Time Frame: Pier pressure

It might not look like much, but this scene of boats being unloaded at Abu Dhabi in 1962 is the start of five decades of progress that culminated last week in the opening of the new state-of-the-art container terminal at Khalifa Port. Before this simple pier was built, ships were forced to moor some distance offshore because of the shallowness of the sea.

Cargo and passengers would then be disembarked in smaller vessels. But in the early 1960s, it was clear Abu Dhabi was about to become a major oil exporter and the city was in the first burst of transformation from a sleepy fishing town to a modern city.

This photograph was taken by Guy Gravett, who was commissioned by BP to record the changes brought by oil. The drums most likely contain fresh drinking water.

It was almost certainly taken from one of the few multi-storey buildings along what is now the Corniche, probably the customs house, the upper floors of which were used as offices by BP.

The building was originally built by the Otaiba family, who played a major role in the pearling industry, once a major source of Abu Dhabi’s wealth until the arrival of oil.

* James Langton

Published: December 23, 2012 04:00 AM