The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states that has grown from a quiet backwater to one of the Middle East’s most important economic centres.
Though traditionally conservative, the UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, with other cultures and beliefs generally tolerated. Politically it remains authoritarian, however.
Relations with neighbouring Iran have been tense because of an ongoing territorial dispute over Gulf islands. The UAE was one of only three countries to recognise Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
Before oil was discovered in the 1950s the UAE’s economy was dependent on fishing and a declining pearl industry. But since oil exports began in 1962, the country’s society and economy have been transformed.
The UAE has diversified and has become a regional trading and tourism hub. UAE firms have invested heavily abroad.
- United Arab Emirates
- Capital: Abu Dhabi
- Population 8.1 million
- Area 77,700 sq km (30,000 sq miles)
- Major language Arabic
- Major religion Islam
- Life expectancy 76 years (men), 78 years (women)
- Currency Dirham