Not only the tallest building in the world, but also the most luxurious hotel in the UAE. Where there used to be roadside markets and tent-like houses half a century ago, there are now sophisticated cities, rows of dazzling architecture, skyscrapers and wide roads. It looks as if an imaginary city has descended into the heart of the desert.
Where 50 years ago people would have plucked dates from trees, picked sea oysters for pearls or raised camels, now there are branches of the Louvre Museum in Paris, various American universities, and even the satellite campus of the famous Sorbonne University in Paris. The UAE (Leonardo’s Salvatore Mundi) has so far bought the most expensive paintings in the world. Until recently, the largest shopping mall in the world was in the United Arab Emirates.
Over the past several years, the UAE has become a link between the West and the East. Oil money has led to the proliferation of modernity, modern technology and dazzling glamor in this desert country. At the same time, the UAE has become the most powerful country in the world. The country is now one of the main allies of the Western world in the Persian Gulf, although it is one of the most controversial dictatorships in the world.
Although there were signs of oil spills at the time, the British felt that the risk of continuing to rule the area out of greed was far greater than the gain.
At the same time, the rulers of six different states (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Khain and Fujairah) formed a council to coordinate and consult with each other on the governance of their respective territories. Then, in December 1971, they announced the formation of a single state – the United Arab Emirates – which would be a confederation of six semi-autonomous emirates or states.
Soon after, another emirate – Ras Al Khaimah – joined the confederation. The current map of the UAE with these seven emirates. The then Emir of Abu Dhabi, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Khalifa and Mohammed’s father) was elected the first president of the confederation. Oil was found in the area a few days ago. As a result, a massive process of economic development began. At the same time, the population continues to grow and internal resources continue to accumulate.
The process of getting rich
The UAE began to follow the same path as the rest of the Persian Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait).
Historian Roy Miller writes in his book “From the Desert Kingdom to Global Powers: The Rise of the Gulf States” Has been able to distribute and invest surplus income in important assets like assets or stocks in different countries of the world.
Compared to other Gulf countries, the UAE has achieved this in a relatively short period of time and their success rate is also relatively high. Their per capita economic growth rate is number one in the region.
However, not all of the seven emirates in the UAE have the same level of oil. That is why Abu Dhabi and Dubai are far ahead of the rest of the five emirates in terms of development and have become the backbone of the UAE’s national economy.
Due to their autonomy, each emirate has given more importance to each issue than others in their development strategy. For example, some emirates have focused on tourism, while others have focused on attracting foreign investment.
Thus, in 1985, the Jebel Ali Free Economic Zone was created in Dubai to attract foreign investment. Almost 40 years later, it is still the largest free economic zone in the world. Dubai now has more than 30 free economic zones or areas where foreign investment is given a wide range of benefits, including tax and duty exemptions.
Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan aims to place his new country on the world map by the end of the twentieth century, in the year 2000. But there is no doubt that his two sons – Sheikh Khalifa and his half-brother Sheikh Mohammed – have made the country strong in the new century.
The new century
The major challenge facing Sheikh Khalifa as the new president of the UAE in the new century is the 2008 global economic crisis. The crisis hit Dubai, one of the world’s economic hubs, hard. To handle the situation, Sheikh Khalifa gave Dubai hundreds of billions of dollars from emergency funds. Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, was renamed Burj Khalifa to express his gratitude.
Sheikh Khalifa exploited the oil resources to bring renowned cultural and academic institutions from around the world, which raised the image of the UAE in the world. The UAE has invested in large companies, high-value real estate, financial institutions, elite brands, and even football clubs (e.g., Manchester City) in countries around the world. In the West, a number of very expensive buildings have been built in recent times with UAE money.
Sheikh Khalifa emphasized the need for renewable energy research to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil. Although they have been increasing investment in the sector to boost oil and gas export earnings, last year the UAE announced plans to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
Critics say the UAE has failed to become a free society where human rights are respected, despite significant economic gains based on oil resources.
Various international organizations have often described the UAE as a country with tight controls where freedom of the press or expression is limited to criticizing the government and could lead to imprisonment or even the death penalty.
Amnesty International said in its 2021 report that the UAE government “continues to commit serious human rights violations, including unilateral arrests, brutal torture of detainees, violation of freedom of expression and the right to privacy.”
Although the UAE ranks first in the Middle East and in the world in terms of per capita income, every year 20,000 to 100,000 children are born in that country who are not granted citizenship. As a result, even after being born in that country, they are deprived of the basic rights of a citizen such as education, healthcare, housing, employment.
Wings of influence
The reaction after the death of Sheikh Khalifa is a reflection of the UAE’s influence in the world. The United States sent Vice President Kamala Harris to his funeral. On the other hand, countries like Cuba have also issued mourning orders.
The three leaders who have ruled the UAE since its inception have all tried their best to increase their sphere of influence. He has also taken the old path of scattering money and war if need be. The Abu Dhabi Investment Fund is currently one of the largest state funds in the world with assets of হাজার 60 trillion.
The current ruler of the UAE is Sheikh Mohammed Al Nahyan
Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who took power after his brother’s death, is seen as a man who has been working hard to spread the UAE’s influence around the world, even in remote small countries.
The UAE is the first contemporary Arab country to send troops to Europe. In 1909, they sent troops to Kosovo to fight for NATO. The UAE later sent troops to other parts of the world.
In Afghanistan, they are sending troops in support of NATO. Egypt sent troops to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood, then sent warplanes to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. The small Gulf country still maintains a military presence in Libya.
A few years later, they joined the United States in a military operation against the Islamic State in Syria. At the same time, the EU began to compete with countries like Turkey in order to create geopolitical influence. They are also associated with countries such as Somalia, Somali-Land, Djibouti and Sudan.
However, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s decision to join the Saudi-backed coalition in Yemen’s civil war has been widely criticized. There have been numerous allegations of human rights abuses in Yemen against UAE troops. Even the UAE’s contact with the Yemeni military, which is linked to al Qaeda, has been questioned. Sheikh Mohammed also led the controversial blockade on neighboring Qatar.
The UAE has emerged as a supporter of Greece and Cyprus in disputes with Turkey over shipping and fuel ownership east of the Mediterranean.