UAE before union, independence, and oil. History of UAE.

The UAE is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world across many different measures of development. It is so fast that it is hard to comprehend anymore. Which is why knowing where it all started is important. The modern UAE is no doubt a place of great sensation with beautiful and mind-blowing structures.

Before the UAE was formed in 1971, it was known as the Trucial States. Between 1820 and 1892 several protective treaties or truces were signed by the Sheikhs with the British Government. The origin of the name Trucial is from these truces. These truces remained in effect until the British withdraw permanently in 1971.

Since then The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has drastically grown from a remote village into one of the Middle East’s most significant economic centers. It is strategically situated on the southeastern coast of Persia and the northwestern coast of Oman.

Originally the UAE was conceived as a 9-state federation including Bahrain and Qatar. However, in 1971 only six emirates namely Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah had joined the union. Ras al Khaimah joined them on the 10th Feb 1972 making it a 7-state federation and the modern UAE was born.

Back In the 1960s, not only did the UAE not exist. It only had a very small settlement therein, it also didn’t have a paved road because only a very few people owned cars. There was not a highway system that connects the very small number of people who settled there. History has it that, the first road construction that was made in the UAE was a link between the city of Dubai and Ras Al-Khaimah which was sponsored by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia supporting the Arab League’s boycott of the British development office established for the same purpose. The UAE before its union had a history dated back to 68000 BCE as it went through different phases of transformation. I’m sure you are interested in knowing what the federation looked like and went through before its independence, stay with me as I give an insight into the history of UAE. 

Aerial View of a small settlement along the UAE coast in the 1960s.

Pre History – the beginning of civilization

Between 68000 to 8000 BCE was the glacial period, During this period; Eastern Arabia was thought to have been unbearable for habitation. It was until  5000 to 3100 BCE that discoveries from the Stone Age Arabian Bifacial and Ubaid cultures proved the presence of human habitation in the area. It was experienced the Hafit period dated 3200 to 2600 BCE. This period was named after the discovery of beehive-shaped tombs which were found within the areas of Jabel Hafeet in the region of Tawam, which included Al Ain.

Wadi Suq burial at Jebel Al-Buhais

Umm Al-Nar & Wadi Suq culture – Bronze Age

Another Era emerged which was the Bronze Age, this spanned from 2600 to 1300 BCE. During which, two cultures were known to have existed in the region (Umm Al-Nar & Wadi Suq culture). Umm al-Nar culture was said to exist for six centuries (2600 to 2000 BC) in the area of modern-day UAE and Oman, an element of this culture is circular tombs commonly portrayed by well-fitted stones with human remains visible within. The Umm al-Nar culture also included further evidence of trade with the Summerian & Akkadian kingdoms and also with the Indus Valley.

It was then followed by the Wadi Suq culture which existed in the region between 2000 to 1300 BCE,  this culture was noted through the key archeological sites that existed on both western and eastern sides of UAE and Oman, it also included Dalma, Safouh, Kalba, Tell Abraq and Ed Dur. Shreds of evidence of the transition from Umm al-Nar to Wadi Suq burials are found in the burial sites of Shimal and Seih Al Harf. This period is also known for the domestication of camels as well as other animals which led to increased settlement and cultivation of diverse crops which included date palms.

Battle of Dibba – Advent of Islam – The Iron Age

Another Era was then experienced by the Eastern Arabia region which was known to be the Iron Age. This era expanded from the period of 1200 to 300 BC followed by the Hellenistic Mleiha period (300 BC onward to the advent of Islam). During this era, the region was said to have been occupied by the Achaemenids (the dynasty which ruled the Persian empire between 550 to 330 BCE) and saw the construction of fortified settlements & extensive husbandry. Then there came the advent of Islam and the Middle Ages. Envoys from the prophet Muhammad arrived which led to how the region was converted to Islam. After Prophet Muhammad’s demise, a major battle was fought in Dibba (present-day Fujairah), the defeat of non-muslims in this battle led to the victory of Islam in the Arabian Penisula.

