The United Arab Emirates comprises seven states which united after independence from Britain in 1971: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Sharjah, Dubai, Quwain and Ras al Khaymah. Abu Dhabi covers almost 97% of the entire area of the UAE, with Ajman being the smallest state. Prior to independence, they were known as the Trucial States, which derives from the word “truce,” as the British made several truces with Arab sheikhs in the area to maintain the peace. The area was dubbed “The Pirate Coast” by European powers during the colonial era, owing to the numerous attacks by raiders on ships along the coast, who also harassed foreign navies and shipping industries.
Approximately three-quarters of the population of 5.14 million is made up of expatriates and migrant workers.
The capital city is currently Abu-Dhabi and the official language is Arabic.
The UAE is ruled by seven Emirs, the Supreme Council of Rulers, who are responsible for appointing a Prime Minister and cabinet. Political parties are not allowed. It was the only state in the world not to have elected bodies until December 2006. Legislation is based on Sharia law, and even foreigners may be subject to flogging if convicted on drugs charges, adultery or prostitution.
The country obtains a large part of its export income from its natural oil and gas reserves, as well as increasing tourism and large-scale foreign investment in the service sectors. States, such as Dubai, also rely on banking for much of their income, although these have been hit hard in the recent global economic recession.
Before oil was discovered in the 1950s, the country’s economy was dependent on fishing and a declining pearling industry. Unemployment currently stands at 2.4%, and 18.5% of the population live below the poverty line.
The country faces numerous drug-related problems, as it is a central port for African and Asian drug traffickers heading into Europe, although the government has in recent years implemented severe punishments if caught in possession or in the act of selling drugs or alcohol. Only certain states allow the consumption of alcohol, and even within these the sellers are limited to foreign hotels and business centres.
The UAE are considered among the most liberal of the Gulf States, because they are relatively lenient on some Sharia laws. Homosexuality, for example, although illegal in practice, does not result in life imprisonment or the death penalty, as it does in various other states.
The female adult literacy rate of 82% in the UAE is higher than that of men, 77%, owing to the large numbers of women now attending university.
Most radio and TV stations remain government owned and there is much self-censorship. Criticism of the Emirs or the state itself is forbidden.The UAE is ranked 154th in press freedom globally.
There is an average of 10 million cellular phones in use in Dubai, one of the largest phone-per-capita ratios in the area, and 3.5 million internet users. According to surveys, around 3.4% of the population watches SAT-7.
The UAE is 96% Muslim, with Christians making up an estimated 2%. Islam is the state religion. The government funds all Sunni mosques and monitors all overt religious practices, such as sermons, for political activity and content. Although other religious groups are not formally recognised by the state, they are free to purchase land for places of worship and practise their religion freely within. The UAE continues to insist that churches be registered with the state, although they need to be aligned to an existing embassy or country, which makes it difficult for multi-national congregations to register.
Overt evangelism is not permitted by the authorities.
- Pray for continued tolerance and understanding from the state towards our fellow Christians as they seek to worship.
- Pray for the unity of the people in the UAE in this time of financial trouble, so that they may rebuild the nation together.
- Pray for the relatively liberal stance towards Christianity in the UAE to spread to its neighbouring countries in order to permit Christians living in the region to worship freely and openly.
 BBC Middle East Guide
 Middle East Concern
 CIA World Factbook
 CIA World Factbook
 SAT-7 Viewer Statistics 2008
 Middle East Concern