tax haven and expired on August 10, 2008 after a two-year extension. A new DBA was initialed on December 23, 2008 , but never signed and published. Renegotiations led to a DTA signed on July 1, 2010, in which retroactive application from January 1, 2009 was agreed. The DTA was ratified on July 14, 2011.


The Republic of Austria has concluded a double taxation agreement with the UAE. It has been applicable since 2005 and, in particular, provides for complete relief from withholding taxes for dividends, interest and license fees.


The Swiss Confederation knows an agreement to prevent double taxation of companies that provide aircraft in international traffic operated since 8 January 1992nd This agreement exempts the companies from each other (regardless of the location of the service provision) from income, wealth and capital gains and wealth taxes.

Real estate

So far, foreigners have only been able to acquire land in specially designated areas in Dubai. In addition, Dubai allows the lease of land and condominiums based on the English model for 99 years. Lately, unlimited leases have also been possible. With the lease, the owner acquires a residence permit for the duration of the term. However, this must be renewed every three years for around 1000 euros. However, no work permit is associated with this title; a work visa is required for this. Nevertheless, this option attracts Pakistani and Indians in particular, who use it to acquire a second home. Since 2005, the Emirate of Ra's al-Khaimah has also offered foreigners property and real estate ownership in specially designated areas, such as the Al Hamra Village . Other emirates are planning similar changes.

Many foreigners have bought apartments in the Dubai Marina

Most emirates still treat the registration of property rights conservatively. Here, too, Dubai is playing a pioneering role and in March 2006 passed Law No. 7 on Property Rights and Land Register Entries . It currently only deals with the property rights of villas and townhouses. For apartments, such as in The Greens or the Dubai Marina , there is still no uniform jurisdiction that regulates the registration in the country departments in a binding manner. The transfer of ownership is only possible via the Master Developer Emaar , Nakheel and Dubai Properties; discussions are also taking place about the contributions for maintenance measures and general ancillary costs (maintenance, service fees, etc.). In this regard, the government is striving for a quick agreement and settlement of the outstanding points in order to be able to offer foreign property buyers the necessary legal certainty.

Everyday work, wage development

Problems in everyday working life result from the underdeveloped legal protection of employees (see above: labor law ). When changing employers or termination of an employment relationship within the first year of employment must have a certificate ( Non-Objection Certificate ) are issued by the employer, who sees no concerns, the staff that is looking for a new job location. If this is not issued, whereby the employer does not have to justify his decision, a six-month work ban and, in some cases, entry ban into the UAE follows. This unbalanced employer law is often used against "ordinary" workers from developing countries and enables extortion over wage issues and vacation entitlements at the end of the employment relationship. In the case of highly qualified employees, an individual employment contract is usually concluded.

As a result of the poor protection of workers, there are regularly irregularities in the wage payments of low-wage workers in the low-wage construction sector, where up to 500,000 foreign workers are employed. These penniless workers, however, have no choice but to continue to work temporarily without wages, as they would otherwise no longer be able to support their families in their home countries without work, which is well paid compared to their country of origin.

The average income in the low-wage sector in 2005 was:

  • Skilled workers : AED 750 to 1500 / month (around EUR 190–375)
  • Unskilled workers: AED 400 to 650 / month (around 100–160 euros)
  • Other: Between 2.50 and 6.50 AED / hour (approx. 0.50-1.60 euros)

It is common practice for employers to withhold their workers' passports for security for the duration of the employment relationship. Among other things, this serves to prevent theft and fraud of company property belonging to employees, as they can no longer easily leave the country. It also makes it difficult for workers to move to better-paying jobs. At the beginning of 2005 this practice was publicly discussed controversially. Among other things, the authorities also required employees who deal with money to withhold passports. This ultimately led to a legal prohibition (passports are personal travel documents) to withhold passports, except when dealing with administrative procedures. Failure to comply can result in a fine of tens of thousands of dirhams against the employer. Nonetheless, it is still common practice to withhold passports from ordinary employees.

