21.) Abolishing slavery
The GCC countries were among the last in the world to legally ban slavery.. While slavery is a thing of legal past today, there are continuing instances of this practice in some parts of the world. It is actually quite widespread in the following countries – Mauritania, Sudan, Niger, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast.
22.) Consanguinity (cousin marriages)
Consanguinity basically means unions contracted between biologically related individuals. It is estimated that around 20% of the world’s population lives in communities that prefer these kind of unions.
The Arab world has historically been inclined to this practice. The Gulf region is no exception and the rates vary between 22% and 64%, depending on the study available. In Qatar, UAE and Yemen the practice is on the rise in the current generation. Marriages between first cousins represent 25% – 30% of all marriages in the Arab world.
Due to resulting higher instances of postnatal mortality and genetic disorders, the GCC governments have made it mandatory for couples to attend consultations and be informed about the risks before getting married and having children.
23.) Birth rates: 1980 – 2011
The fertility rates in the GCC countries, like everywhere else in the world, have been declining over the last decades. The biggest change from 1980 to today can be seen in Oman, where the figure went down from 8.3 children per woman in 1980, to 2.2 children per woman in 2011.
The average population age in the region stands at 27 years old, with the lowest in Oman (24) and the highest in Qatar (31). While the populations in the region are young at this stage, due to high fertility rates of the past, in the mid future the trend forecasts an aging of the populations. According to Kuwait’s based Markaz, this shift in population age is expected to put a heavy strain on the generous welfare systems of the GCC countries.
24.) Oil exports flow
The Middle East and especially the Gulf countries are famous for their oil exports, which in turn fuel the local economies and afford the populations with some of the highest incomes in the world. The vast majority of oil is exported to Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and China. A sizeable amount also goes to Europe and North America. Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest exporter and accounts for 40% of all crude oil exports from the Middle East.
25.) Dangerous traffic
Traffic accidents are always that unnecessary and sad way to go. In the GCC, driving the roads in Qatar and the UAE is the most dangerous, as 16.9% and 18.8% of all deaths in 2010 could be attributed to a traffic accident. In Qatar there have lately been numerous awareness campaigns going on from informing parents to make sure to use baby seats, calling on people to drive slower and using safety belts among others. Hopefully the situation changes soon and residents will be able to enjoy a safer, if not a less congested traffic.
26.) Date production
A staple for thousands of years in the Middle East and the Indus valley, archeological evidence points to palm date cultivation as early as 6000 BC. If you are enjoying a yummy date, you might want to know where it comes from – the vast majority is produced in the Middle East and North Africa.
The GCC as a whole is the biggest producer of dates in the world, while Egypt as a single country produces the largest amount of dates. Saudi Arabia ranked second with 1,122,000 MT, UAE fourth with 900,000 MT and Oman eigth with 268,000 MT of date output in 2011.
27.) Social media
Social media in the GCC has been widely adopted, like more or less everywhere else in the world. There are however differences in just how widespread the usage is. While UAE has the most enthusiastic users, Oman and Saudi Arabia can still be considered a fairly low adopters of social media and there is much room for growth.
Facebook is used by most people, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter. It is important to note that users should keep in mind that freedom of speech needs to be in line with the laws in the region and that defamation can meet legal action.
Such could for example be seen with the Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab first being detained for two weeks on the charges of “insulting a statutory body via Twitter” and later receiving a three year prison sentence for “involvement in illegal practices and inciting gatherings and calling for unauthorized marches through social networking sites” among others.
The Environmental Performance Index issued by Yale University ranks countries according to their performance, which is assessed by investigating indicators such as access to sanitation, SO2 per capita, biome protection, forest loss, marine protected areas, pesticide regulations and renewable electricity among many others.
The GCC countries rank fairly low in the list of 132 countries, with UAE placed best and Kuwait worst, while Bahrain is not included in the study. Some of the indicators that result in the low score all over the GCC are indexed under ecosystem vitality with climate change, biodiversity and habitat and water resources dragging the countries down.
The index also categorizes countries in terms of trends, meaning if they are improving or deteriorating. UAE comes out as a modest improver, Oman seeing little to no change, while Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are ranked as the worst decliners. The best country on the list is Switzerland, with all TOP 10 places belonging to European countries, with the exception of Costa Rica, which is ranked fifth.
The GCC countries have some common traits in terms of where they import most from. Japan for example is an important market for all the countries, with big imports of cars seen. China of course is also an important partner, as the world’s superpower in exports.
Not surprisingly USA and Germany appear as the top markets from where the GCC imports as well, both of them huge international exporters. On a country to country level however there are interesting differences. Oman imports a whopping 30% from the UAE, which in turn imports 24% from India and not much from Oman.
UAE is the strongest in terms of exports to the GCC region, as Bahrain, Qatar and Oman list UAE as one of the TOP 5 import destinations. All the GCC countries mainly import machinery, vehicles, construction materials, food and chemicals.
GCC’s exports are heavily dominated by hydrocarbons, which for example account for 90% of all Saudi Arabia’s exports. They include crude oil, petroleum products, fertilizers, natural gas, but also re-exports, dried fish and dates as seen in one of the maps above. Asia is by far the most important part of the world for GCC countries, which accounts between 15% of Bahrain’s exports to more than 60% of Qatar’s exports. China, Japan and South Korea are the biggest single markets for GCC exports.
31.) Women in the workforce
Women participation in the workforce has historically been low in the Arab world, however especially some GCC countries have made huge leaps toward female integration. Qatar has the highest rates of women participating in the workforce with 52%. The country compares to Germany and Spain for example.
