Time Frame: A ribbon tying the country together

Returning home from a recent trip to Europe, Timeframe discovered on its drive to work that the first stage of the widening of the road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai has been completed.

From the Sheikh Zayed Bridge to Shahama there are now five lanes in each direction for much of the section, allowing for a free-flowing journey in and out of the capital.

It makes this a good time to reflect on the importance of the country’s highways, without which the UAE might very well still be a collection of disparate sheikhdoms.

This photograph shows the first completed version of the E11, probably on the approach to Dubai. Curiously, for such a signifiant piece of infrastructure, there is very little material about the story of its construction and only a handful of images.

Approval for the road was given after the formation of the UAE in December 1971 and work began shortly after. The initial section, a single lane in each direction, was ready by the mid 70s, but almost immediately orders were given to double its capacity to two lanes.

This original version of the road is now contained in the Dubai-bound side of the E11, with another major upgrade in the 1990s when the E11 from Dubai to the Abu Dhabi border was renamed Sheikh Zayed Road.

It is also worth remembering that the newly widened section - which can be driven in less than 20 minutes -was once the most treacherous and feared part of the journey between the two Emirates.

In the days of a desert track, this was the dreaded sabkha, salt flats that led up to the approach to the Maqda crossing. In dry weather this formed a sturdy crust, but any hint of rain could turn the passage into quagmire that would trap the unwary driver in a grip that was almost impossible to escape without a rescue party.

*James Langton

Published: August 12, 2014 04:00 AM