Under the auspices of the Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi, the book release ceremony of ‘ Abu Dhabi Oil Story,’ published by Dar Kitab, was held on Tuesday at Al Raha Beach Theatre. The release ceremony was attended by Sultan Al Amimi, Director of the Poetry Academy and Representative of the Committee; Jamal Al Shehhi, Chairman of Dar Kitab, and Hamdan Al Darei, the author of the book.
The book consists of 157 pages of medium size and has three chapters. The First chapter covers the topic of ‘Oil and the British Policy between 1892 and 1939’. The second deals with ‘The First Oil Concession in Abu Dhabi.’ The third and last chapter tackles the topic of ‘Oil and the Building of the Modern Emirate’ and includes two parts. The first one deals with the political developments while the second discusses the progress of oil affairs in the Emirate.
Radical Shift in the Region
The author begins by noting that the discovery of oil in the Arab Gulf region has led to a radical shift in the political, economic, and social life. He stresses that the exploitation and utilisation of the oil wealth in several development and civilization projects have bestowed a touch of splendour upon the oil era. Without this approach, the author notes, the oil wealth would have never had the same significant impact, as is the case in some oil-producing countries.
Al Darei explains that the oil wealth has contributed to the rise of the region and the raise of its status on the international scene. This progress came following decades during which this region was almost forgotten, as if "it was exiting on another planet."
“Then came oil and with it came civilisation to this part of the world. In ancient times, this region was populated. Some old excavations have revealed this fact and unveiled evidence of an attempt to communicate with the outside world. The Hili and Al Qusais tombs stand as living evidence,” writes Al Darei.
The discovery of oil came simultaneously with the appearance of modern inventions. “The industrial revolution that brought into being a number of modern innovations paved the path for the use and development of the oil wealth,” he writes.
The book describes how Abu Dhabi and its surroundings have thrived and blossomed after the flow of oil into their veins and limbs, bringing about financial wealth, banking expansion, academic education, health care, state jobs, and business opportunities. Al Darei notes, in this context, that Abu Dhabi and its surroundings have turned into a “new California”, similar to the so-called era of “gold fever” which began in 1848 in the US.
“As soon as the news of the discovery of ‘gold’ in Abu Dhabi was relayed, a wave of immigration from different countries began. Chinese, Mexicans, and wealth seekers from the United States flocked en masse to the United Arab Emirates, where more than 206 ethnic groups from over 150 countries coexist today. After the discovery of the first oil well at Masjid Suleiman in Iran in 1908, and the series of oil discoveries that took place later, the Middle East entered the world of energy and witnessed the beginning of emancipation from the traditional economy. From then on, there has been oil, the modern state, technology and now the information age.”
The First Oil Concession
The author dedicates a whole chapter to the topic of ‘Oil and the British Policy between 1892 and 1939’, known as the Exclusivity Agreement following the signing of the 1892 treaty.
“Following World War II, Britain had sought to obtain pledges not to grant any concessions except for parties that British government deemed appropriate. There was an ardent competition between the US, France and Britain. There was also the Red Line Agreement, the British policy following WWII, and the development of the British administrative system in the region.”
In the second chapter, Al Darei describes the aspects of the first oil concession in the history of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, explaining that the drafting and the signing of the first oil concession took place under the British governance stipulated by the 1892 treaty and the optional oil agreements of 1922. These agreements, Al Darei explains, had conferred a preferential advantage on those who were sanctioned by the British government.
The book keeps account of the several shifts that the world witnessed in various fields and on different levels, between the sealing of the preferential agreement and its expiry on the 19th of January, 2014. “The British government lost its jewel in the crown with the independence of India in 1947. This event was the first sign of the unofficial dwindling of the United Kingdom, and its retreat to its isles. Thanks to the oil wealth, the Gulf region turned gradually into a magnet for British interests after it was a simple means to secure British interests in India. In the 1950’s, the British political scene witnessed an inclination towards keeping a presence in the region. The Oman Coast Force was created; a new air force base was established in Sharjah, and then there was the consequent founding of the Trucial States Council that constituted the first political system of integration between the Emirates.
‘Oil and the Modern Emirate’, discusses the political developments witnessed by Abu Dhabi, which consisted in the replacement of the British political influence by a political authority in Abu Dhabi. The chapter also considers the Arab environment of the Emirate, and the different oil developments from the official announcement of the oil discovery to the choice of the site of the exporting port, and the change of the oil company’s name. The author also writes about the development of the state administration sector and services, stressing that Abu Dhabi has enjoyed the benefits of oil. These benefits have created an administrative pattern, and a civilisational progress which covered all the economic, political and social aspects. They also contributed to a qualitative leap that has never been witnessed by Abu Dhabi before. The Emirate, which succeeded in joining with assertive steps the club of the oil-producing countries, has acquired its own administrative system, state institutions, and an ambition to become one of the best five governments in the world.