The Gulf, explained in 40 maps

From GDP per capita,life expectancy, diabetes prevalence to the number of Keralites in the Gulf, we bring you a set of 40 maps explaining the Gulf.


1.) Expats

Percent of expats in GCC - map

Check the population of Qatar by nationality

It’s not hard to notice in any GCC country that the number of expats is huge. But just how big a piece of the pie do they represent? According to data (which was gathered from various sources and is not 100% accurate, but comes pretty close) in Oman and Saudi Arabia, the percent is around 30%.

On the other end, UAE and Qatar have a whooping 85% of its population coming from abroad. For Qatar, we have prepared a detailed breakdown by nationality. You can view it here. Such statistics for other countries are unfortunately unavailable, however we are conducting our own research into it.

2.) Size comparison

Size of GCC countries in comparison to Europe mapHow big is the region anyway? Well Saudi Arabia is actually one of the biggest countries in the world (12th biggest to be precise). The map above shows just how big countries are in comparison to Europe.

We can observe that Saudi Arabia is indeed very big – if placed in Europe, it would be the size of Portugal, Spain, France, UK, Germany and Italy combined! Oman is about the same size as Poland, UAE the size of Austria and the remaining three countries are miniature in comparison to Saudi Arabia.

Kuwait would be approximately the size of Slovenia, Qatar the size of Montenegro and Bahrain would just about cover Menorca (a Spanish Island).

3.) Dependency on oil & gas revenues

carbohydro dependency in the GCC map

The map shows to what extent the countries depend on oil & gas revenues. The percentage represent how much of their GDP is derived from hydrocarbons. All the countries have drives to diversify their economies and lower the dependency on oil & gas, however as can be seen, there is actually a big difference between Bahrain or UAE on the lower and Kuwait or Qatar on the higher end of the spectrum.

4.) Foreign direct investments 


The Gulf countries are known for investing abroad, making famous purchases, such as Qatar’s Shard in London and UAE’s acquisition of the football club Manchester City. Not all of them are investing huge amounts though, with Bahrain and Oman investing a modest USD 3.64 billion and USD 4.74 billion respectively.

To put it into perspective, UK, as one of the biggest investors, has made USD 438 billion of investments in the last 5 years. Considering it’s size, Kuwait is a big investor, surpassing countries such as Brazil.

On the other side, Saudi Arabia as a bigger economy, is dwarfed in comparison to Australia, a developed economy with similar population size, which invested USD 107 billion abroad in the last 5 years. Although GCC countries do invest abroad, they are not the big world players, as one might think.

5.) Death sentence

Death sentence GCC map

All GCC countries have a death sentence as an option of punishment in their legal systems. However it varies from country to country how often it is used. For example Qatar and Oman have not executed anybody in over 10 years, Bahrain’s last known execution happened in 2010 and in UAE 3 were carried out in the last 5 years. On the other hand Kuwait witnessed 5 executions only in 2013, with the year not coming to an end yet.

Saudi Arabia tops all of them with a whopping 359 executions taking place in the last 5 years. The country’s legal system reserves the right to execute perpetrators on the following grounds, which might seem rather exotic to a foreigner and which cannot be found in other gulf countries: sorcery, apostasy, gay sexual relationships and consumption of intoxicants among others.

To find out a little bit on the executioners themselves and how their day at the office looks like, you can listen to an interview with a famous Saudi employed in this profession.

6.) GDP comparison to US states

GCC states in comparison to US states by gdp mapThe Gulf is a rich part of the world, no denying that. But how does the total output of the countries compare to the world’s largest economy? The map shows which US states generate roughly the same amount of money as the Gulf states.

Florida’s GDP is on par with Saudi Arabia, the world’s 20th biggest economy. And Florida is not even the biggest contributor to US’ GDP, it comes 4th, after California, Texas and New York.

And others? UAE is similar to Michigan, Qatar to Louisiana, Oman to New Mexico, Kuwait to Alabama and Bahrain to Vermont. The richest US state per capita – Delaware with USD 70,000, would however still not match Qatar’s GDP per capita, which stands at USD 102,000.

7.) Diabetes prevalence

Diabetes prevalence GCC map

Diabetes in the GCC is and should be a source of great concern for the authorities in the health departments. As seen on the map, all the countries, with the exception of Oman are at the very top of diabetes affected countries in the world. The percentage represents how much of the total population suffers from diabetes. A combination of high income, physical inactivity and unhealthy dietary habits are contributing to a very high amount of diabetes, which is one of the main causes of death.

