In the Paleolithic period there were Bedouin communities that live on fishing and gathering plants. This period is characterized by the occurrence of porcelain with evidence found in Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi. The evidence date back to the Ubaid period, and partly to the Paleolithic period, that goes back to the 6th millennium BC. Archeological findings from the Iron Age showed the first instance of the Falaj irrigation system that enabled the extraction of underground water for regular cultivation in dry climate.
Islam came to the UAE after Mecca was established. prophet Muhammed’s emissaries came to the UAE in 630 and introduced Islam, and thus a new religious era began. The whole Gulf region readily accepted Islam. After Muhammed’s death in 632, a war incited on the territory of Oman and neighbouring areas.
Islamic civilization flourished in the periods of the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750) and the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258). Maritime trade progressed between the Gulf region and other regions in Southeastern Asia and coastal West Africa. Special emphasis was put on shipbuilding at the time. Later on, many documents were found that gave evidence to a developed trade between this part of the world and former Republic of Venice.
After 1492, Europeans began to show tendencies for gulf and sea routes that lead to commercial areas in Southeastern Asia. The Ottomans that ruled there from 1281 to 1924 had limited control over the Arabian Peninsula. Since the 17th century, European powers began to advance in the Gulf area. Their goal was to explore the region and establish control over the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula.
One of the reasons why the Arabian Peninsula continued to attract attention of European countries was that Europeans documented and published their research. Furthermore, in 1580 a Venetian traveler Gasparo Balbi mentioned the Arabian Gulf in his report of the travels in this region. He described the coast of the Arabian Gulf from Qatar to Ras Al Khaimah, and he mentioned a Portuguese fortress in Kalba.
The Portuguese were among first Europeans who came to the Arabian Peninsula. After Vasco da Gama’s successful sail around the Cape of Good Hope, the Portuguese arrived in the Arabian Gulf in 1498. Until 1515, they made their way to the Indian ocean and the Gulf of Oman where they settled. Until 1560, they reached the peak of their naval power and establish a semi-monopoly on pepper and spice trade. Almost a century and a half later, the Portuguese were the ultimate authority in the Gulf. The Ottomans tried to push them out at times, but unsuccessfully. Portuguese power started to decay in the 17th century. They faced resistance from the natives and the competition in other European powers, England and the Dutch.
Losing Hormuz island to the Portuguese in 1622 marked the entrance of the Dutch and the English in the Middle East market. New conquerors made Bandar Abbas the center of their trade and political activities in the Gulf. However, they soon became enemies after 1622 when the British East India Company moved their gulf factory to Bandar Abbas, and the Dutch refused to pay the customs. Soon the Dutch trade station in Bandar Abbas became more active and more successful than the British one.
In 1623, the Dutch came to an agreement with Abbas on silk trade, and they made a huge profit from it. The Dutch became the most dominant naval force in the Indian ocean and the Arabian Gulf.
However, until 1750, Dutch power declined due to the war among them, the English and the French, so they lost their much of their assets in the Indian ocean. Later the Dutch settled on Kharg island where they fortified and built factories, and took over different economic activities from the native Arab citizens, including pearl fishing. These activities led to the resistance from the local Arab population that rebelled against the Dutch and liberated the island of Kharg in 1766.
Until 1720, British trade in the Gulf increased significantly. The British were mainly focused on strengthening their naval power in order to protect trade connections with and India and repel all European competitors.
By the beginning of the 18th century, the Qawasima from the Huwalah tribe gained power in Northern and Eastern regions of the Arabian Gulf. They built a fleet with more than 60 large vessels. The British feared that the Qawasima might interfere with their intention to control the naval trade routes between the Gulf and India. That led them to begin a sequence of attacks on the Qawasima. Until 1820, the British beat them.
Following the win against the Qawasima, until 1853, the British signed a series of agreements with the Sheikhs from neighbouring emirates. According to those agreements, the Sheikhs had to secure peace on the sea and withhold building large ships and fortifications along the coast. The British arrangement was focused on naval security because they did not want to get involved in internal affairs between the emirates. This series of agreements led to naming this region “Trucial States” or “Trucial Coast”.
British rule continued for the next 75 years during which their primary concern became connection with India. Their policy of not interfering with emirates’ internal affairs changed. Among other reasons, there was the possibility of finding oil. From the fear of other powers interfering, the British secured the control over assigning oil concessions. It resulted that the Trucial States had to define their borders. Following that event, the British interfered in marking the borders in order to secure interests of their oil companies that explored the Trucial States.
By the beginning of the 1968, the British declared their decision to retreat from the Golf until 1971. This decision came from a few economic reasons that concerned the fall of British Pound, then critiques from the Labour Party regarding expenses, then difficulties to maintain British troops in the sea, and problems regarding investments in social services at home, as well as in infrastructure in the UAE. On 30 November, 1971, the British retreated from the emirates, and thus ended the era of British supremacy in that region.
On 18 July, 1971, the ruler of six emirates that constituted the Trucial States (except for Ras Al Khaimah) decided to form a union. On 2 December, 1971, the United Arab Emirates were declared an independent, sovereign and federal country. The UAE consist of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah.
Interim constitution was passed, and Abu Dhabi became the interim capital. Sheikh Zayed from Abu Dhabi was the first president of the United Arab Emirates, while Sheikh Rashid from Dubai was chosen for the position of vice-president; both of them served a 5-year mandate. The National Assembly, also known as the Federal National Council was to have 34 members – 8 from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, 6 from Sharjah, and 4 from the four of smaller emirates – Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah. The Supreme Council of Rulers makes decisions by majority of votes, but Abu Dhabi and Dubai must be a part of it.
The ruler of the seventh emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, had concerns about joining the federation. One of them regarded conquering the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunb that were occupied by Iran. Finally, Ras Al Khaimah joined the federation on 10 February, 1972, and the federation was complete with all seven emirates that constituted the Trucial States. The official name of this newly-founded country is Dawlat Al Imarat Al Arabiyya Al Muttahida, i.e. the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Today, the UAE are considered the most developed country of the Arabian Peninsula.
The city of Abu Dhabi is located on an island in the Persian Gulf, off the Central West Coast. Most of the city resides on the mainland connected to the rest of the country. By the latest consensus from 2020, the urban area of Abu Dhabi has an estimated population of 1.48 million citizens. Abu Dhabi used to be an underdeveloped city with local importance only, however, the Emirates’ oil revenue made it possible to evolve into a modern city with contemporary architecture and numerous skyscrapers that the city is known for today. By the beginning of the 90s, the city became the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and ever since, there has been a sequence of programs for promoting the city as a tourist and trade center. Development plans in Abu Dhabi have quickly led to the construction of famous hotels, the foundation of the flag carrier Etihad Airways, and today this is one of the most significant symbols of the city, and of the development of other commercial and residential units.