Employees have the right to lodge a complaint with the local labor ministries in the event of problems with their employer. However, due to the cumbersome bureaucracy, decisions sometimes take a long time. Visa fraud has increased in recent years. Many interested parties from the Indian subcontinent were promised, in return for payment of what were for them very high fees, that they would easily get a job and thus also a residence permit in the UAE. In retrospect, it turned out in almost all cases that they had been eaten by fraudsters. Since this procedure for obtaining visas also violates local laws, these incidents are rarely reported by those concerned, which suggests a high number of unreported cases of these frauds.

Key figures

Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real World Bank
year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Change in% compared to the previous year 9.8 3.2 3.2 −5.2 1.6 6.4 5.1 5.8 3.3 3.8 3.0 0.8 1.4
Development of GDP (nominal), World Bank
year 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
GDP absolute (in billion USD) 403.1 358.1 357.0 382.6 414.2
GDP per inhabitant (in thousands of USD) 044.4 039.1 38.5 40.7 43.0
Foreign Trade Development (GTAI)
year 2013 2014 2015
Billion USD % yoy Billion USD % yoy Billion USD % year-on-year
import 295.0 +13.0 298.6 + 01.2 287.0 - 03.9
export 379.5 + 08.4 380.3 + 00.2 333.4 −12.4
balance +84.5 - 05.1 +81.7 - 03.3 +46.3 −43.3
Main trading partner of the UAE (2015), source: GTAI
Export (in percent) to Import (in percent) of
TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan 14.0 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 08.0
IranIran Iran 03.2 United StatesUnited States United States 06.7
IndiaIndia India 03.2 IndiaIndia India 06.2
Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 02.0 GermanyGermany Germany 04.2
IraqIraq Iraq 02.0 JapanJapan Japan 03.6
OmanOman Oman 01.6 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 02.2
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 01.2 ItalyItaly Italy 01.9
other countries 72.8 other countries 67.2

State budget

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures equivalent to 113 billion US dollars , which was offset by income of the equivalent to 90.1 billion US dollars. This results in a budget deficit of 6.2% of GDP .
The national debt in 2016 was $ 73.2 billion, or 19.3% of GDP.

In 2006 the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was in the following areas:

Infrastructure and traffic

The Emirates have one of the most advanced transport and traffic infrastructures in the entire Middle East . Driven by the record economic growth in recent years, huge infrastructure projects are emerging in all the Emirates, but above all in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In 2018, the country was ranked 11th out of 160 countries in the Logistics Performance Index , which is compiled by the World Bank . The parameters for international shipping and the logistical time required did particularly well.

The bridge to Saadiyat Island under construction

The emirate of Abu Dhabi will invest a total of around 100 billion US dollars in infrastructure projects over the next four to five years. In addition to major investments in energy and industry, Abu Dhabi is planning a new airport, one of the world's largest seaports, an industrial zone in Taweelah, the Mohammed bin Zayed City, the Khalifa Cities A and B as well as the huge new districts on Saadiyat Island, Reem Island, Lulu Island and Al Raha Beach. Many of these projects were conceived in response to the rapidly growing population in the capital. The restructuring of the entire inner city area is already well advanced.

Huge infrastructure projects are also being built in Dubai, which are necessary given an annual population growth of around 20%. This includes entire cities that are being built in different parts of the emirate and are expected to accommodate several million new residents in the next few years. (See article Dubai)

Road traffic

Even the most remote corners of the UAE are connected by paved expressways
Taxis are an important part of public transportation in Abu Dhabi

Motorways (E-Routes) and expressways (D-Routes) are on the list of highways in the United Arab Emirates .

In order to curb the increase in the number of private cars , the government decided in November 2008 that around 100 different groups of people would be denied driving licenses . This affects immigrant workers without academic degrees, such as cooks, craftsmen, housemaids, security guards, etc.

City taxis are sufficiently available in all capital cities of the individual emirates as well as in Al-Ain. The cost of a taxi can be negotiated depending on the route.

