Countries

Australia

Australia

Commonwealth of Australia

Anthem: Advance Australia Fair[N 1]

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A map of the eastern hemisphere centred on Australia, using an orthographic projection.
Commonwealth of Australia, including the Australian territorial claim in the Antarctic
Capital Canberra
35°18′29″S 149°07′28″E
Largest city Sydney
National language English[N 2]
Religion
(2016)[3]
Demonym(s)
Government Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy
• Monarch
Elizabeth II
David Hurley
Scott Morrison
Michael McCormack
Josh Frydenberg
Susan Kiefel
Legislature Parliament
Senate
House of Representatives
Independence
from the United Kingdom
1 January 1901
9 October 1942 (with effect
from 3 September 1939)
3 March 1986
Area
• Total
7,692,024 km2 (2,969,907 sq mi) (6th)
• Water (%)
0.76
Population
• 2020 estimate
25,706,500 (51st)
• 2016 census
23,401,892
• Density
3.3/km2 (8.5/sq mi) (192nd)
GDP (PPP) 2020 estimate
• Total
Increase $1.423 trillion (19th)
• Per capita
Increase $54,799  (17th)
GDP (nominal) 2020 estimate
• Total
Decrease $1.375 trillion (13th)
• Per capita
Decrease $52,952 (10th)
Gini (2018) 34.0
medium · 22nd
HDI (2018) Increase 0.938
very high · 6th
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Time zone UTC+8; +9.5; +10 (Various[N 4])
• Summer (DST)
UTC+8; +9.5; +10;
+10.5; +11
 (Various[N 4])
Date format dd/mm/yyyy
yyyymmdd[11]
Mains electricity 230 V–50 Hz
Driving side left
Calling code +61
ISO 3166 code AU
Internet TLD .au

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world’s sixth-largest country by total area. The population of 26 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia’s capital is Canberra, though its largest city is Sydney. The country’s other major metropolitan areas are MelbourneBrisbanePerth, and Adelaide.

Indigenous Australians inhabited the continent for about 65,000 years prior to the first arrival of Dutch explorers in the early 17th century, who named it New Holland. In 1770, Australia’s eastern half was claimed by Great Britain and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788, a date which became Australia’s national day. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the time of an 1850s gold rush, most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and ten territories.

Australia is the oldest, flattest, and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile soils. It has a landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi). A megadiverse country, its size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east, and mountain ranges in the south-east. Australia generates its income from various sources including mining-related exportstelecommunicationsbankingmanufacturing, and international education.

Australia is a highly developed country, with the world’s 14th-largest economy. It has a high-income economy, with the world’s tenth-highest per capita income. It is a regional power and has the world’s 13th-highest military expenditure. Immigrants account for 30% of the population, the highest proportion in any country with a population over 10 million. Having the third-highest human development index and the eighth-highest ranked democracy globally, the country ranks highly in quality of life, health, education, economic freedomcivil liberties, and political rights, with all its major cities faring well in global comparative livability surveys. Australia is a member of the United NationsG20Commonwealth of NationsANZUSOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade OrganizationAsia-Pacific Economic CooperationPacific Islands Forum, and the ASEAN Plus Six mechanism.

Name

The name Australia (pronounced /əˈstrliə/ in Australian English) is derived from the Latin Terra Australis (“southern land”), a name used for a hypothetical continent in the Southern Hemisphere since ancient times. When Europeans first began visiting and mapping Australia in the 17th century, the name Terra Australis was naturally applied to the new territories.[N 5]

Until the early 19th century, Australia was best known as “New Holland“, a name first applied by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1644 (as Nieuw-Holland) and subsequently anglicised. Terra Australis still saw occasional usage, such as in scientific texts.[N 6] The name Australia was popularised by the explorer Matthew Flinders, who said it was “more agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth”. Several famous early cartographers also made use of the word Australia on maps. Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594) used the phrase climata australia on his double cordiform map of the world of 1538, as did Gemma Frisius (1508–1555), who was Mercator’s teacher and collaborator, on his own cordiform wall map in 1540. Australia appears in a book on astronomy by Cyriaco Jacob zum Barth published in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1545.

The first time that Australia appears to have been officially used was in April 1817, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie acknowledged the receipt of Flinders’ charts of Australia from Lord Bathurst. In December 1817, Macquarie recommended to the Colonial Office that it be formally adopted. In 1824, the Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially by that name. The first official published use of the new name came with the publication in 1830 of The Australia Directory by the Hydrographic Office.

Colloquial names for Australia include “Oz” and “the Land Down Under” (usually shortened to just “Down Under“). Other epithets include “the Great Southern Land”, “the Lucky Country“, “the Sunburnt Country”, and “the Wide Brown Land”. The latter two both derive from Dorothea Mackellar‘s 1908 poem “My Country“.

History

Indigenous peoples

Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley region of Western Australia

Human habitation of the Australian continent is known to have begun at least 65,000 years ago, with the migration of people by land bridges and short sea-crossings from what is now Southeast Asia. The Madjedbebe rock shelter in Arnhem Land is recognised as the oldest site showing the presence of humans in Australia. The oldest human remains found are the Lake Mungo remains, which have been dated to around 41,000 years ago. These people were the ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal Australian culture is one of the oldest continual civilisations on earth.

At the time of first European contact, most Indigenous Australians were hunter-gatherers with complex economies and societies. Recent archaeological finds suggest that a population of 750,000 could have been sustained. Indigenous Australians have an oral culture with spiritual values based on reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime. The Torres Strait Islanders, ethnically Melanesian, obtained their livelihood from seasonal horticulture and the resources of their reefs and seas. The northern coasts and waters of Australia were visited sporadically by Makassan fishermen from what is now Indonesia.

European arrival

A painting of Captain James Cook in uniform sitting down in front of a map

Portrait of Captain James Cook, the first European to map the eastern coastline of Australia in 1770

The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland, and the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent (in 1606), are attributed to the Dutch. The first ship and crew to chart the Australian coast and meet with Aboriginal people was the Duyfken captained by Dutch navigator, Willem Janszoon. He sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula in early 1606, and made landfall on 26 February at the Pennefather River near the modern town of Weipa on Cape York. Later that year, Spanish explorer Luís Vaz de Torres sailed through, and navigated, Torres Strait islands. The Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines and named the island continent “New Holland” during the 17th century, but made no attempt at settlement. William Dampier, an English explorer and privateer, landed on the north-west coast of New Holland in 1688 (while serving as a crewman under pirate Captain John Read) and again in 1699 on a return trip. In 1770, James Cook sailed along and mapped the east coast, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain.

With the loss of its American colonies in 1783, the British Government sent a fleet of ships, the “First Fleet“, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, to establish a new penal colony in New South Wales. A camp was set up and the Union flag raised at Sydney CovePort Jackson, on 26 January 1788,[67][68] a date which later became Australia’s national day, Australia Day. A British settlement was established in Van Diemen’s Land, now known as Tasmania, in 1803, and it became a separate colony in 1825.[69] The United Kingdom formally claimed the western part of Western Australia (the Swan River Colony) in 1828.[70] Separate colonies were carved from parts of New South Wales: South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859.[71] The Northern Territory was founded in 1911 when it was excised from South Australia.[72] South Australia was founded as a “free province”—it was never a penal colony.[73] Victoria and Western Australia were also founded “free”, but later accepted transported convicts.[74][75] A campaign by the settlers of New South Wales led to the end of convict transportation to that colony; the last convict ship arrived in 1848.[76]

A calm body of water is in the foreground. The shoreline is about 200 metres away. To the left, close to the shore, are three tall gum trees; behind them on an incline are ruins, including walls and watchtowers of light-coloured stone and brick, what appear to be the foundations of walls, and grassed areas. To the right lie the outer walls of a large rectangular four-storey building dotted with regularly spaced windows. Forested land rises gently to a peak several kilometres back from the shore.

Tasmania’s Port Arthur penal settlement is one of eleven UNESCO World Heritage-listed Australian Convict Sites.

The indigenous population declined for 150 years following settlement, mainly due to infectious disease.[77] Thousands more died as a result of frontier conflict with settlers.[78] A government policy of “assimilation” beginning with the Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 resulted in the removal of many Aboriginal children from their families and communities—referred to as the Stolen Generations—a practice which also contributed to the decline in the indigenous population.[79] As a result of the 1967 referendum, the Federal government’s power to enact special laws with respect to a particular race was extended to enable the making of laws with respect to Aboriginals.[80] Traditional ownership of land (“native title“) was not recognised in law until 1992, when the High Court of Australia held in Mabo v Queensland (No 2) that the legal doctrine that Australia had been terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”) did not apply to Australia at the time of British settlement.[81]

Colonial expansion

St John’s Anglican Church in Canberra, an early example of settlement west of the Great Dividing Range, finished in 1845. Now the oldest church in the capital.

In 1813, Gregory BlaxlandWilliam Lawson and William Wentworth crossed the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, opening the interior to European settlement.[82] In 1824, Hamilton Hume and former Royal Navy Captain William Hovell led an expedition to find new grazing land in the south of the colony, and also to find an answer to the question of where New South Wales’ western rivers flowed. In 1826, the British claim was extended to the whole Australian continent when Major Edmund Lockyer established a settlement on King George Sound (modern-day Albany).[83] By 1850, Anglo-Europeans still had not entered large areas of the inland. Explorers remained ambitious to discover new lands for agriculture or answers to scientific enquiries.[84]

gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s,[85] and the Eureka Rebellion against mining licence fees in 1854 was an early expression of civil disobedience.[86] Between 1855 and 1890, the six colonies individually gained responsible government, managing most of their own affairs while remaining part of the British Empire.[87] The Colonial Office in London retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs,[88] defence,[89] and international shipping.

Nationhood

Photo of an ANZAC memorial with an elderly man playing a bugle. Rows of people are seated behind the memorial. Many small white crosses with red poppies have been stuck into the lawn in rows on either side of the memorial.

The Last Post is played at an Anzac Day ceremony in Port Melbourne, Victoria. Similar ceremonies are held in many suburbs and towns.

On 1 January 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation and voting.[90] This established the Commonwealth of Australia as a dominion of the British Empire.[91][92] The Federal Capital Territory (later renamed the Australian Capital Territory) was formed in 1911 as the location for the future federal capital of Canberra. Melbourne was the temporary seat of government from 1901 to 1927 while Canberra was being constructed.[93] The Northern Territory was transferred from the control of the South Australian government to the federal parliament in 1911.[94]

In 1914, Australia joined Britain in fighting World War I, with support from both the outgoing Commonwealth Liberal Party and the incoming Australian Labor Party.[95][96] Australians took part in many of the major battles fought on the Western Front.[97] Of about 416,000 who served, about 60,000 were killed and another 152,000 were wounded.[98] Many Australians regard the defeat of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli as the birth of the nation—its first major military action.[99][100] The Kokoda Track campaign is regarded by many as an analogous nation-defining event during World War II.[101]

Britain’s Statute of Westminster 1931 formally ended most of the constitutional links between Australia and the UK. Australia adopted it in 1942,[102] but it was backdated to 1939 to confirm the validity of legislation passed by the Australian Parliament during World War II.[103][104] The shock of the United Kingdom’s defeat in Asia in 1942 and the threat of Japanese invasion caused Australia to turn to the United States as a new ally and protector.[105] Since 1951, Australia has been a formal military ally of the US, under the ANZUS treaty.[106]

After World War II, Australia encouraged immigration from mainland Europe. Since the 1970s and following the abolition of the White Australia policy, immigration from Asia and elsewhere was also promoted.[107] As a result, Australia’s demography, culture, and self-image were transformed.[108] The passing of the Australia Act 1986 ended all possibility for any vestigial role of the British government in the government in Australia and removed the already seldom-used option of judicial appeals to the Privy Council in London.[109] In a 1999 referendum, 55% of voters and a majority in every state rejected a proposal to become a republic with a president appointed by a two-thirds vote in both Houses of the Australian Parliament. Since the publication of the landmark critique The Lucky Country (1964) by Donald Horne and the election of the Whitlam Government in 1972,[110] there has been an increasing focus in foreign policy on ties with other Pacific Rim nations, while maintaining close ties with Australia’s traditional allies and trading partners.[111]

Geography and environment

General characteristics

Map showing the topography of Australia, showing some elevation in the west and very high elevation in mountains in the southeast

Topographic map of Australia. Dark green represents the lowest elevation and dark brown the highest

Surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans,[N 7] Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas, with the Coral Sea lying off the Queensland coast, and the Tasman Sea lying between Australia and New Zealand. The world’s smallest continent[113] and sixth largest country by total area,[114] Australia—owing to its size and isolation—is often dubbed the “island continent”[115] and is sometimes considered the world’s largest island.[116] Australia has 34,218 kilometres (21,262 mi) of coastline (excluding all offshore islands),[117] and claims an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone of 8,148,250 square kilometres (3,146,060 sq mi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory.[118] Apart from Macquarie Island, Australia lies between latitudes  and 44°S, and longitudes 112° and 154°E.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef,[119] lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over 2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi). Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world’s largest monolith,[120] is located in Western Australia. At 2,228 metres (7,310 ft), Mount Kosciuszko is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland. Even taller are Mawson Peak (at 2,745 metres or 9,006 feet), on the remote Australian external territory of Heard Island, and, in the Australian Antarctic Territory, Mount McClintock and Mount Menzies, at 3,492 metres (11,457 ft) and 3,355 metres (11,007 ft) respectively.[121]

Heron Island, a coral cay in the southern Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with tropical rainforests in the north-east, mountain ranges in the south-east, south-west and east, and desert in the centre.[122] The desert or semi-arid land commonly known as the outback makes up by far the largest portion of land.[123] Australia is the driest inhabited continent; its annual rainfall averaged over continental area is less than 500 mm.[124] The population density, 3.2 inhabitants per square kilometre, although a large proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline.[125]

Eastern Australia is marked by the Great Dividing Range, which runs parallel to the coast of Queensland, New South Wales and much of Victoria. The name is not strictly accurate, because parts of the range consist of low hills, and the highlands are typically no more than 1,600 metres (5,249 ft) in height.[126] The coastal uplands and a belt of Brigalow grasslands lie between the coast and the mountains, while inland of the dividing range are large areas of grassland.[126][127] These include the western plains of New South Wales, and the Einasleigh UplandsBarkly Tableland, and Mulga Lands of inland Queensland.[clarification needed] The northernmost point of the east coast is the tropical-rainforested Cape York Peninsula.[clarification needed][128][129][130][131]

The Great Dividing Range is the third longest land-based range in the world.

