Arab states of the Persian Gulf

The Persian Gulf's coastline skirts seven Arab countries on its western shores and Iran to the east. (Oman's Musandam peninsula meets the gulf at the Strait of Hormuz.)

The Arab states of the Persian Gulf are the seven Arab states which border the Persian Gulf, namely Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).[1][2][3] All of these nations (with the exception of Iraq) are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).[4]

Geographically, the Arabic-speaking Gulf is solely Eastern Arabia.[5][6] The borders of the Persian Gulf do not extend beyond Eastern Arabia.[7] Hejaz, Najd and South Arabia are not part of the Persian Gulf.[7] The Arabs of Eastern Arabia speak a dialect known as Gulf Arabic. Most Saudis do not speak Gulf Arabic because most Saudis do not live in Eastern Arabia.[8] There are only 200,000 Gulf Arabic speakers in Saudi Arabia,[8] mostly in the coastal eastern province.[8][9]


The inhabitants of Eastern Arabia's Gulf coast share similar cultures and music styles such as fijiri, sawt and liwa. The most noticeable cultural trait of Eastern Arabia's Gulf Arabs is their orientation and focus towards the sea.[10] Maritime-focused life in the small Persian Gulf Arab states has resulted in a sea-oriented society where livelihoods have traditionally been earned in marine industries.[10]

Gulf Arabic is spoken in Eastern Arabia's Gulf coast. Only Arabs of Eastern Arabia speak Gulf Arabic. Most Saudis do not speak Gulf Arabic because most Saudis do not live in Eastern Arabia.[8][9] There are approximately 200,000 Gulf Arabic speakers in Saudi Arabia,[8] mostly in the coastal eastern region.[8][9] Gulf Arabic is distinct from Saudi Arabic.[8][9]

Before the GCC was formed in 1981, the term "Khaleeji" was solely used to refer to the inhabitants of Eastern Arabia.[7] Historically, "Khaleeji" meant descendants of Ichthyophagi, the coast-dwelling "fish eaters".[11]


Some states are constitutional monarchies with elected parliaments. Bahrain (Majlis al Watani) and Kuwait (Majlis al Ummah) have legislatures with members elected by the population.

The Sultanate of Oman also has an advisory council (Majlis ash-Shura) that is popularly elected. In the UAE, a federation of seven monarchical emirates, the Federal National Council functions only as an advisory body, but some of its members are now chosen via a limited electoral college nominated by the seven rulers. Saudi Arabia remains a hereditary monarchy with limited political representation. In Qatar, an elected national parliament has been mooted and is written into the new constitution, but elections are yet to be held.[12]

Freedom of Press

Press in the Gulf States have varying degrees of freedom with Kuwait topping the league with a lively press that enjoys considerably more freedom than its Gulf counterparts according to Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders. Both organizations rank Kuwait's press as the most free of all Gulf states and, in fact, rank amongst the top three most free press in the Arab world.[13][14] Qatar and Oman come in second and third respectively within the Gulf ranks.


The six Gulf states lie in a volatile region and their six governments undertake many steps to help ensure the Gulf region remain peacefully stable to help further their economic development and citizen wellbeing. According to the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP)'s Global Peace Index of 2016, the six governments had varying degrees of success in maintaining peace amongst their respective borders with Qatar ranked number 1 amongst its Gulf peers as the most peaceful Gulf and Middle Eastern nation (and ranked 34 worldwide) while Kuwait ranks second in both the Gulf and the Middle East region (and 51 worldwide) followed by the UAE in the third spot (61 worldwide).[15]


Map of the Gulf Cooperation Council's members (Iraq is not a member).

All of these Arab states have significant revenues from petroleum. The United Arab Emirates has been successfully diversifying the economy. 71% of UAE's total GDP comes from non-oil sectors.[16] Oil accounts for only 2% of Dubai's GDP.[17] Bahrain has the Persian Gulf's first "post-oil" economy because the Bahraini economy does not rely on oil.[18] Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has heavily invested in the banking and tourism sectors.[19] The country's capital, Manama is home to many large financial structures. Bahrain and Kuwait have a high Human Development Index (worldwide rank of 45 and 48 respectively) and was recognised by the World Bank as high income economies.

In addition, the small coastal states (especially Bahrain and Kuwait) were successful centers of trade and commerce prior to oil. Eastern Arabia also had significant pearl banks, but the pearling industry collapsed in the 1930s after the development of cultured pearl methods by Japanese scientists.

According to the World Bank, most of these Arab states have been the world's most generous donors of aid as a share of GDP.[20]

See also

Further reading


  1. Mary Ann Tétreault; Gwenn Okruhlik; Andrzej Kapiszewski (2011). Political Change in the Arab Gulf States: Stuck in Transition. The authors first focus on the politics of seven Gulf states: Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
  2. World Migration 2005 Costs and Benefits of International Migration. International Organization for Migration. 2005. p. 53.
  3. "U.S. Official to Tour Persian Gulf Arab Lands". The New York Times. 1987. A leading American diplomat will start a trip to Iraq and six other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region this week to discuss the Iran-Iraq war, Administration officials said today.
  4. "Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council".
  5. "History of eastern Arabia, 1750-1800: the rise and development of Bahrain and Kuwait". Ahmad Mustafa Abu-Hakima. 1965.
  6. "Labor, Nationalism and Imperialism in Eastern Arabia: Britain, the Shaikhs and the Gulf Oil Workers in Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, 1932-1956". Hassan Mohammed Abdulla Saleh. 1991.
  7. 1 2 3 "Eastern Arabia Historic Photographs: Kuwait, 1900-1936". Ahmad Mustafa Abu-Hakima. 1986.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Volume 1". William Frawley. 2003. p. 38.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Languages of Saudi Arabia Ethnologue
  10. 1 2 "Iranians in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates". Eric Andrew McCoy. pp. 67–68.
  11. "The Persian Gulf in History". Lawrence G. Potter. p. 12.
  12. Gerd Nonneman, "Political Reform in the Gulf Monarchies: From Liberalisation to Democratisation? A Comparative Perspective", in Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Steven Wright (eds.)(2007), Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies, ISBN 978-0-86372-323-0, pp. 3-45.
  13. "Freedom of the Press 2016".
  14. "2016 World Press Freedom Index".
  15. "Global Peace Index 2016" (PDF).
  16. "Diversification raises non-oil share of UAE's GDP to 71%".
  17. "Oil Makes Up 2% of Dubai GDP Post-Diversification".
  18. "Bahrain: Reform-Promise and Reality" (PDF). J.E. Peterson. p. 157.
  19. "Bahrain's economy praised for diversity and sustainability". Bahrain Economic Development Board. Archived from the original on December 28, 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  20. The economy: The haves and the have-nots

External links

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