Other key dates in the 1980s

Significant events in the UAE in the 1980s.

Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales watch camel racing during a visit to Abu Dhabi, in March 1989. On left is Sheikh Nahayan and on right (with his back to camera) is Sheikh Tahnoun.
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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, headquartered in Kuwait.


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

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 current location, taking over from Al Bateen airport as the main passenger hub.


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.


February 8 The UAE ambassador to France, Khalifa Ahmed Abdulaziz Al Mubarak, is shot dead by an unknown assailant.

August 25 Sikh separatists hijack an Indian Airlines flight carrying 93 passengers and force the plane to land in Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, then Defence Minister, negotiates the release of the prisoners.

November 1 The UAE and China establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.


January 9 Jebel Ali Free Zone is established.

October 17 The UAE starts a two-year period as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

October 25 Emirates Airline begins operations out of Dubai. Its first destinations are 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 take steps to diversify the economy away from oil.

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

November 2 The sixth GCC meeting is held in Abu Dhabi, the first in the capital since the inaugural meeting in 1981.

November 25 Iranian warplanes attack a French-operated UAE oil rig in the Gulf.


September 6 A long-range rocket strikes Kuwait, threatening to pull the Gulf states into the Iran-Iraq conflict. The UAE condemns the attack.

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


July 18 The Iran-Iraq War, which has 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 Al Nahyan, the former ruler of Abu Dhabi and brother of Sheikh Zayed, dies at the age of 83.

March 14 Sheikh Zayed receives Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who visit Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai on their tour of the Gulf.

In other news ...

1980 The Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dubai - built for Dh500m - is opened by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai. 1981 The British prime minister Margaret Thatcher makes an official visit to the UAE, as does Indira Gandhi, her Indian counterpart, who lays the foundation stone for the Indian Islamic Centre in Abu Dhabi. • The Al Nasr Sports Club holds the Dubai Grand Prix. 1982 The building of a central post office in Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi and two more in Al Ain is announced. 1983 Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, opens the new Police Administration building in Abu Dhabi. • The first phase of Dubai Hospital starts operations. 1984 The numbering of districts, streets and houses in Abu Dhabi is completed. • Sharjah's first arts festival opens. • An important archaeological site is discovered in Al Ain, the suggested site of an ancient irrigation canal. 1985 Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank is formed by the merger of three national banks. 1986 A major vegetable market opens in Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi. • The Abu Dhabi Executive Council approves the creation of a national museum in Al Ain. 1987 Sheikh Saqr Al Qasimi opens the Ras Al Khaimah National Museum. 1988 It is reported that UAE GDP rose from Dh6.5billion in 1972 to Dh87bn in 1987. 1989 The UAE football team qualifies for the 1990 World Cup. • Sheikh Zayed and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat lay the foundation stone for the Palestinian embassy in the UAE. • The Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce building is opened. • Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid opens the first Dubai International Air Show.