The landscapes of the Top End and the Gulf Country—with their tropical climate—include forest, woodland, wetland, grassland, rainforest and desert.[132][133][134] At the north-west corner of the continent are the sandstone cliffs and gorges of The Kimberley, and below that the Pilbara. To the south of these and inland, lie more areas of grassland[clarification needed]: the Ord Victoria Plain and the Western Australian Mulga shrublands.[135][136][137] At the heart of the country are the uplands of central Australia. Prominent features of the centre and south include Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock), the famous sandstone monolith, and the inland SimpsonTirari and Sturt StonyGibsonGreat Sandy, Tanami, and Great Victoria deserts, with the famous Nullarbor Plain on the southern coast.[138][139][140][141]

Geology

Basic geological regions of Australia, by age

Lying on the Indo-Australian Plate, the mainland of Australia is the lowest and most primordial landmass on Earth with a relatively stable geological history.[142][143] The landmass includes virtually all known rock types and from all geological time periods spanning over 3.8 billion years of the Earth’s history. The Pilbara Craton is one of only two pristine Archaean 3.6–2.7 Ga (billion years ago) crusts identified on the Earth.[144]

Having been part of all major supercontinents, the Australian continent began to form after the breakup of Gondwana in the Permian, with the separation of the continental landmass from the African continent and Indian subcontinent. It separated from Antarctica over a prolonged period beginning in the Permian and continuing through to the Cretaceous.[145] When the last glacial period ended in about 10,000 BC, rising sea levels formed Bass Strait, separating Tasmania from the mainland. Then between about 8,000 and 6,500 BC, the lowlands in the north were flooded by the sea, separating New Guinea, the Aru Islands, and the mainland of Australia.[146] The Australian continent is currently moving toward Eurasia at the rate of 6 to 7 centimetres a year.[147]

The Australian mainland’s continental crust, excluding the thinned margins, has an average thickness of 38 km, with a range in thickness from 24 km to 59 km.[148] Australia’s geology can be divided into several main sections, showcasing that the continent grew from west to east: the Archaean cratonic shields found mostly in the west, Proterozoic fold belts in the centre and Phanerozoic sedimentary basins, metamorphic and igneous rocks in the east.[149]

The Australian mainland and Tasmania are situated in the middle of the tectonic plate and currently have no active volcanoes,[150] but due to passing over the East Australia hotspot, recent volcanism has occurred during the Holocene, in the Newer Volcanics Province of western Victoria and southeastern South Australia. Volcanism also occurs in the island of New Guinea (considered geologically as part of the Australian continent), and in the Australian external territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands.[151] Seismic activity in the Australian mainland and Tasmania is also low, with the greatest number of fatalities having occurred in the 1989 Newcastle earthquake.[152]

Climate

The climate of Australia is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, which is correlated with periodic drought, and the seasonal tropical low-pressure system that produces cyclones in northern Australia.[154][155] These factors cause rainfall to vary markedly from year to year. Much of the northern part of the country has a tropical, predominantly summer-rainfall (monsoon).[124] The south-west corner of the country has a Mediterranean climate.[156] The south-east ranges from oceanic (Tasmania and coastal Victoria) to humid subtropical (upper half of New South Wales), with the highlands featuring alpine and subpolar oceanic climates. The interior is arid to semi-arid.[124]

According to the Bureau of Meteorology‘s 2011 Australian Climate Statement, Australia had lower than average temperatures in 2011 as a consequence of a La Niña weather pattern; however, “the country’s 10-year average continues to demonstrate the rising trend in temperatures, with 2002–2011 likely to rank in the top two warmest 10-year periods on record for Australia, at 0.52 °C (0.94 °F) above the long-term average”.[157] Furthermore, 2014 was Australia’s third warmest year since national temperature observations commenced in 1910.[158][159]

Water restrictions are frequently in place in many regions and cities of Australia in response to chronic shortages due to urban population increases and localised drought.[160][161] Throughout much of the continent, major flooding regularly follows extended periods of drought, flushing out inland river systems, overflowing dams and inundating large inland flood plains, as occurred throughout Eastern Australia in 2010, 2011 and 2012 after the 2000s Australian drought.

Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions per capita are among the highest in the world, lower than those of only a few other industrialised nations.[162]

January 2019 was the hottest month ever in Australia with average temperatures exceeding 30 °C (86 °F).[163][164]

Biodiversity

A koala holding onto a eucalyptus tree with its head turned so both eyes are visible

The koala and the eucalyptus form an iconic Australian pair.

Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, the continent includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests. Fungi typify that diversity—an estimated 250,000 species—of which only 5% have been described—occur in Australia.[165] Because of the continent’s great age, extremely variable weather patterns, and long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia’s biota is unique. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic.[166] Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species.[167] Besides Antarctica, Australia is the only continent that developed without feline species. Feral cats may have been introduced in the 17th century by Dutch shipwrecks, and later in the 18th century by European settlers. They are now considered a major factor in the decline and extinction of many vulnerable and endangered native species.[168]

Australian forests are mostly made up of evergreen species, particularly eucalyptus trees in the less arid regions; wattles replace them as the dominant species in drier regions and deserts.[169] Among well-known Australian animals are the monotremes (the platypus and echidna); a host of marsupials, including the kangarookoala, and wombat, and birds such as the emu and the kookaburra.[169] Australia is home to many dangerous animals including some of the most venomous snakes in the world.[170] The dingo was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 BCE.[171] Many animal and plant species became extinct soon after first human settlement,[172] including the Australian megafauna; others have disappeared since European settlement, among them the thylacine.[173][174]

Many of Australia’s ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced animal, chromistan, fungal and plant species.[175] All these factors have led to Australia’s having the highest mammal extinction rate of any country in the world.[176] The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the legal framework for the protection of threatened species.[177] Numerous protected areas have been created under the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity to protect and preserve unique ecosystems;[178][179] 65 wetlands are listed under the Ramsar Convention,[180] and 16 natural World Heritage Sites have been established.[181] Australia was ranked 21st out of 178 countries in the world on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index.[182] There are more than 1,800 animals and plants on Australia’s threatened species list, including more than 500 animals.[183]

Government and politics

Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia
David Hurley, Governor-General of Australia
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia

Australia is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy. The country has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system under its constitution, which is one of the world’s oldest, since Federation in 1901. It is also one of the world’s oldest federations, in which power is divided between the federal and state and territorial governments. The Australian system of government combines elements derived from the political systems of the United Kingdom (a fused executiveconstitutional monarchy and strong party discipline) and the United States (federalism, a written constitution and strong bicameralism with an elected upper house), along with distinctive indigenous features.[185][186]

The federal government is separated into three branches:

Elizabeth II reigns as Queen of Australia and is represented in Australia by the governor-general at the federal level and by the governors at the state level, who by convention act on the advice of her ministers.[188][189] Thus, in practice the governor-general acts as a legal figurehead for the actions of the prime minister and the Federal Executive Council. The governor-general does have extraordinary reserve powers which may be exercised outside the prime minister’s request in rare and limited circumstances, the most notable exercise of which was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.[190]

A large white and cream coloured building with grass on its roof. The building is topped with a large flagpole.

Parliament House, Canberra

In the Senate (the upper house), there are 76 senators: twelve each from the states and two each from the mainland territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory).[191] The House of Representatives (the lower house) has 151 members elected from single-member electoral divisions, commonly known as “electorates” or “seats”, allocated to states on the basis of population,[192] with each original state guaranteed a minimum of five seats.[193] Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years simultaneously; senators have overlapping six-year terms except for those from the territories, whose terms are not fixed but are tied to the electoral cycle for the lower house; thus only 40 of the 76 places in the Senate are put to each election unless the cycle is interrupted by a double dissolution.[191]

Australia’s electoral system uses preferential voting for all lower house elections with the exception of Tasmania and the ACT which, along with the Senate and most state upper houses, combine it with proportional representation in a system known as the single transferable voteVoting is compulsory for all enrolled citizens 18 years and over in every jurisdiction,[194] as is enrolment (with the exception of South Australia).[195] The party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms the government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. In cases where no party has majority support, the Governor-General has the constitutional power to appoint the Prime Minister and, if necessary, dismiss one that has lost the confidence of Parliament.[196]

There are two major political groups that usually form government, federally and in the states: the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition which is a formal grouping of the Liberal Party and its minor partner, the National Party.[197][198] Within Australian political culture, the Coalition is considered centre-right and the Labor Party is considered centre-left.[199] Independent members and several minor parties have achieved representation in Australian parliaments, mostly in upper houses. The Australian Greens are often considered the “third force” in politics, being the third largest party by both vote and membership.[200]

The most recent federal election was held on 18 May 2019 and resulted in the Coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, retaining government.[201]

States and territories

A map of Australia’s states and territories

Australia has six states—New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), Victoria (VIC) and Western Australia (WA)—and two major mainland territories—the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT). In most respects, these two territories function as states, except that the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to modify or repeal any legislation passed by the territory parliaments.[202]

Under the constitution, the states essentially have plenary legislative power to legislate on any subject, whereas the Commonwealth (federal) Parliament may legislate only within the subject areas enumerated under section 51. For example, state parliaments have the power to legislate with respect to education, criminal law and state police, health, transport, and local government, but the Commonwealth Parliament does not have any specific power to legislate in these areas.[203] However, Commonwealth laws prevail over state laws to the extent of the inconsistency.[204] In addition, the Commonwealth has the power to levy income tax which, coupled with the power to make grants to States, has given it the financial means to incentivise States to pursue specific legislative agendas within areas over which the Commonwealth does not have legislative power.

Each state and major mainland territory has its own parliamentunicameral in the Northern Territory, the ACT and Queensland, and bicameral in the other states. The states are sovereign entities, although subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. The lower houses are known as the Legislative Assembly (the House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania); the upper houses are known as the Legislative Council. The head of the government in each state is the Premier and in each territory the Chief Minister. The Queen is represented in each state by a governor; and in the Northern Territory, the administrator.[205] In the Commonwealth, the Queen’s representative is the governor-general.[206]

The Commonwealth Parliament also directly administers the following external territories: Ashmore and Cartier IslandsAustralian Antarctic TerritoryChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsCoral Sea IslandsHeard Island and McDonald Islands; and Jervis Bay Territory, a naval base and sea port for the national capital in land that was formerly part of New South Wales.[187] The external territory of Norfolk Island previously exercised considerable autonomy under the Norfolk Island Act 1979 through its own legislative assembly and an Administrator to represent the Queen.[207] In 2015, the Commonwealth Parliament abolished self-government, integrating Norfolk Island into the Australian tax and welfare systems and replacing its legislative assembly with a council.[208] Macquarie Island is administered by Tasmania,[209] and Lord Howe Island by New South Wales.[210]

Foreign relations

Over recent decades, Australia’s foreign relations have been driven by a close association with the United States through the ANZUS pact, and by a desire to develop relationships with Asia and the Pacific, particularly through ASEAN, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Community, of which Australia is a founding member. In 2005 Australia secured an inaugural seat at the East Asia Summit following its accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and in 2011 attended the Sixth East Asia Summit in Indonesia. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, in which the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings provide the main forum for co-operation.[211] Australia has pursued the cause of international trade liberalisation.[212] It led the formation of the Cairns Group and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.[213][214]

Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization,[215][216] and has pursued several major bilateral free trade agreements, most recently the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement[217] and Closer Economic Relations with New Zealand,[218] with another free trade agreement being negotiated with China—the Australia–China Free Trade Agreement—and Japan,[219] South Korea in 2011,[220][221] Australia–Chile Free Trade Agreement, and as of November 2015 has put the Trans-Pacific Partnership before parliament for ratification.[222]

Australia maintains a deeply integrated relationship with neighbouring New Zealand, with free mobility of citizens between the two countries under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and free trade under the Australia–New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement.[223] New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom are the most favourably viewed countries in the world by Australian people,[224][225] sharing a number of close diplomatic, military and cultural ties with Australia.

Along with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore, Australia is party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements, a regional defence agreement. A founding member country of the United Nations, Australia is strongly committed to multilateralism[226] and maintains an international aid program under which some 60 countries receive assistance. The 2005–06 budget provides A$2.5 billion for development assistance.[227] Australia ranks fifteenth overall in the Center for Global Development‘s 2012 Commitment to Development Index.[228]

Military

Colour photograph of people wearing military uniforms standing in lines during a formal parade

Australian soldiers deployed to Iraq in 2017

Australia’s armed forces—the Australian Defence Force (ADF)—comprise the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), in total numbering 81,214 personnel (including 57,982 regulars and 23,232 reservists) as of November 2015. The titular role of Commander-in-Chief is vested in the Governor-General, who appoints a Chief of the Defence Force from one of the armed services on the advice of the government.[229] Day-to-day force operations are under the command of the Chief, while broader administration and the formulation of defence policy is undertaken by the Minister and Department of Defence.

In the 2016–17 budget, defence spending comprised 2% of GDP, representing the world’s 12th largest defence budget.[230] Australia has been involved in UN and regional peacekeeping, disaster relief and armed conflict, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq; it currently has deployed about 2,241 personnel in varying capacities to 12 international operations in areas including Iraq and Afghanistan.[231]

Economy

Buildings and equipment of a large mining operation

The Boddington Gold Mine in Western Australia is the nation’s largest open cut mine.[232]

A wealthy country, Australia has a market economy, a high GDP per capita, and a relatively low rate of poverty. In terms of average wealth, Australia ranked second in the world after Switzerland from 2013 until 2018.[233] In 2018, Australia overtook Switzerland and became the country with the highest average wealth.[233] Australia’s poverty rate increased from 10.2% to 11.8%, from 2000/01 to 2013.[234][235] It was identified by the Credit Suisse Research Institute as the nation with the highest median wealth in the world and the second-highest average wealth per adult in 2013.[234]

The Australian dollar is the currency for the nation, including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent Pacific Island states of KiribatiNauru, and Tuvalu. With the 2006 merger of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange, the Australian Securities Exchange became the ninth largest in the world.[236]

Ranked fifth in the Index of Economic Freedom (2017),[237] Australia is the world’s 14th largest economy and has the tenth highest per capita GDP (nominal) at US$55,692.[238] The country was ranked third in the United Nations 2017 Human Development Index.[239] Melbourne reached top spot for the fourth year in a row on The Economists 2014 list of the world’s most liveable cities,[240] followed by Adelaide, Sydney, and Perth in the fifth, seventh, and ninth places respectively. Total government debt in Australia is about A$190 billion[241]—20% of GDP in 2010.[242] Australia has among the highest house prices and some of the highest household debt levels in the world.[243]

A vineyard in the Barossa Valley, one of Australia’s major wine-producing regions. The Australian wine industry is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine.

An emphasis on exporting commodities rather than manufactured goods has underpinned a significant increase in Australia’s terms of trade since the start of the 21st century, due to rising commodity prices. Australia has a balance of payments that is more than 7% of GDP negative, and has had persistently large current account deficits for more than 50 years.[244] Australia has grown at an average annual rate of 3.6% for over 15 years, in comparison to the OECD annual average of 2.5%.[244]

Australia was the only advanced economy not to experience a recession due to the global financial downturn in 2008–2009.[245] However, the economies of six of Australia’s major trading partners have been in recession[when?], which in turn has affected Australia, significantly hampering its economic growth in recent years[when?].[246][247] From 2012 to early 2013, Australia’s national economy grew, but some non-mining states and Australia’s non-mining economy experienced a recession.[248][249][250]

The Hawke Government floated the Australian dollar in 1983 and partially deregulated the financial system.[251] The Howard Government followed with a partial deregulation of the labour market and the further privatisation of state-owned businesses, most notably in the telecommunications industry.[252] The indirect tax system was substantially changed in July 2000 with the introduction of a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST).[253] In Australia’s tax system, personal and company income tax are the main sources of government revenue.[254]

As of September 2018, there were 12,640,800 people employed (either full- or part-time), with an unemployment rate of 5.2%.[255] Data released in mid-November 2013 showed that the number of welfare recipients had grown by 55%. In 2007 228,621 Newstart unemployment allowance recipients were registered, a total that increased to 646,414 in March 2013.[256] According to the Graduate Careers Survey, full-time employment for newly qualified professionals from various occupations has declined since 2011 but it increases for graduates three years after graduation.[257][258]

Since 2008[when?], inflation has typically been 2–3% and the base interest rate 5–6%. The service sector of the economy, including tourism, education, and financial services, accounts for about 70% of GDP.[259] Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, particularly wheat and wool, minerals such as iron-ore and gold, and energy in the forms of liquified natural gas and coal. Although agriculture and natural resources account for only 3% and 5% of GDP respectively, they contribute substantially to export performance. Australia’s largest export markets are JapanChina, the United StatesSouth Korea, and New Zealand.[260] Australia is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine, and the wine industry contributes A$5.5 billion per year to the nation’s economy.[261]

Demographics

A beach populated by people; a city can be seen in the horizon

Australia has one of the world’s most highly urbanised populations with the majority living in metropolitan cities on the coast, such as Gold Coast, Queensland.

Australia has an average population density of 3.3 persons per square kilometre of total land area, which makes it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. The population is heavily concentrated on the east coast, and in particular in the south-eastern region between South East Queensland to the north-east and Adelaide to the south-west.[262]

Australia is highly urbanised, with 67% of the population living in the Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (metropolitan areas of the state and mainland territorial capital cities) in 2018.[263] Metropolitan areas with more than one million inhabitants are SydneyMelbourneBrisbanePerth and Adelaide.

