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UAE National Day: 26 most important milestones in the country’s 50-year history

As the United Arab Emirates celebrates its 50th National Day, we look back at some of the federation’s most historic moments that paved the way for its transformation from relative obscurity to a household name known for its ambition and record-breaking prowess.

December 2, 1971: The United Arab Emirates is formed

On the very first National Day, founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan united six tribal families to form the UAE.

An agreement between the six ruling families was signed in what is now known as Dubai’s Union House.

Discussions about forming a union had been ongoing for several years prior to the official founding of the nation.

When a treaty with the British ended on December 1 1971, the fledging federation was ready to hoist its flag for the first time.

The United Arab Emirates was welcomed into the Arab League on the day it was founded.

December 9, 1971: The UN recognizes the UAE

Days after its founding, the UAE became a member state of the United Nations.

February 10, 1972: Ras al-Khaimah joins the union

Some two months after the official founding of the UAE, the ruling family of the northernmost emirate Ras al-Khaimah decided to

October 5, 1972: Mina Rashid opens

Dubai’s then-ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum inaugurated Mina Rashid almost a year after the unification.

The opening of the port was an early step in building Dubai’s status as an international trading hub.

It was a significant improvement over the creek – providing deep water berths for cargo ships.

Sheikh Rashid enlisted the services of British engineering firm Halcrow to design and build the port.

May 6, 1976: Seven emirates unify their armed forces

Although a Union Defense Force had been set up soon after founding in December 1971, introducing federal authority over the armed forces, each emirate was responsible for training their own soldiers up until 1976.

In May of 1976, the separate forces were unified and officially renamed the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces.

February 26, 1979: Jebel Ali’s port opens

Seven years after Mina Rashid was inaugurated, Sheikh Rashid inaugurated the Port of Jebel Ali, which to this day remains the world’s largest manmade harbor and one of the busiest ports globally.

The inauguration of Jebel Ali, 35 kilometers from Dubai’s city center, solidified the young emirate’s position as a vital trading hub between the Eastern and Western worlds.

February 26, 1979: Dubai World Trade Center inaugurated

On the same day as the ambitious port project was officially opened, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth inaugurated the newly-built Dubai World Trade Center.

One of the first skyscrapers in the city, the World Trade Center symbolized Dubai’s ambition to become a powerful player in global business.

May 5 1981: UAE co-founds Gulf Cooperation Council in Abu Dhabi

The heads of state of Gulf neighbors Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman signed a charter to form the GCC in 1981.

The economic agreement recognized the shared culture of the Gulf states and included, at one point, plans for a common currency.

January 2, 1982: Abu Dhabi International Airport opens

Linking the capital to the rest of the world, Abu Dhabi’s airport opened in the early 80s.

Dubai had opened its own airport in 1960, before the formation of the union.

Sharjah, meanwhile, had operated an airport since the 1930s, and opened its current international airport in 1976.

October 25, 1985: First Emirates flight takes off

Although it is now known as one of the world’s biggest airlines, Emirates’ humble beginnings were an inaugural flight to Karachi on plane rented from Pakistan International Airlines.

October 7, 1990: Dubai mourns ruler’s death

The emirate went into mourning after its leader and the UAE’s Prime Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum passed away.

Sheikh Rashid led the emirate through its founding and was responsible for a number of major projects, setting Dubai on the path to becoming the metropolis it is today.

He was succeeded by his son Sheikh Maktoum, who served until his death in 2006.

December 1, 1999: Burj al-Arab opens

The world’s first seven-star hotel and an enduring icon of Dubai’s luxury tourist attractions, the Burj al-Arab, opens.

June 2001: Construction begins on Palm Jumeirah

An ambitious building project to create an artificial island off Dubai’s coast begins.

The first residential units on the Palm Jumeriah were handed over in 2006.

March 3, 2003: Al Arabiya begins broadcasting from Dubai

Al Arabiya begins broadcasting its news channel from Dubai’s newly-developed Media City.

May 11, 2003: First Etihad flight takes off

Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier Etihad launched its first ever flight with a ceremonial trip from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Al Ain.

November 2, 2004: Founding father Sheikh Zayed dies

The nation fell into mourning on November 2 2004 when its founding father Sheikh Zayed passed away.

Sheikh Zayed was a beloved figure among UAE residents, respected globally for his efforts to unite the seven emirates and celebrated locally for his reputed generosity and deep involvement in ruling over his people.

His son, the current President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa succeeded him.

August 28, 2005: Mall of the Emirates and Ski Dubai open

Symbolic of the flurry of development that took place in the 2000s, the Mall of the Emirates with its Ski Dubai indoor ski slope opened in August of 2005.

At the time is was hailed as the largest mall in the world, while Ski Dubai

16 to 20 December, 2006: The UAE’s first election

For the first time, UAE citizens were allowed to choose members of their governments for the first time.

Elections were held to decide the posts of half of the 40 seats of the Federal National Council (FNC).

November 4, 2008: Dubai Mall opens

Surpassing the previous record for the world’s largest mall, Dubai’s Emaar opened Dubai Mall in November of 2008.

August 9, 2009: Dubai Metro inaugurated

Another historic achievement for the UAE was cemented when Dubai inaugurated its metro system in 2009, which was at the time the Arabian Gulf’s first urban rail system.

January 4 2010: Dubai opens the world’s tallest building

The ultimate symbol of the 2000s building boom, Dubai made headlines around the world again with its Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building.

