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July 24th, 2007
The Sand Castle
The United Arab Emirates Profile

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a loose federation of seven states formed in 1971, following independence from Britain, each with its own ruler. Local Sheikhs retain considerable power over their own regions, including control over oil and gas reserves.

Learn more about each of the Emirates (UAE Profile), some of the issues the country is facing today (UAE Trends), and how local developers are expanding into other countries (Export Dubai).

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and the largest emirate. It is home to 10 percent of the entire world’s oil reserves and produces 94 percent of UAE oil output.

  • DEPUTY RULER: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, who is also president of the UAE federation.
  • Oil abundance and new investments in non-oil related sectors has secured Abu Dhabi one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. The emirate’s oil has also helped build a citizens’ trust fund that is estimated to be worth up to $300 billion.
  • In a growing trend to diversify its economy, Abu Dhabi has recently launched its own airline, Etihad Airways, which was named Leading Airline for the Middle East and Africa at the World Travel Awards in 2007.
  • Celebrity architects, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Tadao Ando, and Zaha Hadid are headlining the development of a $27 billion project to transform Saadiyat Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi, into the cultural capital of the Middle-East. France’s renowned art museum, the Louvre, has agreed to a 30 year lease of its name in a deal worth $1.3 billion. The largest Guggenheim Museum branch in the world, designed by Gehry, will also be built on the island.

Links: New York Times: Celebrity Architects Reveal a Daring Cultural Xanadu for the Arab World, Abu Dhabi Official Tourism Site


Al-Fujairah is predominantly mountainous and remains largely uninhabited. A 2006 population estimate says fewer than 140,000 Emiratis call Al-Fujairah home.

  • RULER: Sheikh Hamad Bin Mohammed al-Sharqi
  • Al-Fujairah is the only emirate with no territory on the Persian Gulf coastline.
  • Most of Al-Fujairah’s private schools follow the Indian school system
    since a majority of the population hails from the Indian subcontinent.

Link: Fujairah Tourism Bureau


With an area of just 100 square miles, Ajman is the smallest emirate in the UAE, occupying just 0.3 percent of the territory.

  • RULER: Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid al-Nuaimi
  • Ajman’s territory is not contiguous. It has two exclaves, Al-Manamah and Masfut, which are largely used for agricultural purposes.
  • Ajman is the poorest state in the UAE.

Link: Dine with a Sheikh


Al-Sharjah is known as the agricultural center for growing fruits and vegetables in the UAE.

    RULER: Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad al-Qasimi

  • Every year, the town of Al Dhaid exports approximately 70 tons of strawberries to Europe, Southeast Asia, and South Africa.
  • Sheikha Lubna, the UAE’s minister of economy and planning, is one of the country’s most influential women. As a member of the Al-Sharjah royal family, she is the first woman minister in the UAE.
  • A recently formed group of women bankers are changing conservative values by pushing to serve in senior positions in Islamic banks. Islamic finance, which adheres to Sharia law, is dominated by men. But the group, known as Durra or “pearl” in Arabic, promises to create new opportunities for women in the industry.

Link: Official Sharjah Tourism Site


Dubai is the fastest growing city in the world. At the heart of the UAE’s expansion, the small emirate is attracting international attention with some of the world’s most liberal tax and investment laws.

  • DEPUTY RULER: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum
  • In 2006 nearly 6 million visitors came to Dubai, a figure the emirate hopes to raise to 15 million by 2010. Dubai’s total population is approximately 1.5 million.
  • A fifth of the world’s cranes are operating in Dubai, where a vast range of construction projects costing approximately $25 billion are in the pipeline.
  • Eighty percent of Fortune 500 have some presence in Dubai. Halliburton, the world’s second-largest oil services company, has recently moved its headquarters to Dubai.
  • In 2006 the total number of mobile lines reached approximately 2.2 million, up 20 percent from the year before. At the time, the population was approximately 1.5 million.
  • Dubai’s traffic is worse than Cairo, a city with 10 times the emirate’s population. To alleviate the problem, Dubai is currently developing a new metro system.
  • Dubai is now home to the world’s tallest building. The Burj Dubai, which currently stands at 1,680 feet, is expected to be finished by the end of 2008. Its planned final height, which remains a secret, is projected to be above 2,275 feet. It will include over 160 floors, 56 elevators, luxury apartments, swimming pools and the first hotel by Giorgio Armani.

Links: Dubai Official Tourism Site

, Dubailand

Ras al-Khaimah

Ras al-Khaimah was the last emirate to join the UAE in 1972, a year after the federation was established.

  • DEPUTY RULER: Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al-Qasimi
  • Ras al-Khaimah means “Head of a Tent” in Arabic.
  • Ras al-Khaimah’s coastline is approximately 35 miles long. It has some of the most stunning desert scenery in the UAE. Nestled between the Persian Gulf to the west and the Hajjar mountains to the east, it has become a destination for Dubai’s hardworking executives.
  • Ras al-Khaimah has no substantial oil reserves, so Sheikh Saud has made diversifying the economy a priority. The emirate is home to the largest ceramic factory in the world. It also is a leader in cement production.
  • There are 25 hotels under construction in the emirate.

Links: Ras al-Khaimah Free Trade Zone, 102 Firms in Breach of ‘Break Rule’

Umm al-Quwain

Umm al-Quwain occupies just one percent of land in the UAE.

  • RULER: Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmed al-Mu’alla
  • It is known for its maritime culture and boat-building.
  • The emirate is surrounded by seven forts with defense cannons.

Link: UAE Interact UAQ Map

Sources: Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Statistics Department, Encyclopedia Britannica, Gulf News, Jitendra Business Consultants, RAK Free Trade Zone site, The Emirates Network Real Estate, UAE Embassy in Washington, UAE Government,, UNESCO.

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