In Dubai, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is responsible for the construction of new roads and local public transport . In July 2007, the RTA introduced the Salik automated toll system to improve the flow of traffic on Dubai's main roads.

There are state-run, cross-emirate bus routes and private minibus companies.

Road safety is in the midfield worldwide. In 2013 there were a total of 10.9 road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in the country. For comparison: In Germany there were 4.3 deaths in the same year. A total of 1021 people were killed in traffic.

Rail transport

The construction of a railway network has started. A first railway line was opened.

Air travel

Etihad Airways is the official airline of the UAE
Emirates was the second airline in the world, the A380 began
Air Arabia is one of the region's first low-cost airlines

All the capital cities of the Emirates and Al Ain have international airports. Some of the routes are limited to neighboring countries. In domestic traffic there are flight connections from Abu Dhabi to Dubai or from Abu Dhabi to Ra's al-Khaimah. A departure is always considered to be an exit from the country, even if the flight only leads to another emirate. 40 kilometers from Dubai, one of the largest airports in the world is currently being built, Dubai World Central International Airport .

The national airline of the emirate of Abu Dhabi was formerly Gulf Air , which had hubs in Bahrain and Oman. In September 2005, the emirate announced it would withdraw from Gulf Air to focus on Etihad Airways . Etihad has been the UAE's new national airline since 2003. The Dubai-based airline Emirates , which does not belong to the well-known airline Etihad Airways, was founded in 1985 and is now the fastest growing airline in the world. Observers assume that Emirates could become the largest airline in the world by 2018. The leading low-cost airline in the region, Air Arabia , is based in the Emirate of Sharjah . The state low-cost airline of the Emirate of Dubai, flydubai, comes from Dubai and also flies to destinations in Europe, especially Eastern Europe.

Airlines (selection):


There are more than 20 ports in the UAE . The largest are Jebel Ali and Port Rashid in Dubai, Port Zayid in Abu Dhabi, Port Khalid in Sharjah, Port Saqr in Ra's al-Khaimah and the Port of Fujairah.

Jebel Ali Port in Dubai is the largest in the Middle East

In Abu Dhabi, 80% of all imports come by sea. A new port, the Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone (KPIZ), located halfway between the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will be the emirate's main port from 2011 and be able to handle up to two million TEU.

Jebel Ali, on the southern outskirts of Dubai, is the largest port in the Middle East and the largest man-made port in the world with an area of ​​134.68 km² and 67 anchorages . With the conversion of Port Rashid, currently the 13th largest container port in the world, into an area for urban construction projects and tourism, e.g. B. Travel shipping, its goods traffic is relocated to Jebel Ali. Jebel Ali has been named "Best Port in the Middle East" for 13 years in a row.

There are ferry connections between all major ports and with Iran.


The Dubai Metro opened on September 9, 2009

In Dubai, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is responsible for local public transport and operates the Dubai Metro , which opened on September 9, 2009 and is currently being expanded , the Dubai tram , which opened in 2014, and bus and ship traffic.

Abu Dhabi plans to build the Abu Dhabi Metro with a ring line with 19 stations. Later a metro will lead to the border of the Emirates Dubai and be connected to the red line of the Dubai Metro.

Electricity generation

Director General of the IAEA , Yukiya Amano , at the construction site of the Barākah nuclear power plant

Electricity is generated with the help of gas-fired combined cycle power plants. Often there are large power plant complexes with several power plants. Examples are the Al Taweelah (Emirate of Abu Dhabi) and Jabal Ali (Dubai), with 10 to 25 individual blocks. Seawater desalination plants are usually connected to these power plants .

A South Korean consortium won the contract in 2009, four nuclear power plants of the type in April-1400 , each with 1,400 MW e to build power, the ground-breaking ceremony of the first two blocks of the nuclear power plant Barakah was on March 17, 2011. The first reactor was on August 1, 2020 put into operation. The Barākah power station is thus a pioneer in the use of nuclear power to generate energy in the Arab world.

