In the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, between
the Jabal Ajdar mountain range of Oman and the rocky Najd
steppe in the central peninsula, extending to the Gulf
Coast, lies the Rub al-Khali Desert, which covers most of
Saudi Arabia and almost all of it area known as the United
Arab Emirates (United Arab Emirates, UAE).
Until the 6th century, the oases that spread throughout
the area had enough water reserves for the very few
inhabitants to be able to farm. According to
the people who spoke various Arabic dialects consisted
partly of farmers, traders or artisans, concentrated in
smaller rural communities and partly the so-called
"Bedouins", a nomadic people. The coastal population was
engaged in fishing in the Gulf.
Although the Bedouins were a minority group, they ruled
by virtue of their mobility and their armament over the
farmers and craftsmen. Bedouins can be characterized as a
typical tribal culture, led by more or less stable heads of
Among the peasants and shepherds, religion had a social
control function; though apparently not in a clearly defined
form. The local gods were identified as astronomical
phenomena and could be materialized into stones, trees or
animals. Certain families who believed in the ability to
interpret the speech of the gods gained control over the
rest of the population.
The Byzantine and Sasanid empires remained in constant
war with each other until the beginning of the 7th century;
conflicts involving the entire peninsula, albeit not
directly for the Emirates. In any case, these conflicts,
together with the establishment of trade routes, led many
While Muhammad was still alive, Islam was introduced
without any major problems. It helped to support the power
of local tribal leaders, but did not change significantly in
the way of life of the people.
With the death of the Prophet, conflicts arose between
various groups fighting for the religious power. One of
these was the Ibad, the direct descendants of Muhammad, who
founded Oman in the middle of the 8th century. Oman remained
independent until the end of the 9th century. when it was
subjugated to the Abasids whose caliphs claimed to be
universal authorities; their capital was Baghdad.
During the 11th century, the Sunni branch of Islam
developed from being the religion of the rulers to being the
general. However, the Ibadas continued to be a strong
religious authority until the 15th century.
The ports of the Gulf Coast were of great importance for
the textile, glass, porcelain and spice trade with China ;
From these ports the goods were transported via the oases to
the Red Sea.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Ottoman Empire
conquered most of the peninsula, but never reached the
coastal area in the southeastern corner. The Ibadis had
re-established their kingdom during the Yaribi dynasty,
while Bahrain, further north, had been subject to Iran.
Out of reach of the Ottomans, the Southeastern area
became a trading center, ruled by families who had direct
links with the merchants; an extensive pirate business also
arose, which led to the area becoming known as the «pirate
The widespread use of European merchant ships by sea to
Cape Town has led to considerable upheaval. Little by
little, the influence of the English grew in the area; they
used the ports of the Gulf as a stop on the way to India and
started a fight against the pirates.
By entering into agreements with the local leaders, the
English succeeded in the early 19th century to gain total
control of the area. The so-called "ceasefire", the new name
that replaced the "Pirate Coast", consisted among other
things. of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharja. Relations with
Britain continued until the early 20th century.