History of UAE


The history of UAE is a captivating narrative that unfolds across centuries, shaped by the interactions of cultures, the influence of neighboring powers, and the forging of a federation. This young nation, composed of seven emirates on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, has evolved from a land of bustling trade routes and coastal settlements to a modern and dynamic country that plays a pivotal role on the global stage. Its history is marked by a rich tapestry of traditions, innovations, and challenges that have contributed to the development of a unique and vibrant society. This exploration delves into the key milestones and events that have defined the history of UAE.

History of UAE

Ancient History of UAE

The historical roots of the region can be traced back to as early as 6000 B.C., long before the formation of the United Arab Emirates as a federation. At that time, the area and the broader surrounding region were collectively known as the Arabian Peninsula. This brief overview offers insights into the way of life in the area during those ancient times.

Early Civilizations

Archaeological excavations offer a glimpse into the rich history of ancient civilizations that thrived in the region, spanning from the Neolithic or Paleolithic Ages (approximately 6000 B.C. to 3500 B.C.) through to the close of the Iron Age (approximately 1300 B.C. to 300 B.C.).

Civilization in the Paleolithic Age (6000 B.C. – 3500 B.C.)

During this period, Bedouin communities inhabited the area, sustaining themselves through fishing and gathering plants. A significant development of this era was the emergence of pottery, with evidence of this craft discovered in various emirates, including Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Abu Dhabi. These discoveries can be traced back to the Ubaid period, a segment of the Paleolithic Age, dating to the sixth millennium B.C.

Civilization in the Bronze Age (3200 B.C. – 1300 B.C.)

The Bronze Age is further categorized into three distinct periods:

  1. Jebel Hafeet Period (3200 B.C. to 2500 B.C.): This period derives its name from the tombs found in the vicinity of Jebel Hafeet, near Al Ain city in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

  2. Umm Al Nar Period (2500 B.C. to 2000 B.C.): Named after the discoveries on Umm al Nar Island in Abu Dhabi in the mid-1950s.

  3. Wadi Suq Period (2000 B.C. to 1300 B.C.): This period is associated with sites in Wadi Suq, located between Al Ain and the Omani coast.

Civilization in the Iron Age (1300 B.C. – 300 B.C.)

The Iron Age, spanning from 1300 B.C. to 300 B.C., is characterized by the archaeological findings that highlight the advent of falaj irrigation systems. These innovations enabled the extraction of groundwater, facilitating continuous cultivation in the region’s arid climate.


History of UAE

The Advent of Islam

The introduction of Islam to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) marked a significant turning point in the history of the UAE. Following the opening of Mecca, envoys from Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) arrived in the UAE in A.D. 630, ushering in the era of Islam.

Amr bin al’As played a pivotal role by visiting Oman and Sohar, delivering the Prophet’s message to the rulers of Oman. Simultaneously, Abu Al-Ala’a Al-Hadrami extended a similar invitation to the people of Bahrain. The people of the Gulf region warmly accepted the call to Islam.

Following the passing of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) in A.D. 632, the region, including Oman and its neighboring areas, experienced a conflict known as the Ridda Wars (apostasy). Notably, in Dibba, within the emirate of Fujairah, Islamic forces successfully defeated the apostates by A.D. 633.

The Islamic civilization thrived in the Gulf region during the Umayyad Caliphate (A.D. 661 to 750) and Abbasid Caliphate (A.D. 750 to 1258). This period witnessed a flourishing sea trade between the Gulf and regions in Southeast Asia and the West African coast, fostering the spread of ship craftsmanship in the area.

Archaeological findings have uncovered remnants of an Islamic city and ancient coins in Jumeirah. Furthermore, historical records mention the Julfar site in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, which was a hub of trade between Venetian merchants in Italy and the communities along the shores of the Arabian Gulf.

One of the most notable Islamic landmarks is the Bidya Mosque in the emirate of Fujairah, dating back to the 5th century AD. This mosque is not only a testament to the long-standing Islamic heritage but has also been nominated for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The influence of Islamic culture in the Arabian Peninsula remained significant until the fall of Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) in 1492, after which European powers began to assert their interests in the Gulf and establish sea routes, leading to the development of commercial connections in Southeast Asia.