Net electricity consumption has risen sharply in recent decades: in 1987 it was 11.88 TWh, in 1997 it was 24.87 TWh, in 2007 it was 68.57 TWh and in 2017 it was 114.71 TWh.

Water supply

The springs around Al-Ain are no longer used for drinking water supply. The drinking water is obtained with the help of seawater desalination plants directly on the coast. From there it is pumped into the cities via pipelines. Due to the climate, the water sometimes has "cold temperatures" of over 30 ° C in summer when it comes out of the tap. Very often the water is heavily chlorinated. Countless trees, bush plants, flower borders and lawns in the cities are artificially watered, as are large areas of the numerous golf courses and hotel gardens.

In terms of per capita water consumption, the UAE ranks third in the world after the USA and Canada. Around 70% of drinking water is used in agriculture. This also includes the numerous cultivation systems for trees, bushes and palm trees, which will later be moved to the cities. Mineral water is produced from springs in the cities of Al-Ain and Masafi. This water is almost exclusively sold as still water and after desalination no longer contains any significant amounts of minerals. Mineral water with sparkling water is offered and sold to a limited extent.


Dubai Healthcare City is a district specially designed to house medical facilities, training and research centers

The UAE is considered a country with a high quality healthcare system. From 1996 to 2003 the government invested more than US $ 400 million in this sector. According to the World Health Organization , the UAE spends almost three percent of its gross national product on the health system. In the region, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the second and third most popular health tourism destinations after Jordan .

UAE citizens are catered for free of charge. Foreign residents have health insurance or have to pay for treatment. The number of doctors per 100,000 population is 181 and the life expectancy at birth is 76.7 years. In a global comparison, the UAE is in 45th place, in the middle of the developed western countries.

In February 2008, the Ministry of Health published a five-year plan for the health system in the northern Emirates, as, unlike Abu Dhabi and Dubai, they do not have their own health authorities and are therefore part of its competence. The plan is aimed at standardizing health guidelines and improving care. The ministry plans to build three new hospitals in addition to the 14 existing hospitals and to add 29 to the current 86 health centers, nine of which opened in 2008.

In the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, health insurance is now compulsory for foreigners. This has been the case for local residents since June 1, 2008. Dubai has introduced the same for its government employees. A nationwide compulsory insurance system is planned for both emiratis and foreigners.

The main cause of death is cardiovascular disease (28%). Other important reasons are accidents, hostilities, and congenital diseases. Due to the high rate of diabetes, 2009 was declared the "anti-diabetes year". In 2015, 37.2% of the population was obese, according to the World Health Organization , which is one of the highest rates in the world.

Period Life expectancy Period Life expectancy
1950-1955 43.9 1985-1990 70.7
1955-1960 49.6 1990-1995 72.2
1960-1965 54.7 1995-2000 73.6
1965-1970 59.6 2000-2005 74.8
1970-1975 63.4 2005-2010 75.9
1975-1980 66.8 2010-2015 76.7
1980-1985 68.8

Source: UN


The development and improvement of the education sector is one of the main tasks of the federal government, as well as that of the individual emirates. Most of the federal budget for 2008 (34%) is earmarked for education. Since the UAE was founded in 1971, there has been compulsory schooling for six to twelve year olds, the literacy rate in 2016 was 93.8% (women 95.8%, men 93.1%). Education is generally free for Emiratis. Foreigners have to pay school fees. Since the 2006/07 school year, foreign children have also been able to attend state schools. The UAE has one of the world's best student-teacher ratios at 15: 1.

The Ministry of Education is implementing Education 2020 , a series of five-year plans aimed at introducing advanced teaching methodologies, building innovation skills and placing more emphasis on student self-paced skills. Another goal is to increase the proportion of local teachers in state schools to 90%. The "Teachers for the 21st Century" project, which is earmarked for 200 million dirhams (€ 37 million), aims to train 10,000 school teachers over the next few years.

