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Abu Dhabi and the Pearl Trade

Updated on October 2, 2017

Where is Abu Dhabi?

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You never know where you might end up!

I had been lucky and scooped up a position as an English teacher for the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

After a thirteen hour flight, it was a great relief to get out of the plane...

or was it?

The United Arab Emirates ( the U.A.E.), located on the western side of the Arabian Gulf (sometimes to referred to as the Persian Gulf, but never in the UAE.) comprises 7 emirates or states.

As I was saying, after a thirteen hour flight, it was a great relief to get out of the plane...

or was it?

Can you feel the heat?
Can you feel the heat? | Source

The heat

I soon forgot about the butterflies in my stomach when the hot air hit my face.

It was if I were standing in the airflow that you would imagine coming from the jet engines nearby, but no. This was just plain and simple air, which burned my very nostrils as I breathed it in.

And I wasn't the only one suffering. All passengers scurried along as fast as they could across the tarmac, seeking shelter in the cool air-conditioning of Abu Dhabi International Airport

Little did I know that this was just the beginning of my fight with Abu Dhabi heat, who proved to be a merciless opponent over the years I endured the battle.


I had landed and was about to embark on an amazing adventure that will stay with me forever.

Colleagues, yes, but friends too.

Over the next few years this would be where I would call home.

There were approximately 1500 teachers shipped over to the United Arab Emirates that year, in order to achieve the goal of total bilingualism (Arabic / English) for pupils in state schools in Abu Dhabi in the short-term future.

It was a big enterprise.

Most of the teachers were from the USA and a sprinkling form other English-speaking countries.

We all became close friends and there were some unforgettable experiences.


Beautiful Arabic Script

'Abu Dhabi' in Arabic script , written from right to left is

أبو ظبي‎‎

so if you are reading from right to left, the order of lettters would be as follows:

IBAHD UBA

which is "ABU DHABI" in reverse.

This wondrous script encapsulated for me the exquisite charm of what was to be my home for the next few years. So much so that I learned the Arabic alphabet as fast as I could and took Arabic lessons so I would enjoy communicating at least in basic Arabic conversation with my colleagues in Abu Dhabi.

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A brief history of Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi may nowadays be internationally famous for its oil, but the truth is that it was the discovery of FRESH WATER in Abu Dhabi that attracted its real founders in 1761.

However there is some archaeological evidence of settlements in the area of Abu Dhabi dating as far back as 7,000 years ago, but this evidence is not clearly documented as yet. And one thing about Abu Dhabi is that the people look much more to the future than to the past!

So after the discovery of FRESH WATER in 1760, the leader of the Beduin tribe Bani Yas moved his nomadic people and settled on the relatively fertile area known as Abu Dhabi (meaning 'Father Gazelle' or perhaps better translated as 'Land of the Gazelles') having located fresh water on Abu Dhabi Island.

From then on Abu Dhabi developed a thriving pearl industry and most of its small population eeked out a living in the arduous task of pearl diving.

The beauty of pearl

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Zayed the Great and the pearl trade

Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed al Nahyan, more popularly known as 'Zayed the Great' ruled from 1855 to 1909 and Abu Dhabi prospered in its pearl trade. It had a close commercial and geographical links with India in those days, and the pearl trade flourished.

It was during this time that Abu Dhabi signed treaties with Great Britain to deal with international affairs. The coastal area including Dubai and other towns was then named the 'Trucial Coast'.

Everything was ticking over as well as could be expected in a desert area solely dependant upon the pearl industry , but then Japan developed a technique in cultured pearls and Abu Dhabi pearl divers became redundant almost immediately.

Some people believe that 'cultured pearls are an imitation of the real pearls,but in fact they are grown in exactly the same way, and are of the same materials.

For interesting information on the difference between 'real' pearls and 'cultured' pearls, you might want to see here.

Abu Dhabi floundered for 20 years , and in 1939 the Sheikh Shakhbut granted permission for an international consortium to search for off-shore oil.

It would take about another 20 years for oil to be discovered off-shore Abu Dhabi...and the rest is history!

Abu Dhabi is an Island

Over the next few years this would be where I would call home.

There were approximately 1500 teachers shipped over to the United Arab Emirates that year, in order to achieve the goal of total bilingualism for pupils in state schools in Abu Dhabi.

Most of the teachers were from the USA and a sprinkling form other English-speaking countries; Canada, UK , South Africa, Australia, New Zealand.

Have you ever had a reason why you had to leave your country/family to work abroad? Was it a difficult or easy decision for you to make?

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