In common with many other developed countries, Australia is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2018 the average age of the Australian population was 38.8 years.[264] In 2015, 2.15% of the Australian population lived overseas, one of the lowest proportions worldwide.[265]

Ancestry and immigration

Country of birth (2019)[267]
Birthplace[N 8] Population
Australia 17,836,000
England 986,460
Mainland China 677,240
India 660,350
New Zealand 570,000
Philippines 293,770
Vietnam 262,910
South Africa 193,860
Italy 182,520
Malaysia 175,920
Sri Lanka 140,260
Scotland 133,920
Nepal 117,870
South Korea 116,030
Germany 112,420
Greece 106,660
United States 108,570
Hong Kong 101,290
Total foreign-born 7,529,570

Between 1788 and the Second World War, the vast majority of settlers and immigrants came from the British Isles (principally EnglandIreland and Scotland), although there was significant immigration from China and Germany during the 19th century. In the decades immediately following the Second World War, Australia received a large wave of immigration from across Europe, with many more immigrants arriving from Southern and Eastern Europe than in previous decades. Since the end of the White Australia policy in 1973, Australia has pursued an official policy of multiculturalism,[268] and there has been a large and continuing wave of immigration from across the world, with Asia being the largest source of immigrants in the 21st century.[269]

Today, Australia has the world’s eighth-largest immigrant population, with immigrants accounting for 30% of the population, a higher proportion than in any other nation with a population of over 10 million.[27][270] 160,323 permanent immigrants were admitted to Australia in 2018-19 (excluding refugees),[269] whilst there was a net population gain of 239,600 people from all permanent and temporary immigration in that year.[271] The majority of immigrants are skilled,[269] but the immigration program includes categories for family members and refugees.[271] In 2019 the largest foreign-born populations were those born in England (3.9%), Mainland China (2.7%), India (2.6%), New Zealand (2.2%), the Philippines (1.2%) and Vietnam (1%).[27]

In the 2016 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were:[N 9][272][273]

At the 2016 census, 649,171 people (2.8% of the total population) identified as being IndigenousAboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders.[N 12][275] Indigenous Australians experience higher than average rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are, respectively, 11 and 17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians.[260][276][277] Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having “failed state“-like conditions.[278]

Language

Although Australia has no official language, English is the de facto national language.[2] Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon,[279] and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling.[280] General Australian serves as the standard dialect.

According to the 2016 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for 72.7% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Mandarin (2.5%), Arabic (1.4%), Cantonese (1.2%), Vietnamese (1.2%) and Italian (1.2%).[272] A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual.

Over 250 Indigenous Australian languages are thought to have existed at the time of first European contact,[281] of which fewer than twenty are still in daily use by all age groups.[282][283] About 110 others are spoken exclusively by older people.[283] At the time of the 2006 census, 52,000 Indigenous Australians, representing 12% of the Indigenous population, reported that they spoke an Indigenous language at home.[284] Australia has a sign language known as Auslan, which is the main language of about 10,112 deaf people who reported that they spoke Auslan language at home in the 2016 census.[285]

Religion

Religion in Australia (2016)[286]
Religion Percent
Christianity (total)
52.1%
Catholic
22.6%
—Other Christian
16.3%
Anglican
13.3%
Islam
2.6%
Buddhism
2.4%
Hinduism
1.9%
Sikhism
0.5%
Judaism
0.4%
Other
0.4%
No religion
30.1%
Undefined or not stated
9.7%

Australia has no state religion; Section 116 of the Australian Constitution prohibits the federal government from making any law to establish any religion, impose any religious observance, or prohibit the free exercise of any religion.[287] In the 2016 census, 52.1% of Australians were counted as Christian, including 22.6% as Catholic and 13.3% as Anglican; 30.1% of the population reported having “no religion“; 8.2% identify with non-Christian religions, the largest of these being Islam (2.6%), followed by Buddhism (2.4%), Hinduism (1.9%), Sikhism (0.5%) and Judaism (0.4%). The remaining 9.7% of the population did not provide an adequate answer. Those who reported having no religion increased conspicuously from 19% in 2006 to 22% in 2011 to 30.1% in 2016.[286]

Before European settlement, the animist beliefs of Australia’s indigenous people had been practised for many thousands of years. Mainland Aboriginal Australians’ spirituality is known as the Dreamtime and it places a heavy emphasis on belonging to the land. The collection of stories that it contains shaped Aboriginal law and customs. Aboriginal art, story and dance continue to draw on these spiritual traditions. The spirituality and customs of Torres Strait Islanders, who inhabit the islands between Australia and New Guinea, reflected their Melanesian origins and dependence on the sea. The 1996 Australian census counted more than 7000 respondents as followers of a traditional Aboriginal religion.[288]

Since the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships in 1788, Christianity has become the major religion practised in Australia. Christian churches have played an integral role in the development of education, health and welfare services in Australia. For much of Australian history, the Church of England (now known as the Anglican Church of Australia) was the largest religious denomination, with a large Roman Catholic minority. However, multicultural immigration has contributed to a steep decline in its relative position since the Second World War. Similarly, IslamBuddhismHinduismSikhism and Judaism have all grown in Australia over the past half-century.[289]

Australia has one of the lowest levels of religious adherence in the world.[290] In 2001, only 8.8% of Australians attended church on a weekly basis.[291]

Health

Australia’s life expectancy is the third highest in the world for males and the seventh highest for females.[292] Life expectancy in Australia in 2010 was 79.5 years for males and 84.0 years for females.[293] Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world,[294] while cigarette smoking is the largest preventable cause of death and disease, responsible for 7.8% of the total mortality and disease. Ranked second in preventable causes is hypertension at 7.6%, with obesity third at 7.5%.[295][296] Australia ranks 35th in the world[297] and near the top of developed nations for its proportion of obese adults[298] and nearly two thirds (63%) of its adult population is either overweight or obese.[299]

Total expenditure on health (including private sector spending) is around 9.8% of GDP.[300] Australia introduced universal health care in 1975.[301] Known as Medicare, it is now nominally funded by an income tax surcharge known as the Medicare levy, currently set at 2%.[302] The states manage hospitals and attached outpatient services, while the Commonwealth funds the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (subsidising the costs of medicines) and general practice.[301]

Education

Five Australian universities rank in the top 50 of the QS World University Rankings, including the Australian National University (19th).[303]

School attendance, or registration for home schooling,[304] is compulsory throughout Australia. Education is the responsibility of the individual states and territories[305] so the rules vary between states, but in general children are required to attend school from the age of about 5 until about 16.[306][307] In some states (e.g., Western Australia,[308] the Northern Territory[309] and New South Wales[310][311]), children aged 16–17 are required to either attend school or participate in vocational training, such as an apprenticeship.

Australia has an adult literacy rate that was estimated to be 99% in 2003.[312] However, a 2011–12 report for the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that Tasmania has a literacy and numeracy rate of only 50%.[313] In the Programme for International Student Assessment, Australia regularly scores among the top five of thirty major developed countries (member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Catholic education accounts for the largest non-government sector.

Australia has 37 government-funded universities and two private universities, as well as a number of other specialist institutions that provide approved courses at the higher education level.[314] The OECD places Australia among the most expensive nations to attend university.[315] There is a state-based system of vocational training, known as TAFE, and many trades conduct apprenticeships for training new tradespeople.[316] About 58% of Australians aged from 25 to 64 have vocational or tertiary qualifications,[260] and the tertiary graduation rate of 49% is the highest among OECD countries. 30.9 percent of Australia’s population has attained a higher education qualification, which is among the highest percentages in the world.[317][318][319]

Australia has the highest ratio of international students per head of population in the world by a large margin, with 812,000 international students enrolled in the nation’s universities and vocational institutions in 2019.[320][321] Accordingly, in 2019, international students represented on average 26.7% of the student bodies of Australian universities. International education therefore represents one of the country’s largest exports and has a pronounced influcence on the country’s demographics, with a significant proportion of international students remaining in Australia after graduation on various skill and employment visas.[322]

Culture

Ornate white building with an elevated dome in the middle, fronted by a golden fountain and orange flowers

The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne was the first building in Australia to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.[323]

Since 1788, the primary influence behind Australian culture has been Anglo-Celtic Western culture, with some Indigenous influences.[324][325] The divergence and evolution that has occurred in the ensuing centuries has resulted in a distinctive Australian culture.[326][327] The culture of the United States has also been highly influential, particularly through television and cinema. Other cultural influences come from neighbouring Asian countries, and through large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking nations.[328]

Arts

Traditional designs, patterns and stories infuse contemporary Indigenous Australian art, “the last great art movement of the 20th century”;[329] its exponents include Emily Kame Kngwarreye.[330] Early colonial artists, trained in Europe, showed a fascination with the unfamiliar land.[331] The impressionistic works of Arthur StreetonTom Roberts and others associated with the 19th-century Heidelberg School—the first “distinctively Australian” movement in Western art—gave expression to a burgeoning Australian nationalism in the lead-up to Federation.[331] While the school remained influential into the new century, modernists such as Margaret Preston, and, later, Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd, explored new artistic trends.[331] The landscape remained a central subject matter for Fred WilliamsBrett Whiteley and other post-World War II artists whose works, eclectic in style yet uniquely Australian, moved between the figurative and the abstract.[331][332] The national and state galleries maintain collections of local and international art.[333] Australia has one of the world’s highest attendances of art galleries and museums per head of population.[334]

Sidney Nolan‘s Snake mural (1970), held at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania, is inspired by the Aboriginal creation myth of the Rainbow Serpent, as well as desert flowers in bloom after a drought.[335]

Australian literature grew slowly in the decades following European settlement though Indigenous oral traditions, many of which have since been recorded in writing, are much older.[336] 19th-century writers such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson captured the experience of the bush using a distinctive Australian vocabulary. Their works are still popular; Paterson’s bush poem “Waltzing Matilda” (1895) is regarded as Australia’s unofficial national anthem.[337] Miles Franklin is the namesake of Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, awarded annually to the best novel about Australian life.[338] Its first recipient, Patrick White, went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973.[339] Australian winners of the Booker Prize include Peter CareyThomas Keneally and Richard Flanagan.[340] Author David Malouf, playwright David Williamson and poet Les Murray are also renowned literary figures.[341][342]

Many of Australia’s performing arts companies receive funding through the federal government’s Australia Council.[343] There is a symphony orchestra in each state,[344] and a national opera company, Opera Australia,[345] well known for its famous soprano Joan Sutherland.[346] At the beginning of the 20th century, Nellie Melba was one of the world’s leading opera singers.[347] Ballet and dance are represented by The Australian Ballet and various state companies. Each state has a publicly funded theatre company.[348]

Media

Actor playing the bushranger Ned Kelly in The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), the world’s first feature film

The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), the world’s first feature length film, spurred a boom in Australian cinema during the silent film era.[349] After World War I, Hollywood monopolised the industry,[350] and by the 1960s Australian film production, had effectively ceased.[351] With the benefit of government support, the Australian New Wave of the 1970s brought provocative and successful films, many exploring themes of national identity, such as Wake in Fright and Gallipoli,[352] while Crocodile Dundee and the Ozploitation movement’s Mad Max series became international blockbusters.[353] In a film market flooded with foreign content, Australian films delivered a 7.7% share of the local box office in 2015.[354] The AACTAs are Australia’s premier film and television awards, and notable Academy Award winners from Australia include Geoffrey RushNicole KidmanCate Blanchett and Heath Ledger.[355]

Australia has two public broadcasters (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the multicultural Special Broadcasting Service), three commercial television networks, several pay-TV services,[356] and numerous public, non-profit television and radio stations. Each major city has at least one daily newspaper,[356] and there are two national daily newspapers, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review.[356] In 2010, Reporters Without Borders placed Australia 18th on a list of 178 countries ranked by press freedom, behind New Zealand (8th) but ahead of the United Kingdom (19th) and United States (20th).[357] This relatively low ranking is primarily because of the limited diversity of commercial media ownership in Australia;[358] most print media are under the control of News Corporation and, after Fairfax Media was merged with Nine, Nine Entertainment Co.[359]

Cuisine

The meringue-based pavlova is generally eaten at Christmas time.

Most Indigenous Australian groups subsisted on a simple hunter-gatherer diet of native fauna and flora, otherwise called bush tucker.[360] The first settlers introduced British food to the continent, much of which is now considered typical Australian food, such as the Sunday roast.[361][362] Multicultural immigration transformed Australian cuisine; post-World War II European migrants, particularly from the Mediterranean, helped to build a thriving Australian coffee culture, and the influence of Asian cultures has led to Australian variants of their staple foods, such as the Chinese-inspired dim sim and Chiko Roll.[363] Vegemitepavlovalamingtons and meat pies are regarded as iconic Australian foods.[364] Australian wine is produced mainly in the southern, cooler parts of the country.

Australia is also known for its cafe and coffee culture in urban centres, which has influenced coffee culture abroad, including New York City.[365] Australia was responsible for the flat white coffee–purported to have originated in a Sydney cafe in the mid-1980s.[366]

Sport and recreation

The Melbourne Cricket Ground is strongly associated with the history and development of cricket and Australian rules football, Australia’s two most popular spectator sports.[367]

About 24% of Australians over the age of 15 regularly participate in organised sporting activities.[260]

Australia is unique in that it has professional leagues for four football codes. Australian rules football, the world’s oldest major football code and Australia’s most popular sport in terms of revenue and spectatorship, originated in Melbourne in the late 1850s, and predominates in all states except New South Wales and Queensland, where rugby league holds sway, followed by rugby unionSoccer, while ranked fourth in popularity and resources, has the highest overall participation rates.[368]

The Australian national cricket team has participated in every edition of the Cricket World Cup. Australia has been very successful in the event, winning the tournament five times, the record number.[369]

Australia is a powerhouse in water-based sports, such as swimming and surfing.[370] The surf lifesaving movement originated in Australia, and the volunteer lifesaver is one of the country’s icons.[371] Nationally, other popular sports include horse racing, basketball, and motor racing. The annual Melbourne Cup horse race and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race attract intense interest.[372] In 2016, the Australian Sports Commission revealed that swimming, cycling and soccer are the three most popular participation sports.[373][374]

Australia is one of five nations to have participated in every Summer Olympics of the modern era,[375] and has hosted the Games twice: 1956 in Melbourne and 2000 in Sydney. Australia has also participated in every Commonwealth Games,[377] hosting the event in 1938196219822006 and 2018.[378] Australia made its inaugural appearance at the Pacific Games in 2015. As well as being a regular FIFA World Cup participant, Australia has won the OFC Nations Cup four times and the AFC Asian Cup once—the only country to have won championships in two different FIFA confederations.[379] The country regularly competes among the world elite basketball teams as it is among the global top three teams in terms of qualifications to the Basketball Tournament at the Summer Olympics. Other major international events held in Australia include the Australian Open tennis grand slam tournament, international cricket matches, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The highest-rating television programs include sports telecasts such as the Summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup, The AshesRugby League State of Origin, and the grand finals of the National Rugby League and Australian Football League.[380] Skiing in Australia began in the 1860s and snow sports take place in the Australian Alps and parts of Tasmania.

See also

Uncategorized

United Arab Emirates

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Coordinates24°N 54°E

United Arab Emirates
الإمارات العربية المتحدة (Arabic)
al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyyah al-Muttaḥidah
Anthem: عيشي بلادي
Īšiy Bilādī
“Long Live My Nation”
MENU
0:00
Location of United Arab Emirates (green) in the Arabian Peninsula (white)

Location of United Arab Emirates (green)in the Arabian Peninsula (white)

Capital Abu Dhabi
24°28′N 54°22′E
Largest city Dubai
25°15′N 55°18′E
Official languages Arabic
Ethnic groups
(2015)[1]
Religion
Islam
Demonym(s) Emirati[1]
Government Federal elective constitutional monarchy[2][3][4]
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
• Speaker
Saqr Ghobash
Legislature Federal National Council
Establishment
1708
• Sharjah
1727
1761
1768
• Ajman
1816
• Dubai
1833
1879
• Independence from the United Kingdom and the Trucial States
2 December 1971
9 December 1971
• Admission of Ras al-Khaimah to the UAE
10 February 1972
Area
• Total
83,600 km2 (32,300 sq mi) (114th)
• Water (%)
negligible
Population
• 2018 estimate
9,599,353[5] (92nd)
• 2005 census
4,106,427
• Density
99/km2 (256.4/sq mi) (110th)
GDP (PPP) 2020 estimate
• Total
$732.861 billion[6] (32nd)
• Per capita
$70,441[6] (7th)
GDP (nominal) 2018 estimate
• Total
$432.612 billion[6] (28th)
• Per capita
$41,476[6] (19th)
Gini (2014) 32.5[7]
medium
HDI (2018) Increase 0.866[8]
very high · 35th
Currency UAE dirham (AED)
Time zone UTC+4 (GST)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy
Driving side right
Calling code +971
ISO 3166 code AE
Internet TLD

The United Arab Emirates (UAEArabicالإمارات العربية المتحدة‎ al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyyah al-Muttaḥidah), sometimes simply called the Emirates (Arabicالإمارات‎ al-ʾImārāt), is a country in Western Asia at the northeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south and west, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north. The sovereign constitutional monarchy is a federation of seven emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), AjmanDubaiFujairahRas Al KhaimahSharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Their boundaries are complex, with numerous enclaves within the various emirates.[9] Each emirate is governed by a ruler; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the rulers serves as the President of the United Arab Emirates.[10] In 2013, the UAE’s population was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million are Emirati citizens and 7.8 million are expatriates.[11][12][13]

Human occupation of the present UAE has been traced back to the emergence of anatomically modern humans from Africa some 125,000 BCE through finds at the Faya-1 site in MleihaSharjah. Burial sites dating back to the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age include the oldest known such inland site at Jebel Buhais. Known as Magan to the Sumerians, the area was home to a prosperous Bronze Age trading culture during the Umm Al Nar period, which traded between the Indus ValleyBahrain and Mesopotamia as well as IranBactria and the Levant. The ensuing Wadi Suq period and three Iron Ages saw the emergence of nomadism as well as the development of water management and irrigation systems supporting human settlement in both the coast and interior. The Islamic age of the UAE dates back to the expulsion of the Sasanians and the subsequent Battle of Dibba. The UAE’s long history of trade led to the emergence of Julfar, in the present-day emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, as a major regional trading and maritime hub in the area. The maritime dominance of the Persian Gulf by Emirati traders led to conflicts with European powers, including the Portuguese Empire and the British Empire.

