Significant moments in UAE history since its formation in 1971

Key dates span politics and economics, life and death, war and peace

Powered by automated translation

The UAE has gone through enormous change in all aspects of development since it was formed in 1971, from its burgeoning economic sector to its increasingly diverse and growing society.

Along the way, it has transformed from a collection of Trucial States to the Gulf powerhouse known throughout the world today.

Here, The National looks back at some of the landmark moments that have helped to shape the country's history.


December 2 Formation of the United Arab Emirates in Dubai (with the exception of Ras Al Khaimah, which joined on February 10, 1972). Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan is named the first President.


January 25 Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed, Ruler of Sharjah, is killed during a failed coup attempt by Sheikh Saqr bin Sultan, the former ruler. Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, brother of Sheikh Khalid and the current ruler of Sharjah, succeeds him.

February 12 The Federal National Council meets for the first time.

Egyptian singer Najat Al Saghira performs the UAE national anthem in Abu Dhabi for National Day in 1972. Photo: Alittihad

December 2 The first National Day is celebrated. The Egyptian diva Najat Al Saghira sings the new national anthem.


May 19 The launch of the UAE dirham.

September 26 The first traffic lights come into operation in Abu Dhabi.

A handout file picture provided by the GPO and dated October 8, 1973 shows Israeli units moving into battle counter-attacking Syrian troops on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur war. / AFP PHOTO / GPO / DAVID RUBINGER

October 18 Sheikh Zayed announces the UAE will cut supplies of oil to the US as a protest against its support for Israel in the Yom Kippur war.

November 15 National Day celebrations are cancelled because of the Middle East crisis.

December 23 A new Cabinet is formed with Sheikh Rashid as Prime Minister.


January 31 A direct telephone service between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is inaugurated with a phone call between Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid.

September 17 Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah, dies. His son, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, becomes the new ruler of the emirate.

The country's leaders, 1973. From left to right: Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmed Al Mualla, Crown Prince of Umm Al Quwain; Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Ruler of Sharjah; Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi; Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah; Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah; Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman.

December 2 National Day coverage includes the first experimental colour television broadcast in the UAE.


April 2 Al Maktoum Bridge in Dubai opens at a cost of £1 million (about $2.3m).

December 21 The World Bank confirms that in 1974 the average income in the UAE is the highest in the world.


February 1 Preliminary results of the UAE's first census show a population of 655,937 at the end of 1975.

May 6 Unification of the UAE armed forces.

Sheikh Zayed, the founding President, reviews the new UAE Armed Forces on parade in 1976, the year he oversaw their unification.  Photo: Alittihad

November 22 Sheikh Zayed is unanimously re-elected President.


January 1 Sharjah International Airport opens.

April 26 Female students are admitted to UAE University for the first time.

October 25 Saif Ghobash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, is shot dead at Abu Dhabi International Airport while meeting Syria's foreign minister, the intended target.

Abu Dhabi renames one of its streets in honor of the late Saif Ghubash (Wam) *** Local Caption ***  abc0ccc9-4b4e-4e02-acc8-b3f0b2eb5a64.jpg


January 9 A decree from Sheikh Zayed bans the hunting of birds and wild animals in the UAE.

April 8 Direct phone links begin between Sharjah and Fujairah.

April 12 The Red Crescent is officially established in the UAE.

August 15 Maternity leave of up to 45 days is introduced.


February 24 Britain's Queen Elizabeth II begins a state visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Dubai, she opens the World Trade Centre, the tallest building in the Middle East, with a main tower of 149 metres, and inaugurates Jebel Ali Port.

Provided photo of Le Méridien Abu Dhabi hotel inauguration with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late president of the UAE in 1979 These photos will be displayed during the photo gallery exhibition from 23rd to 27th in the lobby of the hotel

Courtesy Le Méridien Abu Dhabi For story in the national section by Mel Swan


July 7 Seven Gulf countries – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq and Iran – agree to establish the Regional Organisation to Protect the Marine Environment, based in Kuwait.


February 21 The death of the Ruler of Umm Al Quwain, Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid, is announced. His son, Sheikh Rashid, succeeds him.

May 25 The UAE and five other countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar – form the Gulf Co-operation Council.

The first GCC meeting at the InterContinental hotel in Abu Dhabi 1981.

Courtesy Al Ittihad newspaper *** Local Caption ***  AA4.jpg

September 6 The Ruler of Ajman, Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, dies. His son, Sheikh Humaid, succeeds him.


January 2 Abu Dhabi International Airport opens at its present location, taking over from Al Bateen airport as the main passenger centre for the city.


September 23 A Gulf Air flight from Pakistan to Abu Dhabi crashes on approach after a bomb explodes in the baggage compartment, killing all 112 passengers and crew.


