A federation in the eastern central Arabian Peninsula comprising seven internally self-governing emirates. It is bounded to the north by the Arabian Gulf; to the east by Oman; and to the south and west by Saudi Arabia. As early as the third millennium BCit was crossed by many Sumerian trade routes. It came under Muslim influence from the 6c and was visited by the Portuguese in the 16c. The British East India Company arrived in the 17c. Various peace treaties with Britain were signed from 1820 by the ruling sheikhs of what became known thereafter as the Trucial States – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain on the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman – which accepted British protection in 1892. Abu Dhabi's huge oilfields were discovered in 1958. The new state formed by six emirates was established in 1971, when the special peace treaties ended and a Treaty of Friendship with Britain was signed; the emirate of Ras al Khaimah joined the following year. The UAE is governed by a Supreme Council comprising the hereditary rulers of the seven emirates and it elects a president from among its members every five years. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi was President from 1971 until his death in 2004, when his son, Sheikh Khalifa, was elected in his place.
Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2005