Ruling Families of the Gulf

The ruling families of the Arabian Gulf states consist of 11 dynasties, one each in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, and six clans in the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: The biggest GCC economy is ruled by the Al Saud royal family who established their first fiefdom in 1744 in the area around Riyadh. The entity was destroyed by the Ottomans and their allies in 1818 and a much smaller one emerged six years later and lasted until 1891. The third and current kingdom was proclaimed by Abdulaziz Ibn Saud in 1932. The number of princes in the House of Saud is estimated to be at least 10,000.

United Arab Emirates: The second largest economy in the GCC is a federation that was formed in 1971 by six traditional ruling families of what was then known as the Trutial States. The seven Emirates are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain and they are controlled by the ruling families of Al Nahyan, Al Maktoum, Al Nuaimi, Al Sharqi, Al Qasimi and Al Mualla.

State of Qatar: The third largest economy in the Arabian Gulf with the highest per capita income in the world. Qatar has been ruled by the House of Thani since 1868 and gained independence in 1971. It is one of the top exporters of natural gas.

State of Kuwait: The fourth biggest country in the GCC is a constitutional sovereign state with a semi-democratic political system. Kuwait has a high-income economy backed by some of the world’s largest oil reserves. The Al Sabah family has ruled Kuwait since 1752, well before formal independence in 1961.

Sultanate of Oman: The fifth largest country in the Gulf is an absolute monarchy ruled by the Al Busaidi dynasty, who came to power in 1737. Oman has a relatively diversified economy, but remains dependent on oil exports.

Kingdom of Bahrain: The smallest of the six GCC countries is a monarchy ruled by the Al Khalifa dynasty since 1783. The country gained formal independence from the British in 1971. Oil was discovered in Bahrain in 1931 well before it was struck elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula.

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