History of UAE - How The Rich Country Came to Being

Before the British rule, the desert was inhabited with mostly Bedouins who travelled far and wide searching for food, water and shelter. Apart from that, merchant activities back in those days were at its peak. In fact, the history of UAE is rooted in trade and tied to Islam. In 1971, the formerly known 'Trucial States' liberated from the British treaty and formed the United Arab Emirates. Today, UAE is one of the few oil-exporting countries and has a highly diversified economy. UAE constitutes of seven different emirates Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quain, Ras Al Khaimah, each with its own history. The traditional hospitality of the Arabs is quite well-known, with them being extremely warm, welcoming and hospitable towards their guests. 

The Historical Importance of Trade in the UAE

Source
The Gulf was seen to have a strategic location, located in the centre of the world and hence used to connect the trade from Europe to Asia. The seven separate nations were occupied by the British for establishing faster trade with India, China, and a few other countries. Currently, a yearly festival held in Dubai known as 'The Global Village' which in a way still enhances the trade between the west and east. Various countries have set up their own 'stalls', with small merchants coming in from these countries and selling their items. While the Europeans were using the coasts, the mainland was still being used by the Bedouins and other tribes for trade in a rather more conventional way. Various artefacts that were discovered from the UAE suggest of a long trade with the Mesopotamia.

The Importance of the Pearling Industry For the History of UAE

Deira Creek Source
During the nineteenth and twentieth century, apart from the trade, there was another industry that was thriving, the Pearling industry. With pearls being exported to India and several other South-Asian countries, it served as a major source of finance and employment. With the rise of artificial pearls manufactured in Japan, the Pearling industry saw a rapid decline. However, one can still experience the art of Pearl-diving in Yas Waterworld. The Deira Creek was a commercial centre in the earlier times; it still bustles with commercial activities. Taking a Dhow Cruise down the creek gives you a very calm and serene feel during the night, quite the opposite of how the primary functions during the day.

The Emirates

1. Abu Dhabi

The capital emirate, Abu Dhabi, is filled with archaeological evidence that proves the existence of early civilisations. The nation's second-largest peak and a well-known tourist spot Jebel Hafeet is declared as a 'heritage site' by UNESCO, because of its archaeological importance. More than 500 ancient tombs are found the most important in the-the foothills of Jabal Hafeet, indicating the period of Bronze Age. Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi too talks about the heritage and culture of the Emirates and digs deep into the life and story of Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the nation.

2. Dubai

Al Fahidi District, Dubai (Source)
In the history of UAE, Tte Al-Fahidi Fort in Dubai was created in 1787 to defend the Dubai Creek from getting invaded, because of significant commercial activities that took place here. Now the Dubai museum is housed within. In the earlier times, it served as a residence for the ruling family; it served as a prison, and as a garrison. The museum now has a collection of old maps, weaponry, musical instruments, artefacts and various other articles that highlight the traditional lifestyle of an emirate. Al Qusais, which is now a very populous residential area once was a vast graveyard, from where 3000-4000 years old graves were dug. The Bastakia Quarter is ideal for one who wishes to be acquainted with the authentic Arabian architecture. This neighbourhood was a settlement for the Persian merchants who came to do business after their trade tax was exempted. Once here, one can witness the traditional Wind Towers, narrow lanes, coral and limestone buildings.

3. Sharjah

History Of UAE
Al Qasba, Sharjah (Source)
Formerly known for being the wealthiest town in the region, it is currently the cultural capital of the UAE. It was one of the important pearl fishing ports in the region. The Portuguese empire, in the 16th century, captured Kalba, an exclave of Sharjah with a reserve and mangrove swamp and Khorfakkan, a town situated near the Khorfakkan bay against the backdrop of the Hajar Mountains.

Among the residents and tourist for its beach and archaeological sites such as a ruined Portuguese port and ancient graves. Maritime Museum in Sharjah, is one of the few places that showcase the vessels used in the earlier times used for various activities ranging from wars to trade. It also exhibits 'The Pearl' which is widely believed to be one of the oldest pearls in the world with an estimated age of seven thousand years.

4. Fujairah

Snoopy Island, Fujairah Source
Now famous with the residents for being a getaway resort, it was once an important trade route, Wadi Ham, between the Emirates and other neighbouring countries. It is home to the oldest mosque, Al Badiyah mosque in the nation built in 1446.

5. Umm al-Quwain

It is the least populated emirate, was once a bustling town, with trade and agriculture being the main source of income. The semi-nomadic tribes here were known in the region, for smelting copper and cultivating dates and crops such as wheat and millet. Later on, during the formation of the Trucial States, it was widely believed to be a major boat-building centre. The present-day Umm al Quain fort, which is open to tourists as a museum, was once home to the ruler and guarded the emirate. It overlooked the sea from one side and creek from the other. Now the museum houses artefacts from nearby sites, weaponry that was used throughout the history of UAE. A particular town, Al-Dour, which is now an important archaeological site, is considered as one of the largest pre-Islamic site located on the coast of Persian Gulf. It was an important trading port. There are two public monuments here, dedicated to the Sun God.

6. Ras al-Khaimah

History Of UAE
Al Hajar Mountains, RAK (Source)

It was the last emirate to join the U.A.E in 1972. The emirate was formerly known as Julfar and was founded by Armenians. The city before was the capital of Sharjah and holds important historical importance. Sheba's Palace is a restored archaeological site along with the largest Umm an-Nar tombs which are considered as the largest in the entire Arabian Peninsula. The coastal areas of the emirate later were called'The Pirate Coast' because of infamous maritime piracy. The Battle of Ras al Khaimah of 1809, destroyed the 16th century built Dhayah Fort. The remains of the tower destroyed can still be found at the site.

7. Ajman

Ajman Source
The smallest emirate in the nation boasts an excellent coastal history and Islamic heritage. The Al Nuaim tribe settled here permanently here, which forms the foundation of the human settlement in recent history. The main types of occupation were pearling and fishing. Ajman was the region's biggest Boat Building Centre.

The history of UAE showed that it was always a sought-after land by the Portuguese, English and the Dutch owing to its strategic location and being a trade hub, something that it still is. Later on, the English used this mainly to enhance trade with India and increase naval power in the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese initially maintained influence in the area and controlled the coastal areas, started building forts and thereby forming the human settlement in the land which initially was of the nomadic tribes. Though, the trade still flourishes in this part of the world, much of its former history is lost in ruins. Visit one of the many museums and forts built here, to reconnect with the former glory of the nation.

This post was published by Swati Trivedi

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