The Ottomans, who ruled the region from A.D. 1281 to 1924, held only limited control over the Arabian Peninsula. In the 17th century, Western European powers started to make inroads into the Gulf region, shaping its complex history.

European Interests in the Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian Peninsula piqued the interest of several European nations, with varying motivations ranging from exploration to the desire for control over its coasts.

One factor contributing to this enduring European fascination with the Arabian Peninsula was the diligent documentation and publication of their explorations. In 1580, Venetian traveler Gasparo Balbi documented his journeys in the region, which included references to the Arabian Gulf. Balbi’s accounts encompassed the coastal stretch of the Arabian Gulf, from Qatar to Ras Al Khaimah, and he made note of the Portuguese fortress at Kalba. His quest for pearls led him to visit Sir Bani Yas island, or ‘Sirbeniast’ as he referred to it in his records.

In 1644-1645, Captain Claes Speelman, aboard the Dutch ship Zeemeeuw (Seagull), explored the southern coast between Khasab and Dibba, leaving behind a detailed drawing of Dibba bay and town. Similarly, in 1666, Dutch mariner Jacob Vogel embarked on a journey from Bandar Abbas to Muscat on the hooker-ship Meerkat. Subsequently, he authored a comprehensive report detailing his encounters and thoughtfully provided a chart and map of the Bay of Muscat.

This brief narrative sheds light on the European exploration and interactions with the Arabian Peninsula.

The Portuguese Era

The Portuguese were among the early European arrivals in the Arabian Peninsula. Their presence in the Arabian Gulf began in 1498, following Vasco de Gama’s successful circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope.

By 1515, the Portuguese had extended their influence into the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, securing their position through military might. By 1560, they had achieved the zenith of their maritime power, establishing a virtual monopoly in the trade of pepper and spices. They assumed the role of intermediaries for commerce between the ports of the Indian Ocean, effectively replacing the native mercantile strata.

For nearly 150 years, the Portuguese maintained a dominant presence in the Gulf. While the Ottomans periodically challenged their control, they could not displace them.

Nonetheless, as the 17th century progressed, the Portuguese grip on the region began to weaken. They encountered resistance from indigenous forces and faced increasing competition from other European powers, particularly the English and Dutch.

The rise of the Ya’arabi forces marked a turning point in the region’s history. In 1633, these forces successfully expelled the Portuguese from Julfar and Dibba. Subsequently, they reclaimed Sohar in 1643 and retook Muscat in 1650.

The Dutch Era

The Portuguese loss of Hormuz in 1622 marked a significant juncture, opening the door for the Dutch and the English to enter Middle Eastern markets.

They established Bandar Abbas as the focal point for their commercial and political endeavors in the Gulf. Nevertheless, their relations turned adversarial after 1622 when the English East India Company relocated its Gulf base to Bandar Abbas, and the Dutch refused to pay customs duties to the English. In due course, the Dutch trading station at Bandar Abbas outshone its English counterpart in terms of activity and success.

In 1623, the Dutch struck a lucrative agreement for the silk trade with Shah Abbas I, reaping substantial profits. As the 17th century unfolded, the Dutch ascended to become the dominant naval power in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf.

However, by the 1750s, Dutch influence began to wane due to three-way conflicts with the English and the French. Consequently, they ceded control of most of their holdings in the Indian Ocean.

Subsequently, the Dutch fortified their position on Kharg Island, erecting a fortress and establishing a factory. They assumed control over various economic activities of the indigenous Arab population, including pearl fishing.

These endeavors incited resistance from the local Arab populace, resulting in a revolt against the Dutch and the liberation of Kharg Island from their influence in 1766.

The British era

By the 1720s, British trade activities in the Gulf region had expanded significantly. The British were primarily motivated by the need to establish their naval supremacy to safeguard trade routes to India and to prevent the intrusion of European competitors.

Simultaneously, in the early 18th century, the Qawasim faction of the Huwalah tribe had risen to prominence, primarily in Musandam and the northern and eastern regions of the Arabian Gulf. They had amassed a formidable fleet of over 60 large vessels and assembled a force of nearly 20,000 personnel. Concerned that the Qawasims might disrupt their efforts to control maritime trade routes between the Gulf and India, the British initiated a series of campaigns against the Qawasim. By 1820, the British had effectively defeated the Qawasim.

