Before the UAE became a unified country, there were the Trucial States. These territories consisted of a group of sheikhdoms in this part of the Gulf. While these states faced many challenges in unifying into the UAE, their rulers never failed to ensure that people were provided for and that available resources were diverted to the common good.
This point was driven home in one of the UAE’s earliest known documentaries, These Are the Trucial States, which is in the archives of the Imperial War Museum in London. As The National reported yesterday, although the film was put out by the British government to counter pan-Arab media at the time, it highlights some overlooked aspects of life in the Trucial States during the pre-unification period and shows how the rulers of the Trucial States promoted the well-being of their peoples.
The UAE’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, features prominently in the 1957 documentary. At that time, he was appointed governor of Al Ain by his brother Sheikh Shakhbut, who was the previous Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Zayed became the Ruler of the Emirate in 1966 and began a massive construction and development programme that included schools, housing, hospitals and roads.
Sheikh Zayed’s foresight in investing the emirate’s rapidly accumulating oil wealth into the construction of the country has borne fruit today. Now the country is home to highly respected universities and world-class health facilities, a reality that would have been almost impossible to imagine 50 years ago. While the Trucial State period might seem like a lifetime ago, the theme of generosity and care for the people of this land has never wavered.
While we don’t need old films to remind of us of the spirit of the nation, it is remarkable to note the unbreakable commitment to the well-being of the people inside the leadership of the country. As Sheikh Zayed once said: “He who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present nor future.”