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The Northern Emirates

The UAE is a confederation of seven emirates. Individual emirates retain considerable control over legal and economic matters, most significantly over ownership and disposition of oil and other natural resources, and resultant revenues. Oil production and revenues from the sale of oil constitute the largest single component of GDP, accounting for 39.7 percent of GDP and equaling roughly 40 percent of exports and 90 percent of government revenue. Rising or declining oil prices have a direct effect on GDP statistics. UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan's decision to increase sharply funding for infrastructure projects in the four poorer northern emirates as in keeping with Sheikh Khalifa's governing philosophy to "weaken the Sheikhs, strengthen the people."

The great majority of the UAE's oil export income comes from Abu Dhabi emirate, though Dubai and Sharjah also produce and export a modest amount of oil and gas products. The scarcity of oil and gas reserves in the UAE's northern emirates has led to continued attempts at economic diversification. The non-oil sector of the UAE's economy actually accounts for more than twice the oil sector's direct contribution to GDP and this has helped insulate the country from the full effect of fluctuating oil prices.

The poor economic conditions in the Northern Emirates (Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Qaiwain, and Fujairah), compared to the wealth of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, may be a factor in breeding resentment among some UAE nationals who have limited opportunities for gainful employment. These conditions may make some who feel disadvantaged more susceptible to the messages of extremists. As of yet, there is no identifiable or cohesive Islamist political movement, although the number of Emiratis with religiously conservative views is increasing. The combination of backward economic conditions and extremism in certain parts of the UAE could present a potent threat.

Ajman, Al Fujayrah, and Umm al Qaywayn are relatively small, poor, and dependent on their wealthier neighbors for development grants. The rulers of these three amirates have limited influence within the UAE.


Sharjah, known as The City of Knowledge, is a close neighbour to Dubai. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi. Sharjah is the third largest Emirate and the only one to have land on both the Arabian Gulf Coast and the Gulf of Oman.

The Emirate of Sharjah has developed a unique reputation as a cultural, heritage and family tourist destination providing visitors with the ideal getaway at any time of the year. Holidaymakers can enjoy a break in the sun, relax on the beach, shop in the traditional souks and modern malls, explore the heritage sites and state of the art museums, admire the beautiful mosques and minarets, stroll around the lagoons, as well as experience the natural beauty of the Arabian desert, the mountains and the seas.

Sharjah has developed from a small trading town, relying on fishing and pearl diving, to one of the most modern, dynamic commercial and trade centers in the region. It was the most important port on the lower Arabian Gulf from the time of the early trading with the East into the first half of the 19th century.

Sharjah was also the first place in the region to develop tourism and has been a growing destination in the Middle East since 1932 when international flights were operated out of Sharjah, now historic airport. Beautiful sandy beaches and the clear blue seas of the Gulf of Oman have made this coast a haven for swimming, diving, fishing and relaxing. The inland desert is quite spectacular with impressive red sand dunes.

Sharjah City, the capital, overlooks the Arabian Gulf. The central region of the emirate combines lush green oases, gravel plains and rolling red sand dunes. To the east the emirate reaches the Gulf of Oman coast where the landscape changes to a spectacular rocky coastline backed by mountains.

Sharjah is a manufacturing hub, responsible for 48% of the UAEs total industrial production. It is also home to 5% of the UAEs gas reserves, which are located offshore and in the interior desert area.

Sharjah is renowned throughout the Arab world for its commitment to art, culture and heritage. It was named the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 in recognition of its contribution to preserving and promoting Arab culture. The city of Sharjah has a population of 800,000, making it the third largest city in the UAE.


Ajman is centrally located on the western coast of the UAE. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi. Ajman has a strong maritime tradition which includes shipbuilding, fishing and traiding. The Ajman Free Zone and an influx of people from Dubai, Sharjah and abroad has driven the emirates economic growth in recent years. Ajman City is now ranked third among the emirates for industrial development, and also has the third largest property market in the UAE.

The high Musfoot mountains, southeast of Ajman City are particularly appealing to tourists. The Al-Manama region, directly east of Ajman city, is a region of desert sands and mountains rich in magnesium and chrome, with fertile valleys that support agriculture.

Umm al-Qaiwain

Umm al-Qaiwain is a small emirate situated between Sharjah to the south-west and Ras Al Khaimah to the north-east. Its name means Mother of Two Powers, which refers to the strong seafaring tradition among its tribes. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu'alla.

Umm Al Qaiwain features lush coastal mangroves on the Arabian Gulf, large rolling sand dunes in the interior and fertile land around the hinterland town Falaj Al Moalla. Seneyah Island, located 1 km from the capital, shelters enormous colonies of cormorants and other seabirds, gazelles, turtles, and sea cows.

Umm Al-Qaiwain provides numerous recreational activities, from sailing to skydiving. The biggest tourist draw however is Dreamland, the UAEs largest water park. Traditional sports are also popular in the emirate, and included dhow building, falconry, and camel racing.

Although the traditional occupations of fishing and date cultivation are still important in Umm al-Qaiwain, a mariculture research centre, port and economic free zone have boosted investment and business in the emirate.

Ras Al Khaimah

Covering 1,700 square kilometers, Ras Al Khaimah or RAK, which means top of the tent, is located near the northernmost point of the United Arab Emirates, and shares a mountainous border with the Sultanate of Oman to its south east. His Highness Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi has been appointed the new ruler of Ras Al Khaimah on the 27th of October 2010 after the death of His Highness Shaikh Saqr Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, the late ruler of the emirate.

The city of Ras Al Khaimah, the capital of the emirate, is divided into two parts by a creek. The western part, known as "old Ras Al Khaimah", consists of government departments, educational institutions, shopping malls, hotels as well as residential areas and new construction projects. The eastern part, known as Al Nakheel, houses the Emiri Court, markets, Ras Al Khaimah Exhibition Centre, hospitals and residential areas housing the majority of the city's population. Ras Al Khaimah has a rich history and was renowned for its prosperous port and its exquisite pearls, which were famous for being the whitest and roundest in the world.

Today, Ras Al Khaimahs is reinventing itself as a tourism hub. It is often described as the most scenic of the emirates because of its diverse landscape. On the plains, farmers grow date-palms, while the coastal areas are home to pearl divers, fishermen and traders. Bedouin tribes live in the desert, and the Shihuh and Habus tribes live in the mountainous regions.


Fujairah a mountainous emirate that lies on the eastern side of the UAE, along the Gulf of Oman. It is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi.

Fujairah's economy is based on fishing and agriculture. Like Ras Al Khaimah, the land in Fujairah is irrigated by rainwater from the Hajar Mountains, making it ideal for farming. Its location also offers access to the major shipping routes of the world, and Fujairah is home to the world's largest livestock shipping companies, which use its port as a holding station for sheep and cattle destined for the Arabian Peninsula. Other local industries include mining and stone crushing, which have benefited from the recent boom in construction in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Fujairah Free Zone, surrounding the port of Fujairah, promotes foreign investment in banking and trade.

Because of its easterly location, Fujairahs climate is more moderate than that of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Thousands of weekend visitors looking to escape the heat are drawn to Fujairahs by relaxed, peaceful atmosphere

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Page last modified: 10-12-2012 18:50:23 ZULU