Each emirate is governed by an absolute monarch; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council.
The following year, Britain and a number of local rulers signed a treaty to combat piracy along the Persian Gulf coast, giving rise to the term Trucial States, which came to define the status of the coastal emirates. Primarily in reaction to the ambitions of other European countries, namely France and Russia, the British and the Trucial Sheikhdoms established closer bonds in an 1892 treaty, similar to treaties entered into by the British with other Persian Gulf principalities.
By the 17th century, the Bani Yas confederation was the dominant force in most of the area now known as Abu Dhabi.
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 Muscat, Sohar and Khor Fakkan.
Islam is the official religion of the UAE and Arabic is the official language (although English, Urdu and Hindi are widely spoken, with English being the language of business and education particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai).
The UAE's oil reserves are the seventh-largest in the world while its natural gas reserves are the world's seventeenth-largest.
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.