DUBAI // On the morning of December 2, 1971, leaders from six desert sheikhdoms gathered in Dubai and wrote their signatures on a document ... and a new nation was born.
The six who met at a round building in Jumeirah were the Rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Fujairah, plus the Crown Prince of Umm Al Qaiwain, deputising for his father, who was ill.
The signing of a provisional constitution brought the United Arab Emirates into existence, and ended years of tortuous negotiations.
The emirates were previously known as the Trucial States and, through a series of treaties, Britain controlled their foreign affairs. But in 1968 Britain announced it was leaving the Gulf, and Sheikh Zayed, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, saw that the states would have to join together if they were to prosper. Originally, Ras Al Khaimah, Bahrain and Qatar had shown interest in being members of the union, but they caused consternation by opting out. Ras Al Khaimah joined later, in February 1972.
Hopes of reaching an agreement looked slim. But in July 1971 Abu Dhabi and Dubai entered a binding agreement to form a union, and it was then announced that they would be joined by the other four.
At last, the way was clear for that historic day in December when the six sheikhs met and saw the new country's flag fly for the first time.