Abu Dhabi History

Boosting a thriving economy and an unprecedented developmental boom, Abu Dhabi is a modern Cinderella. A former poor village with no infrastructure and scarce and unstable sources of income is now one of the world’s richest provinces in the world. Owning no less than 8 per cent of the total crude petroleum reserves of the world, Abu Dhabi is on an ascendant path and its pace does not seem to slow down in the future! Yet, the situation was not always flourishing for the inhabitants of the nowadays Abu Dhabi emirate. Digging back in Abu Dhabi history, one could find struggles, pain and poverty, as well as foreign help and interference.

The beginnings of Abu Dhabi history

The Abu Dhabi history marks as the first inhabitants in the area a population called Umm an-Nar after the island where their remaining were found. Dating back from the 3rd millennium BC, the information regarding these settlers is rather scarce. Apparently, these were nomadic tribes which supported themselves through fishing and herding. While having almost no connection with the actual inhabitants of the area, the Umm an-Nar tribes are still regarded as Arab’s ancestors and are placed at the very first beginning of the Abu Dhabi history.

The Abu Dhabi history is discontinuous, with a gap between the Umm an-Nar period and the modern times. The subsequent information regarding the inhabitants of these terrains comes from the 18th century, when the Bani Yas Bedouin tribes took over the lands and began herding, fishing, cultivating the little terrain suitable for agriculture and diving for pearls in the golf’s waters. Their arrival, in the 1760s put the basis of the actual community.

They are also responsible for the emirate’s name, Abu Dhabi meaning “Father of the Gazelle” (or Father of the Deer). In the first stage, the tribe was exploiting the terrains while still maintain their headquarters at Liwa Oasis. They only moved permanently from Liwa to nowadays Abu Dhabi in 1793, putting the basis of nowadays Abu Dhabi.

The 19th century Abu Dhabi history was marked by a continuous increase in wealth due to what it then seemed an unlimited source of natural pearls. The market was in demand of precious pearls and the divers brought to surface large quantities. Yet, the world recession cumulated with an unfair competition from Japan brought to the collapse of the pearl market in the region.

British protectorate

The rise of the British naval power as well as the tensions between two important tribes in the Gulf, the Nahyan and the Qawasim and their attacks upon the Indian ships, has triggered a rather violent response from the British marine. Their ships have occupied the Gulf and a treaty which ensured protection for the local inhabitants was signed by the Bani Yas tribe. The treaty, signed in 1892 by Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed al-Nahyan, stated that Abu Dhabi will become a British protectorate and join the Trucial States. The British retracts from the area in 1971.

In the 20th century was marked by a series of events that will dramatically change Abu Dhabi history. The beginning of the century is marked by rumors about petrol existence in the Gulf. In 1939, Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Sultan Al Nahyan grants concession over the petroleum resources to the British Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) Ltd (PDTC), a chance which will be fructified and in 1958 oil was discovered. Four years later, Abu Dhabi Marine Areas (ADMA) was extracting and exporting petroleum, after taking over the concession rights from PDTC.

Contemporary Abu Dhabi history

Half way through the century, a violent confrontation for power between two of the local groups results in a scission between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The conflict, started in 1945, ended 3 years later and left behind an ardent rivalry between the two cities. Sheikh Shakbut was rather reticent about the future of petroleum reserves. Having the previous experience with the decline of the pearl market, he decided to preserve the money and take baby steps into local development.

His prudent vision was contrasting with that of his family and his brother, who exposed more progressive ideas. As a result, Sheikh Shakbut was replaced by his brother, Sheikh Zayed on August 6th, 1966. His pioneering plans and massive investment in developmental plans have put the basis of modern Abu Dhabi history, enlarging perspectives and attracting more and more foreign investors.