Etihad Museum tells the history of UAE’s formation

Sunday 12/02/2017
Visitors walk past portraits of the founding fathers of the United Arab Emirates at the Etihad Museum in Dubai, on January 18th. (AFP)

Dubai - The Etihad Museum, an impressive grand struc­ture that opened in Dubai in January, tells the story of the founding of the United Arab E mirates through in­teractive exhibits and learning pro­grammes. The guiding perspective is that of the country’s founding leaders, with a key emphasis on the period 1968-74.
The external façade of the muse­um is in the form of a folded manu­script supported internally by gold­en columns, representing fountain pens symbolising the seven Emir­ates — Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah — that make up the federation.
The museum complex is next to the distinctive oval-shaped Union House where the treaty establish­ing the UAE and bringing into ef­fect a temporary constitution was signed in 1971. The logo is also de­signed as a representation of the Union House and the UAE flag.
As part of the museum initiative, the original Union House, and in­ternal fixtures, curtains, carpets, table and chairs that the founding leaders used were restored.
While the famous flagpole at the end of 2nd of December Street was replaced with a slightly taller 123-metre pole, the grounds were redesigned and a symbolic shore­line was added, recreating the sea­scape of the UAE.
Another important structure that has been preserved exactly as it was in 1971 is then Dubai ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum’s ma­jlis, consisting of an elegant office, meeting hall and dining hall.
The impression that any visi­tor will take away is the simplicity and elegance of the presentation through eight permanent galleries in addition to a temporary gallery to exhibit items from international museums. In addition, there are a theatre and educational and rec­reational areas.
The pride of place is taken by the constitution; the crucial meeting between the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai on February 18th, 1968, which led to the formation of the UAE, the delays and developments on the way to unity, the lives of the seven rulers, the early develop­ment of the economic, social and cultural life of the newly formed nation, its role in strengthening Arab unity and identity and exter­nal relations with international or­ganisations.
Museum Director Abdullah Mo­hammed al-Falasi recalled how the contents of the museum were col­lected in response to an initiative by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and rul­er of Dubai. In a nationwide cam­paign launched last October under the motto Let’s Preserve the Legacy, Sheikh Mohammed offered an open invitation to the community to contribute historical items to the museum.
He said: “In response to this call, the crown princes of the seven emirates of the UAE contributed personal belongings of the found­ing fathers — intimate objects in­cluding passports, pocket watches, daggers and official seals that have previously never been on public display.
“Their belongings are a vital part of the museum’s permanent exhi­bitions and give visitors a human insight into the story of the 1971 Union Agreement.”
Falasi recalled Sheikh Moham­med emphasised that history was the most valuable treasure the country had and said the UAE lead­ership had been very generous in its support for the museum.
“We have been delighted to see the museum bringing the commu­nity together and giving all mem­bers of society a real pride and interest in their heritage,” Falasi said. “The museum also connects a young Emirati generation with their history, invites tourists to share in our heritage and will en­sure this important piece of our story is preserved for future gen­erations.
“As Etihad Museum is situated at the very place where the 1971 Union Agreement was signed, we also hope that it will become a meaningful meeting place for the nation’s citizens to come together and celebrate occasions like UAE National Day.”
The first exhibition at the mu­seum, titled Emirates to the World: Postal History from 1909 to Unifi­cation, is on display at the tempo­rary exhibition hall through April 30th. It showcases stamps, letters, artwork and archives from the pri­vate collection of Abdullah Khoory, president of Emirates Philatelic As­sociation.
The exhibitions at the venue are expected to contribute to an ac­tive research and publishing pro­gramme on the story of the union.