The official name of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Arabic is Al-Emarat al-Arabiyya al-Muttahida. The federation, formed in December 1971, comprises seven emirates: Abu Dhabi; Dubai; Sharjah; Ras al-Khaimah; Fujairah; Ajman; and Umm al-Quwain.
The president of the UAE is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan. He is also the ruler of Abu Dhabi.
The total area of the UAE is 83,600 square kilometres.
The UAE sits on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula. It shares borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman, with coastlines on the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.
The colours of the UAE flag are red, green, white and black.
The national language is Arabic, but English, Urdu and Hindi are also widely spoken.
The population is estimated by the Washington-based IMF at 5.5 million, and by the UAE government at more than 8 million. Expatriates comprise about 88.5 per cent of the population.
The UAE is four hours ahead of GMT, except during BST when it is three hours ahead. There is no alteration of clocks for daylight saving in the summer.
The currency of the UAE is the dirham. 1 dirham (AED) = 100 fils. It is pegged to the US dollar. The exchange rate is $1:AED3.67
In 2011, the UAE’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $341bn. Per capita income was estimated by the IMF at $63,626.
Abu Dhabi is the largest contributor to the UAE’s economy, accounting for about 60 per cent of the country’s GDP. Dubai accounts for 30 per cent.
The working week for government departments and most businesses is Sunday to Thursday. Government offices are usually open from 7.30am to 2.30pm. Private sector business hours are from 8am or 9am, to 5pm or 6pm. Friday is a holiday.
Cost of living
According to the global Mercer Cost of Living Index 2012, Abu Dhabi is the 76th most expensive city to live in. Dubai ranked 94 out of 214 cities worldwide.
Islam is the official religion of the UAE. Although most nationals are Sunni, the large immigrant population reflects a variety of sects. Other religions are tolerated. Ramadan is the Muslim month of fasting, where eating, drinking and smoking are banned from dawn to dusk, and working hours are reduced for both the public and private sector.
Non-Muslims are expected to avoid eating, drinking and smoking during the day so as not to cause offence. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which can last for up to a week. Many nationals take this time off for holidays and business can be affected by the absence of senior officials. The end of the Hajj pilgrimage is followed by Eid al-Adha, another holiday period during which government offices close.
The UAE has a subtropical and arid climate. Between November and March, the average temperature is 26 degrees Celsius in the day time and 15°C at night. In July and August, the temperature can exceed 50°C and humidity can be as high as 100 per cent.
The UAE experiences very little rainfall. The average is 42 millimeters, although higher levels are recorded in the mountains of Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah.
The UAE has two long-haul national carriers: Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Dubai-based Emirates Airlines. There are three low-cost carriers: Dubai-based FlyDubai; Sharjah’s Air Arabia; and Rak Airways of Ras al-Khaimah.
The UAE produced 3.3 million barrels of oil a day and 51.7 billion cubic metres of gas a day in 2010. The country has 5.9 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 2.9 per cent of proven gas reserves. About 94 per cent of the country’s oil reserves belong to Abu Dhabi.