UAE historian Peter Hellyer passes away: From 1975 to 2023, how he played integral role in nation's development

He wrote books on environment and rich archaeological heritage in the Emirates, and worked as a journalist, historian and consultant in the field of oil


Nandini Sircar

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Published: Mon 3 Jul 2023, 2:54 PM

Last updated: Mon 3 Jul 2023, 3:50 PM

Peter Hellyer, a prominent Emirati historian, author, and journalist, passed away on Sunday, bringing an end to a remarkable life filled with notable accomplishments.

The esteemed chronicler arrived in the UAE in 1975 from the UK, and since then played an integral role in the nation's development.

He initially arrived in the country as a documentary filmmaker and then decided to extend his stay and took on various roles within the government communications departments.

According to national news agency Wam, Hellyer, along with Ibrahim Al Abed, “significantly contributed to establishing the Emirates News Agency and is considered the founder of the English-language department at Wam.”

He wrote many books on the environment and the rich archaeological heritage in the UAE, and worked as a journalist, historian and consultant in the field of oil.

The deceased was renowned for his immense dedication to archaeology, having served as the co-founder and director of the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey. This organisation played a crucial role in unearthing numerous significant archaeological sites within the UAE.

Over the years, Hellyer dedicated a significant amount of time to his passions for local birdlife, archaeology, and the heritage and history of the people here.

He served as the former chairman of the Emirates Natural History Group and has written numerous articles on the country's heritage, history, and wildlife.

Furthermore, he has contributed to several gvernment yearbooks and co-authored the books “Fujairah: An Arabian Jewel” and “Al Ain: Oasis City.”

He was also an author and researcher with a focus on heritage.

Peter Hellyer on strong connection between UK, UAE Royal Families

In an interview with Khaleej Times last year, Peter Hellyer discussed the strong connection between the royal families of the UK and the UAE following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

Hellyer emphasised that this relationship goes beyond typical state-to-state friendships, as it is rooted in both historical and personal ties. Reflecting on his experience handling the British media during a visit of Queen Elizabeth, Hellyer mentioned meeting the former British monarch. Having observed the progression of UAE-UK relations for more than four decades, he expressed confidence that these ties will continue to flourish under the reign of King Charles as he also established similar connections through his numerous visits to the UAE.

In a column published by Khaleej Times following the crowning of the new British Monarch in May 2023, Hellyer expressed his thoughts again. “Over the last thirty years, it has been my good fortune to be involved with several of the visits that the King, then Prince of Wales, has paid to the Emirates. Memorable occasions, since they were not simply formal receptions where a handshake might be exchanged, but opportunities to spend a little time together away from the crowds, the cameras and the public eye.

On one such occasion, in 1995, I had the pleasure of guiding him around the island of Sir Bani Yas, to show him the pre-Islamic Christian monastery that had recently been discovered by the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS.”

Fascinating account of earliest human migration to region

Back in 2017, a pilot project was initiated in Abu Dhabi, aiming to enhance the knowledge of UAE's history among school children. This project utilised a curriculum based on the chapters of a recently published book then, titled, “The Emirates: Our History.” The book, which offered a detailed and reliable historical account of the UAE, was co-authored by Professor Peter Magee, an archaeologist, Peter Hellyer, and Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, the chairman of Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism.

The book presented a comprehensive account of the earliest human migration to the region, occurring approximately 125,000 years ago, and the subsequent development of civilisations during the Neolithic period spanning from 8,000 to 3200 BCE.

It deep dived into the fascinating discoveries made on Marawah Island, revealing insights into the ancient inhabitants of Abu Dhabi, whose roots trace back over 7,000 years.

The book also shed light on the Bronze Age Umm an-Nar culture, which flourished around 2,600-2,000 BCE, highlighting its extensive trade networks.


More news from UAE