The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is situated in the Southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. On December 2, 1971, the UAE became a federation of six emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, and Fujairah, while the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah joined the federation in 1972. The capital city is Abu Dhabi, located in the largest and wealthiest of the seven emirates, Abu Dhabi. Dubai city is the largest city in the country. (An emirate is a territory ruled by an emir. An emir is an Arab commander or prince of Islamic faith. Since emirate means a kingdom ruled by an emir, it is also referred as sheikhdom)
The President of the UAE is His Highness (HH) Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who is also Ruler of Abu Dhabi Emirate. The Ruler of Dubai Emirate, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, is the Vice-President, Prime Minister and Defence Minister. The UAE’s federal structure includes a Supreme Council (comprising the Rulers of each Emirate), a Council of Ministers and a semi-appointed Federal National Council with an advisory role. Each Emirate is still governed by its own Ruler, with its own local government and courts. The International Renewable Energy Agency, established in 2009, has its headquarters in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE is the Middle East’s second largest economy after Saudi Arabia and one of the wealthiest countries in the region on a per capita basis. The UAE is the eighth largest producer of crude oil and 18th largest producer of natural gas in the world, with January 2012 reserves estimated at 97.8 billion barrels and 6.09 trillion cubic metres, respectively (ranking eighth in the world for both commodities). The economy is dependent mainly on oil and natural gas but successful efforts at economic diversification reduced oil- and gas-based output to 25 per cent of GDP in 2011, while goods and services accounted for an estimated 87.5 per cent. The UAE population of about eight million depends substantially on its expatriate workforce, which made up about 88 per cent of the workforce and 80 per cent of the population in 2012.
Trade with India and China expanded in the early Islamic period, with Julfar in present-day Ra’s al Khaymah as one of the leading ports. European intervention in the gulf began with the Portuguese in the early 16th century. From the mid-17th century the British and Dutch competed for domination, with Britain the winner in the late 18th century. By about 1800 the Qawasim, the ruling clans of Ash Shāriqah and Ra’s al Khaymah today, had become a maritime power in the lower gulf, attacking ships from British-ruled India. The British defeated the Qawasim navy in 1819 and in 1820 imposed the first of several treaties that created and sustained a maritime truce, giving the name Trucial States to the emirates that now form the UAE.
By 1892 the British had assumed responsibility for the states’ foreign relations and external security. The emirates remained under British protection until 1971. The British, who were principally concerned with the security of Persian Gulf maritime commerce, rarely intervened in the area’s internal affairs. The most significant results of British domination of the area were the establishment of general peace, the introduction of the Western concept of territorial states, and the creation in 1952 of the Trucial States Council to promote cooperation among the seven emirates. This council provided the basis for the Supreme Federal Council of the UAE.
In 1968 the British announced plans to withdraw before the end of 1971, and the Trucial States, Bahrain, and Qatar announced plans to federate. These plans collapsed when, as British troops withdrew from the region in September 1971, Bahrain and Qatar declared independence separately. On December 2, 1971, six of the seven Trucial States announced their unification as the United Arab Emirates. The seventh emirate, Ra's al Khaymah, joined the union in 1972.