The tower is an architectural marvel, standing at 829.8 meters tall, and remains the tallest manmade structure in the world to this day.

November 27, 2013: Dubai wins Expo 2020 bid

Dubai won its bid to host the World Expo 2020, which would be the first ever held in the Middle East.

July, 2014: UAE announces Mars mission

Not content with breaking records on earth, the UAE’s President Sheikh Khalifa announced that Emirati scientists would develop a craft that would travel to Mars.

July 20, 2020: Mars mission launches

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Emirates Mars Mission brought hope to the UAE when it launched the aptly-named Hope probe on July 20, 2020.

It set off from a launch site in Japan and entered the red planet’s orbit in February of 2021, where it remains, collecting data about the atmosphere.

September 15, 2020: Abraham Accords signed

A historic deal between the UAE, Bahrain, the US, and Israel was signed in September of 2020.

It was the first time an Arab country had recognized Israel since Jordan had in 1994.

November 11, 2020: Sweeping legal reform

A raft of sweeping legal reforms was announced in November of 2020, amending rules across a broad range of areas.

Some traditional restrictions on societal norms were eased, paving the way for a more modern state.

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Gulf states appeal to US on Israeli minister’s Palestinian comments


The Gulf Cooperation Council said Sunday it had written to Washington’s top diplomat condemning controversial comments from Israel’s finance minister in which he denied the existence of a Palestinian people.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The GCC, in a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, called on Washington “to assume its responsibilities in responding to all measures and statements that target the Palestinian people”.

The letter from the six-member GCC’s foreign ministers also called on the US “to play its role in reaching a just, comprehensive and lasting solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, speaking earlier this month, said that the Palestinians did not exist as a people, comments that sparked outrage among Arab nations.

The US State Department said they had found Smotrich’s comments “to not only be inaccurate but also deeply concerning and dangerous.”

Smotrich is part of veteran Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government that took office in December.

The GCC ministers also denounced earlier remarks by Smotrich, calling for the Palestinian town of Huwara in the West Bank to be “wiped out” after two Israelis were shot dead there by an alleged Hamas militant in February, remarks he later walked back.

The GCC, whose foreign ministers met in Riyadh last week, includes the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel under the US-crafted 2020 Abraham Accords, as well as Saudi Arabia, which has not.

Violence has intensified in the West Bank in recent months, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967.

On Tuesday, the State Department criticized a move by Israel’s parliament to annul part of a law banning Israelis from living in areas of the West Bank evacuated in 2005, calling it “provocative” and in direct contradiction of promises made to Washington at the time.

Blinken, appearing before a Senate committee, also reiterated previous US pushback on Smotrich’s comments about Palestinians, saying they do not reflect US values.

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UK politicians caught in sting for lucrative second jobs


A senior British minister on Sunday defended former cabinet colleagues after they were shown negotiating top-dollar rates to work on the side for a fake South Korean consultancy.

The sting operation by the anti-Brexit group Led By Donkeys, which targeted former finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng among others, exposed nothing illegal.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

But the issue of Conservative MPs taking lucrative second jobs with companies has been provoking fresh controversy as Britons endure the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.

Kwarteng’s involvement in particular focussed anger, after he and short-lived prime minister Liz Truss triggered a crash on financial markets that drove up borrowing costs for millions last year.

He and former health secretary Matt Hancock were shown separately negotiating a daily rate of £10,000 ($12,000) to advise a sham consultancy purportedly based in Seoul that was set up by Led By Donkeys.

“On this occasion, I think it is pretty clear that things that were offered and considered were within the rules,” cabinet member Michael Gove told Sky News.

Gove said it was “absolutely vital that we know who is paying” MPs for second jobs, “and that is what the register (of MPs’ interests) is there for”.

“And ultimately, the really important thing is, is an MP delivering for their constituents, is a member of parliament doing everything they can to put public service first?”

Led By Donkeys showed a clip on social media in which Kwarteng said he “wouldn’t do anything less than for about 10,000 dollars a month.”

Prompted by a recruiter representing the fictious “Hanseong Consulting”, he switched the currency to pounds, which are worth more than dollars, and the rate to daily.

Hancock had already drawn controversy for taking an unauthorised break from his work as an MP to take part in a reality television show, in which he ate animal genitalia among other challenges.

He was forced to resign as health secretary for breaking his own pandemic rules on social distancing, when it was exposed that he was having an extra-marital affair with a senior advisor.

A spokesman said Hancock had “acted entirely properly and within the rules” regarding the apparent job offer from South Korea.
Kwarteng has yet to comment.

The sting threatens embarrassment for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who replaced Truss in October with a vow to restore “integrity, professionalism and accountability” after her term and that of her predecessor Boris Johnson.

Senior opposition Labour member Lucy Powell told Sky News that she was “pretty appalled and sickened,” reiterating her party’s call to ban MPs from holding second jobs.

🚨MPs FOR HIRE: a Led By Donkeys undercover investigation🚨
Watch the trailer… pic.twitter.com/TOPxuhmbr9

— Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) March 25, 2023

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Burhan says Sudan’s army will be under leadership of civilian government


Sudan’s leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on Sunday that the country’s army will be brought under the leadership of a new civilian government.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Speaking before a session for security and army reforms in Khartoum Burhan said his country will build a military force that will not intervene in politics and will be trusted by the Sudanese people in building a modern and democratic state.

More than a year after the military took power in a coup, the military and its former civilian partners and other political forces have agreed on a framework to form a new transitional government and write a new constitution to be announced next month.

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