8.) Press freedom

Freedom of press - GCC map

When thinking of the Arab world in general, press freedom is usually not the first thing that springs to mind. However in a region where countries don’t exactly do well in this sort of ranking, Kuwait comes on top, rubbing shoulder with countries like Republic of the Congo and Nicaragua, however coming in front of Greece surprisingly enough.

In fact Kuwait does much, much better than Saudi Arabia or Bahrain for example, with the latter rapidly declining in media freedoms after the protests and the following crackdown. With Qatar acting host to the world famous Al Jazeera, one would expect it to perform better on this index, however the media law dates back to the 70s and is in need of an update.

9.) Life Expectancy

Life expectancy map - GCC list

 Life expectancy in GCC countries is pretty high and in most cases ranked better than that of the wider region, the only two notable exemptions being Jordan and Israel, which have a higher life expectancy.

10.) Tourism

GCC tourist arrivals map

Prior to 2011, Bahrain actually saw a bigger number of tourist arrivals than UAE, with the majority of tourists coming from Saudi Arabia. However as a result of the instability in the country, the numbers halved between 2010 and 2011.

Qatar is seeing growth in tourism as well, as every year more and more people arrive. Oman has been seeing a gradual decline in the number of tourists, despite the Government’s plan to attract 12 million tourists in 2020. Currently, that achievement seems far away, although the country most certainly has much to offer to the traveler. Saudi Arabia attracts the biggest number of visitors and has recently witnessed big increases.

Mostly it relies on religious tourism. Lone female travelers are not allowed entry into the country, without a family member accompanying them. UAE, with Dubai leading the way is forecasted to continue to attract more and more visitors and could reach 25 million a year by the end of decade, according to some reports. The region in general is expected to see increasing tourist arrivals.

11.) GDP per capita

GDP per capita in the Middle East mapThe GCC countries are a stark contrast to its surroundings, when it comes to wealth, especially in terms of GDP per capita. Even when thinking only in terms of the Arabian Peninsula, the difference is startling, with Qatar’s GDP per capita a whooping 48 times bigger than Yemen’s.

Although Qatar is in a league of its own, countries like UAE and Kuwait are also one of the best performing in the world. Even on the lower end in the GCC, where we can find Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, their standing can be compared to that of the EU average. Little wonder then, that the GCC acts as a strong magnet for the people of not only surrounding countries, but also far away Asian nations.

12.) Happy Planet

Happy planet map index - GCC listHow happy are people living in the Gulf? Complaining about weather, traffic, lack of greenery is quite common. So at first glance, one would probably say not too happy. The Happy Planet Index however takes a slightly different approach to calculating its rankings – it measures to what it claims is the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them.

The Index uses global data on life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological Footprint to calculate this. And how do the GCC countries fare? Not particularly well, as Qatar manages to beat only Chad and Botswana, out of the 146 countries included in the survey. The reason is ecological footprint, with Qatar having the biggest CO2 emissions per capita in the world. However since it is a major exporter of gas and oil, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise. On the other hand Saudi Arabia seems to be doing quite well.

13.) Highest buildings

Highest buildings in the GCC map

Everybody knows Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, however other Gulf countries have their own towers reaching the sky.  How long will Dubai hold the title? That remains to be seen, as plans for taller structures keep coming up to light – for example Kuwait is planning to build a 1,001m tall tower called Burj Mubarak al Kabir, as part of its future City of Silk project.

Rumors both in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have also been circulating on buildings higher than Burj Khalifa. And then there’s Oman, where it is not allowed to build over a certain height, with Sheraton Oman, one of the tallest buildings in the country, having only 11 storeys. Anyone that ever visited its capital, Muscat, was most likely charmed by the place and would not want to see high rises there anyway.

14.) Internet penetration

Internet penetration map - GCC list

Internet penetration (meaning the number of people having access to the internet) is extremely high in the smaller countries of the GCC. With both Bahrain and Qatar having an approximate 88% penetration rate, they are almost completely connected to the web. No serious obstacles in geography and high incomes, culminate in almost everybody being online.

Both the UAE and Kuwait have good connectivities as well, with the former comparing to countries such as Switzerland and South Korea, and the later with Japan and Ireland. Internet speeds however could be faster. In Oman or Saudi Arabia penetration is much lower and work still lies ahead.

15.) Keralites in the Gulf

Keralites in the Gulf

The Gulf is home to a very big number of Indians – in fact as some reports indicate, there are actually more of them in the GCC, than there are Qatari, Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Emirati and Omani nationals combined. There is one specific part of India many of them come from – the state of Kerala. Their favorite country is UAE, where 883,313 reside, but all other countries in the Gulf act as home for large numbers of Keralites as well.

For more on that country, the 20 Maps of India is a similar article to this one which affords a captivating overview of India. 

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