The cliff notes: 1.) The UAE is probably the most liberal country in the Gulf, even though it has had to clamp down on dissent and is governed in part by Sharia law. For example, in 1975 women were accorded equal status and opportunities by their constitution. 2.) Fortunately, the UAE has a history of being financially diversified as well as having developed , strong revenues from retail trade and tourism , which has buttressed their economy during times of extreme oil price fluctuations. 3.) However, in 2008-09, the convergence of falling oil prices, collapsing real estate prices, and the international banking crisis did serious damage to the UAE economy but this was remedied by a $20 billion bailout from the UAE Central Bank and Abu Dhabi-emirate government. It was later refinanced in March 2014. Their dependence on oil, a large expatriate workforce, and growing inflation pressures are long-term challenges. The UAE’s strategic plan for the next few years includes increased economic diversification and the creation of more government and private sector jobs for nationals. 4.)The UAE’s per capita GDP is on a par with those of leading West European nations.
5.) The US considers the UAE to be an ally, especially in its fight against militant insurgents. 6.) Its high oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy practices have allowed the UAE to play a vital role in the affairs of the region. 7.) There is still tension between the UAE and Iran over disputed Gulf Islands, Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa; 8.) Six states (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qawain and Fujairah) formed the UNITED ARAB EMIRATES on December 2, 1971; the seventh – Ras Al Khaimah – joined the UAE on February, 10 1972. 9.) December 2 is the UAE National Holiday in celebration of their independence from being a British protectorate. 10.) The UAE has for the most part, avoided the “Arab Spring” protests as seen elsewhere in the Middle East, in March 2011. However, political activists and intellectuals signed a petition calling for greater public participation in the running of government that was widely circulated on the Internet. In order to halt potential further unrest, the government announced a multi-year, $1.6-billion infrastructure investment plan for the poorer emirates while they are pursuing additional avenues of political reform.
The birth of the UAE itself began after the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed announced his power in 1966. He sold the idea of uniting to the other 5 emirates based on their common ties and their cultural history shared through centuries. At this point, Sheikh Zayed began to devote a large portion of his emirate’s income from oil revenues to the Trucial State Development Fund. Six sheikhdoms comprised the Trucial States of the Coast of Oman (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qawain and Fujairah), located in the SE Persian Gulf, which was formerly known by a British name, the “Pirate Coast.” This group of sheikhdoms had been a part of the British protectorate since 1892. The two largest sheikhdoms are Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The majority of Emirates are Sunnis (85%); Shia followers (15%) and Christians at 9%.
In September, 2015, Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (Maktum) died at the age of 33 from a heart attack. He was the son of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (Maktum), the ruler of Dubai and vice-president and prime minister of the UAE. He is survived by his younger brother, Sheikh Hamdan, who is the crown prince of Dubai.”
The President of the UAE as of 2004 is Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He is also the Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Supreme Council and Supreme Petroleum Council.
Excerpts from the 2/24/15 BBC News United Arab Emirates profile – Overview are:
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states formed in 1971 by the then Trucial States after independence from Britain.
Since then, it has grown from a quiet backwater to one of the Middle East’s most important economic centres.
Although each state – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain – maintains a large degree of independence, the UAE is governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers made up of the seven emirs, who appoint the prime minister and the cabinet.
Before oil was discovered in the 1950s the UAE’s economy was dependent on fishing and a declining pearl industry. But since 1962, when Abu Dhabi became the first of the emirates to begin exporting oil, the country’s society and economy have been transformed.
The late Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE at its inception, was quick to seize on the potential of the oil industry. He oversaw the development of all the emirates and directed oil revenues into healthcare, education and the national infrastructure.
The oil industry has attracted a large influx of foreign workers who, together with expatriates, now make up more than three quarters of the population.
But the UAE’s authorities also tried to reduce its dependency on oil exports by diversifying the economy, creating booming business, tourism and construction sectors.
While Abu Dhabi remained relatively conservative in its approach, Dubai, which has far smaller oil reserves, was bolder in its diversification policy.
Particularly during the credit boom that built up after 2000, Dubai sought to turn itself into the financial gateway and cosmopolitan hub of the Middle East.
It also began attracting vast amounts of foreign investment for ever more ambitious construction projects, most famously the Burj Khalifa skyscraper – the world’s current tallest man-made structure – and futuristic land reclamation projects, such as the palm-shaped artificial Palm Islands.
Dubai in particular was hit by the 2009 global financial crisis, and the property sector and construction went into decline. However, tourism, trade and the retail sector have remained buoyant.
Though Emiratis are traditionally conservative, the UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, with other cultures and beliefs generally tolerated, especially in Dubai.
However, politically it remains authoritarian. It was the only country in the region not to have elected bodies until 2006, when it convened a half-elected federal assembly, which was however restricted to a consultative role.
Although the turmoil of the Arab Spring popular revolts has largely passed it by, the UAE introduced Internet restrictions in 2012 to hinder the use of social media to organize protests, and imprisoned a large group of Islamists on charges to plotting a coup in 2013.
Before he passed away in 2015, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the UAE’s vice-president and Dubai’s ruler, announced on July 19, 2014 that the Emirates Mars Mission is expected to launch in July 2020. This will be a 60 million km journey to the red planet which is expected to arrive seven months later.