We all know that the United Arab Emirates consists of 7 emirates and that the country was officially formed in 1971. 

But before all that became official, there were endless negotiations, meetings, agreements and disagreements. 

Here are 13 things you probably didn’t know happened before the formation of the UAE:  

1. First sign of the union

The first sign of the union appeared on the 18th of February in 1968, when Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi met with Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoom, Ruler of Dubai in Sameeh. In the meeting they agreed to form a federal union between the two emirates.

2. In the same meeting, the two Sheikhs invited the other coastal emirates to join...

as well as the emirates of Bahrain and Qatar.  

3. Drawing the lines

After that federal union, Sheikh Zayed sent the map of Abu Dhabi to the Ruler of Dubai asking him to draw the lines for his own emirate. Sheikh Zayed’s reasoning behind this was that all borderlines are artificial and man-made anyway. 

4. A union of 9 emirates

On the 25th of February, 1968, another meeting was held in Dubai between representatives of the 9 emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al Quwain, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras al Khaimah, Qatar and Bahrain. 

In that meeting Qatar suggested merging the 5 smaller emirates (Sharjah, Umm al Quwain, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras al Khaimah) into one emirate. 

However, the rulers of these emirates refused and demanded all emirates be treated equally regardless of size.

5. By the end of this meeting on the 27th of February, the 9 emirates failed to reach a final agreement.

6. Sheikh Zayed is the president

In an effort to revive the negotiations for the union, Kuwait facilitated another meeting in July of the same year, whereby Sheikh Zayed was elected as the first president of the Gulf Federation. 

7. Bahrain and Qatar leave

Bahrain withdrew from the union in August of 1971, and then Qatar made the same move in September of the same year. 

The reason behind this was that each emirate decided to have its own independence, especially after not agreeing with the other emirates regarding the capital of the union and the percentage of the representation of each emirate in the government.

8. Ras Al Khaimah also left

Later on, Ras Al Khaimah also withdrew from the union for a set of reasons and the constitution was changed to declare the union of 6 emirates only under one country named the United Arab Emirates in July of 1971.

9. The UAE became a member of the Arab League and the United Nations on January of 1971

10. Ras Al Khaimah rejoined the union on the 23rd of January 1971

Sheikh Saqr bin Moḥammad Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah sent a letter to Sheikh Zayed asking to join the union after issues regarding the size of the representation of the emirate in the government were solved. 

Ras al Khaimah was also promised aid to develop its own infrastructure.

11. Warm welcome from some countries

Egypt was one of the first Arab countries to welcome the union as a step in the right direction to stabilizing peace in the region after years of the British rule in the Gulf. 

12. And a cold shoulder from others

Other Arab countries such as Yemen and Algeria weren’t very enthusiastic about the newly formed country because they saw that it was still controlled by the United Kingdom, which ruled the Gulf region for more than 150 years.

13. The birth of a nation

On the 2nd of December of 1971, the UAE celebrated the federal unification of the seven emirates. Till date, the day marks the birth of a nation. 


Abu Dhabi (1945-1971): A Historical Study of the Political, Social and Economic conditions.

Author: Dr. Khalil Al Jaberi