The Arabian Peninsula was built both on the coast and inland as early as 9000 to 3000 BC. Inhabited by humans. Nomads probably moved from place to place very early on. For example, evidence of early cultures was found on the island of Umm an-Nar, which is near today’s capital Abu Dhabi. The pearl diving and trading of pearls were an early source of income of the people.
But there is little evidence for this time, especially almost no written sources, so that much is in the dark for us. We can draw conclusions primarily from the graves found and the grave goods. Conjectures suggest that the people near the coast were also experienced seafarers.
The Iron Age lasted until about 300 BC. At that time there was probably still brisk sea trade. The area of today’s United Arab Emirates was probably part of a trade network that extended across the Mediterranean to India.
Pirates were up to mischief
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Portuguese founded settlements on the coasts of what would later become the United Arab Emirates. They first traded in pearls, and later also in slaves. Bedouins probably founded today’s cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, today’s capital of the country, in the 18th century. For more information about United Arab Emirates and Asia, please visit homosociety.
The coastal region was famous and notorious because the dreaded pirates were up to mischief here. These pirates also ambushed merchant ships from Great Britain. The British blamed the sheikdoms for the piracy. After fierce fighting, contracts were signed at the end of the 18th century that guaranteed the ships safe passage and protection. Great Britain supported the sheikdoms economically for this. So the Emirates became protectorates of Great Britain.
Treaty of “Eternal Peace” and pearl fishing
A treaty was finally concluded between Great Britain and the seven sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was supposed to guarantee “eternal peace”. A representative of the British government sat in Dubai and kept meeting the sheikhs so that the existing conflicts could be defused.
The pearl fishing, the great in earlier times significance had regained weight. Only with the invention of cultured pearls did this commercial focus disappear. The result was a severe economic crisis. But it didn’t take long before a much more lucrative source of income was discovered.
What actually is black gold?
In the late 1950s, large oil reserves were found in the waters of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Thus a source of income was found that determines the history of the sheikdoms to this day. Oil is also known as “black gold” because it is more valuable than gold.
The sheikh of that time used the money from the oil production to advance the country, to support the population and to improve the living conditions of the people. The same was true of the Sheikh of Dubai, because oil was discovered there too, although not as much as in Abu Dhabi.
Conflicts with neighboring countries
In the 1950s there were still border disputes with Saudi Arabia, which borders on Abu Dhabi. There were repeated conflicts with Iran as well. Then, when the British began their retreat in the region, the sheikhs realized that the lack of a protective power would provoke further conflict.
Founding of the United Arab Emirates
In 1971 Great Britain finally ended the protectorate. The sheikhs’ fears of not being able to secure the country militarily or economically were not unjustified.
The rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi decided to found a federation, a union of individual emirates. The powerful neighboring countries with their claims had a threatening effect on the small sheikdoms. They wanted to settle the border disputes between the Emirates.
The seven emirates Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain, Fujairah and Ras al-Khaimah sat down at the negotiating table. At the beginning, Qatar and Bahrain also took part in the negotiations. However, these two states did not want to join the association of initially six – later seven states – and remained independent states.
At that time there were just 180,000 inhabitants in the entire newly founded state of the United Arab Emirates. Their living and housing conditions were very simple. Exceptions were the sheikhs or some wealthy traders. This should change over the next few decades.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai
The richest emirate was Abu Dhabi, because this is where most of the oil was located.
Dubai did not have that much oil to show and was quick to develop other branches of the economy as well. Construction started early in Dubai to attract tourists and investors. That is why it is not quite as dependent on oil as Abu Dhabi is today.
The remaining emirates lived from the economic strength of the two rich emirates. The Emir of Abu Dhabi will also become President of the country, while Dubai holds the Vice-Presidency.
Power is inherited
As is usually the case with a monarchy, the throne is inherited. In the meantime, however, there are also democratic institutions in the United Arab Emirates, some of whose representatives are elected, act in an advisory capacity and also have a certain say. However, it is not a democratically elected parliament.
How well or badly the residents are still depends on the goodwill of the respective ruler. Its interest is always to satisfy its subjects so that there are no uprisings and demands for further political say.
Women can now be politically active in the UAE, but their share is still low. But this could change in the future, as many well-educated women are now also striving for political power.