UAE is a rapidly diversifying society that has successfully integrated its core Islamic values into its ambitious economic agenda. The country’s impressive economic performance sent the gross domestic product (GDP) rising to 29.32% in 2006 at current prices, reaching about $168.5 billion. This economic prosperity, coupled with a liberal business and social environment, ensures that people from nearly every country in the world will continue to come here to live, work and play.
UAE lies on the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and west and the Sultanate of Oman to the southeast, while Qatar lies to the northwest. The country’s total land area is about 83,600 square kilometres, where over 80% is occupied by the emirate of Abu Dhabi. UAE’s population of 4.43 million as of 2006 comprises roughly 20 percent Emirati nationals with the rest accounted for mostly by Asian, African and European nationals. The emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai comprise over two-thirds (67%) of the country’s total population. The population ratio is also significantly skewed towards the urban zones, which host 82% of the country’s residents.
Endowed with rich natural resources, UAE’s economy is dominated by oil exports although a growing diversification in the country’s economy has been evident in recent years. As of 2005, oil and natural gas production accounted for about 36% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). UAE has about 8%, or 98.7 billion barrels, of the world’s proven oil reserves and hosts the fifth largest natural gas reserves in the world. Currently the country operates on its maximum oil production capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day.
The country’s extraordinary GDP growth has been driven primarily by the galloping oil prices in the international market, as well as the increasing traction of public joint stock companies and investments in the country’s growing number of free zones. Per- capita GDP in the country in 2006 hovers around $38,000, which is one of the top 25 highest per-capita GDP in the world.
The UAE was formally established in December 1971, following an agreement between rulers of the seven emirates or sheikhdoms to form a union. These emirates are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah (which joined the union in early 1972), and Fujairah.
Abu Dhabi is the seat of federal government and the country’s capital, and haven for some of the world’s biggest oil-producing companies and most luxurious hotels and sporting facilities. Neighbouring Dubai, which is significantly smaller in size than Abu Dhabi, is considered the country’s commercial capital, hosting numerous blue chip companies that have set up their regional headquarters there over the years. Sharjah is acknowledged as the country’s cultural capital with its numerous museums and heritage sites; the emirate likewise has an attractive coastline, which is home to several resort hotels. Ajman, which lies next to Sharjah, is the smallest emirate in terms of geographical territory, while Umm Al Quwain is situated between Sharjah to the southeast and Ras Al Khaimah to the northeast, along the coast of the Arabian Gulf. Unlike the other emirates, Fujairah is nestled by rough mountains (Hajar) and a 90 kilometre coastline (Gulf of Oman). Ras Al Khaimah, on the other hand, is endowed with scenic coasts, mountains, archaeological sites and agricultural lands.