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History of UAE

Establishment of the Federation

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a constitutional federation with a unique history. On December 2, 1971, the UAE was officially declared as an independent, sovereign, and federal state. This union brought together seven distinct emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah.

This article offers a concise overview of the significant events that transpired on this land, impacting the sovereignty and freedom of its people, ultimately culminating in the formation of the United Arab Emirates.

Establishment of the Trucial States

Following the defeat of the Qawasims, the British entered into a sequence of agreements with the sheikhs of the individual emirates from 1820 to 1853. These agreements required the sheikhs to maintain peace at sea and refrain from constructing large ships or fortifications along the coastline. Despite these agreements, conflicts at sea among Arab tribes remained common.

In 1853, the Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Peace was signed, once again obligating the sheikhs to a comprehensive cessation of hostilities at sea and a lasting maritime truce. British involvement was primarily focused on maritime security, with a deliberate avoidance of entanglement in the internal affairs of the emirates. This series of agreements resulted in the region being referred to as the ‘Trucial States’ or ‘Trucial Coast’.

Continued British Influence

The British maintained their dominance over the Trucial States. In 1892, Exclusive Agreements were forged between the British and the Trucial States, binding the emirates to neither transfer any of their territories except to the United Kingdom, nor enter into relations with foreign governments without British consent. In exchange, the British committed to defending the emirates against external threats, whether by land or sea.

This British influence persisted for approximately 75 years, during which their interest in the region evolved beyond its original connection to India. Their policy of non-interference in the emirates’ affairs underwent a transformation, partly driven by the potential for discovering oil.

To safeguard against the involvement of other foreign powers, the British established control over the granting of oil concessions and prohibited the issuance of banking concessions to foreigners. This necessitated the delineation of inter-emirate boundaries within the Trucial States. Consequently, in the 1950s, the British became actively engaged in boundary demarcation to meet the security requirements of oil exploration activities in the interior of the Trucial States.

In early 1968, the British publicly announced their intention to withdraw from the Gulf by the end of 1971. Several economic factors played a role in this decision, including the devaluation of the British pound, pressures to reduce defense expenditures amid criticism from the Labour party, the logistical challenges of maintaining British military personnel overseas, and the need to allocate resources for domestic social services and infrastructure in the UK.

On November 30, 1971, the British concluded their presence in the Trucial States, marking the end of an era of British influence in the region. Notably, the Trucial States were the first Arab territories where Britain extended its authority in 1820 and the last area from which it withdrew in 1971.

Establishment of the UAE

Shortly after ascending to power on August 6, 1966, as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, H. H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan stressed the significance of national unity, emphasizing, “In harmony, in some form of federation, we could emulate the example of other developing nations.”

In the early months of 1968, the British publicly declared their intention to withdraw from the Arabian Gulf. H. H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then the Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, swiftly initiated efforts to forge closer bonds with the neighboring emirates.

The Union Accord of 1968 (The Initial Federation)

On February 18, 1968, Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai, convened a historic meeting at Al Samha, situated in today’s Abu Dhabi, near the southwestern border of Dubai.

During this meeting, they reached a significant agreement to consolidate their respective emirates into a union, with an open invitation for others to join. The terms of this accord encompassed the joint conduct of foreign affairs, the establishment of shared defense, security, and social services, as well as the adoption of a common immigration policy. However, each emirate would maintain authority over its own judicial and internal affairs.

This pivotal agreement, known as the Union Accord, is recognized as the foundational step towards unifying the Trucial Coast as a cohesive entity.

The Formation of the Federation of the Arab Emirates

With the aim of fortifying the federation, Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid extended an invitation to the Rulers of the five additional emirates that constituted the Trucial States. They also approached Bahrain and Qatar, encouraging them to participate in the negotiations for establishing a union.

From February 25 to 27, 1968, the Rulers of these nine states convened a constitutional conference in Dubai. During this conference, they crafted an agreement consisting of 11 key points, which laid the foundation for the creation of the ‘Federation of the Arab Emirates.’

The agreement outlined the primary objectives of the federation:

  1. Strengthening bonds among member states across various domains.
  2. Coordinating development and prosperity plans.
  3. Reinforcing mutual respect for each member’s independence and sovereignty.
  4. Unifying foreign policies and representation, encompassing international, political, defense, economic, cultural, and related matters.

