As the UAE celebrates its 46th birthday, patriotic fervour is in the air. Emirati and expatriate alike are gearing up to celebrate 46 years of peace, prosperity, diversity and inclusivity.
Since its metamorphosis form a series of Trucial States to a federation of emirates, the UAE has seen many a pivotal moment in its young life. At Xpress Money, we celebrate this forward-looking nation’s vim and vigour by looking back over key milestones and memorable moments in the country’s history.
1962 – Years before the United Arab Emirates comes into to being, Abu Dhabi makes its mark on the world by exporting its very first barrel of oil. This liquid gold, first discovered in the nation’s ground in the 50s, would give it the impetus and currency to invest in a revolutionary plan of modernisation and economic diversification.
1966 – In a pivotal moment of pre-independence history, the man who would eventually go on to become the Founding Father of the UAE – Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan assumes the role of Ruler of Abu Dhabi. It is this seat of power that would give the great man the clout to hew a nation out of disparate tribes.
1971 – Perhaps the most important occasion of all. On December 2nd 1971, the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Fujairah come together as the United Arab Emirates, with Sheikh Zayed presiding over the new nation. The same year, the fledgling country cements its international credentials by joining the Arab League.
1972 – Previously outside the Federation, Ras Al Khaimah formally joins the UAE. The union of seven emirates is now complete, in much the same form as it continues today. The same year, the Federal National Council – a 40 member consultative body appointed by the rulers of the seven emirates meets for the first time.
1973 – Perhaps not a momentous occasion for the outside world, but one that nevertheless signals the young country’s determination to progress and develop. The first traffic lights become operational in Abu Dhabi.
1974 – In a sign of continuing progress, a direct telephone line becomes operational between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The connection is inaugurated by a phone call between UAE President Sheikh Zayed and the then-ruler of Dubai Sheikh Rashid. The same year, National Day celebrations are broadcast in colour on TV for the very first time.
1977 – Infrastructural development continues apace, and the Sharjah International Airport opens for business.
1981 – The UAE continues espousing values of co-operation and collaboration. Together with five other countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar – it helps form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
1985 – The UAE keeps turning outward towards the world, with Emirates Airline beginning operations out of Dubai. Its first destinations were Pakistan and India.
1999 – The world’s first seven-star hotel – the iconic Burj Al Arab – opens in Dubai. The building’s elegance and sail-shaped design quickly draws the world’s eyes.
2004 – It was a sad day not just for the UAE but for the region, and in fact the country’s supporters all over the world. On November 2nd, it was formally announced that the visionary Sheikh Zayed, the Father of the Nation, had passed away.
2007 – The UAE keeps making waves on the international stage and furthering the cause of cultural exchange and artistic expression. The UAE and France sign an agreement to bring a branch of the Louvre on Saadiyat island.
2010 – The UAE once again storms the world stage as the world’s tallest tower – the Burj Khalifa – is officially inaugurated in Dubai.
2014 – The UAE turns its attention to the stars. The nation outlines its Mission to Mars, and announces plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to the country in what would be a first for an Arab or Islamic country.
The breathtakingly rapid strides the country makes daily make a list such as hours short of comprehensive. We haven’t spoken about the freezones set up countrywide to facilitate business, or the launch of Dubai’s Smart City strategy. We haven’t had a chance to mention Sheikh Mohammad’s emphasis on happiness for all residents.
But we’ve made at point. The UAE isn’t just a regional benchmark for tolerance and progress. It’s also a country with a vision, and the determination to achieve its goals. Happy 46th National Day, UAE!