Following decades of maritime conflict, the coastal emirates became known as the Trucial States with the signing of a Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Peace with the British in 1819 (ratified in 1853 and again in 1892), which established the Trucial States as a British Protectorate. This arrangement ended with independence and the establishment of the United Arab Emirates on 2 December 1971, immediately following the British withdrawal from its treaty obligations. Six emirates joined the UAE in 1971, the seventh, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the federation on 10 February 1972.[14]

Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language of the UAE. The UAE’s oil reserves are the sixth-largest in the world while its natural gas reserves are the world’s seventh-largest.[15][16] Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the first President of the UAE, oversaw the development of the Emirates and steered oil revenues into healthcare, education and infrastructure.[17] The UAE’s economy is the most diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, while its most populous city of Dubai is an important global city and international aviation and maritime trade hub.[18][19] Consequently, the country is much less reliant on oil and gas than in previous years and is economically focusing on tourism and business. The UAE government does not levy income tax although there is a system of corporate tax in place and value added tax was established in 2018 at 5%.[20]

The UAE’s rising international profile has led to it being recognised as a regional and a middle power.[21][22] It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic CooperationOPEC, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

History[edit]

Antiquity[edit]

A pot discovered in the Iron Age building of Bidaa Bint SaudAl Ain on display at the Al Ain National Museum. It is thought to be an incense burner.

The land of the Emirates has been occupied for thousands of years. Stone tools recovered from Jebel Faya in the emirate of Sharjah reveal a settlement of people from Africa some 127,000 years ago and a stone tool used for butchering animals discovered at Jebel Barakah on the Arabian coast suggests an even older habitation from 130,000 years ago.[23] There is no proof of contact with the outside world at that stage, although in time lively trading links developed with civilisations in Mesopotamia, Iran and the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley. This contact persisted and became wide-ranging, probably motivated by the trade in copper from the Hajar Mountains, which commenced around 3,000 BCE.[24] Sumerian sources talk of the UAE as home to the ‘Makkan’ or Magan people.[25]

There are six major periods of human settlement with distinctive behaviours in the UAE before Islam, which include the Hafit period from 3,200-2,600 BCE; the Umm Al Nar culture spanned from 2,600-2,000 BCE, the Wadi Suq people dominated from 2,000–1,300 BCE. From 1,200 BC to the advent of Islam in Eastern Arabia, through three distinctive Iron Ages (Iron Age 1, 1,200–1,000 BC; Iron Age 2, 1,000–600 BC and Iron Age 3 600–300 BC) and the Mleiha period (300 BC onward), the area was variously occupied by Achaemenid and other forces and saw the construction of fortified settlements and extensive husbandry thanks to the development of the falaj irrigation system.

In ancient times, Al Hasa (today’s Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) was part of Al Bahreyn and adjoined Greater Oman (today’s UAE and Oman). From the second century AD, there was a movement of tribes from Al Bahreyn towards the lower Gulf, together with a migration among the Azdite Qahtani (or Yamani) and Quda’ah tribal groups from south-west Arabia towards central Oman.

Islam[edit]

The spread of Islam to the North Eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is thought to have followed directly from a letter sent by the Islamic Prophet, Muhammad, to the rulers of Oman in 630 AD, nine years after the hijrah. This led to a group of rulers travelling to Medina, converting to Islam and subsequently driving a successful uprising against the unpopular Sasanids, who dominated the Northern coasts at the time.[26] Following the death of Muhammad, the new Islamic communities south of the Persian Gulf threatened to disintegrate, with insurrections against the Muslim leaders. The Caliph Abu Bakr sent an army from the capital Medina which completed its reconquest of the territory (the Ridda Wars) with the Battle of Dibba in which 10,000 lives are thought to have been lost.[27] This assured the integrity of the Caliphate and the unification of the Arabian Peninsula under the newly emerging Rashidun Caliphate.

In 637, Julfar (in the area of today’s Ras Al Khaimah) was an important port that was used as a staging post for the Islamic invasion of the Sasanian Empire.[28] The area of the Al Ain/Buraimi Oasis was known as Tu’am and was an important trading post for camel routes between the coast and the Arabian interior.[29]

The earliest Christian site in the UAE was first discovered in the 1990s, an extensive monastic complex on what is now known as Sir Bani Yas Island and which dates back to the 7th century. Thought to be Nestorian and built in 600 AD, the church appears to have been abandoned peacefully in 750 AD.[30] It forms a rare physical link to a legacy of Christianity which is thought to have spread across the peninsula from 50 to 350 AD following trade routes. Certainly, by the 5th century, Oman had a bishop named John – the last bishop of Oman being Etienne, in 676 AD.[31]

Portuguese era[edit]

The Portuguese Empire built Doba Fortress in Dibba Al-Hisn in 1620.

The harsh desert environment led to the emergence of the “versatile tribesman”, nomadic groups who subsisted due to a variety of economic activities, including animal husbandry, agriculture and hunting. The seasonal movements of these groups led to not only frequent clashes between groups but also the establishment of seasonal and semi-seasonal settlements and centres. These formed tribal groupings whose names are still carried by modern Emiratis, including the Bani Yas and Al Bu Falah of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Liwa and the west coast, the Dhawahir, Awamir, Al Ali and Manasir of the interior, the Sharqiyin of the east coast and the Qawasim to the North.[32]

With the expansion of European colonialism, Portuguese, English and Dutch forces appeared in the Persian Gulf region. By the 18th century, the Bani Yas confederation was the dominant force in most of the area now known as Abu Dhabi,[33][34][35] while the Northern Al Qawasim (Al Qasimi) dominated maritime commerce. The Portuguese maintained an influence over the coastal settlements, building forts in the wake of the bloody 16th-century conquests of coastal communities by Albuquerque and the Portuguese commanders who followed him – particularly on the east coast at MuscatSohar and Khor Fakkan.[36]

The southern coast of the Persian Gulf was known to the British as the “Pirate Coast“,[37][38] as boats of the Al Qawasim federation harassed British-flagged shipping from the 17th century into the 19th.[39] The charge of piracy is disputed by modern Emirati historians, including the current Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, in his 1986 book The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf.[40]

A painting depicting the British Expeditionary Force in 1809 sacking the coastal town and port of Ras Al Khaimah.

British bloody expeditions to protect the Indian trade led to campaigns against Ras Al Khaimah and other harbours along the coast, including the Persian Gulf Campaign of 1809 and the more successful campaign of 1819. The following year, Britain and a number of local rulers signed a maritime truce, giving rise to the term Trucial States, which came to define the status of the coastal emirates. A further treaty was signed in 1843 and, in 1853 the Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Truce was agreed. To this was added the ‘Exclusive Agreements’, signed in 1892, which made the Trucial States a British protectorate.[41]

Under the 1892 treaty, the trucial sheikhs agreed not to dispose of any territory except to the British and not to enter into relationships with any foreign government other than the British without their consent. In return, the British promised to protect the Trucial Coast from all aggression by sea and to help in case of land attack. The Exclusive Agreement was signed by the Rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain between 6 and 8 March 1892. It was subsequently ratified by the Viceroy of India and the British Government in London.[citation needed] British maritime policing meant that pearling fleets could operate in relative security. However, the British prohibition of the slave trade meant an important source of income was lost to some sheikhs and merchants.[42]

In 1869, the Qubaisat tribe settled at Khawr al Udayd and tried to enlist the support of the Ottomans, whose flag was occasionally seen flying there. Khawr al Udayd was claimed by Abu Dhabi at that time, a claim supported by the British. In 1906, the British Political Resident, Percy Cox, confirmed in writing to the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (‘Zayed the Great’) that Khawr al Udayd belonged to his sheikhdom.[43]

British era and discovery of oil[edit]

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the pearling industry thrived, providing both income and employment to the people of the Persian Gulf. The First World War had a severe impact on the industry, but it was the economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s, coupled with the invention of the cultured pearl, that wiped out the trade. The remnants of the trade eventually faded away shortly after the Second World War, when the newly-independent Government of India imposed heavy taxation on pearls imported from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The decline of pearling resulted in extreme economic hardship in the Trucial States.[44]

In 1922, the British government secured undertakings from the rulers of the Trucial States not to sign concessions with foreign companies without their consent. Aware of the potential for the development of natural resources such as oil, following finds in Persia (from 1908) and Mesopotamia (from 1927), a British-led oil company, the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), showed an interest in the region. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC, later to become British Petroleum, or BP) had a 23.75% share in IPC. From 1935, onshore concessions to explore for oil were granted by local rulers, with APOC signing the first one on behalf of Petroleum Concessions Ltd (PCL), an associate company of IPC.[45] APOC was prevented from developing the region alone because of the restrictions of the Red Line Agreement, which required it to operate through IPC. A number of options between PCL and the trucial rulers were signed, providing useful revenue for communities experiencing poverty following the collapse of the pearl trade. However, the wealth of oil which the rulers could see from the revenues accruing to surrounding countries such as Iran, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia remained elusive. The first bore holes in Abu Dhabi were drilled by IPC’s operating company, Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) Ltd (PDTC) at Ras Sadr in 1950, with a 13,000-foot-deep (4,000-metre) bore hole taking a year to drill and turning out dry, at the tremendous cost at the time of £1 million.

Dubai in 1950; the area in this photo shows Bur Dubai in the foreground (centered on Al-Fahidi Fort); Deira in middle-right on the other side of the creek; and Al Shindagha (left) and Al Ras (right) in the background across the creek again from Deira

The British set up a development office that helped in some small developments in the emirates. The seven sheikhs of the emirates then decided to form a council to coordinate matters between them and took over the development office. In 1952, they formed the Trucial States Council,[46] and appointed Adi Bitar, Dubai’s Sheikh Rashid‘s legal advisor, as Secretary General and Legal Advisor to the Council. The council was terminated once the United Arab Emirates was formed.[47] The tribal nature of society and the lack of definition of borders between emirates frequently led to disputes, settled either through mediation or, more rarely, force. The Trucial Oman Scouts was a small military force used by the British to keep the peace.

In 1953, a subsidiary of BP, D’Arcy Exploration Ltd, obtained an offshore concession from the ruler of Abu Dhabi. BP joined with Compagnie Française des Pétroles (later Total) to form operating companies, Abu Dhabi Marine Areas Ltd (ADMA) and Dubai Marine Areas Ltd (DUMA). A number of undersea oil surveys were carried out, including one led by the famous marine explorer Jacques Cousteau.[48][49] In 1958, a floating platform rig was towed from Hamburg, Germany, and positioned over the Umm Shaif pearl bed, in Abu Dhabi waters, where drilling began. In March, it struck oil in the Upper Thamama, a rock formation that would provide many valuable oil finds. This was the first commercial discovery of the Trucial Coast, leading to the first exports of oil in 1962. ADMA made further offshore discoveries at Zakum and elsewhere, and other companies made commercial finds such as the Fateh oilfield off Dubai and the Mubarak field off Sharjah (shared with Iran).[50]

Meanwhile, onshore exploration was hindered by territorial disputes. In 1955, the United Kingdom represented Abu Dhabi and Oman in their dispute with Saudi Arabia over the Buraimi Oasis.[51] A 1974 agreement between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia seemed to have settled the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border dispute, but this has not been ratified.[52] The UAE’s border with Oman was ratified in 2008.[53]

PDTC continued its onshore exploration away from the disputed area, drilling five more bore holes that were also dry. However, on 27 October 1960, the company discovered oil in commercial quantities at the Murban No. 3 well on the coast near Tarif.[54] In 1962, PDTC became the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company. As oil revenues increased, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, undertook a massive construction program, building schools, housing, hospitals and roads. When Dubai’s oil exports commenced in 1969, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, was able to invest the revenues from the limited reserves found to spark the diversification drive that would create the modern global city of Dubai.[55]

Independence[edit]

Historic photo depicting the first hoisting of the United Arab Emirates flag by the rulers of the emirates at The Union House, Dubai on 2 December 1971

Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the first President of the United Arab Emirates and is recognised as the father of the nation.

By 1966, it had become clear the British government could no longer afford to administer and protect what is now the United Arab Emirates. British Members of Parliament (MPs) debated the preparedness of the Royal Navy to defend the sheikhdoms. Secretary of State for Defence Denis Healey reported that the British Armed Forces were seriously overstretched and in some respects dangerously under-equipped to defend the sheikhdoms. On 24 January 1968, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced the government’s decision, reaffirmed in March 1971 by Prime Minister Edward Heath, to end the treaty relationships with the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms, that had been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection. Days after the announcement, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fearing vulnerability, tried to persuade the British to honour the protection treaties by offering to pay the full costs of keeping the British Armed Forces in the Emirates. The British Labour government rejected the offer.[56] After Labour MP Goronwy Roberts informed Sheikh Zayed of the news of British withdrawal, the nine Persian Gulf sheikhdoms attempted to form a union of Arab emirates, but by mid-1971 they were still unable to agree on terms of union even though the British treaty relationship was to expire in December of that year.[57]

Fears of vulnerability were realized the day before independence. An Iranian destroyer group broke formation from an exercise in the lower Gulf, sailing to the Tunb islands. The islands were taken by force, civilians and Arab defenders alike allowed to flee. A British warship stood idle during the course of the invasion.[58] A destroyer group approached the island Abu Musa as well. But there, Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al Qasimi had already negotiated with the Iranian Shah, and the island was quickly leased to Iran for $3 million a year. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia laid claim to swathes of Abu Dhabi.[59]

Originally intended to be part of the proposed Federation of Arab Emirates, Bahrain became independent in August, and Qatar in September 1971. When the British-Trucial Sheikhdoms treaty expired on 1 December 1971, they became fully independent.[60] On 2 December 1971, at the Dubai Guesthouse, now known as Union House, six of the emirates agreed to enter into a union called the United Arab Emirates. Ras al-Khaimah joined later, on 10 January 1972.[61][62] In February 1972, the Federal National Council (FNC) was created; it was a 40-member consultative body appointed by the seven rulers. The UAE joined the Arab League on 6 December 1971 and the United Nations on 9 December.[63] It was a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council in May 1981, with Abu Dhabi hosting the first GCC summit.

A 19-year-old Emirati boy from Abu Dhabi, Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, designed the UAE flag in 1971. The main theme of four colors of flag was unity of Arabs nations. The Pan-Arab colors red, green, white, and black. It was adopted on 2 December 1971. Al Maainah previously served as the UAE ambassador to Chile and currently serves as the UAE ambassador to the Czech Republic.[64]

Post-Independence period[edit]

View of Dubai

The UAE supported military operations from the US and other coalition nations engaged in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan (2001) and Saddam Hussein in Iraq (2003) as well as operations supporting the Global War on Terror for the Horn of Africa at Al Dhafra Air Base located outside of Abu Dhabi. The air base also supported Allied operations during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and Operation Northern Watch. The country had already signed a military defense agreement with the U.S. in 1994 and one with France in 1995.[65][66] In January 2008, France and the UAE signed a deal allowing France to set up a permanent military base in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.[67] The UAE joined international military operations in Libya in March 2011.

Sharjah city skyline

On 2 November 2004, the UAE’s first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, died. His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, succeeded as Emir of Abu Dhabi. In accordance with the constitution, the UAE’s Supreme Council of Rulers elected Khalifa as president. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan succeeded Khalifa as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.[68] In January 2006, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, died, and the crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum assumed both roles.

