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United Arab Emirates (UAE) - History

The UAE is thought to have first been occupied by humans around C5500 BC, the Neolithic period and the discoveries of burial sites at Umm al-Quwain have confirmed this. Finds made more recently in the Hajar Mountains have now pushed back that date by maybe hundreds of thousands of years.

From the Neolithic period evidence shows that the country and its people became more advanced as skilled herders made and used stone tools. With the domestication of camels in the second millennium the semi-nomadic tribes were able to trade with other countries, with copper being the number one export.

In the centuries leading up to the birth of Christ the need for water in the settlements became more apparent as the population expanded. To provide fresh water an extensive system of channels called falaj was put in place. This system brought the water from deep within the mountains to the low lying areas and oases, sometimes travelling for many kilometres.

Shortly after the birth of Christ in 640 AD Islam was introduced to the region by envoys from the prophet Mohammed. As the faith spread across the UAE naturally there were disputes over anything and everything so many people became pirates. For a while through the 16th century the area was known as the Pirate Coast.

The ideal location of the UAE attracted merchants from China and India, but it was particularly attractive to the British, Dutch and Portuguese. The Portuguese arrived in the 16th century but battles ensued and there were bloody consequences for the Arab population.

On the coast the Europeans settled down and began to take control. The native Bedouin tribes stayed inland and made the sandy deserts their home, staying around Dubai and Saudi Arabia. But even as the Europeans fought to rule, the Qawasim, a local power, were getting together to fight back.

By the 1790’s the pearling industry had taken hold and Abu Dhabi had become a centre of great importance. This continued through the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, giving the people of the Arabian Gulf both employment and income. The semi-nomadic inhabitants made a living by pearling in the calm waters in the summer and then returning inland to look after their date gardens in the winter.

The well known Maktoum family settled in Dubai around 1800.

Foreign ships were continually invading the waters along the Gulf and in the early part of the 19th century the British came to help the Arab and European natives who were patrolling the area. The nine sheiks, including Bahrain and Qatar, agreed a peace treaty with Britain in 1820. The fighting continued until 1835 when the treaty was signed and at last the sheiks agreed not to fight at sea. The area became known as the Trucial Coast and Britain agreed to protect the waters while disputes among the sheikhs would be dealt with by themselves.

The boom of the pearling industry was to be cut short and its downfall was to be the invention of the cultured pearl by the Japanese. Closely followed by the breakout of the First World War the economy of the UAE was damaged irreparably, or so it seemed at the time. With virtually no income or industry the population faced desperate times and despite being extremely resourceful there was little or no opportunity or money for medical care or education.

Oil was discovered in 1939 by a geological survey and the first black gold was exported in 1962, therefore transforming the poorest emirate of Abu Dhabi into the richest. The Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was elected ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and with the wealth that was coming in from the oil he started building roads, hospitals, houses and schools.

Meanwhile in Dubai the Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum decided that without pearls he had better find another lucrative business and decided on the shipping industry. Dubai didn’t strike oil until four years after Abu Dhabi so concentrated on being the busiest trading post of the region.

By the time Dubai starting exporting oil in 1969 the need for it was so great the money flowed in as fast as the oil flowed out. The Dubai people started to see the benefits of having something the rest of the world wanted.

By 1968 Britain decided to withdraw from the Arabian Gulf and when they finally left in 1971 the treaty relationship ended. A federation was formed by Late Sheikh Rashid and Late Sheikh Zayed and six of the emirates reached agreement with the seventh, Ra’s al-Khaimah, joining the following year. Bahrain and Qatar were unable to agree with the terms put forward and become independent states in September 1971.

From pearling to Palm Tree Island the UAE has come a long way in a very short space of time. Now believed to be the richest state per head of population and the world’s fourth largest oil producer the future of this area of the world is assured. Deserts have become verdant green golf courses and smooth tarmac motorways. Skyscrapers reach up to the clouds and now that foreign ownership of real estate is allowed the commercial gains from this have allowed the country to develop even more.

With a healthy tourist economy and many expats from all over the world enjoying the lifestyle the future looks bright for the UAE.

Read more about this country

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