Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United
Arab Emirates since it was founded in 1971, and Ruler of the Emirate
of Abu Dhabi since 1966, died on Tuesday November 2nd. He was in
his late 80s.
Over a period of nearly sixty years involvement in Government, Sheikh
Zayed showed both determination and vision, leading to the creation
of the modern UAE of today. The record of his achievement is well-covered
in websites such as www.uaeinteract.com
Of particular significance was the role that he played in protecting
the country's cultural heritage, and in stimulating and sponsoring
research into the country's past. For that, the Abu
Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS, owes him particular
thanks, for it was on the personal initiative of Sheikh Zayed that
ADIAS was first established, in 1992.
Sheikh Zayed had displayed his interest in the country's archaeology
long before the establishment of ADIAS.
He was, for example, a keen observer of the first archaeological
excavations ever to take place in the UAE, at the island of Umm
al-Nar, back in 1959, and personally led the Danish archaeological
team then working there to the inland oasis of Al
Ain, to show them the great Bronze Age tombs on Jebel
Hafit and in the Al Ain Oasis.
Later, he personally supported Danish and other archaeological expeditions
to Al Ain, and was responsible for the establishment of the country's
first archaeological museum, again in Al Ain.
Becoming Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966, and then the founding father
of the United Arab Emirates, of which he became first President
in 1971, Sheikh Zayed devoted the last forty years to the development
of his country, and to the use of its oil revenues in the service
of its people.
Despite the increasing demands of Government, however, he retained
his deep and abiding interest in the study of the country's past.
He followed eagerly, for example, the work undertaken by palaeontologists
on the 6-8 million year old Late
Miocene fauna of Abu Dhabi's Western Region during the late
1980s and early 1990s, meeting with them to be briefed on their
In 1991, he personally requested the carrying out of the first detailed
archaeological survey of three of the main islands of the Emirate
of Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Dalma
and Marawah, this survey being carried
out by a team led by the current Academic Director of ADIAS, and
co-ordinated by the current ADIAS Executive Director. Meeting with
the archaeological team on the island of Sir
Bani Yas, he displayed a genuine and informed interest in their
work, and encouraged them to continue
On receiving a report on the discoveries made during that first
survey, Sheikh Zayed then ordered the formal establishment of the
Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS,
and the provision to ADIAS of funds from his own Private Department.
In the years that followed Sheikh Zayed continued to follow closely
the results of ADIAS work. He expressed, for example, his pleasure
at the discovery of the pre-Islamic Christian monastery on Sir
Bani Yas, the first physical evidence of Christianity in pre-Islamic
south-eastern Arabia, and urged ADIAS to continue its work on the
More recently, Sheikh Zayed was delighted by the discovery by ADIAS
of major Late Miocene fossil finds in the Ruwais
area, including two
elephant tusks and other finds, and requested that he should
be kept informed of further discoveries.
In the years since it was established, the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological
Survey has benefited much from the deep interest of His Highness
Sheikh Zayed in our work. One of his most-quoted phrases was that
"a people that does not know its past cannot deal with the
present or face the challenges of the future."
He believed, deeply, that it was important that the people of the
United Arab Emirates knew about their past, cherished it and learned
lessons from it.
On his instructions, it has been the objective of ADIAS, since its
establishment, to contribute to that process.
We are proud to have been able to do so.
ADIAS, and archaeology in the United Arab Emirates, owe him a great
debt. Without his consistent interest in and support for the investigation
of, and preservation of, the cultural heritage of the country, including
its archaeology, much that is now known would have been lost, or
would not have been discovered, and the country itself would have
been poorer for the lack of it.
The people of the United Arab Emirates have lost a wise father.
The archaeology of the UAE has lost a champion, a supporter, an
inspiration and a friend.
Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey