It’s a big day for the UAE today: the country’s 43rd birthday. For the public sector, this means a 3-day holiday (5 days if you count the weekend); for us less fortunate souls in the private sector, we’re … well … considering ourselves lucky to have today off work.
Flags have popped up all over the UAE: on cars, buildings, cookies, pizzas, kids’ faces, parachutes, buses and just about any other surface still enough to paint the red, green, white and black motif on. And it does get you thinking about just how far the UAE has come in a mere 43 years.
There can only be a few countries in history that have experienced, in just over four decades, such a huge shift in income and development. Since the early 1960s, the UAE has risen, quite literally, from relative obscurity to become one of the wealthiest and most dynamic of the smaller countries of the world.
So I’m definitely feeling patriotic today. The parades, fireworks, shows, flamboyantly decorated cars, not to mention the Dubai Fountain dancing to the UAE National Anthem and the camels and falcons that visited the schools this week have all created quite a buzz. Yesterday, there was even (drumroll) a spit of rain, which provided just enough moisture to wash the dust away and spruce up the city before the celebrations.
Happy National Day everyone! I’ll leave you with this quick potted history …
The little fishing village that could: In the 18th century, Dubai was a small fishing and trading village inhabited by members of the Bani Yas tribe. Until the discovery of oil changed everything, the region was poor and one of its main sources of income was pearl fishing.
Pearl divers of Arabia: At the turn of the 20th century, the region’s pearl industry was at its peak. Between May and September hundreds of wooden ships headed out to the oyster banks from Gulf towns including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Bahrain. Pay and working conditions were terrible.
Striking it rich: The first traces of hydrocarbons in what was to become the UAE were discovered in Abu Dhabi’s Bab field in 1954. A BP subsidiary also began offshore explorations, and in 1958 enormous quantities of oil were discovered at the giant Umm Shaif field, containing some 3.9 billion barrels of oil in rock formations beneath the seabed.
Federation formed: Just as the energy industry began to take off in the Trucial states, the British announced their withdrawal from the area. The UAE was formed on 2 December 1971 after an agreement was reached between the six rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain and Fujairah. Ras al-Khaimah joined the federation two months later. Qatar and Bahrain were also invited to join, but elected not to.