Especially the younger generation in the country is very ambitious and takes education seriously, substantially outnumbering men in graduation rates. UAE’s, Kuwait’s and Bahrain rates are also on the higher side in the Arab world and are similar to rates found in Mexico, Greece and Italy. Oman has a more modest rate, while Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest in the world, surpassing only Iran, Afghanistan, Jordan, Algeria, Iraq and Syria.
32.) Population increases: 1960 – 2012
The GCC countries have witnessed a dramatic increase in population over the last 50 years, but especially in the last 10 – 15 years. UAE went from a population of 89,608 in 1960 to 9,205,000 in 2012, which means an increase of 10,272% – simply mind boggling. The transformation of the countries is almost beyond imagination – see Qatar’s population by nationality. Take a look at a 70 year old local and just try thinking about what kind of a change they saw throughout their lives.
33.) Military spending
Military spending in the Middle East has historically been high, which with many crysis can of course be expected. In fact out of the world’s TOP 10 military budgets in terms of per capita spending, five can be found in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Israel and Jordan. Data however is not all for the same year – mostly it is for 2012, but Iran’s and Qatar’s is from 2009, while UAE’s and Syria’s is from 2011.
34.) Petrol prices
Now for a map of petrol prices in the GCC, the fluid that gets us to work everyday and the price of which is the cause of headaches the world over. Well if you live in the Gulf, driving a 6.5l engine will still be cheaper than driving a 1.0l engine in Europe.
The saying petrol is cheaper than water holds true in the majority of the countries here – and that with water actually being cheap in the first place! Fueling up a 50l tank in Saudi Arabia costs USD 6, in Bahrain USD 13 and in UAE USD 23. Now compare that to USD 99 in Spain, USD 113 in Belgium or better yet USD 133 in Norway and you can see just how happy or jealous you can be.
35.) Oil reserves
Middle East is the home of more than half of all proven conventional crude oil reserves in the world. However the single largest reserves do not lie in Saudi Arabia, but in Venezuela. As a region, GCC accounts for 34% of all proven reserves in the world, with Saudi Arabia possessing 18%, Kuwait 6.9% and UAE 6.6%. Other three GCC countries do not have such large quantities, with Qatar holding about 1.7% of world’s reserves, while Oman and Bahrain have a much smaller base.
36.) Religious groups
The Gulf countries are in general conservative societies, where religion plays a big part in the lives of both its nationals and residents. The majority of the population belongs to Islam, Sunni branch.
Looking at individual countries there is however diversity both in terms of division inside Islam, as well as prevalence of other religious groups. Saudi Arabia is the most widely muslim, with an estimated 93% of the population adhering to Islam. Display of religious symbols from other religions is against the law and apostasy is a crime, for which the death penalty can be enforced (although there have been no reports of this happening in quite some time).
Qatar is the most diverse country in the region, with muslims representing 67% of the population, with the rest equally distributed among Christians and Hindus. Bahrain and Eastern parts of Saudi Arabia are home to the biggest number of Shia muslims, which in Bahrain represent an estimated 66% – 70% of all Bahraini muslims.
The following is probably lesser known to people not living in Oman – the majority of the population are Ibadi muslims, a branch of Islam that does not belong to either Sunni or Shia denominations. The country is also home to two Hindu temples.
The GCC countries are among the richest in the world in terms of GDP per capita, however in terms of total GDP they naturally cannot rank in the very top, due to relatively small population sizes. Saudi Arabia is of course the biggest economy in the region, ranking 19th in the world and comparing to Netherlands.
Following is UAE, with the size of the economy corresponding to that of a much bigger Thailand. Qatar, although with a small population, is so rich that its economy is the same size as that of a much, much more populous Ukraine. Kuwait’s size is that of New Zealand’s, Oman’s of Ecuador and Bahrain’s of Bolivia.
38.) Biggest cities
As described in one of the maps above, the population in the GCC has witnessed massive increases in the last few decades. This map shows which are the biggest cities in the region and as one can see Saudi Arabia is home to the three most populous cities in the region. Huge infrastructure projects are currently underway in many of GCC cities, with Doha exploding in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
39.) Busiest airports
In this map we take a look at the busiest airports in the world in terms of passenger traffic. GCC’s by far biggest airport is the Dubai International Airport, which ranked 7th in the world in 2012. This year’s statistics up until now however show Dubai in the 3rd spot, continuing its stellar rise in the international market.
Will any of the other GCC airports join in the race and catch up to Dubai? Doha certainly has ambitious plans, with its national carrier Qatar Airways growing fast and the new Hamad International Airport expected to open soon, albeit being delayed time again.
40.) Fifa rankings
Football, that most popular game in the world has a lot of fans in the GCC as well, with Emiratis and Qataris buying world famous clubs, such as Paris Saint German, Manchester City, Malaga and Getafe. Further on there have been many sponsorship deals between companies and clubs – Arsenal sporting Emirates branding and Barcelona displaying first Qatar Foundation and now Qatar Airways.
Contrary to popular belief that the European football leagues are heavily owned by Arabs, the following will shed some light – 6 of Barclay’s League’s 20 clubs, are owned by American investors and 2 by Arab investors (one of them a British citizen). Back to the map – the countries do not rank particularly high at the present, with UAE being most successful at 82nd place (behind Uganda and ahead of Gabon) and Bahrain the least (behind Lebanon and ahead of St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
Feel we left something important out? Leave a message for us in the comments below and we might work on it and include your idea.