The state "University of the UAE" was founded in Al-Ain in 1976 and today comprises 10 faculties with 600 teachers. In 2007 around 17,000 students were enrolled, over 70% of them women. A total of twelve Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in the various emirates offer their 15,000 students over 75 different academic degrees, separated by gender. There is also the Zayed State University for Women, founded in 1998.

There are also a number of private universities with an international profile, such as B. Abu Dhabi University (founded in 2003). as well as spin-offs from foreign universities, including the American University in Dubai (founded in 1995) and the American University of Sharjah (founded in 1997), and since 2006 the Université Paris Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi. In 2003 the Dubai Knowledge Village was inaugurated in Dubai , which is connected to Dubai Internet City . The campus combines branches of globally recognized universities, training centers, as well as e-learning and research institutions. International partners are e.g. B. Manchester Business School , the " University of Wollongong " (Australia), the " St. Petersburg University of Engineering and Economics " and the "Mahatma Gandhi University".

The universities of the UAE actively seek cooperation with top foreign universities. The students are to be encouraged to stay abroad by means of a generous award of scholarships. In the school sector, too, efforts are being made to improve the level of school through increasing privatization (and thus increased competition) and the integration of local children in international schools (including the German School Abu Dhabi). In the area of ​​vocational training, too, efforts are being made to improve the level of training through a mixture of state investments and international cooperation. For example, the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has been offering industrial and technical vocational training for Emiratis on behalf of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi at the Al-Ain and Madinat Zayed locations since 2008.


The postal system is in the hands of the state. Letters and parcels are not delivered, but have to be picked up from post boxes. The annual fee is at least 10 euros, depending on the size. Alternatively, you can have the mail sent to the nearest post office to a collective mailbox and then pay 10 to 50 euro cents for a letter or parcel picked up.

According to Federal Law No. 1 of 1976, the State Emirate Society for Telecommunications was established: Etisalat . It had a monopoly on all telephone services until February 2006. Furthermore, Etisalat ensures the censorship of “harmful influences” on society via the Internet .

In spring 2005 the government decided that from the beginning of 2006 further companies for telephone and internet services could offer their services, this should be the end of the monopoly of Etisalat. Another telephone company - you  - has been on the market since the beginning of 2007  . However, this telephone company also belongs to the state or state-owned investment company and was also built up by them. International companies like Vodafone, which have tried several times to cover parts of the UAE, have still not received a license.


In addition to the five Arabic-language and four English-language daily newspapers, there are various periodical publications of regional importance. Eight television stations (including the three major satellite channels al-Arabiya , Abu Dhabi TV and Dubai TV) and five radio stations shape the electronic media landscape. In 2019, 99 percent of the United Arab Emirates' residents used the internet .


UAE censorship site

The distribution of information is subject to censorship in the UAE. Imported magazines must be presented to the censorship authorities before they are sold, which then censors the gender characteristics shown in pictures with a black felt-tip pen. The media submit to self-censorship so that there are no violations of censorship laws by newspaper publishers or radio stations. Local television is in the hands of the state.

Private individuals access the Internet via proxy , which censor content. Officially, this is only intended to prevent access to pornographic material, but in fact many other sites that may violate Islamic culture are also blocked. For example, foreign sites that offer games of chance (including the lottery), recipes that report on pork preparation, Israeli homepages (with the ending.il) and dating. Even complete IP lists and areas of public "anonymizers" are constantly updated and are therefore not available. Educational institutions are exempt from the compulsory use of proxy servers.

Since April 14, 2008, users of du's website have also been subject to censorship. Although the filtering is not quite as rigorous as with Etisalat, all pages that have to do with pornography are blocked. The block is carried out by a content filter of the provider. Etisalat and du have been blocking VoIP applications since summer 2008 (VoIP-to-landline network). VoIP-to-VoIP calls are possible to a limited extent (Windows Messenger) while others no longer work. Skype -to-Skype is now also possible again.

