A timeline of UAE history since its founding in 1971

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

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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.


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

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


January 1 The UAE moves to a Saturday and Sunday weekend for the public sector, with most of the private sector following suit.

February 22 Museum of the Future opens in Dubai.

May 13/14 The death is announced of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, second President of the UAE. The Federal Supreme Council elects Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the new President the following day.


March 29 Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed Al Nahyan is appointed Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

November 30 Cop28, the annual climate change conference organised by the UN, opens in Dubai under the chairmanship of Dr Sultan Al Jabar.

Updated: November 28, 2023, 11:41 AM