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UAE National Day: Story behind the birth of the union

Curated by Angel Tesorero/Dubai
Filed on November 30, 2018
United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Zayed Ben Sultan al-Nahyan (C) poses with the rulers of the seven UAE federation member states in February 1972, just after Ras al-Khaimah became the seventh member. AFP File (source WAM)

Prior to the formation of the UAE, the Emirates were called The Trucial States.

The UAE National Day, celebrated every December 2, stands for the UAE Union Day, the anniversary of the Union between the six emirates on December 2, 1971, and not an independence day commemorating the British withdrawal from the area in 1968. 

 > Prior to the formation of the UAE, the Emirates were called The Trucial States - an assembly of independent Sheikhdoms - that formed a close bond with the British Government by signing a treaty in 1892. The Trucial States were not officially absorbed into the British Empire but they became a British Protectorate. This meant the British would defend them from all aggression, be it land or sea. In return, the Trucial States weren't allowed to sell any land to another country without Britain's permission. The British protectorate treaty expired on December 1, 1971.

 > Originally, the UAE was to be made up of nine emirates, which included Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Bahrain, and Qatar. However, due to complications and island disputes, Bahrain and Qatar decided to opt out.

> The six emirates that agreed to establish the new country called the United Arab Emirates were Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain. Ras Al Khaimah eventually joined the federation on February 10, 1972. The UAE is now a constitutional federation of the seven emirates.

> The idea of the Union was initiated at a meeting between Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the then Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai, at a village on Samih border on February 18, 1968. This was the same year that the British Empire declared its willingness to withdraw from all protectorates and colonies in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

> Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid both agreed that the best course was to form the Union between them and invite all the Gulf emirates to form a new federal country.

> The UAE interim federal constitution was approved in principle on the evening of December 1, 1971. The next morning, on December 2, 1971, the Rulers of the seven Emirates met at the Union House - now Etihad Museum - to form the UAE.

> Ahmed Khalifa Al Suwaidi, then adviser to Sheikh Zayed, was appointed as the Foreign Minister in the first cabinet and he announced to the media the formation of the UAE. 

> Sheikh Zayed was elected President of the Union, and Sheikh Rashid became the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE. Abu Dhabi was designated as the country's Capital. 

> Ishy Bilady (Long Live my Nation in English) was officially recognised as the national anthem of the UAE. It was composed by Mohammed Abdel Wahab, an Egyptian singer and composer who is also credited for the national anthems of Tunisia and Libya. The lyrics, officially adopted in 1986, were written by Arif Al Sheikh Abdullah Al Hassan, who was commissioned by then acting Minister of Education Ahmed Humaid Al Tayer.

> An Emirati teenager, Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, who was just 19 years old in 1971, designed the UAE flag, beating more than 1,000 entries that were submitted for a competition to design the country's flag. He received 4,000 riyals as prize money (the UAE dirham was not yet introduced at the time). 

> The flag designed by Al Maainah was first hoisted above the Mushrif Palace in the Capital and Union House in Dubai on December 2, 1971.

> The UAE flag uses the Pan-Arab colours of red, green, white and black. "Black stands for the oil that helped transform the country. Green is for fertility and white and red were already present in separate emirate flags, so I added on what was already there to signify our expansion into a unified entity," Al Maainah shared in an interview with an English daily in 2011.

 > The UAE's new coat of arms displays the UAE flag surrounded by seven stars, representing the seven emirates. The falcon is also shown holding a parchment in its talons which reads 'United Arab Emirates' in Arabic. The falcon is the UAE's national symbol. Falconry is at the heart of Emirati culture and is also a popular pastime. 

> In 1970, the estimated local population of the seven emirates was pegged at 272,529, up from 86,000 people back in 1961. As of December 31, 2017, the UAE population has reached 9.3 million, according to the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority.

 angel@khaleejtimes.com

 


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