The first ever national elections were held in the UAE on 16 December 2006. A small number of hand-picked voters chose half of the members of the Federal National Council, an advisory body. The UAE has largely escaped the Arab Spring, which other countries have experienced; however, more than 100 Emirati activists were jailed and tortured because they sought reforms. Furthermore, some people have had their nationality revoked.[69] Mindful of the protests in nearby Bahrain, in November 2012 the UAE outlawed online mockery of its own government or attempts to organise public protests through social media.[17]

Geography[edit]

A view of the desert landscape on the outskirts of Dubai

Map of the United Arab Emirates

Satellite image of United Arab Emirates

Roads leading to Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE (1,892 m), in Ras Al Khaimah.

The United Arab Emirates is situated in Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia; it is in a strategic location slightly south of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil.[70]

The UAE lies between 22°30′ and 26°10′ north latitude and between 51° and 56°25′ east longitude. It shares a 530-kilometre (330 mi) border with Saudi Arabia on the west, south, and southeast, and a 450-kilometre (280 mi) border with Oman on the southeast and northeast. The land border with Qatar in the Khawr al Udayd area is about nineteen kilometres (12 miles) in the northwest; however, it is a source of ongoing dispute.[71] Following Britain’s military departure from the UAE in 1971, and its establishment as a new state, the UAE laid claim to islands resulting in disputes with Iran that remain unresolved. The UAE also disputes claim on other islands against the neighboring state of Qatar.[72] The largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, accounts for 87% of the UAE’s total area (67,340 square kilometres (26,000 sq mi)). The smallest emirate, Ajman, encompasses only 259 km2 (100 sq mi)(see figure).

The UAE coast stretches for more than 650 km (404 mi) along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. Most of the coast consists of salt pans that extend far inland. The largest natural harbor is at Dubai, although other ports have been dredged at Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and elsewhere. Numerous islands are found in the Persian Gulf, and the ownership of some of them has been the subject of international disputes with both Iran and Qatar. The smaller islands, as well as many coral reefs and shifting sandbars, are a menace to navigation. Strong tides and occasional windstorms further complicate ship movements near the shore. The UAE also has a stretch of the Al Bāţinah coast of the Gulf of Oman, although the Musandam Peninsula, the very tip of Arabia by the Strait of Hormuz, is an exclave of Oman separated by the UAE.

South and west of Abu Dhabi, vast, rolling sand dunes merge into the Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter) of Saudi Arabia. The desert area of Abu Dhabi includes two important oases with adequate underground water for permanent settlements and cultivation. The extensive Liwa Oasis is in the south near the undefined border with Saudi Arabia. About 100 km (62 mi) to the northeast of Liwa is the Al-Buraimi oasis, which extends on both sides of the Abu Dhabi-Oman border. Lake Zakher is a human-made lake near the border with Oman.

Prior to withdrawing from the area in 1971, Britain delineated the internal borders among the seven emirates in order to preempt territorial disputes that might hamper formation of the federation. In general, the rulers of the emirates accepted the British intervention, but in the case of boundary disputes between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and also between Dubai and Sharjah, conflicting claims were not resolved until after the UAE became independent. The most complicated borders were in the Al-Hajar al-Gharbi Mountains, where five of the emirates contested jurisdiction over more than a dozen enclaves.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Acacia trees growing in desert suburbs near Fujairah

The oases grow date palmsacacia and eucalyptus trees. In the desert, the flora is very sparse and consists of grasses and thorn bushes. The indigenous fauna had come close to extinction because of intensive hunting, which has led to a conservation program on Sir Bani Yas Island initiated by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the 1970s, resulting in the survival of, for example, Arabian OryxArabian camel and leopardsCoastal fish and mammals consist mainly of mackerelperch, and tuna, as well as sharks and whales.

Climate[edit]

The climate of the UAE is subtropical-arid with hot summers and warm winters. The climate is categorized as desert climate. The hottest months are July and August, when average maximum temperatures reach above 45 °C (113 °F) on the coastal plain. In the Al Hajar Mountains, temperatures are considerably lower, a result of increased elevation.[73] Average minimum temperatures in January and February are between 10 and 14 °C (50 and 57 °F).[74] During the late summer months, a humid southeastern wind known as Sharqi (i.e. “Easterner”) makes the coastal region especially unpleasant. The average annual rainfall in the coastal area is less than 120 mm (4.7 in), but in some mountainous areas annual rainfall often reaches 350 mm (13.8 in). Rain in the coastal region falls in short, torrential bursts during the summer months, sometimes resulting in floods in ordinarily dry wadi beds.[75] The region is prone to occasional, violent dust storms, which can severely reduce visibility.

On 28 December 2004, there was snow recorded in the UAE for the very first time, in the Jebel Jais mountain cluster in Ras al-Khaimah.[76] A few years later, there were more sightings of snow and hail.[77][78] The Jebel Jais mountain cluster has experienced snow only twice since records began.[79]

Politics[edit]

The United Arab Emirates is a federal constitutional monarchy made up from a federation of seven hereditary tribal absolute monarchy-styled political system called Sheikhdoms. It is governed by a Federal Supreme Council made up of the ruling Sheikhs of Abu DhabiAjmanFujairahSharjahDubaiRas al-Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain. All responsibilities not granted to the national government are reserved to the individual emirate.[80] A percentage of revenues from each emirate is allocated to the UAE’s central budget.[81] The United Arab Emirates uses the title Sheikh instead of Emir to refer to the rulers of individual emirates. The title is used due to the sheikhdom styled governing system in adherence to the culture of tribes of Arabia, where Sheikh means leader, elder, or the tribal chief of the clan who partakes in shared decision making with his followers.

The President and Prime Minister are elected by the Federal Supreme Council. Usually, a sheikh from Abu Dhabi holds the presidency and a sheikh from Dubai the prime minister-ship. All prime ministers but one have served concurrently as vice president. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the UAE founding father and widely accredited for unifying the seven emirates into one country. He was the UAE’s first president from the nation’s founding until his death on 2 November 2004. On the following day the Federal Supreme Council elected his son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to the post.[82]

The federal government is composed of three branches:

The UAE eGovernment is the extension of the UAE Federal Government in its electronic form.[83] The UAE’s Council of Ministers (Arabicمجلس الوزراء‎) is the chief executive branch of the government presided over by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, who is appointed by the Federal Supreme Council, appoints the ministers. The Council of Ministers is made up of 22 members and manages all internal and foreign affairs of the federation under its constitutional and federal law.[84] The UAE is the only country in the world that has a Ministry of Tolerance,[85] Ministry of Happiness,[86] and Ministry of Artificial Intelligence.[87] The UAE also has virtual ministry called the Ministry of Possibilities designed to find solutions to challenges and improve quality of life.[88][89] The UAE also has a National Youth Council, which is represented in the UAE cabinet through the Minister of Youth.[90][91]

The UAE legislative is the Federal National Council which convenes nationwide elections every 4 years. The FNC consists of 40 members drawn from all the emirates. Each emirate is allocated specific seats to ensure full representation. Half are appointed by the rulers of the constituent emirates, and the other half are elected. By law, the council members has to be equally divided between males and females. The FNC is restricted to a largely consultative role.[92][93][94]

The UAE is described by western observers as an “autocracy“.[95][96] According to The New York Times, the UAE is “an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state”.[97] The UAE ranks poorly in freedom indices measuring civil liberties and political rights. The UAE is annually ranked as “Not Free” in Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report, which measures civil liberties and political rights.[98] The UAE also ranks poorly in the annual Reporters without Borders‘ Press Freedom Index.

Sheikh Zayed was asked by The New York Times in April 1997 on why there is no elected democracy in the United Arab Emirates, in which he replied:

Why should we abandon a system that satisfies our people in order to introduce a system that seems to engender dissent and confrontation? Our system of government is based upon our religion and that is what our people want. Should they seek alternatives, we are ready to listen to them. We have always said that our people should voice their demands openly. We are all in the same boat, and they are both the captain and the crew. Our doors are open for any opinion to be expressed, and this well known by all our citizens. It is our deep conviction that God has created people free, and has prescribed that each individual must enjoy freedom of choice. No one should act as if they own others.[99]

Foreign relations[edit]

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 2018.

The UAE has extensive diplomatic and commercial relations with other countries. It plays a significant role in OPEC and the UN, and is one of the founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). One of the main anchorers of the UAE’s foreign policy has been building cooperation-based relations with all countries of the world. Substantial development assistance has increased the UAE’s stature among recipient states. Most of this foreign aid (in excess of $15 billion) has been to Arab and Muslim countries.[citation needed]

The UAE is a member of the United Nations and several of its specialized agencies (ICAOILOUPUWHOWIPO); as well as the World BankIMFArab LeagueOrganisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), OPEC, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the Non-Aligned Movement and is an observer in Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

The UAE maintains close relations with Egypt and is Egypt’s largest investor from the Arab world.[100] Pakistan was the first country to formally recognize the UAE upon its formation and continues to be one of its major economic and trading partners.[101] China and UAE are also strong international allies, with significant cooperation across economic, political and cultural lines.[102][103][104][105] The largest expatriate presence in the UAE is Indian.[106][107] Following British withdrawal from the UAE in 1971 and the establishment of the UAE as a state, the UAE disputed rights to three islands in the Persian Gulf against Iran, namely Abu MusaGreater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb. The UAE tried to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice, but Iran dismissed the notion.[108] The dispute has not significantly impacted relations because of the large Iranian community presence and strong economic ties.[109] The UAE also has a long and a close relationship with UK and Germany, and many of their nationals reside in the UAE.[110][111] Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair serves as a funded adviser to the Mubadala Development Company, a wholly owned investment vehicle of the government of Abu Dhabi.[112] In November 2018, the United Kingdom threatened the UAE with “serious diplomatic consequences” after it sentenced a British academic Matthew Hedges to life in prison for allegedly spying for the UK government.[113]

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington DC, May 2017.

The United Arab Emirates and the United States enjoy very close strategic ties. The UAE has been described as the United States’ best counter-terrorism ally in the Gulf by Richard A. Clarke, the US national security advisor and counter-terrorism expert.[114] The US maintains three military bases in the UAE. The UAE is also the only country in the Middle East which has a US border preclearance that is staffed and operated by US Customs and Border Protection officers, allowing travelers to reach the US as domestic travelers. In 2013, The UAE spent more than any other country in the world to influence U.S. policy and shape domestic debate.[115] In its dispute with the United States, Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil-trade route.[17] Therefore, in July 2012, the UAE began operating a key overland oil pipeline, the Habshan–Fujairah oil pipeline, which bypasses the Strait of Hormuz in order to mitigate any consequences of an Iranian shut-off.

It was reported in 2019 that UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) has enlisted the help of American and Israeli experts in its targeting of political leaders, activists and the governments of QatarTurkey and Iran. According to Reuters their surveillance activities have also targeted American citizens.[116]

The UAE was one of only three countries to recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were the other two countries).[117] At the encouragement of the United States, the UAE attempted to host a Taliban embassy under three conditions which include denouncing Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, recognizing the Afghan constitution, and renouncing violence and laying down their weapons.[118] The Taliban refused all three conditions, and the UAE withdrew its offer.[118] The UAE rescinded diplomatic relations with the Taliban after 11 September attacks in 2001 (alongside Pakistan).

Russian president Vladimir Putin meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi in October 2019.

The United Arab Emirates has been actively involved in Saudi-led intervention in Yemen and has supported Yemen’s internationally recognized government as well as the separatist Southern Transitional Council in Yemen against the Houthi takeover in Yemen.[119][120] The Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of conducting indiscriminate and unlawful airstrikes on civilian targets.[121] During Sheikh Al-Nahyan‘s visit to France in November 2018, a group of rights activists filed a lawsuit against the crown prince accusing him of “war crimes and complicity in torture and inhumane treatment in Yemen”.[122] An Associated press report implicated that the United Arab Emirates made gains against Al Qaeda in Yemen by making payments and recruiting them in fighting the Houthis, instead of military intervention.[123][124][125] The UAE, as part of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, landed troops on the island of Socotra.[126]

The UAE and Saudi Arabia became close allies when Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became King of Saudi Arabia in 2015 and Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince in 2017.[127] In June 2017, the UAE alongside multiple Middle Eastern and African countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar due to allegations of Qatar being a state sponsor of terrorism, resulting in the Qatar diplomatic crisis. The UAE backed Saudi Arabia in its 2018 dispute with Canada.[128] The UAE also backed Saudi Arabia’s statement about the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.[129]

Pope Francis became the first pontiff from the Holy See to visit the Arabian Peninsula on a trip to Abu Dhabi in 2019 and held papal mass to more than 120,000 attendees in the Zayed Sports City Stadium.[130]

As a result of the successful foreign policy of the United Arab Emirates, the Emirati passport became the largest individual climber in Henley & Partners Passport Index in 2018 over the past decade, increasing its global rank by 28 places.[131] According to the Henley Passport Index, as of 28 March 2019, Emirati citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 165 countries and territories, ranking the Emirati passport 21nd in the world in terms of travel freedom.[132] According to The Passport Index, however, the UAE passport ranks 1st in the world with access to 167 countries.[133]

Military[edit]

United Arab Emirates Air Force F-16 Block 60 “Desert Falcon“, taking off from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

The United Arab Emirates military was formed in 1971 from the historical Trucial Oman Scouts, a long symbol of public order on Eastern Arabia and commanded by British officers. The Trucial Oman Scouts were turned over to the United Arab Emirates as the nucleus of its defence forces in 1971 with the formation of the UAE and was absorbed into the Union Defence Force.

Although initially small in number, the UAE armed forces have grown significantly over the years and are presently equipped with some of the most modern weapon systems, purchased from a variety of military advanced countries, mainly France, the US and the UK. Most officers are graduates of the United Kingdom’s Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, with others having attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Royal Military College, Duntroon in Australia, and St Cyr, the military academy of France. France and the United States have played the most strategically significant roles with defence cooperation agreements and military material provision.[134]

Some of the UAE military deployments include an infantry battalion to the United Nations UNOSOM II force in Somalia in 1993, the 35th Mechanised Infantry Battalion to Kosovo, a regiment to Kuwait during the Iraq Wardemining operations in LebanonOperation Enduring Freedom in AfghanistanAmerican-led intervention in LibyaAmerican-led intervention in the Syria, and the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. The active and effective military role despite its small active personnel has led the UAE military to be nicknamed as “Little Sparta” by United States Armed Forces Generals and former US defense secretary James Mattis.[135]

Examples of the military assets deployed include the enforcement of the no-fly-zone over Libya by sending six UAEAF F-16 and six Mirage 2000 multi-role fighter aircraft,[136] ground troop deployment in Afghanistan,[137] 30 UAEAF F-16s and ground troops deployment in Southern Yemen,[138] and helping the US launch its first airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria.[139]

The UAE has begun to produce a greater amount of military equipment in a bid to reduce foreign dependence and help with national industrialisation. Example of national military development include the Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding company (ADSB), which produces a range of ships and are a prime contractor in the Baynunah Programme, a programme to design, develop and produce corvettes customised for operation in the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf. The UAE is also producing weapons and ammunition through Caracal International, military transport vehicles through Nimr LLC and unmanned aerial vehicles collectively through Emirates Defence Industries Company. The UAE operates the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon F-16E Block 60 unique variant unofficially called “Desert Falcon“, developed by General Dynamics with collaboration from the UAE and specifically for the United Arab Emirates Air Force.[140] In terms of battle tanks, the United Arab Emirates Army operate a customized Leclerc tank and is the only other operator of the tank aside from the French Army.[141] The largest defence exhibition and conference in the Middle East, International Defence Exhibition, takes place biennially in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE introduced a mandatory military service for adult males since 2014 for 16 months to expand its reserve force.[142] The highest loss of life in the history of UAE military occurred on Friday 4 September 2015, in which 52 soldiers were killed in Marib area of central Yemen by a Tochka missile which targeted a weapons cache and caused a large explosion.[143]

Political divisions[edit]

Location of the Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is divided into seven emirates. Dubai is the most populated Emirate with 35.6% of the UAE population. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has a further 31.2%, meaning that over two-thirds of the UAE population live in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

Abu Dhabi has an area of 67,340 square kilometres (26,000 square miles), which is 86.7% of the country’s total area, excluding the islands. It has a coastline extending for more than 400 km (250 mi) and is divided for administrative purposes into three major regions. The Emirate of Dubai extends along the Persian Gulf coast of the UAE for approximately 72 km (45 mi). Dubai has an area of 3,885 square kilometres (1,500 square miles), which is equivalent to 5% of the country’s total area, excluding the islands. The Emirate of Sharjah extends along approximately 16 km (10 mi) of the UAE’s Persian Gulf coastline and for more than 80 km (50 mi) into the interior. The northern emirates which include Fujairah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwain all have a total area of 3,881 square kilometres (1,498 square miles). There are two areas under joint control. One is jointly controlled by Oman and Ajman, the other by Fujairah and Sharjah.

