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Arab states of the Persian Gulf

The labels "Arab states of the Persian Gulf" or "Persian Gulf states" or "Persian Gulf Arab states" , are usually reserved for the six Arab monarchical states joined since 1981 in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, or Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the sultanate of Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Although Iraq is an Arab state with a shore on the Persian Gulf, it was never considered as a possible member of the GCC: indeed the organisation was set up in part to secure the specific interests of the six monarchical oil states, at the moment Iraq was embroiled in the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq's membership in GCC-related and other Gulf-related bodies was terminated after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Yemen similarly is not a member of the GCC, although it has been admitted to several GCC bodies. Both countries lack some of the properties held by the other six such states, such as government by hereditary monarchy. It is useful to view the other six Arab states of the Persian Gulf as a group because they share similar economies, a similar culture, and similar political characteristics - even if they also show internal diversity.



All of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf have significant revenues from oil and gas and, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, have small local populations. This has raised their respective per capita incomes to higher than those of their neighbors. To meet the labor shortages they host large numbers of temporary non-citizen economic migrants from South Asia and Southeast Asia (mostly the Philippines and Indonesia). In the past there were also significant numbers of immigrants from Jordan (mostly of Palestinian origin), Yemen and Egypt.

In addition, pearl diving and the pearl industry was the main economic activity of many of these countries (particularly Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait). The pearling industry collapsed in the 1930s after the development of cultured pearl methods, especially in Japan.

Culture and Politics

The Persian Gulf Arab states share a regional culture that is sometimes referred to as "khaleeji (Gulf) culture". They all speak the Gulf dialect of Arabic and share similar music styles (sawt, fijiri, ardha, liwa etc.), cuisine, dress, etc. Most Arabs living near the Persian Gulf also trace their ancestry back to Arab tribes of either Najd (in what is now central Saudi Arabia) or Yemen.

All six of these states are hereditary monarchies with limited political representation. Only Bahrain (Majlis al-Nuwab) and Kuwait (National Assembly) have legislatures with popularly elected members.

The Sultanate of Oman also has an advisory council (Majlis ash-Shura) that is popularly elected. In the UAE - which is a federation of seven monarchical emirates - the Federal National Council also functions only as an advisory body, and now has a portion of its members elected from a small electoral college nominated by the seven Rulers. In Qatar, an elected national parliament has been mooted and is written into the new constitution, but no elections have yet been held.[1]


  1. ^ Gerd Nonneman, 'Political Reform in the Gulf Monarchies: Fom Liberalisation to Democratisation? A Comparative Perspective', in Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Steven Wright (eds.)(2007), Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies, ISBN 978-0863723230, pp. 3-45.

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