The non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders assesses the situation of press freedom in the United Arab Emirates as "difficult". A journalist (Tayseer Al-Najjar - Kulturreporter al-Dar) is in custody in the United Arab Emirates.


Traditional souk in Dubai

The character of the UAE has changed dramatically in the last century and especially in the last decades: from small, homogeneous pearl fishing settlements on the coast and farming villages inland to a modern, diverse and multicultural society. This happened through labor migration, first Persians at the beginning of the 20th century, then Indians and Pakistani came from the beginning of the oil boom in the 1960s. After all, migrant workers have been attracted from around the world since the 1990s.

Despite the great diversity of the population, there is very little ethnic tension or even conflict.

Since the major demographic changes are based on labor migration and are not immigration in the classic sense, they have only influenced the strongly Islamic country culture in its outward appearance, such as in the architecture. The local culture revolves mainly around Islamic rituals and Arab- Bedouin traditions. This influence can be seen in architecture, music, clothing, food, and lifestyle. The call to prayer can be heard five times a day across the country, from minarets as well as through loudspeakers in shopping centers. The main holidays are Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan and National Day, which celebrates the founding of the UAE .

The particular socio-economic development in the UAE has meant that the country is much more liberal than its neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran. Although Islam is the state religion, other religions are not only shown respect, but are also given freedom in their practice. There are Christian churches , a synagogue, Hindu temples and a Gurudwara for Sikhs . The UAE also provides protection for groups that have been and are being persecuted elsewhere. The diversity in the population is reflected in a mosaic of schools, cultural centers and restaurants that are both Western-European and Asian. Nevertheless, the waste of Islamic faith (can apostasy ) punishable by death.


Emiratis in Kanduras

There is no Islamic dress code in the UAE like in Saudi Arabia . However, many emirates prefer the traditional kandura , an ankle-length white shirt made of cotton or wool; many local women wear the abaya , a black overgarment that covers the body. Young people often follow western fashion trends. Foreigners wear their usual clothing.


The traditional food of the Emirates consists of rice , fish and meat . Many dishes have been adopted from neighboring states, mainly Iran, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Seafood is a major part of the local cuisine. Among the meat dishes, lamb and sheep are preferred over goat and beef. Popular drinks are coffee and tea, to which cardamom , saffron or mint are often added to refine them .

Since Muslims are not allowed to eat pork , it is rarely offered in restaurants. Hotels and restaurants often have pork substitutes, such as B. beef bacon, on offer. Alcohol is generally only served where the offer is primarily aimed at foreigners. It is completely banned in Sharjah. In supermarkets there is pork and alcohol in sections specially marked as “For non-Muslims only”, the latter only against a license.

Kabsa is a traditional dish

Traditional UAE dishes:

  • Machbus
  • Kabsa
  • Hariis
  • Lukaimat
  • Bathith
  • Chamir
  • Al-Madruba
  • Farid
  • Raqaq
  • Al-Jabab (bread)
  • Camel milk


The main form of UAE literature is poetry, which is part of the great Arab poetic tradition. The main themes are satire, chivalry, praise, self-praise, patriotism, religion, family and love. Poems can be both descriptive and narrative.

The style and form of ancient poetry was heavily influenced by the scholar Al-Khalil bin Ahmad, who worked in the Persian Gulf in the 8th century and wrote in sixteen-meter-a-hundred. The oldest known poet in the region of what is now the UAE is Ibn Madschid, who was born between 1432 and 1437 in what is now Ra's al-Khaimah . Forty compositions from his oeuvre are extant, 39 of which are verses.

In the course of the 20th century, the local tradition came under Western influence, which was noticeable in the development of prose literature.