There is an Omani exclave surrounded by UAE territory, known as Wadi Madha. It is located halfway between the Musandam peninsula and the rest of Oman in the Emirate of Sharjah. It covers approximately 75 square kilometres (29 square miles) and the boundary was settled in 1969. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Khor Fakkan-Fujairah road, barely 10 metres (33 feet) away. Within the Omani exclave of Madha, is a UAE exclave called Nahwa, also belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is about eight kilometres (5.0 miles) on a dirt track west of the town of New Madha. It consists of about forty houses with its own clinic and telephone exchange.

Flag Emirate Capital Population Area
2018 % (km²) (mi²) %
Flag of Abu Dhabi.svg Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi 2,784,490 29.0% 67,340 26,000 86.7%
Flag of Ajman.svg Ajman Ajman 372,922 3.9% 259 100 0.3%
Flag of Dubai.svg Dubai Dubai 4,177,059 42.8% 3,885 1,500 5.0%
Flag of Fujairah (1952–1972).svg Fujairah Fujairah 152,000 1.6% 1,165 450 1.5%
Flag of Sharjah.svg Ras al-Khaimah Ras al-Khaimah 416,600 4.3% 2,486 950 3.2%
Flag of Sharjah.svg Sharjah Sharjah 2,374,132 24.7% 2,590 1,000 3.3%
Flag of Umm al-Qaiwain.svg Umm al-Quwain Umm al-Quwain 72,000 0.8% 777 300 1%
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg UAE Abu Dhabi 9,599,353 100% 77,700 30,000 100%

Law[edit]

Dubai Police helicopter flying at sunset.

Dubai Police super-car motorcade at Jumeirah Road

Abu Dhabi Police patrol car on duty at Emirates Palace

The UAE has a federal court system. There are three main branches within the court structure: civil, criminal and Sharia law. The UAE’s judicial system is derived from the civil law system and Sharia law. The court system consists of civil courts and Sharia courts. UAE’s criminal and civil courts apply elements of Sharia law, codified into its criminal code and family law.

Flogging is a punishment for criminal offences such as adulterypremarital sex and alcohol consumption.[144][145][146] According to Sharia court rulings, flogging ranges from 80 to 200 lashes.[144][147][148] Verbal abuse pertaining to a person’s honour is illegal and punishable by 80 lashes.[149] Between 2007 and 2014, many people in the UAE were sentenced to 100 lashes.[150][151][152][153][154][155][156][157][158] More recently in 2015, two men were sentenced to 80 lashes for hitting and insulting a woman.[159] In 2014, an expatriate in Abu Dhabi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 80 lashes after alcohol consumption and raping a toddler.[160] Alcohol consumption for Muslims is illegal and punishable by 80 lashes; many Muslims have been sentenced to 80 lashes for alcohol consumption.[161][162][163][164][165][166][167][168][169][170][171] Sometimes 40 lashes are given.[172] Illicit sex is sometimes penalized by 60 lashes.[173][174][175] 80 lashes is the standard number for anyone sentenced to flogging in several emirates.[176] Sharia courts have penalized domestic workers with floggings.[177] In October 2013, a Filipino housemaid was sentenced to 100 lashes for illegitimate pregnancy.[157] Drunk-driving is strictly illegal and punishable by 80 lashes; many expatriates have been sentenced to 80 lashes for drunk-driving.[178][179][180][181][182][183][184] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[185] Under UAE law, premarital sex is punishable by 100 lashes.[186]

Stoning is a legal punishment in the UAE. In May 2014, an Asian housemaid was sentenced to death by stoning in Abu Dhabi.[187][188][189] Other expatriates have been sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery.[190] Between 2009 and 2013, several people were sentenced to death by stoning.[153][191][192] Abortion is illegal and punishable by a maximum penalty of 100 lashes and up to five years in prison.[193] In recent years, several people have retracted their guilty plea in illicit sex cases after being sentenced to stoning or 100 lashes.[194][195] The punishment for committing adultery is 100 lashes for unmarried people and stoning to death for married people.[196]

Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction over family law cases and also have jurisdiction over several criminal cases including adultery, premarital sex, robbery, alcohol consumption and related crimes. The Sharia-based personal status law regulates matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody. The Islamic personal status law is applied to Muslims and sometimes non-Muslims.[197] Non-Muslim expatriates can be liable to Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce and child custody.[197]

Apostasy is a crime punishable by death in the UAE.[198][199] Blasphemy is illegal; expatriates involved in insulting Islam are liable for deportation.[200] UAE incorporates hudud crimes of Sharia (i.e., crimes against God) into its Penal Code – apostasy being one of them.[201] Article 1 and Article 66 of UAE’s Penal Code requires hudud crimes to be punished with the death penalty;[201][202] therefore, apostasy is punishable by death in the UAE.

In several cases, the courts of the UAE have jailed women who have reported rape.[203][204][205][206][207][208] For example, a British woman, after she reported being gang raped by three men, was charged with the crime of “alcohol consumption”.[205][207] Another British woman was charged with “public intoxication and extramarital sex” after she reported being raped,[204] while an Australian woman was similarly sentenced to jail after she reported gang rape in the UAE.[204][205] In another recent case, an 18-year Emirati girl withdrew her complaint of gang rape by six men when the prosecution threatened her with a long jail term and flogging.[209] The woman still had to serve one year in jail.[210] In July 2013, a Norwegian woman, Marte Dalelv, reported rape to the police and received a prison sentence for “illicit sex and alcohol consumption”.[204]

Emirati women must receive permission from a male guardian to marry and remarry.[211] This requirement is derived from the UAE’s interpretation of Sharia, and has been federal law since 2005.[211] In all emirates, it is illegal for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.[212] In the UAE, a marriage union between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is punishable by law, since it is considered a form of “fornication“.[212]

Kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation.[213] Expats in Dubai have been deported for kissing in public.[214][215][216] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[217] A new federal law in the UAE prohibits swearing in Whatsapp and penalizes swearing by a 250,000 AED fine and imprisonment;[218] expatriates are penalized by deportation.[218][219][220][221] In July 2015, an Australian expatriate was deported for swearing on Facebook.[222][223][224][225][226]

Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital offence in the UAE.[227][228] In 2013, an Emirati man was on trial for being accused of a “gay handshake”.[228] Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years, while article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy.[229]

Amputation is a legal punishment in the UAE due to the Sharia courts.[230][231][232][233][234] Crucifixion is a legal punishment in the UAE.[235][236][237] Article 1 of the Federal Penal Code states that “provisions of the Islamic Law shall apply to the crimes of doctrinal punishment, punitive punishment and blood money.”[238] The Federal Penal Code repealed only those provisions within the penal codes of individual emirates which are contradictory to the Federal Penal Code. Hence, both are enforceable simultaneously.[239]

During the month of Ramadan, it is illegal to publicly eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset.[240] Exceptions are made for pregnant women and children. The law applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims,[240] and failure to comply may result in arrest.[241] Dancing in public is illegal in the UAE.[242][243][244]

Human rights[edit]

Flogging and stoning are legal punishments in the UAE. The requirement is derived from Sharia law, and has been federal law since 2005.[245] Some domestic workers in the UAE are victims of the country’s interpretations of Sharia judicial punishments such as flogging and stoning.[177] The annual Freedom House report on Freedom in the World has listed the United Arab Emirates as “Not Free” every year since 1999, the first year for which records are available on their website.[98]

Protest against the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, March 2018

The UAE has escaped the Arab Spring; however, more than 100 Emirati activists were jailed and tortured because they sought reforms.[69][246][247] Since 2011, the UAE government has increasingly carried out forced disappearances.[248][249][250][251][252][253] Many foreign nationals and Emirati citizens have been arrested and abducted by the state. The UAE government denies these people are being held (to conceal their whereabouts), placing these people outside the protection of the law.[247][249][254] According to Human Rights Watch, the reports of forced disappearance and torture in the UAE are of grave concern.[250]

The Arab Organization for Human Rights has obtained testimonies from many defendants, for its report on “Forced Disappearance and Torture in the UAE”, who reported that they had been kidnapped, tortured and abused in detention centres.[249][254] The report included 16 different methods of torture including severe beatings, threats with electrocution and denying access to medical care.[249][254]

In 2013, 94 Emirati activists were held in secret detention centres and put on trial for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government.[255] Human rights organizations have spoken out against the secrecy of the trial. An Emirati, whose father is among the defendants, was arrested for tweeting about the trial. In April 2013, he was sentenced to 10 months in jail.[256] The latest forced disappearance involves three sisters from Abu Dhabi.[257][258]

Repressive measures were also used against non-Emiratis in order to justify the UAE government’s claim that there is an “international plot” in which UAE citizens and foreigners were working together to destabilize the country.[254] Foreign nationals were also subjected to a campaign of deportations.[254] There are many documented cases of Egyptians and other foreign nationals who had spent years working in the UAE and were then given only a few days to leave the country.[254]

Foreign nationals subjected to forced disappearance include two Libyans[259] and two Qataris.[254][260] Amnesty reported that the Qatari men have been abducted by the UAE government and the UAE government has withheld information about the men’s fate from their families.[254][260] Amongst the foreign nationals detained, imprisoned and expelled isIyad El-Baghdadi, a popular blogger and Twitter personality.[254] He was arrested by UAE authorities, detained, imprisoned and then expelled from the country.[254] Despite his lifetime residence in the UAE, as a Palestinian citizen, El-Baghdadi had no recourse to contest this order.[254] He could not be deported back to the Palestinian territories, therefore he was deported to Malaysia.[254]

In 2007, the UAE government attempted to cover up information on the rape of a French teenage boy by three Emirati locals, one of whose HIV-positive status was hidden by Emirati authorities.[261] Diplomatic pressure led to the arrest and conviction of the Emirati rapists.[262]

In April 2009, a video tape of torture smuggled out of the UAE showed Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan torturing a man (Mohammed Shah Poor) with whips, electric cattle prods, wooden planks with protruding nails and running him over repeatedly with a car.[263] In December 2009, Issa appeared in court and proclaimed his innocence.[264] The trial ended on 10 January 2010, when Issa was cleared of the torture of Mohammed Shah Poor.[265] Human Rights Watch criticised the trial and called on the government to establish an independent body to investigate allegations of abuse by UAE security personnel and other persons of authority.[266] The US State Department has expressed concern over the verdict and said all members of Emirati society “must stand equal before the law” and called for a careful review of the decision to ensure that the demands of justice are fully met in this case.[267]

In recent years, many Shia Muslim expatriates have been deported from the UAE.[268][269][270] Lebanese Shia families in particular have been deported for their alleged sympathy for Hezbollah.[271][272][273][274][275][276] According to some organizations, more than 4,000 Shia expatriates have been deported from the UAE in recent years.[277][278]

The issue of sexual abuse among female domestic workers is another area of concern, particularly given that domestic servants are not covered by the UAE labour law of 1980 or the draft labour law of 2007.[279] Worker protests have been suppressed and protesters imprisoned without due process.[280] In its 2013 Annual Report, Amnesty International drew attention to the United Arab Emirates’ poor record on a number of human rights issues. They highlighted the government’s restrictive approach to freedom of speech and assembly, their use of arbitrary arrest and torture, and UAE’s use of the death penalty.[281]

In 2012, Dubai police subjected three British citizens to beatings and electric shocks after arresting them on drugs charges.[282] The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, expressed “concern” over the case and raised it with the UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during his 2013 state visit to the UK.[283] The three men were pardoned and released in July 2013.[284]

In 2013, police arrested a US citizen and some UAE citizens, in connection with a YouTube parody video which allegedly portrayed Dubai and its residents in a bad light. The video was shot in areas of Satwa, Dubai, and featured gangs learning how to fight using simple weapons, including shoes, the aghal, etc.[285] In 2015, nationals from different countries were put in jail for offences. An Australian woman was accused of ‘writing bad words on social media’ after she had posted a picture of a vehicle parked illegally. She was later deported from the UAE.[286]

The State Security Apparatus in the UAE has been accused of a series of atrocities and human rights abuses including enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrests and torture,[287]

Freedom of association is also severely curtailed. All associations and NGOs have to register through the Ministry of Social Affairs and are therefore under de facto State control. About twenty non-political groups operate on the territory without registration. All associations have to be submitted to censorship guidelines and all publications have first to be approved by the government.[288]

In a report released on 12 July 2018, Amnesty International urged for probe of torture claims on UAE-run prisons in Yemen.[289]

On 10 September 2018, Yemeni detainees in a UAE-run prison underwent a hunger strike to protest their detention. Despite orders by the prosecutors to release some of the detained prisoners, the detainees are still being held.[290]

On 30 September 2019, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reported that Ahmed Mansoor was beaten up by the Abu Dhabi Al-Sadr Prison authorities for holding a hunger strike against his imprisonment.[291]

On 2 May 2020, the Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul confirmed that more than 150,000 Indians in the United Arab Emirates registered to fly home through the e-registration option provided by Indian consulates in the UAE. According to the figures, 25 per cent applicants lost their jobs and nearly 15 per cent were stranded in the country due to lockdown. Besides, 50 per cent of the total applicants were from the state of Kerala, India.[292]

Migrant workers[edit]

Two south east Asian blue-collar workers posing for a picture with Burj Khalifa on the background.

Migrant workers in the UAE are not allowed to join trade unions or go on strike. Those who strike may risk prison and deportation,[293][293][294] as seen in 2014 when dozens of workers were deported for striking.[295] The International Trade Union Confederation has called on the United Nations to investigate evidence that thousands of migrant workers in the UAE are treated as slave labour.[296]

A report In January 2020 highlighted that the employers in the United Arab Emirates have been exploiting the Indian labor and hiring them on tourist visas, which is easier and cheaper than work permits. These migrant workers are left open to labor abuse, where they also fear reporting exploitation due to their illegal status. Besides, the issue remains unknown as the visit visa data is not maintained in both the UAE and Indian migration and employment records.[297]

On 5 May, the authorities of Pakistan raised an issue regarding the repatriation of their citizens from the United Arab Emirates. Reuters reported that the Pakistani workers returning from the Gulf nation had high number of COVID-19 patients. The ministry spokeswoman, Aisha Farooqui highlighted that the situation was officially addressed to the UAE authorities, where the virus was believed to be spreading due to the crowded living conditions in the Emirates.[298]

Dress code[edit]

The UAE has a modest dress code, and is part of Dubai’s criminal law.[299] Most malls in the UAE have a dress code displayed at entrances.[300] At Dubai’s malls, women are encouraged to cover their shoulders and knees.[300][301][302] Despite this, people are allowed to wear swimwear at pools and beaches.

People are also requested to wear modest clothing when entering mosques, such as the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Those mosques which are open to tourists provide modest clothing for men and women if needed.

