"Every nation has its story. This is our story," tweeted Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. His words echoed a line from the five-part documentary History of the Emirates, which began airing on Sunday on television networks across the world and tells a story stretching back 125 millennia, parts of which are being told for the first time to an international audience.
In the run up to the UAE’s 48th National Day next Monday, it will come as a surprise to some that such a young country can have such ancient roots – a humbling thought and one that makes even those of us who live here look at the surrounding desert landscape with awe and renewed respect. From a tiny pearl recently unearthed on Marawah Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi that tells an 8,000-year-old tale, to a 3,000-year-old snake temple uncovered in 2009 in Masafi, Fujairah, this nation has a timeline richer than the average tourist or resident might guess.
We live amid a wealth of history. From the relics of earlier living such as pieces of pottery and statuettes dating back to 1,100BC to the foundations of an ancient mosque discovered in Al Ain, the breadth of cultural heritage is not simply a revelation, telling us how our ancestors survived in harsh conditions; it will form the grassroots of a collection that will be housed permanently in the Zayed National Museum opening in Abu Dhabi in 2021.
We would not know of these precious sites if it were not for the tireless efforts of a formidable team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists, who have been digging for decades to trace tiny fragments of evidence of human existence and excavate pieces of a larger puzzle. Collectively, they tell us who we are and paint a bigger picture of the human instinct to build societies, make connections, flourish and prosper. That story has now been preserved on celluloid for a worldwide audience, telling them how far the UAE has come, not just in 48 years but across millennia.
The documentary produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Atlantic Productions covers remarkable ground. The series also demonstrates how the founding principles that have seen the UAE grow into a global hub of finance and tourism – innovation, trade and belief systems – have existed for years, even before the country was founded.
This new incarnation of its history means the story of the Emirates will reach its widest ever audience, transcending borders and telling the world about a small nation with a global reach.