49 fascinating facts about the UAE to celebrate its 49th National Day

Which is the smallest emirate? Which area did the British dub ‘Pirate Coast’? How many date palms are there across the UAE? Read on and find out …

Though celebrations may look a little different this year, as the UAE celebrates its National Day on December 2, the Spirit of the Union and sense of community remain as strong as ever.

And to celebrate the UAE and its many achievements, enjoy these 49 facts about the Emirates on its 49th National Day, for residents, tourists and budding historians alike …

1. The UAE's National Day is celebrated on December 2 each year and marks the unification of the emirates into a federation.

2. The UAE is a federation made up of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah.

Official map of United Arabs Emirates. Courtesy Telecommunication Regulatory Authority

3. Six of the seven emirates combined on December 2, 1971, but Ras Al Khaimah joined the federation later, on February 10, 1972.

4. The UAE was founded under the leadership and vision of the late Sheikh Zayed, known as the Founding Father.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan standing in front of Qasr Al Hosn. November 1956. Source: National Archives

5. The national anthem of the UAE is Ishy Bilady, which translates as Long Live My Country.

6. The falcon is the UAE's national bird, and falconry is at the heart of Emirati culture.

Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center’s Fazza Championship for Falconry - Telwah.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)


7. In 2019, the oldest known pearl in the world was discovered on Marawah Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi. It is estimated to be around 8,000 years old.

Natural Pearl
c. 5800 BCE, Marawah, United Arab Emirates
3 mm (diameter)
Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi
Marawah Island is home to one of the most important archaeological sites in the United Arab Emirates. It provides significant evidence to help us better understand the human communities that lived in the region during the Neolithic period, some 8,000 years ago. The site is comprised of at least seven mounds and excavations in some of them have revealed stone houses dating to c. 6000 BCE. These houses were used as burial chambers during later periods. Within one of the chambers, fragments of the oldest known human skeleton in the emirate of Abu Dhabi were found.
It is, however, the discovery of a complete natural pearl, which dates to the period when the structures were used as houses, that is of enormous importance. Carbon 14 analysis on a sediment sample associated with the pearl indicates a date between 5,800 and 5,600 BCE. Prior to this discovery, the oldest known pearls in the UAE came from a site in Umm Al Quwain and one near Jebel al-Buhais in Sharjah. The Marawah Pearl is older than these making it the world’s oldest known pearl. It indicates that pearls were already gathered in the UAE  8,000 years ago.

Courtesy Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi

8. The seven sheikhdoms were formerly known as the Trucial States, in reference to treaty relations established with Britain in the 19th century.

9. The capital of the UAE is Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, November 3, 2020.   The UAE flag, Corniche.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
FOR: Stock Images

10. In Arabic, abu means "father" and dhabi means "gazelle". Abu Dhabi, therefore, translates as: "Father of the Gazelle".

11. The UAE is a member of the UN, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Opec and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

12. The UAE shares a border with two countries: Saudi Arabia and Oman.

13. In order of the emirates' size, the largest is Abu Dhabi at 67,340 square kilometres and the smallest is Ajman at 259 square kilometres.

14. The UAE's oil reserves are currently the sixth largest in the world.

15. Size-wise, the UAE is slightly bigger than the US state of South Carolina.

16. In 1998, Sharjah was named the Cultural Capital of the Arab World by Unesco.

Dubai sky line with traffic junction and Burj Khalifa. Getty Images

17. Dubai is home to the world's highest building, the Burj Khalifa, which stands 829.8 metres tall, if you count to the tip of its antenna.

18. Dubai is home to the world's first-ever seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab.

19. Excavations at archaeological sites in Ajman have traced human history in the area back to around 3,000 BC.

20. In the mid-18th century, the British dubbed the Arabian Gulf "Pirate Coast" due to its conflicts with the Qawasim, a maritime dynasty headquartered in Ras Al Khaimah but with outposts on both sides of the Strait of Hormuz.

21. In English, Ras Al Khaimah means "top of the tent", referencing its location in the northernmost part of the UAE.

22. Sir Bani Yas Island, located off the coast of the UAE's western region, is home to the oldest pre-Islamic Christian archaeological site in the country.

A handout picture dated November 28, 2009 made available by Abu Dhabi Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) shows a general view of the United Arab Emirates' only discovered Christian monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The pre-Islamic monastery, which is believed to have been built around 600 AD, was initially discovered on the 87 square kilometre island of Sir Bani Yas during excavations in 1992 is now open to the public, a statement by the TDIC said December 12, 2010.         AFP PHOTO/HO/TDIC/MARTIN PFEIFER      -- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE -- / AFP PHOTO / TDIC / Martin Pfeiffer

23. Umm Al Quwain is the least densely populated of all seven emirates.

24. Sharjah is the only emirate that shares its borders with all the other six emirates of the UAE.

25. Sharjah translates as "rising sun" in English.

26. Fujairah was long believed to be home to the oldest mosque in the UAE, Al Badiyah Mosque, which was built in the 1440s. However, in 2018, archaeologists from the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi discovered the oldest known mosque in the UAE at the site of the Sheikh Khalifa mosque at Awd Al Tawbah in Al Ain. The building dates back 1,000 years to Islam's Early Golden Age of the Abbasid Caliphate

27. Ajman was first recognised as an autonomous state in 1820.

28. In 2005, the UAE ratified the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Convention on Climate Change, becoming one of the first major oil-producing countries to do so.

29. Umm Al Quwain means "Mother of two powers".

30. Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi boasts the world's fastest roller coaster. The Formula Rossa is more than 2.2 kilometres in track length and can reach speeds of over 240 kilometres per hour.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 24, 2016:    People ride, Flying Aces, the new roller coaster during its official opening at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi on February 24, 2016. Christopher Pike / The National

Job ID: 90101
Reporter: Tamer Subaihi
Section: News
Keywords:  *** Local Caption ***  CP0224-na-roller-11.JPG

31. The UAE's first airport (1932) and library (1933) were all built in Sharjah.

32. Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque can accommodate around 41,000 worshippers.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, November 2, 2020.    Early morning fog at Abu Dhabi.  The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is engulfed by fog.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
For:  Standalone/Stock

33. In February 2019, Pope Francis became the first pontiff in history to visit and perform papal mass in the Arabian Peninsula during his visit to Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - February 05, 2019: The Pope arrives. Pope Francis takes a large public mass to mark his land mark visit to the UAE. Tuesday the 5th of February 2019 at Zayed Sports city stadium, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

34. There are around 40 million date palms in the UAE.

35. Ras Al Khaimah is home to the world's longest zip line. It starts from the top of Jebel Jais and ends at the foot of the Hajar Mountains, spanning 2.8km.

36. Sharjah is twinned with the city of Granada in Spain.

37. Fujairah used to be called Ard Al Jababerah, which means "land of titans".

38. Humpback dolphins can be spotted in the coastal waters around Abu Dhabi.

39. One of the UAE's earliest initiatives to include classes for girls at schools was Al Islah School in Sharjah in the 1930s.

40. Fujairah does not have a desert and is mostly mountainous.

41. The UAE is ranked as a leading country in gender equality in the region, according to the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap report.

42. The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world at 1,124,000 square metres of total area, the equivalent of 50 football pitches.

A picture shows the closed compound of the Dubai Mall amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on March 23, 2020 in the United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

43. In 2004, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi was appointed the UAE's first female minister.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 10:  Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, pictured in her office in Abu Dhabi on October 10, 2010. She has recently been recognized as the most powerful Arab woman and the 70th most powerful woman in the world by US-based Forbes magazine in its 2010 World's 100 Most Powerful Women list.  (Randi Sokoloff / The National)  For News story by Gregor

44. The UAE's resident population consists of more than 200 nationalities. Arabic is the official language, while other commonly spoken languages include English, Farsi, Hindi and Urdu.

45. The first evidence of human life in the UAE was discovered on Jebel Faya in Sharjah, and dates back to around 85,000 BC

46. In 2008, Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC) purchased 90 per cent of the Chrysler Building in New York for $800 million. They sold their stake 10 years later.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 9: The Chrysler Building stands in Midtown Manhattan, January 9, 2019 in New York City. New York Citys iconic Chrysler Building has been put up for sale. The building's owners, the Abu Dhabi Investment Council and New York developer Tishman Speyer, have hired a commercial real estate firm to market the landmark office tower.   Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

47. In 2009, the UAE announced it would recruit its first female mufti, or religious scholar.

48. In 2009, the UAE became the first country in the Middle East to host the Fifa Club World Cup tournament.

19/12/2009 - Abu Dhabi, UAE -    Barcelona receives their first place trophy in the final match of the FIFA Club World Cup at Zayed Sports City on December 19, 2009.
(Andrew Henderson/ The National) *** Local Caption ***  ah_091220_Final_World_Cup_1275.JPG sp26de-Barcelona1.JPG

49. In 1968, there were only 13 cars registered in Dubai. In 2020, there are almost 3 million registered across the whole of the UAE.

Low tide on the Creek in Dubai, 1967. (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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