Media[edit]

The UAE’s media is annually classified as “not free” in the Freedom of the Press report by Freedom House.[303] The UAE ranks poorly in the annual Press Freedom Index by Reporters without BordersDubai Media City and twofour54 are the UAE’s main media zones. The UAE is home to some pan-Arab broadcasters, including the Middle East Broadcasting Centre and Orbit Showtime Network. In 2007, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum decreed that journalists can no longer be prosecuted or imprisoned for reasons relating to their work.[304] At the same time, the UAE has made it illegal to disseminate online material that can threaten “public order”,[305] and hands down prison terms for those who “deride or damage” the reputation of the state and “display contempt” for religion.[306]

Economy[edit]

The UAE has developed from a juxtaposition of Bedouin tribes to one of the world’s most wealthy states in only about 50 years. Economic growth has been impressive and steady throughout the history of this young confederation of emirates with brief periods of recessions only, e.g. in the global financial and economic crisis years 2008–09, and a couple of more mixed years starting in 2015 and persisting until 2019. Between 2000 and 2018, average real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was at close to 4%.[307] It is the second largest economy in the GCC (after Saudi Arabia),[308] with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of US$414.2 billion, and a real GDP of 392.8 billion constant 2010 USD in 2018.[307] Since its independence in 1971, the UAE’s economy has grown by nearly 231 times to 1.45 trillion AED in 2013. The non-oil trade has grown to 1.2 trillion AED, a growth by around 28 times from 1981 to 2012.[308] Backed by the world’s seventh-largest oil deposits, and thanks to considerate investments combined with decided economic liberalism and firm Government control, the UAE has seen their real GDP more than triple in the last four decades. Nowadays the UAE is one of the world’s richest countries, with GDP per capita almost 80% higher than OECD average.[307]

As impressive as economic growth has been in the UAE, the total population has increased from just around 550,000 in 1975 to close to 10 million in 2018. This growth is mainly due to the influx of foreign workers into the country, making the national population a minority. The UAE features a unique labour market system, in which residence in the UAE is conditional on stringent visa rules. This system is a major advantage in terms of macroeconomic stability, as labour supply adjusts quickly to demand throughout economic business cycles. This allows the Government to keep unemployment in the country on a very low level of less than 3%, and it also gives the Government more leeway in terms of macroeconomic policies – where other governments often need to make trade-offs between fighting unemployment and fighting inflation.[307]

Between 2014 and 2018, the accommodation and food, education, information and communication, arts and recreation, and real estate sectors overperformed in terms of growth, whereas the construction, logistics, professional services, public, and oil and gas sectors underperformed.[307]

Business and finance[edit]

Abu Dhabi skyline

The UAE offers businesses a strong enabling environment: stable political and macroeconomic conditions, a future-oriented Government, good general infrastructure and ICT infrastructure. Moreover, the country has made continuous and convincing improvements to its regulatory environment and is generally a top country for doing business.[307] UAE is ranked as the 26th best nation in the world for doing business by the Doing Business 2017 Report published by the World Bank Group.[309] The UAE are in the top ranks of several global indices, such as the Doing Business, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), the World Happiness Report (WHR) and the Global Innovation Index (GII). The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), for example, assigns the UAE rank two regionally in terms of business environment and 22 worldwide. From the 2018 Arab Youth Survey the UAE emerges as top Arab country in areas such as living, safety and security, economic opportunities, and starting a business, and as an example for other States to emulate.[307]

The weaker points remain the level of education across the UAE population, limitations in the financial and labour markets, barriers to trade and some regulations that hinder business dynamism. The major challenge for the country, though, remains translating investments and strong enabling conditions into knowledge, innovation and creative outputs.[307]

UAE law does not allow trade unions to exist.[310] The right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are not recognised, and the Ministry of Labour has the power to force workers to go back to work. Migrant workers who participate in a strike can have their work permits cancelled and be deported.[310] Consequently, there are very few anti-discrimination laws in relation to labour issues, with Emiratis – other GCC Arabs – getting preference in public sector jobs despite lesser credentials than competitors and lower motivation. In fact, just over eighty percent of Emirati workers hold government posts, with many of the rest taking part in state-owned enterprises such as Emirates airlines and Dubai Properties.[311]

The UAE’s monetary policy is in the service of stability and predictability, as the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) keeps a peg to the US Dollar (USD) and moves interest rates close to the Federal Funds Rate. This policy makes sense in the current situation of global and regional economic and geopolitical uncertainty. Also considering the fact that exports have become the main driver of the UAE’s economic growth (the contribution of international trade to GDP grew from 31% in 2017 to 33.5% in 2018, outpacing overall GDP growth for the period), and the fact that the AED is currently undervalued, a departure from this policy – and particularly the peg – would negatively affect this important part of the UAE economy in the short term. In the mid- to long term, however, the peg will become less important, as the UAE transitions to a knowledge-based economy – and becomes yet more independent from the oil and gas sector (oil is currently still being traded not in AED, but in USD). On the contrary, it will become more and more important for the Government to have monetary policy at its free disposal to target inflation, shun too heavy reliance on taxes, and avoid situations where decisions on exchange rates and interest rates contradict fiscal policy measures – as has been the case in recent years, where monetary policy has limited fiscal policy effects on economic expansion.[307]

According to Fitch Ratings, the decline in property sector follows risks of progressively worsening the quality of assets in possession with UAE banks, leading the economy to rougher times ahead. Even though as compared to retail and property, UAE banks fared well. The higher US interest rates followed since 2016 – which the UAE currency complies to – have boosted profitability. However, the likelihood of plunging interest rates and increasing provisioning costs on bad loans, point to difficult times ahead for the economy.[312]

Since 2015, economic growth has been more mixed due to a number of factors impacting both demand and supply. In 2017 and 2018 growth has been positive but on a low level of 0.8 and 1.4%, respectively. To support the economy the Government is currently following an expansionary fiscal policy. However, the effects of this policy are partially offset by monetary policy, which has been contractionary. If not for the fiscal stimulus in 2018, the UAE economy would probably have contracted in that year. One of the factors responsible for slower growth has been a credit crunch, which is due to, among other factors, higher interest rates. Government debt has remained on a low level, despite high deficits in a few recent years. Risks related to government debt remain low. Inflation has been picking up in 2017 and 18. Contributing factors were the introduction of a value added tax (VAT) of 5% in 2018 as well as higher commodity prices. Despite the Government’s expansionary fiscal policy and a growing economy in 2018 and at the beginning of 2019, prices have been dropping in late 2018 and 2019 owing to oversupply in some sectors of importance to consumer prices.[307]

Oil and gas[edit]

The UAE leadership has driven forward economic diversification efforts already before the oil price crash in the 1980s, and the UAE is nowadays the most diversified economy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Although the oil and gas sector does still play an important role in the UAE economy, these efforts have paid off in terms of great resilience during periods of oil price fluctuations and economic turbulence. In 2018, the oil and gas sector contributed 26% to overall GDP. The introduction of the VAT has provided the Government with an additional source of income – approximately 6% of the total revenue in 2018, or 27 billion United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) – affording its fiscal policy more independence from oil- and gas-related revenue, which constitutes about 36% of the total Government revenue. While the Government may still adjust the exact arrangement of the VAT, it is not likely that any new taxes will be introduced in the foreseeable future. Additional taxes would destroy one of the UAE’s main enticements for businesses to operate in the country and put a heavy burden on the economy.[307]

Tourism[edit]

Dubai Marina Beach

Tourism acts as a growth sector for the entire UAE economy. Dubai is the top tourism destination in the Middle East.[206] According to the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, Dubai is the fifth most popular tourism destination in the world.[313] Dubai holds up to 66% share of the UAE’s tourism economy, with Abu Dhabi having 16% and Sharjah 10%. Dubai welcomed 10 million tourists in 2013.

The UAE has the most advanced and developed infrastructure in the region.[314] Since the 1980s, the UAE has been spending billions of dollars on infrastructure. These developments are particularly evident in the larger emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The northern emirates are rapidly following suit, providing major incentives for developers of residential and commercial property.[315]

On 6 January 2020, Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that the tourist visa to the United Arab Emirates, which was earlier valid for 30-90 days, was extended to five years.[316]

Transport[edit]

Emirates, one of the world’s largest airlines based in Dubai.
Etihad Airways, second largest airline in UAE based in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai International Airport was the busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic in 2014, overtaking London Heathrow.[317] A 1,200 km (750 mi) country-wide railway is under construction which will connect all the major cities and ports.[318] The Dubai Metro is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula.[319] The major ports of the United Arab Emirates are Khalifa PortZayed Port, Port Jebel AliPort RashidPort KhalidPort Saeed, and Port Khor Fakkan.[320]

Abu DhabiDubaiSharjahAjmanUmm Al Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah are connected by the E11 highway, which is the longest road in the UAE. In Dubai, in addition to the metro, Dubai Tram and Palm Jumeirah Monorail also connect specific parts of the city.

Telecommunications[edit]

The UAE is served by two telecommunications operators, Etisalat and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (“du”). Etisalat operated a monopoly until du launched mobile services in February 2007.[321] Internet subscribers were expected to increase from 0.904 million in 2007 to 2.66 million in 2012.[322] The regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, mandates filtering websites for religious, political and sexual content.[323]

5G wireless services were installed nationwide in 2019 through a partnership with Huawei.[324]

Culture[edit]

A traditional souk in Deira, Dubai

Emirati culture is based on Arabian culture and has been influenced by the cultures of PersiaIndia, and East Africa.[325] Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of the local Emirati identity.[326] Persian influence on Emirati culture is noticeably visible in traditional Emirati architecture and folk arts.[325] For example, the distinctive wind tower which tops traditional Emirati buildings, the barjeel has become an identifying mark of Emirati architecture and is attributed to Persian influence.[325] This influence is derived both from traders who fled the tax regime in Persia in the early 19th Century and from Emirati ownership of ports on the Persian coast, for instance the Al Qassimi port of Lingeh.[327]

A band performs a razfah in an Emirati wedding. Razfah is a cultural dance derived from Arab tribes sword battles.

The United Arab Emirates has a diverse society.[328] Major holidays in the United Arab Emirates include Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates.[329] Emirati males prefer to wear a kandura, an ankle-length white tunic woven from wool or cotton, and Emirati women wear an abaya, a black over-garment that covers most parts of the body.[330]

Ancient Emirati poetry was strongly influenced by the 8th-century Arab scholar Al Khalil bin Ahmed. The earliest known poet in the UAE is Ibn Majid, born between 1432 and 1437 in Ras Al-Khaimah. The most famous Emirati writers were Mubarak Al Oqaili (1880–1954), Salem bin Ali al Owais (1887–1959) and Ahmed bin Sulayem (1905–1976). Three other poets from Sharjah, known as the Hirah group, are observed to have been heavily influenced by the Apollo and Romantic poets.[331] The Sharjah International Book Fair is the oldest and largest in the country.

The list of museums in the United Arab Emirates includes some of regional repute, most famously Sharjah with its Heritage District containing 17 museums,[332] which in 1998 was the Cultural Capital of the Arab World.[333] In Dubai, the area of Al Quoz has attracted a number of art galleries as well as museums such as the Salsali Private Museum.[334] Abu Dhabi has established a culture district on Saadiyat Island. Six grand projects are planned, including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Louvre Abu Dhabi.[335] Dubai also plans to build a Kunsthal museum and a district for galleries and artists.[336]

Emirati culture is a part of the culture of Eastern ArabiaLiwa is a type of music and dance performed locally, mainly in communities that contain descendants of Bantu peoples from the African Great Lakes region.[331] The Dubai Desert Rock Festival is also another major festival consisting of heavy metal and rock artists.[337] The cinema of the United Arab Emirates is minimal but expanding.

Cuisine[edit]

Arabic coffee with Lugaimat; a traditional Emirati sweet.

The traditional food of the Emirates has always been rice, fish and meat. The people of the United Arab Emirates have adopted most of their foods from other West and South Asian countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India and Oman. Seafood has been the mainstay of the Emirati diet for centuries. Meat and rice are other staple foods, with lamb and mutton preferred to goat and beef. Popular beverages are coffee and tea, which can be complemented with cardamomsaffron, or mint to give them a distinctive flavour.[338]

Popular cultural Emirati dishes include threedmachbooskhubisakhameer and chabab bread among others while Lugaimat is a famous Emirati dessert.

With the influence of western culture, fast food has become very popular among young people, to the extent that campaigns have been held to highlight the dangers of fast food excesses.[339] Alcohol is allowed to be served only in hotel restaurants and bars. All nightclubs are permitted to sell alcohol. Specific supermarkets may sell alcohol, but these products are sold in separate sections. Likewise, pork, which is haram (not permitted for Muslims), is sold in separate sections in all major supermarkets. Note that although alcohol may be consumed, it is illegal to be intoxicated in public or drive a motor vehicle with any trace of alcohol in the blood.[340]

Sports[edit]

Formula One is particularly popular in the United Arab Emirates, and a Grand Prix is annually held at the Yas Marina Circuit. The race takes place in the evening, and was the first ever Grand Prix to start in daylight and finish at night.[341] Other popular sports include camel racingfalconryendurance riding, and tennis.[342] The emirate of Dubai is also home to two major golf courses: the Dubai Golf Club and Emirates Golf Club.

In the past, child camel jockeys were used, leading to widespread criticism. Eventually the UAE passed laws banning the use of children for the sport, leading to the prompt removal of almost all child jockeys.[343] Recently robot jockeys have been introduced to overcome the problem of child camel jockeys which was an issue of human right violations. Ansar Burney is often praised for the work he has done in this area.[344]

Football[edit]

Football is a popular sport in the UAE. Al NasrAl AinAl WaslSharjahAl Wahda, and Shabab Al Ahli are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time regional champions.[345] The United Arab Emirates Football Association was established in 1971 and since then has dedicated its time and effort to promoting the game, organising youth programmes and improving the abilities of not only its players, but also the officials and coaches involved with its regional teams. The UAE qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1990, along with Egypt. It was the third consecutive World Cup with two Arab nations qualifying, after Kuwait and Algeria in 1982, and Iraq and Algeria again in 1986. The UAE has won the Gulf Cup Championship twice: the first cup won in January 2007 held in Abu Dhabi and the second in January 2013, held in Bahrain.[346] The country hosted the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The UAE team went all the way to the semi-finals, where they were defeated by the eventual champions, Qatar.

Cricket[edit]

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the UAE, largely because of the expatriate population from the SAARC countries, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in Sharjah has hosted four international test cricket matches so far.[347] Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi has also hosted international cricket matches. Dubai has two cricket stadiums (Dubai Cricket Ground No. 1 and No. 2) with a third, the DSC Cricket Stadium, as part of Dubai Sports City. Dubai is also home to the International Cricket Council.[348] The UAE national cricket team qualified for the 1996 Cricket World Cup and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. They qualified for the 2015 Cricket World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand.[349][350] The 14th edition of the Asia Cup Cricket tournament was held in the UAE in September 2018.[351]

Education[edit]

University City Hall is the largest hall located in University City in Sharjah. Graduation ceremonies of American University of SharjahUniversity of Sharjah, and Higher Colleges of Technology are notably held here.

The education system through secondary level is monitored by the Ministry of Education in all emirates except Abu Dhabi, where it falls under the authority of the Abu Dhabi Education Council. It consists of primary schools, middle schools and high schools. The public schools are government-funded and the curriculum is created to match the United Arab Emirates’ development goals. The medium of instruction in the public school is Arabic with emphasis on English as a second language. There are also many private schools which are internationally accredited. Public schools in the country are free for citizens of the UAE, while the fees for private schools vary.

The higher education system is monitored by the Ministry of Higher Education. The ministry also is responsible for admitting students to its undergraduate institutions.[352] The adult literacy rate in 2015 was 93.8%.[353]

The UAE has shown a strong interest in improving education and research. Enterprises include the establishment of the CERT Research Centers and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Institute for Enterprise Development.[354] According to the QS Rankings, the top-ranking universities in the country are the United Arab Emirates University (421–430th worldwide), Khalifa University[355] (441–450th worldwide), the American University of Sharjah (431–440th) and University of Sharjah (551–600th worldwide).[356]

Demographics[edit]

Residential villas in the Palm Jumeirah palm fronds in Dubai.

The old residential area in Sharjah, displaying local architecture.

According to an estimate by the World Bank, the UAE’s population in 2018 stands at 9.543 million. Expatriates and immigrants account for 88.52% while Emiratis make up the remaining 11.48%.[357] This unique imbalance is due to the country’s exceptionally high net migration rate of 21.71, the world’s highest.[358] Under Article 8 of UAE Federal Law No. 17, an expatriate can apply for UAE citizenship after residing in the country for 20 years, providing they have never been convicted of a crime and can speak fluent Arabic.[359] Only 1.4 million inhabitants are citizens.[11]

The UAE is ethnically diverse. The five most populous nationalities in the emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, and Ajman are Indian (25%), Pakistani (12%), Emirati (9%), Bangladeshi (7%), and Filipino (5%).[360] Expatriates from Europe, Australia, Northern America and Latin America make up 500,000 of the population.[361][362] More than 100,000 British nationals live in the country.[363] The rest of the population are from other Arab states.[1][364]

About 88% of the population of the United Arab Emirates is urban.[365] The average life expectancy was 76.7 in 2012, higher than for any other Arab country.[366][367] With a male/female sex ratio of 2.2 males for each female in the total population and 2.75 to 1 for the 15–65 age group, the UAE’s gender imbalance is second highest in the world after Qatar.[368]

Religion[edit]

Religions in UAE (Pew Research)[369][370]
Religion Percent
Islam
76%
Christianity
12.6%
Hinduism
6.6%
Buddhism
2%
Other
1%
None
1%

Islam is the largest and the official state religion of the UAE. The government follows a policy of tolerance toward other religions and rarely interferes in the activities of non-Muslims.[371] By the same token, non-Muslims are expected to avoid interfering in Islamic religious matters or the Islamic upbringing of Muslims.