It further established that the Supreme Council would bear the responsibility of enacting necessary federal laws and serve as the ultimate authority in deciding on reference matters. Decisions would be made through unanimous votes.

Nevertheless, a series of subsequent events unfolded, and in August 1971, Bahrain declared its independence, with Qatar following suit in September of the same year.

History of UAE

The Formation of the UAE

On July 18, 1971, the leaders of six of the seven emirates that constituted the Trucial States (excluding Ras Al Khaimah) made the historic decision to unite.

During this momentous meeting, they issued the following significant declaration:

“The Supreme Council conveys its warm wishes to the people of the United Arab Emirates, as well as to the Arab world and our global friends, and proclaims the United Arab Emirates as an independent sovereign state, an integral part of the Arab world.”

A provisional Constitution was ratified, designating Abu Dhabi as the provisional capital. Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi was elected as the first President of the United Arab Emirates, while Sheikh Rashid of Dubai assumed the role of Vice-President. Both leaders were appointed for a five-year term commencing on December 2, 1971, which marked the formal union of the UAE.

The national assembly, named the Federal National Council, was intended to consist of 34 members: eight from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, six from Sharjah, and four from each of the smaller emirates of Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah. Additionally, six positions were reserved for Ras Al Khaimah, should it decide to join the federation.

Decisions within the Supreme Council of Rulers would be made through a majority vote, with the stipulation that both Abu Dhabi and Dubai had to be part of the majority.

The Armed and Security Forces of the UAE Government

Following the establishment of the Federation, the UAE Government took steps to consolidate the armed and security forces in the mid-1970s. This action was guided by Article 138 of the Constitution, which called for the creation of a unified training and command structure for the UAE army, navy, and air force. The article also specified that the appointment and removal of the Commander in Chief of these forces and the Chief of the General Staff would be governed by Federal decree. Additionally, the Constitution allowed for the possibility of Federal Security Forces within the Federation.

The Complete Federation with Seven Emirates

H. H. Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the then Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, had various concerns about joining the federation, particularly regarding the emirate’s islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs, which had been seized by Iran. However, he received assurances that the newly formed Federal Government would continue to assert the UAE’s claim to these islands.

Finally, on February 10, 1972, Ras Al Khaimah formally joined the federation, marking the culmination of the union of all seven emirates that had once formed the Trucial States. This newly established federal state was officially named Dawlat Al Imarat Al Arabiyya Al Muttahida or the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Today, the UAE enjoys complete sovereignty and independence. It possesses its own distinctive flag, coat of arms, and national anthem. All UAE citizens hold the unified nationality of the United Arab Emirates, which is internationally recognized.

Numerous factors played a pivotal role in the establishment of this federation, which has evolved into one of the most stable countries in recent history and is renowned for its achievements in the fields of economy, social stability, and security. Some of these contributing factors include a common language, shared religion, similar customs and traditions, complementary topography, analogous resources, and shared interests and aspirations.

Why the UAE Federation Was Established?

The UAE Federation was formed with the overarching principle of prioritizing the well-being of the entire nation. The UAE Constitution outlines the core objectives of the Federation, which are as follows:

  1. Safeguard the independence and sovereignty of the UAE.

  2. Ensure the security and stability of both the Federation and its member states.

  3. Defend against any threats or aggression directed at the existence of the Federation or its member states.

  4. Protect the rights and freedoms of the people of the Federation.

  5. Foster close cooperation among the emirates for the collective benefit of the Federation.

  6. Promote the prosperity and advancement of the Federation.

  7. Enhance the quality of life for all citizens.

  8. Respect the independence and sovereignty of the other emirates in their internal affairs, within the framework of the Constitution.

International Recognition of the UAE

ollowing its establishment, the UAE actively sought and gained recognition both regionally and internationally. Here are some key milestones in its international recognition:

  1. On December 2, 1971, the UAE became the eighteenth member of the Arab League.

  2. On December 9, 1971, the United Nations Security Council granted the UAE’s membership.

  3. In 1981, the UAE played a crucial role in founding the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) along with the Kingdom of Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, State of Kuwait, State of Qatar, and Sultanate of Oman.

  4. In 1972, the UAE became a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

These steps underscore the UAE’s commitment to active participation in regional and global organizations, strengthening its diplomatic ties with other nations, and contributing to international cooperation.