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The United Arab Emirates was founded in 1971 and it has been prospering for 46 years. Actually, it is of the utmost importance to underline that the prosperity became possible due to the so called pre-union era, when the country was called Trucial States. It was a unity of a number of separate tribes. They were under the protectorate of the British Empire. Their relationships, however, were underpinned by the treaty concluded between the tribes and the British party. After the term of the treaty had expired, several tribes drafted the UAEs founding treaty with a new constitution declaring independence and unity of 9 tribes (now Emirates). It is a well-known fact that the UAE currently belongs to one of the richest states in the Persian Gulf region. The discussion and analysis concern the period preceding the independence of Emirates, and especially different aspects of peoples life, their means of communication, means of transport, and their main sources of income.


The picture below illustrates the position of the Trucial States before the Union, because the way in which separate regions are situated helps to presume the kinds of activities conducted by local residents and the reason why migration occurred:

Source: Trucial States, 2016.

Spheres of Occupation

During the period before the Union, people were occupied with different spheres, desiring to earn enough money for their living. The first important sphere which allowed to tackle the problem of both low income and employment was pearling. The pearling industry became popular at the end of the nineteenth century and continued to exist till the beginning of the twentieth century. Due to this situation, people got workplaces and money for food and other articles of prime necessity. Many inhabitants were adjusted to wandering from time to time.

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That is why in summer they were busy with pearling, while in winter they worked in their date gardens. Waffa Issa (2009) particularly emphasized the crucial importance of such activity, because dates constituted a staple diet rich in vitamins and could be taken on long journeys across the deserts, mountainous regions, or the sea. During this period there were about 1200 pearling boats (presumably about 4500 of them), each with a crew consisting of 18 men engaged in pearl-searching operations (United Arab Emirates Yearbook ,2007: 30) It meant that the whole summer and even one month in autumn almost all men were absent and all the social, material, economic, and house responsibilities were shouldered by women. Men, however, had to work under awful and strenuous conditions. Shortly afterwards, males started uniting in small companies, in which every member received certain benefits from their operations. According to the existing practice, the biggest share went to a captain, while smaller shares were distributed among others.

After the pearl season, people went to date gardens to take care of them and gather the harvest. However, this style of life was subject to difficult circumstances, since the First World War heavily influenced the pearl industry. Then this industry faced economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s together with the Japanese invention of the cultured pearls (United Arab Emirates Yearbook, 2007: 14). The industry was completely damaged after the Second World War, when India imposed high tax rates on transported pearls from the Trucial States. Fortunately, the new industry was about to begin. Some petroleum countries conducted researches in the region of Trucial States in 1930s. (United Arab Emirates Yearbook, 2007: 16) The research was fruitful as the oil was found. The first oil transportation for sale happened in 1962. The pace of reforms and reconstructions was accelerated due to an increase in oil production. And the reforms concerned school, education, housing, hospital, and road issues. It was obvious that oil became similar to an engine which would help to support and improve all sectors of the economy of the Trucial States.

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It is important to mention that pearling and oil were not the only spheres of occupation. Fishing, trade, and agriculture were other popular activities of people in that time. However, the success of the agricultural sector depended on water. It means that the agriculture was run in those regions where one could find fresh water. These kinds of activities helped people to get additional income. Another popular sphere of occupation was camel keeping. Notably, these animals were frequently used as a means of transport. Apart from this, they also provided food, clothing and household items (Waffa, 2009). Young male camels were killed for special purposes, especially during feast or holidays. Another interesting fact is that there were even camel races held during festivals. For this reason, the camel industry was crucially important for the local people.

Religion and Population

Discussing the theme that directly concerns people, it is crucial to indicate the population during this period and some specifics regarding their religion. During the period from 1900 to 1960 there were about 85 000 to 90 000 thousands inhabitants (Metz, 1994). According to Metz (1994), Sharjah was dominant in the nineteenth century, by 1939 Dubayy was the most populous amirate, with an estimated population of 20,000, one-quarter of whom were foreigners. It is interesting that according to 1968 census, the number of population increased almost by 3 times. The major part of the general population was represented by Arab nation. However, there were numerous foreigners at the time.

It is also important to discover the religion in this region and some possible changes in it. The main religion is Islam, and the Constitution of the UAE affirmed this. Later it also allowed religious freedoms. Nevertheless, before the union, the situation with the religions was rather controversial, especially for Christians. After 1971, the issue was resolved and now there are several churches and Christian schools in the territory of the UAE. The overwhelming majority of people of the Trucial States were Sunni.


A system of education before the Union cannot be called a developed one. The Trucial States regularly received some benefits from their neighbors and the British protectorate. The most prominent and the first educational centers were established in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharja (Metz, 1994: 210). Some merchants donated to the undeveloped system of education and built three key schools. Foreign teachers were employed to give people the knowledge of how to write, read, and count.

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The paramount aspect here is that the process started running, and then the system was constantly being improved. In reality, such improvements are backed by the funds made by the British Empire. In 1950s, it built 2 schools: one for boys with a comprehensive curriculum and a primary school for girls (Metz, 1994: 208). Every school had high professional teachers from neighbor countries. The first option was available for 450 boys between the age of five and seventeen The British protectorate did not forget about higher education and established agricultural and technical schools at the end of the 1950s. Kuwait joined this initiative in 1958 and founded several schools as well (Metz, 1994: 208). Interestingly, all those countries that made so called educational investments also paid teachers for their work until the state became capable of doing it without external help.

After the emergence of oil industry, mainly in Abu Dhabi, the latter started funding its own educational system. At this time, other subjects of the Trucial States were still depended on foreigners financing. Thus, in 1964-1965 academic year 390 boys and 138 girls had an opportunity to attend one of six schools in Abu Dhabi (Metz, 1994: 210). Moreover, during the same year about thirty new schools were established. Since then, the educational system and the sphere of education itself began to flourish.

Health and Welfare

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this field was characterized by various complications. The social security, social assistance, and medical systems were not developed at all. High-quality medical services were available only for those who could afford to go abroad. Those who could not afford modern medical treatment had to use traditional medical methods.

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There was a curious geopolitical situation due to the implicit confrontation between America and the United Kingdom that wanted to control the Middle East region. The matter was that the United States of America gained influence by establishing hospitals in Bahrain and Muscat. That is why Britain became interested in improving the local medical system and following Americas example, it contributed to the establishment of local medical care system. This country assigned a medical worker for the Trucial Coast in 1938 (Metz, 1994: 212). In 1949, Britain built a hospital in Dubai in order to render high-professional and more accessible medical services for people. It must also be mentioned that such counties as Kuwait and Iran made financial investments in the development of this field.

In summary, the life of people in the early nineteenth century till the 1960s, the time when the oil export was started, was really poor. Poverty affected each of the spheres in which people were involved. At the beginning of the century, most people were busy searching for pearls, so little companies were created for this purpose, even though it was seasonal and in some respects risky work. Such a search could be successful and lucrative, but if not, people suffered losses, because prior to the pearl tour they had to make some investments to build or repair their ship or to buy additional equipment. In other seasons they tried to find work to earn money on their living (date gardening). Another important thing was that both British protectorate and neighbors endeavored to help the Trucial States by donating money or directing in particular fields, for example, education, medical system, etc. Thus, the pre-union period was necessary, and almost every country underwent such a period. Most importantly, it helped understand in which spheres people were competent and realize that they are a union of people who are doing one common business (affair) for one common purpose prosperity of their own country.

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