At the risk of sounding trite, the search for oil in the 1950s led to the discovery of more than economic wealth. This photo was taken in March 1957, at Qasr Al Hosn in Abu Dhabi, by an American journalist, Wanda Jablonski who was visiting the palace to interview the Ruler, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan, about the likelihood of discovering oil in the emirate.
The photograph shows Sheikh Shakhbut with Susan Hillyard, the first Western woman to live in Abu Dhabi, accompanied, to the Ruler’s obvious delight, by her daughter Deborah, then four years old.
The Hillyards lived in Abu Dhabi from 1954 to 1958, a crucial period in the search for oil, which concluded in the discovery of the Umm Shaif off shore field in March 1958. Tim Hillyard, Deborah’s father, was in charge of the Abu Dhabi Marine Areas (Adma) concession, with a forward base on Das Island
Everything changed after that first strike, followed months later by the discovery the first on shore oil field was found. But the bonds of friendship seen in this image, and the tolerance between differing cultures that they represent, survived the huge social and economic changes that were to come and remain to this day.
* James Langton