When Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, took over as Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 the scale of the task was immense.
Two years later the British announced it was withdrawing from the Gulf and uncertainty filled the air.
But Sheikh Zayed grasped what US civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, had described as the "fierce urgency of now".
He dealt with the UK withdrawal from the Gulf in 1968 with tact and oversaw the long discussions that led to the creation of the UAE in 1971.
And since then, as this collection of photographs show, the pace of change only became more dizzying.
A few years before, Abu Dhabi had relied chiefly on pearling but by 1973 the UAE had its own currency and global leaders were visiting soon after.
Modern airports were built by the world's best architects on the back of the oil boom, while in 1985 Emirates Airline was launched and changed the face of the world's aviation sector.
By 1990, less than 20 years after the UAE was formed its football team would appear at the World Cup for the first time. But Sheikh Zayed did not stop there. He was committed to gender equality, humanitarian aid and preserving nature. When he passed away in 2004 it was no surprise that western media assessed him as a man in a hurry.
These photographs only show some of the important moments over the past 50 years but the pace of change was felt across the country.
In Dubai, new marinas and hotels were built, while the world's tallest building opened in 2010 - a record it holds to this day. New developments across all sectors lifted the lives of Emiratis and residents.
By 2021 the country has sent a probe to Mars - capping a remarkable rise over five decades.
Now the country prepares to celebrate its Golden Jubilee - but if the past tells us anything, it is that the UAE's leaders won't stop laying the groundwork for the next 50.