Sheikh Zayed Hall in the National Archives

Sheikh Zayed Hall in the National Archives

Since its opening in December 2010, the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Hall has received thousands of visitors from all over the UAE and abroad. The hall has seen a remarkable turnout on account of the rare historical documents and important collections of UAE history and heritage that it contains. These tell the story of a prosperous homeland built by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his brothers, the Founding Fathers, and the people of the UAE who grouped around them.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Hall in the National Archives serves as a window from which visitors can view significant points in UAE history through a comprehensive panorama of the memory of the homeland, which the National Archives works on collecting and preserving. Distinguished by its historical documents, ancient geographical maps, rare photographs, and documentaries that track the establishment, development and prosperity of the UAE, the hall has become the focus of attention for researchers and academics as well as official delegations visiting from inside and outside the country.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Hall was established on the directive of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Head of the National Archives, to become a museum to recount historical information that documents the UAE’s past over more than 500 years. This is reflected most prominently in display of a Portuguese map dating back to 1502, which is the first map of the Gulf region.

Historical documents are presented in chronological order in order to provide a comprehensive depiction of the history of the UAE through various stages leading to the present-day unity, progress and prosperity of the country. In this regard, the Hall includes the documents of the nine-member Union, the bilateral union between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the seven-member Union, and the major events that culminated in the signing of the establishment of the Union on December 2, 1971. Records relating to the founding leader are divided into local documents, Gulf documents, Arabic documents, and international documents. These provide the visitor with an introduction to Sheikh Zayed’s activities since he took over as representative of the Ruler of Abu Dhabi in Al-Ain in 1946, until his demise in 2004.

The hall also showcases historical documents of great strategic importance, including a collection regarding the three contested islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, along with correspondence of the elders and rulers of these islands and the activities of their residents who were citizens of the UAE. Another important historical record contained in the Hall is the British document which chronicles the maritime agreement between Arab tribes in the Trucial Emirates and Britain. This document dates back to 1820 and states that no outside interference will be tolerated in the Gulf. Yet another important historical document is that signed by Sheikh Shakhbout bin Sultan, then Ruler of Abu Dhabi, with the rulers of the Trucial Emirates in 1965, regarding development of a single Gulf currency. This document contains indications of the early unifying aspirations of the people of the region.

Among other valuable historical documents in Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Hall are selections of the correspondence that took place between the rulers of the Trucial Emirates and the British officials at the time. The National Archives has made great efforts to obtain copies of these documents, which present the history of the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region to researchers and scholars interested in the history and heritage of the UAE. Visitors will also find documents providing details about the UAE flag, the first ministerial formation in the country, and its accession to the United Nations. These documents together have resulted in the National Archives issuing a number of books that document the history of the UAE for generations, including Qasr Al Hosn, Zayed: From Challenges to Union, and Zayed -- Man Who Built a Nation.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Hall contains a large number of heritage holdings, including models of sea-going vessels dating back to the Portuguese, Dutch and British eras, which played a major role in global and Gulf trade. There are also models of old light weapons, some dating back to the early nineteenth century, as well as a number of awards and medals received by Sheikh Zayed during his leadership in the process of nation building, development and prosperity. The hall ends with an exhibition of some of the holdings and pictures of the Canadian nurse Gertrude Dyke, known as Dr. Latifa, who worked at the “Canadian” Oasis hospital in Al-Ain beginning in 1962. These acquisitions were provided by Dr. Latifa’s family to the National Archives after her death in October 2009. Dr. Latifa’s exhibition presents an important stage in the history of Abu Dhabi and the attention paid by its leaders to the health sector.

Due to the large turnout at Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Hall, the National Archives has trained a number of its staff as guides to provide visitors with an overview of more than five centuries of UAE history, a panorama that focuses on the history of the UAE from the pre-pearl stage until today.