'Every nation has a story, this is our story': Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed on the 'History of the Emirates' series

The documentary series will showcase never-before-seen archival footage of some of the earliest memories of the UAE

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A ground-breaking new series which charts the history of the UAE will premiere on Sunday, November 24.

Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Atlantic Production's documentary, History of the Emirates, will tell the story of the country over five successive nights.

The five themed episodes will focus on society, innovation, trade, belief and unity.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, tweeted a preview of the series on Friday night, writing that "every nation has a story. This is our story."

Stretching back 125,000 years and culminating in the UAE's union in 1971, the documentary series will showcase never-before-seen archival footage of some of the earliest memories of the country.

Cutting-edge technology – from CGI to LiDar scanning and 360 degree camera work – will bring the series to life through recreating ancient sites and the original landscape of the region.

The five-part series culminates in the founding of the UAE in 1971. Courtesy Image Nation

The series is a joint production by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, and Emmy and Bafta award-winning Atlantic Productions, the company behind documentary series including David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef and The Coronation with HRH Queen Elizabeth.

Aside from the five-part version for the domestic audience, filmmakers have also produced a three-part international series. The local series will broadcast on all local government TV channels, including National Geographic Abu Dhabi, and the international version will broadcast worldwide on National Geographic.

The international series will be narrated by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons.

Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of Image Nation Abu Dhabi, says the premiere of the documentary comes at the perfect time, ahead of the UAE's National Day celebrations.

Cutting-edge technology and CGI helped recreate ancient sites in the series. Courtesy Image Nation. 

“At Image Nation Abu Dhabi, we are proud to have captured the country’s remarkable past and amazing present, while revealing a completely unseen civilisation to viewers new to the region," he says. "Regardless of age, nationality or background, this documentary will appeal to everyone who is curious about our nation and to those who call the UAE home.”

In a wide-ranging interview with The National earlier this year, Al Mubarak spoke of his excitement at showing the world how the UAE came to be.

“Most people across the world think the history of the UAE is 100 years ago,” Al Mubarak said. “But the history of this great land goes back hundreds and thousands of years and it’s going to be showcased within this documentary in one of the most powerful things that we’ve done. I think that will be a big eye-opener to the UAE, not only in the quality but in the education.

“When we screen tested it to an international audience, it was amazing to see how informative it was to them – they didn’t know. It was jaw-dropping.”

It seems fitting then, that Bafta Award-winning film producer and virtual reality pioneer Anthony Geffen would be brought onboard to help out on the project.

The series stretches back through 125,000 years of history. Courtesy Image Nation

Geffen, who founded Atlantic Productions in London in 1993, continually pushes the limits of technology, utilising the latest VR and immersive storytelling techniques. His projects have, among many other things, allowed viewers to explore the depths of the ocean, reach the summit of Everest and meet an Amazonian tribe.

"Atlantic Productions was delighted to produce this series and work with so many talented people in the UAE, where we were able to draw on extraordinary new research and experts," Geffen says.

"Our teams used new forms of LiDar and ground penetrating radar to unveil significant ancient sites and bring them back to life. Our new camera systems, drones and cutting edge CGI allowed us to tell the compelling story of the UAE with dramatic real and as-real visuals.”

A still from the documentary series, 'History of the Emirates'. Image Nation

'History of the Emirates': an episode guide

Episode 1: Society

The series begins with the UAE of 125,000 years ago, following the earliest human migrations out of Africa and the birth of civilisations, as well as the beginning of the majlis system of consultation-driven governance and the UAE’s enduring belief in equality.

Episode 2: Innovation

The second episode highlights how relentless innovation in fishing, farming and governance has helped the people of the UAE endure one of the world’s harshest climates for millennia.

Episode 3: Trade

Throughout this episode, viewers see how the Emirates has been a focal point for merchants from across the globe for centuries, from ancient trading routes across Mleiha and Ed Dur to the modern shipping and aerial networks of the UAE.

Episode 4: Belief

This episode explores ancient Neolithic burial practices, evidence of snake-cults and sun temple ruins, with archaeological evidence revealing how the people here have always treasured the community above the individual. It looks at the UAE’s role as a beacon of peaceful co-existence, examining the rise of Islam alongside other religious practices, such as the Christian monastery of Sir Bani Yas.

Episode 5: Unity

The final episode will highlight the historic trend towards unity in the UAE. The documentary concludes with the origins and stories of the proud tribes of the nation over the past 200 years, and how they adapted, evolved and eventually unified to form the United Arab Emirates in 1971.

The five-part documentary will air from November 24 to 28 on Dubai TV, Dubai One, Sama Dubai, Abu Dhabi TV, Baynounah TV, Dhafra TV, Ajman TV, Al Roya, National Geographic Abu Dhabi, MBC1 and further regional broadcasters in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan.