A Brief History of the United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates located along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. How were they created? Let me tell you brief history of the United Arab Emirates.

brief history of uae
UAE on the map


Not so long ago, the UAE was just a desert land inhabited by proud and resourceful nomadic Bedouin tribes with many fishing villages and date farms. Abu Dhabi consisted of several hundred palm huts (barasti), several coral buildings, and the Ruler’s Fort. Located along the brook, Dubai was a commercial center providing a safe haven in front of the Strait of Hormuz and beyond. Life in the Emirates today is not much like it was 40 years ago.

Part of the UAE was settled as early as the 3rd millennium BC, and its early history is part of the nomadic, herd and fishing character typical of the wider region. The Bedouin tribe was the main building block of UAE society. The Bedouin, meaning inhabitant of the desert, lived in a variety of terrain – moving between the ocean (where the main livelihoods were pearl diving and fishing), the desert (moving as nomads in pastures for camels and herds) and an oasis (where water sources and irrigation allowed for the cultivation of dates and vegetables).

Until now, you can see the lush date farms in Al Ain and irrigated terraced gardens in the mountain wadis (valleys). Bedouins were known for their resourcefulness and independence in the face of harsh conditions. Their code of hospitality continues to this day among the modern Emirati population who show their guests great respect and honor.


The Portuguese arrived in the UAE in 1498, when Vasco de Gamma circled the Cape of Good Hope. The Portuguese forts and forts of their local supporters are still visible in various Arab Emirates and nearby Oman. The British then arrived, reaffirming their naval might to secure trade ties with India. The British came into conflict with the Qawasim tribal group, a sea clan whose influence extended to the Persian side of the Persian Gulf. As a result, the area became known as the “Pirate Coast”. In the 1820s, the British fleet imposed a Peace Treaty on nine Arab sheikhs and established a garrison in the region. The area became known as the “Trucial Coast” until the creation of the UAE in 1971. Throughout this period, the main force among the Bedouin tribes was the Bani Yas tribal confederation, made up of the ancestors of the ruling families of modern-day Abu Dhabi (Al Nahyan) and Dubai (Al Maktoum). The descendants of these families still rule Abu Dhabi and Dubai today. During the colonial era, the British were primarily concerned with protecting their ties with India and keeping European competitors out of the area.


In the early 20th century, Abu Dhabi was one of the poorest emirates, while Sharjah was the most populous and powerful. The region remained a tranquil river of fishing villages, pearl villages, camel herds and oasis farms. In the 1930s, the pearl industry was devastated by the Japanese invention of the cultured pearl, which caused considerable hardship for the local population, resulting in the loss of the largest export and main source of income.


However, all this changed with the discovery of oil. The first oil concessions were granted in 1939 by Sheikh Shahbut Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan, but no oil was found for another 14 years. Initially, oil money had a marginal impact. Several low-rise buildings were erected in Abu Dhabi and the first paved road was completed in 1961, but Sheikh Shakbut, uncertain about the future of oil production, took a very cautious approach, preferring to save revenues rather than invest in development. His brother, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, saw that oil wealth could transform Abu Dhabi and wanted to take advantage of it.

brief history of uae
Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan

The ruling Al Nahayan family decided that Sheikh Zayed should replace his brother as Ruler and realize his vision of the country’s development. Oil extraction in Abu Dhabi began in 1962, turning the poorest of the emirates into the richest. During this time, Dubai focused on building its reputation as the busiest trading point in the region. Then, in the mid-1960s, Dubai found its own crude oil. On August 6, 1966, Sheikh Zayed Al Nahayan became the new ruler with the help of the British.


In 1968, Great Britain announced its intention to leave the Persian Gulf in 1971. The original plan was to create a single state consisting of Bahrain, Qatar and the “Trucial Coast” states. However, differences in interests made this plan a failure. Negotiations eventually led to the independence of Bahrain and Qatar and the creation of a new federation – the United Arab Emirates. In July 1971, the Six Trucial States (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, Ajman and Fujairah) agreed on a Federal Constitution in order to gain independence as the United Arab Emirates. The UAE gained independence on December 2, 1971. Ras Al Khaimah joined in February 1972. Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi (the driving force behind the creation of the new state) took office as the first president of the UAE.

brief history of uae
2 December 1971 – first raising of newly formed UAE flag


Currently, the UAE is an important international tourist and business center, as well as one of the most modern, stable and safe countries in the world. It has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world – nearly $ 25,000. The UAE has approximately 10% of the world’s known oil reserves, 90% in Abu Dhabi, and approximately 10% in Dubai. While reserves in Abu Dhabi are expected to last for another 100 years, the current rate of production of reserves in Dubai will only last another ten years. Fortunately, the UAE is no longer solely dependent on oil and gas revenues. Today, the oil sector accounts for 30% of the country’s GDP. Trade, tourism, real estate and construction make a big contribution to domestic GDP, especially in Dubai.