Many, especially ex-patriots, are not aware that there is a National Archives of the United Arab Emirates based in Abu Dhabi. Set up on the orders of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1968, it was originally called the Document and Research Bureau and was situated in Qasr Al Hosn. The Bureau opened only two years after Sheikh Zayed became ruler of Abu Dhabi and before the UAE existed. It was administered by Al Diwan Al Amiri of Abu Dhabi (Ruler’s Court) and its mission was to record the history of Abu Dhabi and the region.
The fact that such a Bureau was set up at all at that time was amazing and is but one example of the extraordinary foresight of Sheikh Zayed. The reason for the choice of Qasr Al Hosn for the Bureau’s offices was that there were already many documents housed there from the earlier rule of Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Zayed had chosen not to occupy the Fort but had instead decided to build Al Manhal Palace as his official Palace.
The Bureau changed its name to the Centre for Documentation and Research in 1972 and then a Federal Law in 2008 renamed it the National Centre for Documentation and Research making it a Federal Institution. Later still in 2014, its name was changed again to the National Archives and, since 2004, it has come under the control of the Ministry for Presidential Affairs. Since the Federal Law in 2008, its mission has been to record the history of the UAE and the region and to oversee the preservation of all UAE Government records.
The National Archives has spent many years collecting documents, photographs, maps and film from all corners of the earth where past empires, countries or private individuals have any information about what is now the UAE or the GCC region and it is, without doubt, the foremost archive throughout the whole region. Currently, extensive work is being undertaken to make much of the material collected available to the public to enable all those with an interest in the UAE to have a better understanding of the history and, to put it simply, how the UAE arrived at this point.
For anyone interested in the history of the UAE, keep an eye on the National Archives’ website at na.ae and also look out for some existing smartphone apps as well as more to come.
Justin Codrai, Technnical Expert
Justin and his family has been associated with the UAE and, prior to December 1971, the Trucial Coast for 70 years and he is considered one of the foremost experts on historical photographs of the UAE. His work at the National Archives involves helping the Archives to collect material from all over the globe to enhance their collections for the benefit of decision makers and the public.