UAE’s Pearling Industry – 16th – 18th Century

This was about the time known for the rising economy of the region through the Pearling industry,  providing a source of income and livelihood to the people of the region. The pearling season was from June to September, during this season, thousands of ships would gather at a fixed spot equipped with provisions to last up to three months, they all agree on a commencement day, when the date is due, they all sail together and divers from each ship are sent down into the sea to gather pearls,  with heavy stones tied to their legs to enable them to reach the bottom of the sea and ropes attached to their waist for pulling them out when their bags are full.

In the 1920s, the Japanese artificially manufactured pearls began to produce in commercial quantities, this led to a depressing decline in the pearling industry of Eastern Arabia. In 1929, there was a total collapse of the pearl industry, and that marked the end of the pearling business in the region.

British in the UAE – 19th – 20th Century

Notably between 1809 – 1819, several conflicts occurred between the British and Eastern Arabia, this led to the signing of a peace treaty between the British and  Al Qasimi, But this broke down in 1815. After the dissolution, it was contended that Al Qasimi was indulging in conflicts, it wasn’t long till other repetitive attacks began, at the end of 1818, Al Qasimi made conciliatory proposals to the British which was rejected. In November 1819, the British embarked on an attack against Al Qasimi, destroying Ras Al Khaimah with a platoon of 3,000 soldiers supported with several warships. With the fall of Ras Al Khaimah, they proceeded to destroy larger vessels of Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Fast, Sharjah, Abu Hail, and Dubai. As a consequence, a peace treaty was signed with all of the coastal communities.

In 1892, the “Exclusive Agreement” was signed, the agreement restricted the Trucial states from entering into agreements with any power other than the British Government, protection from the British was given in return to the trucial states.

Discovery of oil in the UAE

Oil was first found in the UAE in 1958 in Umm Saif, Abu Dhabi. It took 30 years of research to find the first oil well. Shortly in 1960 oil was discovered in the desert of Murban. The first cargo of crude oil was exported from Abu Dhabi’s Jebel Dhanna port on 14th December 1963. 

Subsequently, more fields were quickly discovered including the giant Bu Hasa field, west of Bab, and the Bida Al Qemzan, Asab, Shah, and Sahil fields.

Once the oil was discovered, UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed established Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to oversee the production of oil. And once the revenues started growing, he invested extensively in developing the country and the lives of people through various major infrastructural and socio-economic development projects that led the foundation to the modern-day UAE.

Oil was first founded in Dubai in an offshore oil facility known as Fateh Oil Field 60 miles off Dubai in 1966. The first export happened on September 22, 1969. The Discovery of oil in Dubai was followed by the construction of massive underwater storage tanks to store these oil called Khazzan.

The first of these was also completed in 1969.

Leaders after the union

Independence and the union of the UAE

By 1996, it had already been clear to the British Government that it could no longer afford to govern the Trucial States, the treaty was withdrawn and confirmed in March 1971. Afterward, the region faced some challenges as there were internal disputes amongst them, but it didn’t last long as the leaders came together with an attempt to form the Federation of Arab Emirates. It was initially proposed to be a nine-state federation with the inclusion of Bahrain and Qatar, but the two later states decided on the independence of their own.

The Trucial states gained independence after the British-Trucial Sheikhdoms treaty expired on the 1st December 1971. Six of the Trucial States (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Umm AL Quwain, and Fujairah) came together to sign the UAE’s founding treaty.  On the 2nd of December, 1971 at the Dubai guest house (present Union House), they agreed to be called the “United Arab Emirates” with Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan being the union’s first president. Ras Al  Khaimah eventually joined the federation in February 1972.

Modern-day UAE

Following the Union, the region has since experienced great achievements. The UAE of today is different from what it used to be five decades ago before the beginning of oil production. Today, it is a well-developed country where cultural values and traditions make up its distinctive identity.