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Home: The Basics: History of the United Arab Emirates

Before The Federation (The Past)
The region now known as the United Arab Emirates was occupied by sea traders who lived along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman. During the 7th century, the Islamic faith spread across the Arabian Peninsula, but due to disputes in the area, the people became pirates and the region was later known as the Pirate Coast in the 16th century.

During the early 19th century, due to the continues harassement of foreign ships, the British influence began, even though both European and Arab naives were patrolling the area. The British issued a general peace treaty in 1820 with all the nine shaikhs (which included Bahrain and Qatar), but raids continued until the shaikhs agreed not to fight at sea in 1835. A signed treaty in 1853 was made between the United Kingdom and the nine sheikhdoms, and the region would be known as the Trucial Coast. The British would provide the Trucial Sheikhdoms with protection and disputes among the shaikhs would be settled by them.

In 1952, the seven emirates establishes a Trucial Council. When the prospect of oil was seen by the British, they needed to set boundaries between the sheikhdoms as none of the local rulers could agree. Oil was found in 1958 and began export in 1962, which transformed the previously poorest emirate into the richest. Dubai on the otherhand was concentrating on building its reputation as the region's busiest trading post, but eventually struck oil in 1966.

The Federation (The Union)
The British announced in 1968 that they would be leaving the Gulf region in 1971, and this would end their treaty relationship. The seven Trucial Coast sheikhdoms, Bahrain and Qatar attempted to form a union of Arab emirates, but were unable to agree on terms of a union, which lead to the independence of Bahrain in August and Qatar in September 1971. When the treaty expired on the 1st of December 1971, six of the seven state (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain) merged together on the 2nd of December 1971 to form the United Arab Emirates and elected Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as President and Sheikh Rashid bin Said Al Maktoom as the Vice-President. Ras Al Khaimah soon after joined the federation on the 11th February 1972.

The individual rulers of each of the seven emirates comprise of the Federal Supreme Council (FSC), which is the highest federal authority. Decisions made by the Council must have the agreement of atleast five of its members, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The President and Vice-President (Prime Minister) are elected by the Council every five years, but unofficially the President will be a member of the Al Nahyan clan of Abu Dhabi and the Vice-President will be a member of the Al Maktoum clan of Dubai.

The Vice-President, with consultation of the President, chooses the executive arm of the government known as the Council of Ministers. The Federal National Council (FNC), which is considered the parliament, is a 40-member council drawn from each of the seven emirates that governs all federal laws. In August 2006, the UAE Nationational Election Committee (NEC) was established to appointed half of members of the Federal National Council, which will allow women to be members of the FNC. The judicial structure is headed by the FSC, but each emirates has its own local government.

After the Federation (The Present and the Future)
The United Arab Emirates has come a long way since its independance and being the world's fourth largest oil-producer, it has transformed from a desert land into a land of six-lane highways, towering skyscrapers, and lush green golf courses. It has also been reported to be the richest state per head of population, and the considered to be the commercial and tourist hub of the Middle East. Also being the first in the region to permit the foreign ownership of real estate, foreign investment in into the country has made it possible to create development projects like the Palm Islands, The World, and Dubailand.

Useful Links
History of the United Arab Emirates - Wikipedia
United Arab Emirates Prior to Independance - Arabic German Consulting
United Arab Emirates Culture & History - Lonely Planet
United Arab Emirates - History - Encyclopedia Britannica

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