The most important authors of the 20th century were Mubarak al-Uqaili (1880–1954), Salim bin Ali al-Uwais (1887–1959) and Ahmad bin Sulajim (1905–1976). Three other poets, all from Sharjah, were known as the "Hirah Group": Chalfan Musabah (1923–1946), Sheikh Saqr al-Qasimi (1925–1993; 1951–1965 ruler of Sharjah) and Sultan bin Ali al-Uwais ( 1925-2000).

music and dance

The UAE is part of the golf tradition and is also known for the music of the Bedouin of the hinterland. "Liwa" is a type of music and dance that is performed primarily in groups of East African descent. Many of the traditional songs and dances have persisted into modern times. The dances, e.g. B. the Khaliji often involve young girls who sway to the beat and swing their long hair, as well as men who re-enact battles or successful hunts through symbolic dance, often using sticks, swords and rifles.

Many international stars regularly give concerts in the UAE. Big festivals, e.g. The Dubai Desert Rock Festival, for example, attracts guests from all over the region.


Due to the population structure, western productions dominate (predominantly Hollywood films). Films from the countries of the Middle East and South Asia (Bollywood) are very popular among Arab and South Asian residents, but are mostly consumed via TV channels or DVDs. All films must be approved by the Ministry of Information and can be censored for religious, erotic and political content. The film The Passion of the Christ was specifically advertised as "not cut" at the box office.

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has been held every December since 2004 . In October 2007, the first Middle East International Film Festival (MEIFF) was held in Abu Dhabi, which is also held annually.


Traditional house with wind towers in Dubai

The traditional indigenous construction was largely inspired by Islamic architecture and reflects the lifestyle and customs of the indigenous people. The building materials were simple, but perfectly adapted to the climate. Tents that were easy to set up and take down provided shelter during the winter grazing season. The solid buildings inland were built from dried mud bricks and covered with palm leaves. In the coastal area, coral sticks were cut into blocks and held together with shell limestone. An important aspect when designing a house was the separation of the private sphere from a public space accessible to visitors, as well as the supply of cool air. Traditional houses therefore have wind towers , which are often built over water basins and thus direct both cool breezes into the house and warm air out of the house.


Most of the Emirates have their own museums of regional importance. Here Sharjah has a prominent position with its Heritage District, which houses 17 museums, which was honored by the election as the Arab Capital of Culture in 1998.

The Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi is an important forum for the presentations of foreign performing and visual arts. In Dubai, the Al Quoz district has become a center for art galleries .

With the establishment of a cultural district on Saadiyat Island , Abu Dhabi aims to establish itself as a world-class cultural location. Six world-class cultural projects are planned so far: the "Sheikh Zayed" National Museum (built by Foster + Partners ), the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (built by Frank Gehry ), an art museum in cooperation with the Louvre Abu Dhabi (built by Jean Nouvel ), a Performing Arts Center (built by Zaha Hadid ), a maritime museum (built by Tadao Ando ) and a Biennale Park with 16 pavilions.

Dubai is planning to build an Kunsthal museum and a district especially for galleries and artists.

Leisure activities and sports

Falconry in the desert

During the mild season (October to April) there is outdoor leisure time. Water sports (sailing, surfing, diving) and outdoor activities (desert safaris, mountain hiking, camping) are popular. Locals practice the hobby of falconry , which is traditional in the Emirates . It has become very popular, especially in the evening, to stroll through the large shopping centers (malls) and bazaars (souks).

Soccer is the most popular sport in the Emirates. The most important teams are Al Ain Club and Al-Ahli ( trained by Winfried Schäfer until February 2007 ). Another German trainer worked in the Emirates: Reinhard Fabisch looked after the Emirates Club from November 2005 to 2007. Horst Köppel and his assistant trainer Lothar Sippel coached Al-Wahda from August to October 2006. In 2003, the Al Ain Club became the first AFC champions -League, in 2005 they finished second. The national team of the Emirates was able to qualify for the soccer World Cup in 1990 and met the German national soccer team in the group stage . In 1996 the Emirates hosted the Asian Cup , and in 2003 the UAE hosted the Men's Junior Soccer World Cup . In October and November 2013 the U-17 soccer world championship 2013 took place in the Emirates and in 2019 the soccer Asian championship took place again .

