United Arab Emirates

The UAE is one of the most liberal and diverse countries in the Gulf and is generally tolerant of other cultures and beliefs. However, Christianity still remains a minority.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states formed in 1971 by the then Trucial States after independence from Britain. 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 pearling 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. The country's growing business sector and its tourist industry have helped to fuel a construction boom, with billions of dollars being pumped into showpiece schemes. Chic hotels and skyscrapers are emblematic of cities such as Abu Dhabi and cosmopolitan Dubai.

The UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, with other cultures and beliefs generally tolerated. Until December 2006 it was the only state in the region not to have elected bodies.

Politics: The UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, with other cultures and beliefs generally tolerated. It held its first national elections - for an advisory body - in December 2006.

Economy: The people of the UAE generally enjoy a high standard of living because of oil wealth; diversification has dampened the shocks of oil price fluctuations; the UAE is a regional trading and tourism hub.

International: There has been tension between the UAE and Iran over disputed Gulf islands; the US treats the UAE as an ally in its "war on terror".


  • Population: 3.1 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Abu Dhabi
  • Largest city: Dubai 
  • Area: 77,700 sq km (30,000 sq miles)
  • Major language: Arabic
  • Major religion: Islam
  • Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 81 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Dirham = 100 fils
  • Main exports: Oil, gas
  • GNI per capita: US $23,770 (World Bank, 2006)

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Thank You for the United Arab Emirates, with its combination of traditional Muslim culture and modern, touristic business. Thank You for the religious freedom in this area of the world, and for more and more people joining Your church. We pray for the unreached, indigenous people groups of the UAE; we pray that Your glory and power will become visible to this nation and let them put their trust in You alone.

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