Dutch Era

The Dutch had obtained a concession for a while in Mocha, a Yemeni port on the Red sea, yet compared to the Red Sea, both the Dutch and the English companies had a much greater measure of success in the Gulf. The loss of Hormuz by the Portuguese in 1622 marked the entry of the Dutch and the English to the Middle Eastern markets where they wanted to concentrate their trade at Basra and Gombroon (modern Bandar Abbas). For the next 150 years, Bandar Abbas was to become the center of Dutch, British and French commercial and political activities in the Gulf. Initially, the Dutch had gained their foothold in the Gulf because of a joint action with the British. However, the two powers soon became rivals with an intensification of competition, especially after 1622 when the English East India Company moved its Gulf factory to Bandar Abbas, and the Dutch refused to pay them customs duty. Before long, the Dutch trading station at Bandar Abbas became more active and successful than the English station and they started a considerable trade with the Gulf region in sugar, spices, Indian cotton textiles, copper and iron.
In 1623, the Dutch concluded an agreement for the trade in silk with Shah Abbas I, under which they obtained the right of free trade on the Persian side of the Gulf in exchange for an annual purchase of a fixed amount of silk from the king. In addition to their main office in Bandar Abbas, the Dutch had a few smaller offices; usually one in Isfahan, and sometimes in places like Lar, Kerman, Bushire and Shiraz. Between 1623 and 1630, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company), or VOC, earned an enormous profit from the trade in Persian commodities, mainly silks. These silks made the Persian trade in those years more profitable than any other Dutch factory in the Indian Ocean system except for their trade system in Batavia. During the 17th century, their other Gulf offices in Basra and Muscat were of minor economic importance and were staffed only during the trading season.
By the 17th century, the Dutch had become the dominant naval power in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf. The Persians permitted the British and Dutch to trade in their country because they expected military aid furthering their ambitions of regional dominance. Thus, the English and Dutch were bound by an alliance of sorts with Persia, and their economic interests in the Gulf were based on the trade privileges, which they secured from the latter. 
After securing its independence from Spain in 1648, the commercial activities of the VOC went on almost uninterrupted for about a hundred years of prosperity and success. The seizure of Muscat by the Arabs in 1650 from the control of the Portuguese was another event in favor of the Dutch. Shortly afterwards, several ships from Holland arrived at their factory in Gombroon (Bandar Abbas) which further augmented their trade and temporarily gave them the preponderance in the Gulf trade. Meanwhile, the Dutch, who had been at odds with the Persians about the trade in silk and were anxious to evade their customs, were offered a proposal, probably by Sultan bin Saif, the Imam of Muscat, to change the entire trade route. The plan was to carry merchandise by caravans from Qatif, a coastal area to the north of Qatar, along a road parallel to the coast through the areas of the Bani Yas and the Bani Khalid, to a port outside Portuguese control. The Chief of the Dutch factory, however, declined the offer with thanks. 
With the outbreak of the Anglo-Dutch war in Europe in 1652, the English lost their Arabian Gulf factories at Bandar Abbas and Basra to the Dutch. By gaining these factories, the VOC became the chief supplier of spices in Persia and the Arabian Gulf, which was a major reason for the Company’s commercial success there. In 1666, the Dutch entered into relations with Oman and, for a short while, there was an establishment of the VOC in Muscat. Records of imports into Persia and the Gulf confirm that the Dutch were deeply involved in inter-Asian trade. Thus by the mid-17th century, the Dutch had succeeded in expelling the East India Company from the greater part of the Arabian Gulf and, by 1680, they were firmly established both at Basra and Bandar Abbas.
The Dutch arrived in the Indian Ocean; thus asserting the freedom of navigation in the high seas and refuting the Papal decree of exclusive control of the Indian Ocean by Portugal. Like the Portuguese, the VOC and the English East India Company continued to use force as a method of procuring trade agreements and factory rights in Indian Ocean ports and adopted the Portuguese system of protection passes in order to facilitate their commercial ambitions at the expense of the local Indian Ocean mercantile communities. The Dutch and the English merchants took over the inter-port and export trade from the Indian Ocean system that in turn, led to the export of greater volumes of exotic merchandise to European markets. The prosperity from trade ushered in a new era known as the “Golden Age” in the Netherlands that witnessed all-round progress and development in the fields of arts and crafts. On the other side, the Gulf’s indigenous long-distance mercantile operations declined, resulting in the decline of the old commercial cities of Oman and the Arabian Gulf, and the rise of new cities like Muscat, Bandar Abbas and Bushire.
By the 1750s, Dutch power weakened because of the three-way warfare between them, the English and the French and they lost their holdings in most of the Indian Ocean with the exception of the Indonesian Archipelago. In the Gulf, the VOC’s factories in Bushire, Bandar Abbas and Basra were weakened by British competition, increased taxation levied by the Governor of Bushire and deteriorating relations with the Ottoman authorities. Consequently, the Dutch closed these factories in 1753.