The government imposes restrictions on spreading other religions through any form of media as it is considered a form of proselytizing. There are approximately 31 churches throughout the country, one Hindu temple in the region of Bur Dubai,[372] one Sikh Gurudwara in Jebel Ali and also a Buddhist temple in Al Garhoud.

Based on the Ministry of Economy census in 2005, 76% of the total population was Muslim, 13% Christian, and 11% other (mainly Hindu).[212] Census figures do not take into account the many “temporary” visitors and workers while also counting Baha’is and Druze as Muslim.[212] Among Emirati Muslim citizens, 97% are Sunni, while 3% are Shi’a, mostly concentrated in the emirates of Sharjah and Dubai.[212] Omani immigrants are mostly Ibadi, while Sufi influences exist too.[373]

Largest cities[edit]

Languages[edit]

Arabic is the national language of the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf dialect of Arabic is spoken natively by the Emirati people.[374] Since the area was occupied by the British until 1971,[dubious ] English is the primary lingua franca in the UAE. As such, a knowledge of the language is a requirement when applying for most local jobs.

Health[edit]

The life expectancy at birth in the UAE is at 76.96 years.[375] Cardiovascular disease is the principal cause of death in the UAE, constituting 28% of total deaths; other major causes are accidents and injuriesmalignancies, and congenital anomalies.[376] According to World Health Organisation data from 2016, 34.5% of adults in the UAE are clinically obese, with a Body mass index (BMI) score of 30 or more.[377]

In February 2008, the Ministry of Health unveiled a five-year health strategy for the public health sector in the northern emirates, which fall under its purview and which, unlike Abu Dhabi and Dubai, do not have separate healthcare authorities. The strategy focuses on unifying healthcare policy and improving access to healthcare services at reasonable cost, at the same time reducing dependence on overseas treatment. The ministry plans to add three hospitals to the current 14, and 29 primary healthcare centres to the current 86. Nine were scheduled to open in 2008.[378]

The introduction of mandatory health insurance in Abu Dhabi for expatriates and their dependants was a major driver in reform of healthcare policy. Abu Dhabi nationals were brought under the scheme from 1 June 2008 and Dubai followed for its government employees. Eventually, under federal law, every Emirati and expatriate in the country will be covered by compulsory health insurance under a unified mandatory scheme.[379] The country has benefited from medical tourists from all over the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. The UAE attracts medical tourists seeking plastic surgery and advanced procedures, cardiac and spinal surgery, and dental treatment, as health services have higher standards than other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.[380]

See also[edit]

Uncategorized

Pleiades

Pleiades

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Pleiades
Pleiades large.jpg
A color-composite image of the Pleiades from the Digitized Sky Survey
Credit: NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech
Observation data (J2000 epoch)
Constellation Taurus
Right ascension  03h 47m 24s[1]
Declination +24° 07′ 00″[1]
Distance 444 ly on average (136.2±1.2 pc[2][3][4][5])
Apparent magnitude (V) 1.6[6]
Apparent dimensions (V) 110′ (arcmin)[6]
Physical characteristics
Other designations M45,[1] Seven Sisters,[1] Melotte 22[1]
See also: Open clusterList of open clusters

The Pleiades (/ˈplədz/,[7] /ˈplədz/[8]), also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45, are an open star cluster containing middle-aged, hot B-type stars in the north-west of the constellation Taurus. It is among the star clusters nearest Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky.

The cluster is dominated by hot blue and luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. Reflection nebulae around the brightest stars were once thought to be left over material from the formation of the cluster, but are now considered likely to be an unrelated dust cloud in the interstellar medium through which the stars are currently passing.[9]

Computer simulations have shown that the Pleiades were probably formed from a compact configuration that resembled the Orion Nebula.[10] Astronomers estimate that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years, after which it will disperse due to gravitational interactions with its galactic neighborhood.[11]

Origin of name[edit]

The name of the Pleiades comes from Ancient Greek. It probably derives from plein (“to sail”) because of the cluster’s importance in delimiting the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea: “the season of navigation began with their heliacal rising“.[12] However, in mythology the name was used for the Pleiades, seven divine sisters, the name supposedly deriving from that of their mother Pleione and effectively meaning “daughters of Pleione”. In reality, the name of the star cluster almost certainly came first, and Pleione was invented to explain it.[13]

Folklore and mythology[edit]

The Nebra sky disk, dated circa 1600 BC. The cluster of dots in the upper right portion of the disk is believed to be the Pleiades.

The Pleiades are a prominent sight in winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and are easily visible out to mid-Southern latitudes. They have been known since antiquity to cultures all around the world,[14] including the CeltsHawaiians (who call them Makaliʻi[15]), Māori (who call them Matariki), Aboriginal Australians (from several traditions), the Persians (who called them پروین Parvīn or پروی Parvī)[16], the Arabs (who called them Thurayya[17]), the Chinese (who called them  mǎo), the Quechua, the Japanese, the Maya, the Aztec, the Sioux, the Kiowa,[18][19] and the Cherokee. In Hinduism, the Pleiades are known as Krittika and are associated with the war-god Kartikeya. They are also mentioned three times in the Bible.[20][21]

Galileo’s drawings of the Pleiades star cluster from Sidereus Nuncius

The earliest-known depiction of the Pleiades is likely a Northern German bronze age artifact known as the Nebra sky disk, dated to approximately 1600 BC.[22] The Babylonian star catalogues name the Pleiades MULMUL (𒀯𒀯), meaning “stars” (literally “star star”), and they head the list of stars along the ecliptic, reflecting the fact that they were close to the point of vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC. The Ancient Egyptians may have used the names “Followers” and “Ennead” in the prognosis texts of the Calendar of Lucky and Unlucky Days of papyrus Cairo 86637.[23] Some Greek astronomers considered them to be a distinct constellation, and they are mentioned by Hesiod‘s Works and Days,[24] Homer‘s Iliad and Odyssey,[25] and the Geoponica.[26] Some scholars of Islam suggested that the Pleiades (ath-thurayya) are the “star” mentioned in Sura An-Najm (“The Star”) of the Quran.[27]

Subaru[edit]

In Japan, the constellation is mentioned under the name Mutsuraboshi (“six stars”) in the 8th-century Kojiki.[28] The constellation is now known in Japan as Subaru. It was chosen as the brand name of Subaru automobiles to reflect the origins of the firm as the joining of five companies, and is depicted in the firm’s six-star logo.[29]

Observational history[edit]

Galileo Galilei was the first astronomer to view the Pleiades through a telescope. He thereby discovered that the cluster contains many stars too dim to be seen with the naked eye. He published his observations, including a sketch of the Pleiades showing 36 stars, in his treatise Sidereus Nuncius in March 1610.

The Pleiades have long been known to be a physically related group of stars rather than any chance alignment. John Michell calculated in 1767 that the probability of a chance alignment of so many bright stars was only 1 in 500,000, and so surmised that the Pleiades and many other clusters of stars must be physically related.[30] When studies were first made of the stars’ proper motions, it was found that they are all moving in the same direction across the sky, at the same rate, further demonstrating that they were related.

Charles Messier measured the position of the cluster and included it as M45 in his catalogue of comet-like objects, published in 1771. Along with the Orion Nebula and the Praesepe cluster, Messier’s inclusion of the Pleiades has been noted as curious, as most of Messier’s objects were much fainter and more easily confused with comets—something that seems scarcely possible for the Pleiades. One possibility is that Messier simply wanted to have a larger catalogue than his scientific rival Lacaille, whose 1755 catalogue contained 42 objects, and so he added some bright, well-known objects to boost his list.[31]

Edme-Sébastien Jeaurat then drew in 1782 a map of 64 stars of the Pleiades from his observations in 1779, which he published in 1786.[32][33][34]

Distance[edit]

Location of Pleiades (circled)
Red circle.svg
Location of Pleiades (circled)

The distance to the Pleiades can be used as a key first step to calibrate the cosmic distance ladder. As the cluster is relatively close to the Earth, its distance should be relatively easy to measure and has been estimated by many methods. Accurate knowledge of the distance allows astronomers to plot a Hertzsprung–Russell diagram for the cluster, which, when compared to those plotted for clusters whose distance is not known, allows their distances to be estimated. Other methods can then extend the distance scale from open clusters to galaxies and clusters of galaxies, and a cosmic distance ladder can be constructed. Ultimately astronomers’ understanding of the age and future evolution of the universe is influenced by their knowledge of the distance to the Pleiades. Yet some authors argue that the controversy over the distance to the Pleiades discussed below is a red herring, since the cosmic distance ladder can (presently) rely on a suite of other nearby clusters where consensus exists regarding the distances as established by the Hipparcos satellite and independent means (e.g., the HyadesComa Berenices cluster, etc.).[3]

Measurements of the distance have elicited much controversy. Results prior to the launch of the Hipparcos satellite generally found that the Pleiades were about 135 parsecs (pc) away from Earth. Data from Hipparcos yielded a surprising result, namely a distance of only 118 pc by measuring the parallax of stars in the cluster—a technique that should yield the most direct and accurate results. Later work consistently argued that the Hipparcos distance measurement for the Pleiades was erroneous.[3][4][5][35][36][37] In particular, distances derived to the cluster via the Hubble Space Telescope and infrared color-magnitude diagram fitting (so-called “spectroscopic parallax“) favor a distance between 135 and 140 pc;[3][35] a dynamical distance from optical interferometric observations of the Pleiad double Atlas favors a distance of 133 to 137 pc.[37] However, the author of the 2007–2009 catalog of revised Hipparcos parallaxes reasserted that the distance to the Pleiades is ~120 pc and challenged the dissenting evidence.[2] Recently, Francis and Anderson[38] proposed that a systematic effect on Hipparcos parallax errors for stars in clusters biases calculation using the weighted mean and gave a Hipparcos parallax distance of 126 pc and photometric distance 132 pc based on stars in the AB DoradusTucana-Horologium, and Beta Pictoris moving groups, which are all similar in age and composition to the Pleiades. Those authors note that the difference between these results can be attributed to random error. More recent results using very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) (August 2014) and preliminary solutions using Gaia Data Release 1 (September 2016) and Gaia Data Release 2 (August 2018), determine distances of 136.2 ± 1.2 pc,[39] 134 ± 6 pc[40] and 136.2 ± 5.0 pc,[41] respectively. Although the Gaia Data Release 1 team was cautious about their result, the VLBI authors assert “that the Hipparcos-measured distance to the Pleiades cluster is in error”.

Selected distance estimates to the Pleiades
Year Distance (pc) Notes
1999 125 Hipparcos[42]
2004 134.6 ± 3.1 Hubble Fine Guidance Sensor[35]
2009 120.2 ± 1.9 Revised Hipparcos[2]
2014 136.2 ± 1.2 Very-long-baseline interferometry[39]
2016 134 ± 6 Gaia Data Release 1[40]
2018 136.2 ± 5 Gaia Data Release 2[41]

For another distance debate see Polaris#Distance, also with a different measurement from Hipparcos, although this time it suggested a farther distance.

Composition[edit]

A map of the Pleiades

The cluster core radius is about 8 light-years and tidal radius is about 43 light-years. The cluster contains over 1,000 statistically confirmed members, although this figure excludes unresolved binary stars.[43] Its light is dominated by young, hot blue stars, up to 14 of which can be seen with the naked eye depending on local observing conditions. The arrangement of the brightest stars is somewhat similar to Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. The total mass contained in the cluster is estimated to be about 800 solar masses and is dominated by fainter and redder stars.[43]

The cluster contains many brown dwarfs, which are objects with less than about 8% of the Sun‘s mass, not heavy enough for nuclear fusion reactions to start in their cores and become proper stars. They may constitute up to 25% of the total population of the cluster, although they contribute less than 2% of the total mass.[44] Astronomers have made great efforts to find and analyse brown dwarfs in the Pleiades and other young clusters, because they are still relatively bright and observable, while brown dwarfs in older clusters have faded and are much more difficult to study.

Brightest stars[edit]

The nine brightest stars of the Pleiades are named for the Seven Sisters of Greek mythologySteropeMeropeElectraMaiaTaygetaCelaeno, and Alcyone, along with their parents Atlas and Pleione. As daughters of Atlas, the Hyades were sisters of the Pleiades. The English name of the cluster itself is of Greek origin (Πλειάδες), though of uncertain etymology. Suggested derivations include: from πλεῖν plein, “to sail”, making the Pleiades the “sailing ones”; from πλέος pleos, “full, many”; or from πελειάδες peleiades, “flock of doves”. The following table gives details of the brightest stars in the cluster:

Pleiades bright stars
Name Pronunciation (IPA) Designation Apparent magnitude Stellar classification Distance (ly)[45]
Alcyone /ælˈs.ən/ Eta (25) Tauri 2.86 B7IIIe 409±50
Atlas /ˈætləs/ 27 Tauri 3.62 B8III 387±26
Electra /ɪˈlɛktrə/ 17 Tauri 3.70 B6IIIe 375±23
Maia /ˈm.ə/ 20 Tauri 3.86 B7III 344±25
Merope /ˈmɛrəp/ 23 Tauri 4.17 B6IVev 344±16
Taygeta /tˈɪɪtə/ 19 Tauri 4.29 B6V 364±16
Pleione /ˈplən, ˈpl-/ 28 (BU) Tauri 5.09 (var.) B8IVpe 422±11
Celaeno /sɪˈln/ 16 Tauri 5.44 B7IV 434±10
Sterope, Asterope /(ə)ˈstɛrəp/ 21 and 22 Tauri 5.64;6.41 B8Ve/B9V 431.1±7.5
18 Tauri 5.66 B8V 444.3±7.5

Age and future evolution[edit]

Stars of Pleiades with color and 10,000-year backwards proper motion shown

Animation of proper motion in 400,000 years—cross-eyed viewing Stereogram guide cross-eyed.svg (click for viewing guide)

Ages for star clusters can be estimated by comparing the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram for the cluster with theoretical models of stellar evolution. Using this technique, ages for the Pleiades of between 75 and 150 million years have been estimated. The wide spread in estimated ages is a result of uncertainties in stellar evolution models, which include factors such as convective overshoot, in which a convective zone within a star penetrates an otherwise non-convective zone, resulting in higher apparent ages.

Another way of estimating the age of the cluster is by looking at the lowest-mass objects. In normal main-sequence stars, lithium is rapidly destroyed in nuclear fusion reactions. Brown dwarfs can retain their lithium, however. Due to lithium’s very low ignition temperature of 2.5 × 106 K, the highest-mass brown dwarfs will burn it eventually, and so determining the highest mass of brown dwarfs still containing lithium in the cluster can give an idea of its age. Applying this technique to the Pleiades gives an age of about 115 million years.[46][47]

The cluster is slowly moving in the direction of the feet of what is currently the constellation of Orion. Like most open clusters, the Pleiades will not stay gravitationally bound forever. Some component stars will be ejected after close encounters with other stars; others will be stripped by tidal gravitational fields. Calculations suggest that the cluster will take about 250 million years to disperse, with gravitational interactions with giant molecular clouds and the spiral arms of our galaxy also hastening its demise.[48]

Reflection nebulosity[edit]

Hubble Space Telescope image of reflection nebulosity near Merope (IC 349)

With larger amateur telescopes, the nebulosity around some of the stars can be easily seen; especially when long-exposure photographs are taken. Under ideal observing conditions, some hint of nebulosity around the cluster may even be seen with small telescopes or average binoculars. It is a reflection nebula, caused by dust reflecting the blue light of the hot, young stars.

It was formerly thought that the dust was left over from the formation of the cluster, but at the age of about 100 million years generally accepted for the cluster, almost all the dust originally present would have been dispersed by radiation pressure. Instead, it seems that the cluster is simply passing through a particularly dusty region of the interstellar medium.

Studies show that the dust responsible for the nebulosity is not uniformly distributed, but is concentrated mainly in two layers along the line of sight to the cluster. These layers may have been formed by deceleration due to radiation pressure as the dust has moved towards the stars.[49]

Possible planets[edit]

Analyzing deep-infrared images obtained by the Spitzer Space Telescope and Gemini North telescope, astronomers discovered that one of the cluster’s stars—HD 23514, which has a mass and luminosity a bit greater than that of the Sun, is surrounded by an extraordinary number of hot dust particles. This could be evidence for planet formation around HD 23514.[50]

See also[edit]