July the UAE competes in the Summer Olympic Games for the first time in Los Angeles, US. Three Emirati men participated in athletics (long jump, 110m hurdles, 400m).


October 25 Emirates airline begins operations out of Dubai. Its first destinations are in Pakistan and India.

The first passengers board the inaugural Emirates flight in 1985. Photo: Emirates


May 6 The Federal National Council acknowledges a recession in the UAE, brought on by a drop in oil prices, and calls on the government to diversify the economy.

October 15 Sheikh Zayed is unanimously re-elected President of the federation for a further five years by the Supreme Council.


October 26 UAE announces that its oil reserves amount to 200 billion barrels, and that it expects them to become the second largest in the world.


July 18 The Iran-Iraq War, which dominated the Gulf for most of the 1980s, enters its final weeks after both countries accept a UN Security Council resolution to end the conflict. The UAE, as one of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, sends notes to both countries to express satisfaction.


February 11 Sheikh Shakhbut, brother of Sheikh Zayed and former ruler of Abu Dhabi, dies at the age of 83.

Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Sultan Al Nahyan standing in front of Qasr Al Hosn. ©National Archives.


June 9-19 The UAE national football team plays in the Fifa World Cup in Italy, losing to Colombia, West Germany and Yugoslavia by a cumulative score of 11-2.

October 7 Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, dies and is succeeded by his son, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum.


February 24 The UAE joins a 34-nation armed coalition and sends troops to liberate Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion.


August 24 Iran escalates tension over the islands Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb, seized from the UAE in 1971, by requiring Emirati visitors to have visas.


March 6 The number of federal ministries is now almost double the 12 created in 1972. New ministries include Transportation and Higher Education.


September When Iraqi forces again move towards the Kuwait border, the UAE sends ground troops to the country.

The end of this month marks the 25th anniversary of the cease fire that ended the first Gulf War.
By February 28, 1991, an international coalition of armed forces had defeated Saddam Hussein and liberated Kuwait.
The scale and scope of the multi-national operation was unprecedented in modern military history, involving combat forces from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, France, Egypt and nine other nations, with non-combat forces from 18 others.
Among those on the battlefield were the armed forces of the UAE, reported by the US State Department at the first Arabian Gulf state to propose military action when Iraq first threatened Kuwait in the summer of 1990.
This photograph shows a review of the UAE troops who took part in what was also known as Operation Desert Storm by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, President of the UAE. It is reported that six members of the armed forces lost their lives in the liberation of Kuwait.
As well as this image, the specially converted camouflaged vehicle, with a platform for Sheikh Zayed survives as a record of that time.
It now forms part of the permanent collection at the Sheikh Zayed Centre in Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen.

Courtesy Al Ittihad *** Local Caption ***  rv20fe-time frame-p10.jpg


June 6 The UAE promises military and humanitarian aid to Bosnia's Muslims.


May 20 At a meeting of the Federal Supreme Council, the provisional Constitution is made permanent and Abu Dhabi is officially named the nation's capital.


November The dirham is pegged to the US dollar.


March 12 Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey begins a dig on Marawah island and finds fireplaces used by late Stone Age hunters. Carbon dating indicates this is the earliest inhabited site yet found in the country.



September 30 The Burj Al Arab is finished in Dubai, in time for a December opening and millennium celebrations.


April 15 Construction is completed on Jumeirah Emirates Towers: with 56 storeys, the tallest building in the Middle East.


September 22 after September 11, the UAE severs relations with Afghanistan's Taliban government.


February 16 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Crown Prince of Dubai, announces the creation of Dubai International Financial Centre as part of a strategy to secure a place in global finance.


March 1 The UAE is the first Arab country to call publicly for Saddam Hussein to step down.

November 5 The first Etihad Airways flight takes off, a ceremonial trip between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. The inaugural commercial flight will be between Abu Dhabi and Beirut.

Emirati officials pose in front of the new carrier "Etihad" or "Unity" which was on show in the capital Abu Dhabi 03 November 2003. A day after the inaugural flight of Air Arabia, a no frills airline launched in the United Arab Emirates, the capital Abu Dhabi announced it would be setting up Etihad as a new carrier. Etihad, which is yet to be formally launched, is backed by the government of Abu Dhabi and has a paid up capital of 500 million dirhams (136 million dollars), reported today's Gulf News. Etihad, meaning unity, which has two leased Airbus A330-200 aircraft, will make its inaugural flight on November 5, flying from Abu Dhabi to the UAE desert city of Al Ain. AFP PHOTO/WAM (Photo by WAM / AFP)


August 17 Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum wins gold in the men's double trap shooting at the Athens Olympics, the UAE's first Olympic medal.

