Pearling History of UAE

Far from being just an artefact of heritage, the UAE’s pearling legacy presents a case study in the history of interconnectedness and ‘globalisation’ of the Trucial States; a legacy that stands as a testimony to the UAE’s global ambitions.

What is missing from this choreography of memory is the position of the Trucial States as entrepreneurial trade-driven communities catering to demands far beyond their reach. It glosses over the relationship of dependence that the pearling economy had with the rest of the world. It flattens the layers of multi-ethnic communities feeding the ecosystem, and omits the stakeholders from the all over the world and forgets.

It also presents an uncomfortable fact: that the Trucial States, and now the UAE, have always been opportunistic. It presents a narrative in which the ‘globalisation’ and opening up of the UAE to the world did not start with the discovery of oil or even with the arrival of Arab-Persians from the southern coast of Iran. Rather, it began with the pearling economy, at a moment in history, which is often misconstrued as isolated, introverted and an artefact of heritage rather than a time that deeply rooted the UAE’s identity as a globally motivated player with ambitions far beyond its size.

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