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the United Arab Emirates, thanks largely to immigrants from the cricket nations of South Asia, the United Kingdom, and Australia . The International Cricket Council has offices in Dubai , while its headquarters are still in Lord's Cricket Ground in London . The United Arab Emirates' national cricket team has qualified for two Cricket World Cups and took part in the 1996 and 2015 tournaments.

The Abu Dhabi Combat Club has been organizing the Submission Wrestling World Championships in Abu Dhabi since 1998.

Dubai Tennis Championships 2006

In tennis, the first edition of the Dubai tennis tournament (for men and women) was held in 2003. Traditionally, horse and camel races are also very popular.

The Emirates is also home to the world's largest horse racing track; Meydan Racecourse was completed on March 27, 2010 for over $ 2 billion. The “Dubai World Cup” has been held annually on the racetrack since 2010 and is the most expensive horse race in the world with prize money of 30 million US dollars.

Since 2009, Formula 1 has held a Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi for an initial seven years . In 2009, 2010 and 2017 the FIFA Club World Cup took place in Abu Dhabi.

National holidays

Secular Holidays

date Surname
January 1st New Years (رأس السنة الميلادية / Raʾs as-sana al-mīlādiya )
6th of August To power of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
2. December National Day (العيد القومي / al-ʿĪd al-qaumī

Islamic Holidays

( Islamic calendar )
Name / description
1. Muharram /محرم Islamic New Years Day (رأس السنة الهجرية / Raʾs as-sana al-hiǧriya )
10. Muharram / محرم Ashura , commemoration of the battle of Karbala (عاشوراء / ʿĀšūrāʾ )
12. Rabīʿ al-awwal /ربيع الاول Birthday of the Prophet (عيد ميلاد النبي / ʿĪd mīlād an-nabī )
27. Radschab /رجب Heavenly Journey of Muhammad (الإسراء والمعراج / al-Isrāʾ wa-l-miʿrāǧ )
1. Shawwal /شوال 1st day after the fasting month of Ramadan (عيد الفطر / ʿĪd al-fiṭr )
10. Dhū l-Hijah /ذو الحجة Festival of sacrifice, climax of the pilgrimage (عيد الأضحى / ʿĪd al-aḍḥā )


The weekend in the UAE, previously Thursday – Friday, has been moved to Friday – Saturday from September 2006. All state and public institutions, government institutions and private schools are bound by the new regulation. The private sector has partly followed the change, and partly the old weekend has been retained. The reason for the change was to increase the number of working days between the non-Islamic world and the UAE from three to four days.


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  • Rainer Gutske: Business partner in the United Arab Emirates. Cologne et al .: BfAI, 1998; ZDB ID: 8122866967, DNB 552075558 .
  • Kristin Augsburg: Business Manual V. A. E.
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  • John M. Smith: Dubai The Maktoum Story. ISBN 3-8334-4660-9 .
  • Christopher M. Davidson: Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond. Columbia University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-0-231-70106-8 .
  • Christopher M. Davidson: The United Arab Emirates: A Study In Survival. ISBN 978-1-58826-274-5 .
  • Seifert: Legal framework for doing business in the United Arab Emirates. 2008; ISBN 978-3-00-023184-1 .
  • Frauke Heard-Bey: The United Arab Emirates between the day before yesterday and the day after tomorrow. The changing society of a Gulf State. Verlag Georg Olms, Hildesheim 2010. FAZ review of April 6, 2010, p. 10. Conclusion: “The standard work on the United Arab Emirates finally in German”.
  • Gerhard Martin Burs: Media Presentation in Contemporary Architecture: The Example of the United Arab Emirates. Transcript, Bielefeld 2016, ISBN 978-3-8376-3343-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: United Arab Emirates  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : United Arab Emirates  - collection of images
Wikimedia Atlas: United Arab Emirates  - geographical and historical maps

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Coordinates: 24 °  N , 54 °  E