GEOGRAPHY: Covering an area of 83,600 square km, the UAE is positioned along the south of the Gulf, across the water from Iran, bordering Saudi Arabia to the west and Oman to the east.

  

POPULATION: The Emirates has a population of about four million residents, including some 1.2 million in Dubai where Sheikh Maktoum was the ruler since 1990.

  

Emiratis account for less than 20% of the UAE population, with about 50% being South Asian (mainly Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Filipino and Sri Lankan), 20% from other Arab countries and Iran, while Westerners account for less than 10%.

  

The huge number of immigrant workers means that two-thirds of the population is male.

 

Like in the other Gulf Arab states with a young population, a quarter are under the age of 15.

  

CAPITAL: Abu Dhabi

  

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Arabic

  

RELIGION: Roughly 80% of Emiratis are Sunni Muslims and 20% Shia.

 

Islam has a prominent role in the constitution and forms the basis for legislation and the legal system.

 

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution.

  

HISTORY: The UAE was created on 2 December 1971, when six states (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain) came together after the departure of British troops from the region.

 

The seventh emirate, Ras al-Khaimah, joined in 1972.

  

The UAE was a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, which also groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

  

POLITICS: Political parties are banned and there are no elections.

 

The UAE has a government led by a prime minister who is chosen by the president.

 

The UAE's highest governing body is the Supreme Federal Council, made up of rulers of the seven emirates, and which chooses the president and the vice president.

  

ECONOMY: The UAE economy depends on oil and gas.

 

The UAE is ranked fourth within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) with a production quota of 2.44 million barrels per day.

 

The country has proven reserves of 97.8 billion barrels of oil (fifth in the world) and over six trillion cubic metres (212 trillion cubic feet) of gas, ranking it fourth in the world.

  

Gross domestic product (GDP) was projected to have jumped by 11.9% in 2005 to swell to an all-time high of around $116 billion, according to the ministry of economy, commerce and planning.