The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of 7 emirates, located in the tip of the Arabian Peninsula that points towards modern days Iran to the north. Six emirates, namely Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain, declared their independence and the formation of the federation on December 2nd, 1971. Ras Al Khaimah joined the union on February 10th, 1972, shortly after Iran’s annexation of the Tunb islands in the Gulf.
Traces of human presence in the region go as far as 5000 years ago. Primitive tools and artifacts, used by nomads inhabiting the area, were found in excavation sites and are dated back to 3000 BC. For the best part of Antiquity and the beginning of Middle Ages, the area was part of various state entities, the last of which was the Sassanid Empire of pre-Islam Iran.
Islam was introduced to the region in 632 AD. From that time and until the end of the 18th century the region came under the control of the Umayyad Caliphate first and then of the Abbasid Caliphate, the Ottomans, the Portuguese Asian Empire and again the Ottomans.
At the beginning of the 19th century British expeditionary forces were sent to the area in order to protect the Crown’s interests in the region and secure the trade routes to India. By 1820, most of the sheikhs in the region had signed the first of a series of treaties with the British that led to the creation of the Trucial States, which included the seven Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. These treaties resulted in bringing peace, stability and prosperity to the region. During that time the main source of income for the people of the region was the pearl industry. The worldwide economic disaster of the 1930s and the creation of artificial pearls at a fraction of the cost resulted in the collapse of the pearl industry. This brought significant economic hardship upon the people of the emirates. Luckily, the oil exploration efforts, launched during the early 1930s, were eventually successful. The first loads of crude oil were exported from Abu Dhabi in 1962 and Dubai in 1969.
During the late 1960s the British decided that they could no longer afford to support and protect the Trucial States and they announced the withdrawal of their forces from the region. Following this development, Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Rashid, ruler of Dubai, announced their decision to declare independence and create a union and called upon the rulers of the rest of the Trucial States to join. Qatar and Bahrain refrained from participating but the rest of the Trucial States answered favourably to Sheikh Zayed’s and Sheikh Rashid’s call and their vision became reality. The UAE took its place in the world.
The children of UAE’s founding fathers are now called upon to usher the country into 21st century and face the challenges that a post-oil era presents. Today’s UAE is an advanced country with a diversified economy, an island of stability and development in the region’s troubled waters.