x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Time Frame: Some food for thought

How expatriates found a taste of home in the early days of the UAE's oil industry.

BP workers in Abu Dhabi in 1957 take a break. Courtesy of BP
BP workers in Abu Dhabi in 1957 take a break. Courtesy of BP

Expatriates first arrived in Abu Dhabi in large numbers by floating down the Gulf on board the oil exploration rig Adma Enterprise.

It was late 1957, and under the terms of the offshore oil concession signed by Abu Dhabi Marine Enterprises, drilling had to commence by the spring of 1958.

A spot was chosen some 32km from Das Island. The rig arrived off Das following an epic journey from a shipyard on the banks of the Kiel Canal in Germany, down the North Sea, through the Strait of Gibraltar, along the Suez Canal and finally past the Strait of Hormuz.

The workforce whose job it was to drill for oil were in every sense a long way from home. But as this photograph of the staff canteen of the Enterprise shows, it did not mean they were deprived of home comforts.

Everything needed had to be shipped from Europe to Das via Bahrain, the trading hub in the Gulf at that time. Abu Dhabi then only had a small souq and no deepwater port.

Oil was found in March 1958 and, half a century later, a new generation of expats still enjoys the bottles of Heinz Tomato Ketchup, HP Sauce and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce visible on the tables in the Enterprise's canteen.

These days, of course, they can more easily be obtained from the shelves of Spinneys and LuLu supermarkets.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae