A modern and glamorous metropolis with a melting pot of cultures and a famous skyline that’s filled with some of the world’s most iconic buildings, it’s easy to forget about Bedouin life in the UAE.
It was not that long ago, little over 40 years in fact, that the UAE’s sprawling desert landscape was inhabited by proud Bedouin (desert-dweller) tribes, fishing villages and date farms. According to The Story of The UAE by Zayed University “Bedouins lived in varied terrain; moving between the ocean (where pearl diving and fishing were the main forms of sustenance), the desert (moving as nomads for grazing areas for the camels and herds) and the oasis (where water sources and irrigation allowed for farming of dates and vegetables). One can still see the luxuriant date farms in Al Ain and irrigated terraced gardens in the mountain wadis (valleys).”
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Abu Dhabi once consisted of several hundred palm huts (barasti) huts, a few coral buildings and the Ruler’s Fort, while Dubai and its creek acted as a trading hub.
It wasn’t until the late 1930s, after the first oil concession that the region started to transform eventually develop into a thriving hotspot it is today.
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As a reminder of the region’s rich history we look back at its Bedouin life, some of which is recountered through Sir Wilfred Thesiger, a famous British explorer who spent five years, between 1946 and 1950, living with the Bedouin of Southern Arabia and crossing the legendary Rub al-Khali, or Empty Quarter, of the Arabian Desert. He chronicled his journey and published the book Arabian Sands and Footsteps of Thesiger.
Bedouin Life In The UAE:
Watch this fascinating documentary in which explorer Adrian Hayes retraces Wilfred Thesiger’s famous journey