November 1 Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi becomes first woman in the government when she is appointed Minister of Economy and Planning.

November 2 (a date corresponding to Ramadan 19, 1425) It is announced that Sheikh Zayed, the Father of the Nation, has died.

November 3 Sheikh Zayed's sons and close family are joined at his funeral by presidents and rulers from around the region and beyond: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Syria, Jordan, Yemen and Kuwait … their heads of state prayed over the deceased leader who was shrouded in the flag of the UAE.


February 25 Emirates Palace opens in Abu Dhabi.

August 10 Sheikh Khalifa signs Law No19, which formally abandons the old property regime and permits the sale of freehold rights by citizens and, in certain areas, 99-year leases by foreigners.


January 4 Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, dies during a visit to Australia. His brother, Sheikh Mohammed, succeeds him.

December 16 About 6,500 Emiratis are eligible to vote for the Federal National Council in the UAE's first election.

History Project 2010, Headshot of Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid.


March 6 France and the UAE sign an agreement to open a branch of the Louvre on Saadiyat Island.


January 21 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque opens to the public.

September 1 Manchester City Football Club is taken over by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed's Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment.

November 4 The Dubai Mall opens.


January 2 Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmed Al Mualla, Ruler of Umm Al Quwain, dies. His son, Sheikh Saud, succeeds him.

September 9 At 9:09:09pm, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid inaugurates the first section of Dubai Metro's Red Line, serving 10 stations.


January 4 Dubai inaugurates the world's tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.

DUBAI - JANUARY 4,2010 - Colorful fireworks completes the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National ) 
EDITORS NOTE: Building was opened at 8pm on January 4th, 2010 at which point the name changed from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa. Official name is now Burj Khalifa *** Local Caption ***  PV Fireworks 5.jpg PV Fireworks 5.jpg

October 27 Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, dies at the age of 92. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr succeeds him as Ruler.


April 23 The launch of Yahsat's first commercial telecommunications satellite.

September 24 Almost 130,000 Emiratis are eligible to vote in the second poll to elect members of the FNC.


July 15 The first day of operation for a pipeline that runs 403 kilometres from the oilfields of Al Gharbia to the waters off Fujairah, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz.


November 8 The UAE hosts the Fifa Under-17 World Cup for the first time. Nigeria beat Mexico 3-0 in the final at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.


January 19 Mandatory military service for all Emirati males aged 18 to 30 is introduced by the UAE Cabinet. Under the new law, women may also volunteer for the military.


September 4 About 50 members of the UAE Armed Forces die in a single missile attack on their base in Marib, Yemen. A three-day mourning period was declared by President Sheikh Khalifa.


March 19 Flydubai flight 981 from Dubai to Rostov-on-Don in Russia crashes during an aborted landing, killing all 62 passengers and crew on board.

December 6 Wahat Al Karama, the UAE’s first memorial to those who have lost their lives in service to the country, is inaugurated opposite the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

A moment of silence is observed during a Commemoration Day flag raising ceremony at the Wahat Al Karama memorial. Delores Johnson / The National


January 11 Five Emirati diplomats are killed in a bombing in Kandahar, Afghanistan, during a humanitarian mission. The UAE's ambassador to Afghanistan at the time, Juma Al Kaabi, was among the injured and died of his wounds weeks later.

November 8 Louvre Abu Dhabi opens on Saadiyat Island. The museum, conceived in 2007, has taken 10 years to complete and is a collaboration with France. It is the largest museum on the Arabian Peninsula and the most visited in the Arab world.


January 1 VAT is introduced in the UAE at a standard rate of 5 per cent, part of series of economic reforms that include new visas for ease of residency and a Dh50 billion stimulus package over the next three years.

January 28 Sheikha Hessa bint Mohammed Al Nahyan, mother of President Sheikh Khalifa, dies. The Ministry of Presidential Affairs declares three days of official mourning


February 3 Pope Francis becomes the first pontiff to visit the UAE, with a Roman Catholic mass for more than 100,000 worshippers at Zayed Sports City.

September 25 Hazza Al Mansouri becomes the first Emirati to go into space.

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri conducts a live Q&A session from space and gives a station tour. Screengrab via Youtube Live


August 13 The UAE and Israel agree to normalise diplomatic relations, exchanging ambassadors and allowing direct travel freely between the two countries.


March 24 Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum dies, aged 75. The brother of Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid was Deputy Ruler of the emirate and Minister of Finance.

July 19 The Hope probe, the first mission to Mars by an Islamic country, goes into orbit around the Red Planet. Hope is studying the planet’s atmosphere, to better understand its climate.

October 1 Expo 2020 Dubai, the first expo in the Middle East, opens.

Updated: December 01, 2021, 10:59 AM