Modern states /
United Arab Emirates
'ittihādu l-'imārāti l-¢arabiyya
Independent federation of 7 emirates with 4.8 million inhabitants (2009 estimate) and an area of 77,700 km². Capital for federal administration is Abu Dhabi, while Dubai is the largest city.
Day of independence is December 2, 1971, when self-governance was peacefully obtained from Britain.
Head of state is since 2004, President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan, also the Shaykh of Abu Dhabi. Prime minister is Shaykh Maktum ibn Rashid al-Makrum, also the Shaykh of Dubai. The government (Council of Ministers) consists of 21 ministers and one Deputy Prime minister.
The United Arab Emirates has parliamentary functions operated by the Federal National Council, which consists of 40 members. Members are appointed by each and one of the emirates. The council's mandate is to accept or reject new laws or suggest amendments.
United Arab Emirates comes on the Human Development Index as no. 35 of the 182 states that are ranked in the world, no. 4 among the MENA countries. On a scale with 1.000 as maximum, the UAE gains 0.903 points.
The currency of UAE is the dirham (AED), which has been fixed to the US $ dollar since 1997.
UAE's economy has many strong, as well as weak sides; Abu Dhabi has a strong national economy, while Dubai has since late 2009 struggled the challenge of bankruptcy. With a GDP per capita at US$44,600 (2008 estimate), the UAE is 325% above world average. Unemployment is very low, at 2.4%, and surprisingly, 20% of the population are below the poverty line.
United Arab Emirates is ranked high among the Arab countries, second only to Qatar. Yet, overweight is a major problem and life expectancy is ca. 5 years less than Israel's.
UAE has a very good education system, reflected both in high literacy rates and many internationally accredited institutions of higher learning.
The native population of UAE is largely homogeneous, but today this represents only a quarter of the inhabitants. Foreigners come to the Emirates from all around the world.
Arabic is spoken only by half of the inhabitants, having caused English to be the major language of communication between peoples of different origins.
Islam is the largest religion in UAE, but as many as 30% adhere to Christianity.
Population growth in UAE has mainly come from immigration. The fertility rate is only moderate.
Although the history of UAE goes deep back in time, it is first in modern times that UAE becomes a country of regional and international importance, having developed major centres for trade and tourism.