UAE and Saudi Arabia – they are not the same. Differences explained.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, both being in the Middle East might spark up mixed reactions if both names are referring to a single country or are both individual states under a country. That of course we will shed light on. 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia are two different countries situated in the Middle East. They share a 457 km border making the two countries neighbors. They are strong allies in terms of foreign policies and geopolitical interests in the region.

While Saudi Arabia is a conservative absolute monarchy, UAE is a very modern country run by a federation of 7 states ruled by an individual monarch under the common flag and constitution of the UAE.

United Arab Emirates – Saudi Arabia Relations

After the declaration of independence of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, Saudi Arabia refused to recognize the Union due to its territorial dispute with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, rather they continued to deal individually with each of the Emirates bypassing the federal union. Saudi Arabia only declared the recognition of the United Arab Emirates in 1974 when an agreement was settled on the demarcation of the border between the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.

The border between the two countries runs from the Persian Gulf coast in the west, to the tripoint with Oman in the east, it is 457km in length. In History, there has been a long time boundary dispute between both countries. Due to these continuous disputes, the treaty of Jeddah was signed on the 21st August 1974 to end the long-existing dispute. The Jeddah agreement granted Saudi Arabia a 25km corridor eastwards from Khawr al Udayd, thus giving the Saudis an outlet to the eastern side of Qatar, while the UAE was to keep six villages in the area of Al-Buraimi, also all hydrocarbons in the Shaybah – Zarrrara field shall belong to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 In 1975, the UAE Government disagreed with the treaty on grounds that the dispute has not been settled due to the presence of contradictions between the oral agreement and the final text of the treaty. Meanwhile, the provisions of the treaty were publicly disclosed in 1995 when it was lodged with the United Nations. However, the United Arab Emirates never approved the agreement.

Comparison between the UAE and Saudi Arabia 

These two countries sure have a lot of things they share which brings them to a common ground, yet despite the similarity that co-exists between them, they sure have properties that differentiate them. Both aspects will be covered in this article, I’m sure you are very much interested.

Similarities between the UAE and Saudi Arabia

  • Both are oil-producing countries, which is one of the reasons for their robust economy.
  • Both are involved in the creation and members of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), founded on 1981
  • Both countries have Arabic as their official languages
  • Both countries are members of international organizations like ABEDA, AMF, BIS, CP, FAO, G-77, IMF, Interpol, OPEC, UNESCO, WHO, amongst others.

Differences between the UAE and Saudi Arabia

CRITERIA FOR COMPARISONUNITED ARAB EMIRATESSAUDI ARABIA
Natural ResourcesPetroleum, Natural gasPetroleum, Natural gas, Gold, Copper, Iron ore
LocationMiddle East, sharing border with Oman and Persian GulfMiddle East, sharing border with the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen
ClimateDesert; cooler in eastern mountainsHarsh, dry desert with extreme temperature
Natural HazardsFrequent Sand and Dust stormsFrequent Sand and Dust storms, Volcanism
Environmental issuesAir pollution, lack of natural freshwater resources, beach pollution from oil spillsDesertification, Air pollution, coastal pollution from oil spills
PopulationApproximately 10 million (2020)Approximately 33 million (2020)
Independence2nd December , 197123rd September, 1932
Currency noteUAE dirham (AED)Saudi Riyal (SAR)
Differences between the UAE and Saudi Arabia

UAE vs Saudi Arabia: Tourism Attraction

The United Arab Emirates is known to be a place of great significance when it comes to tourist attraction. It owns great fortunes like the Tallest building in the world, the largest shopping mall, great historical museums, Amusement parks,  amongst others.

Saudi Arabia is popularly known for the possession of Islamic sacred houses in the city of Makkah and Madina attached to the Islamic faith. Which makes it a place of great spirituality.

Saudi-UAE Tourism
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UAE vs Saudi Arabia: Business / Employment Opportunity

The UAE is special for its accommodation; almost everybody can start a business and invest in the country. There are lots of job opportunities. The country encourages foreigners to build up businesses in their country. 

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is not well known to be a business hub, it is poor in this aspect compared to the UAE. However recently a new wave of modernization has begun in Saudi Arabia. They are more open to foreign investments and is making progress in several areas.

UAE vs Saudi Arabia: Presence of expatriates

The United Arab Emirates being a place of tourist attraction captures the attention of foreigners from different parts of the world. Presently the population of expats in the country is more than the population of the native Emiratis.

While in Saudi Arabia, the native Arabs who are Saudi citizens cover more of the population, only a small percentage is occupied by expats

UAE vs Saudi Arabia: Economy;

Saudi Arabia’s economy is dependent on oil exportation having more oil reserves than the UAE (20% compared to UAE’s 7% in the word’s reserve). While the UAE on the other hand operates on a diversified economy, investing in tourism, trade, and transportation making it a more robust non-oil dependent economy.

UAE vs Saudi Arabia: Women’s freedom

Saudi Arabia has strict laws that limit women from acting to their free will. Due to strong attachment to principles of Islam, Saudi Arabia’s rules restrict women from some basic rights which they think would dangerously undermine their Social values. For instance:

  • Women are prohibited to wear what they like, they are obliged to refrain from showing off their body and beauty
  • Women cannot compete freely in sporting activities
  • Women are not free to spend time with men they are not related to, contacts are limited

While, On the other hand, the United Arab Emirate is an advocate of women empowerment, their laws allow women to act according to their free will. Women can drive and are allowed to wear almost anything they want. Recently as a part of the vision 2030, the government has taken initiative to improve women’s freedom. The first step came as a lifting of restriction to drive for women.

UAE vs Saudi Arabia: Religious Tolerance 

Both countries are primarily dominated by Muslims with Islam as the official religion. Though Saudi Arabia is very conservative in religious matters, even though there are a few non-Muslim expats (primarily Christians and Hindus), there are no churches and temples. The UAE has regard for other religions and they are allowed to celebrate their festivals with much funfair in their respective places of worship. They are allowed to practice their religion as long as you do not hurt the sentiments of another person of a different religious belief.

UAE vs Saudi Arabia: Gender Segregation

Saudi Arabia has strict policies that avoid intermingling between opposite genders. Male and female are separated at virtually all public places except for family hangouts which are provided for in areas that are secluded and allow related members of a family to have fun in privacy. Whereas in the UAE, these restrictions are lenient.

In conclusion;

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are no doubt the two main economic powers of the Arab region. They both have oil-based economies, although Saudi Arabia is known to be the largest exporter of petroleum in the world, while UAE on the other hand is trying to shift its dependence on oil exports to invest more in other sectors (Tourism, Trade, and Transportation). But both are important economic partners of western countries.

Saudi Arabia sure has a stronger influence in the region compared to the UAE. Saudi Arabia operates on an absolute monarchy while the UAE is a federation of 7 monarchies. The UAE has tax free policies that attract foreign investors while Saudi Arabia does not. Saudi Arabia places a strict restriction on women as they cannot dress anyhow they like, whereas the UAE is more liberal towards women’s rights.

Though both countries have modern cities (Jeddah in Saudi Arabia & Dubai in UAE), but UAE is no doubt way ahead of Saudi Arabia as it is more modern and more progressive.

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