After the closure of the three Gulf factories, the Dutch sought to preserve their position in the Arabian Gulf. They occupied the island of Kharg, which was offered to them by Mir Nasr of the Za’ab tribe, the Arab ruler of Bandar Rig. The Dutch strengthened their position there by erecting a fortress and a factory and took over the various economic activities of the indigenous Arab population including pearl fisheries. These activities led to the outbreak of resistance by the local Arab population under the leadership of Mir Muhanna who succeeded in liberating Kharg Island from the Dutch in 1766. This event was the first in the history of the Gulf Arabs to be reported in a newspaper that also mentioned, for the first time, the name of an Arab Sheikh, Mir Muhanna. The victory of Mir Muhanna marked the end of the VOC presence in the Arabian Gulf. Dutch merchants, however, continued trading between Dutch establishments in Asia and the Gulf and a considerable amount of shipping continued to sail between Muscat and Dutch Malabar.
The appearance of the Europeans in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf not only led to a radical transformation of the structure and direction of oriental commerce, but also substantially added to the historiography of the subject. The depth of documentation and information left behind by the Portuguese was further enriched in the subsequent centuries by the massive records of the Dutch and English companies. Though dealing mainly with the Indian Ocean commercial system, these documents also contain graphic and detailed descriptions of the society and polity of the region. Dutch documents are of particular significance to the history of the UAE as they abound with invaluable information on a variety of subjects relating to the area. The name of Julfar (now Ras al Khaimah) appeared in a Dutch document as early as 1634 in the context of offering help to the Arabs who were fighting against the Portuguese there and in Muscat. That the coast of the Arabian Peninsula had its own long-distance shipping is attested to by a diary written in 1646, which refers to the arrival of a ship carrying sugar from Julfar to Basra.
The Dutch documents contain fascinating accounts regarding the emergence of the Al Qasimi rule. Sheikh Rahma bin Matar is mentioned as the Emir of Julfar shortly after 1718 when he was involved in the siege of the island of Hormuz. He is mentioned again in 1728 as one of the richest and most influential Arab merchants and the ruler of Julfar. Many years later, the Dutch documents confirmed that Sheikh Rahma had been recognized as the hereditary ruler of Julfar by Nadir Shah (1740). Tiddo Frederik van Kniphausen, the Resident of the VOC factory on Kharg Island, described Julfar “as a considerable town, fortified in local style, provided with some ordnance, and which is inhabited by the tribe of Huwala called Quassum”. He further added that several expeditions carried out against this place by the Imam of Muscat had all been unsuccessful, because he could not do “anything against the Sheikh of the Quassum, called Tschafel or Rachma Eben Matter, who is supported by several tribes of Bedu or Arabs from the desert. This Sheikh Rachma is at present the most powerful among the Huwala rulers. He has a force of his own people of 400 men armed with matchlock rifles in Zur (modern Sur). This has a good harbour, where the largest vessels can be berthed, and there are more than 60 vessels of which the majority is large and well-equipped, sailing as far as Mocha”.
By the first quarter of the 17th century, the Dutch had become the best compilers and editors of nautical charts and sailing books that contributed a great deal to the cartography of the Gulf. The sea-atlases, charts and maps, compiled by 17th century masters and published by the famous houses in the Netherlands, indicate that the Dutch maintained the lead until 1675. Early exploratory voyages conducted by the Dutch during the mid-17th century to interior areas of the Gulf and along the Musandam peninsula contain many fascinating references to towns and ports of modern UAE and Oman. The expeditions to the Musandam peninsula are of interest insofar as they give the first detailed description of the area. In 1644-1645, the Dutch ship Zeemeeuw (Seagull) explored the coast of the lower Gulf between Khasab and Dibba. Captain Claes Speelman made a drawing of Dibba bay and town that represents one of the oldest illustrations of a location in what is now the UAE.  In 1666, the hooker-ship Meerkat captained by Jacob Vogel made a trip from Gombroon (Bandar Abbas) to Muscat. After this journey, he wrote a detailed report on what he had encountered along the coast between Khasab and Muscat, providing as well a chart and a map of the Bay of Muscat.. Moreover, Dibba, Khorfakkan, Bidya and Kalba are mentioned amongst others, with additional detailed descriptions of contemporary lifestyle. Furthermore, notable references to the islands of the lower Gulf found in the records confirm that Dutch sailors had explored the island of Tunb. The island of Abu Musa was first mentioned in a Dutch map dating back to 1645-1646, while the island of Sirri, nearby, was recorded by their sailors in 1646. In April 1651, Captain Boudaen of the Popkensburg ship described his travels between the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa.