This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

Contents - Previous - Next

2. Markets and Consumer Co-operatives

Rapid economic development has brought with it a wide selection of previously unknown commodities, especially of consumer goods. The government therefore has established in every new settlement, a souk (oriental market) in which the shops belong to the members of the community. The market supplies the general needs of the population and in addition it introduces new products to the rural bedouin areas. The selection of goods available in the new market in Beda Zayed is an example of these markets in general. The six shops respectively offer: mixed wares; grain; cosmetics, clocks, radios, electrical wares; stationery items, radios, electrical wares; mixed wares; and beverages.

Of the consumer co-operatives planned by the Ministry for Social Affairs and Labour for all the emirates, there is presently only one in the rural bedouin areas: in 1977, with support amounting to three million dirhams from Sheikh Zayed, a co-operative was opened in Beda Zayed. It offers a variety of goods and is owned by 65 members from Beda Zayed and Medinat Mohammed who each invested a minimum of 4,000 dirhams. The profits are divided annually according to participation. The building in which the cooperative is located was provided free of charge by the Diwan. Other co-operatives in the rural areas of the emirate are to follow.

FIG. 11. Al-Wathba, Abu Dhabi, Tribal Pattern, 1978

3. Women's Development Centres

The Women's Development Programme, though initiated and funded by the federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs and operative in all the emirates, is introduced here because the pilot plan is being carried out in Abu Dhabi and the first Women's Development Centre in the rural bedouin area was established at the Social Service Centre of the government of Abu Dhabi at Beda Zayed.

As mentioned above, the UAE government is trying to achieve continuing economic and social development of the whole country. Therefore, measures have been taken for integrating female Emiratis into the country's socio-economic processes. But the traditional role of women, which is in part dictated by religion, has been firmly established for centuries and is still accepted today so that changes are slow and unspectacular. Up to the end of 1978 the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs had opened eight Women's Development Centres in the emirates (in Abu Dhabi, al-Ain, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaima and Fujairah) and five Social Development Units (in Kalba, Khor Fakkan, Dibba, Beda Zayed, and al-Dhaid). Two more centres (Dalma, Geathy) and four units (al-Hamidiah, al Hamriah, al-Khan, and Digdagga) were to open in 1978. The centres and units have the following tasks: (a) the social education and cultural training of women Emiratis; (b) determination of the need for an extension of social help to low-income native women and to those without an income, and the support of women's traditional crafts. Where the tasks of the centres and units coincide with those of the six women's associations in the UAE, co-operation between the institutions is required to avoid duplication of function.

The location of the centres and units is determined by the regional distribution of the population and the extent of the tasks that must be performed. While most of the centres are located in the urban areas of the UAE, units are also found in rural settlements that are important to the surrounding areas. The work is carried out by social workers and, when necessary, by experts in a particular field.


In the centres and units interested women Emiratis are introduced to the importance of preventive medical care (examinations during pregnancy}, first aid, infant and child care, general hygiene, child-rearing, home economics, a healthy diet, and family and marriage counselling. This training is supported by audio-visual materials, by demonstrations and by lectures from doctors. The information and instruction is keyed to the educational background of the women Emiratis and its importance in their daily lives is stressed.


In keeping with the tradition of the tribe, the native population turns to the Emirates when in financial need, and asks for support from the sheikhs and members of the ruling families and from highly placed officials such as ministers and undersecretaries. Women make this appeal through a male representative, a son or another near relative. In Islam, help and support for the unfortunate is a fundamental and unavoidable duty; the person in need of help has a Godgiven right to expect it. After the establishment of the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs, the newest ministry in the UAE, the officials who received requests for grants of money directed the ministry to make payments from the ministry budget to the supplicant. This traditional form of appeal and support in the UAE still exists and the author saw supplicants in the waiting rooms of highly-placed officials several times during his stay in the spring of 1978. The direct appeal for financial aid to an individual is not regarded as in any way improper. The creation of a ministry to administer social assistance did lead to the establishment of certain criteria to be met if a person is to be eligible for state aid. In the case of women, spinsters aged 40 or over, separated or deserted women, divorced and widowed women can qualify. (State social aid is extended to men in cases of illness, disability, and senility; aid is given to children in cases of illegitimacy or to orphans.)

The establishment of the centres and units made it possible to determine specific needs in each individual case right at the origin and to extend public help in a well-directed fashion. This aid consists of a monthly payment of from 225 to 675 dirhams. Furthermore, there is an official governmental effort to develop further sources of income for women in the field of handicrafts, the women's traditional field of work.


In the Emirates the strong female cultural heritage in traditional handicrafts is disappearing with the introduction of manufactured goods and the rapid economic development of the country. At present only the women's organizations under the direction of Sheikah Fatima bint Mubarak, the wife of Sheikh Zayed, are consciously preserving, revitalizing, and supporting women's handicrafts. Hitherto, these handicrafted goods were used in the home of the maker and marketing was of secondary importance. The products were and still are primarily clothing, blankets and rugs, camel harness and riding equipment, bags, palm-fibre products for the household (food covers, food mats, baskets), and ceramics.

In 1977 the government of the UAE and the UNDP signed a contract establishing a Women's Handicraft Centre. While the federal government finances the project, the United Nations Development Programme supplies primarily technical and organizational help. The main goal is explained by UNDP:

The main objective of this project is to assist the Government of the United Arab Emirates in the implementation of its policy on social and economic development, especially that part of the development programme which concerns women. The project will concentrate on creating job opportunities for women at present living on social welfare schemes by developing their handicraft skills, possibly within a co-operative organizational framework comprising production, marketing and supply. [UNDP, Part II, p. 1.]

By means of the market-oriented production of handcrafted goods, the government of the UAE hopes to enable individuals and groups to develop economically by their own efforts and with governmental help:

This project is designed for implementation with the framework of popular participation by assisting an economically weak group to acquire productive skills which can be applied for the welfare of the whole society. [Ibid, p. 2.]

The Handicraft Centre is located in Abu Dhabi Town and functions as a pilot project and a demonstration centre for social development. Mrs. Mona Prytz, I LO expert and adviser in women's handicrafts, has the task of introducing new designs and new methods and tools and of teaching the local women to run the centre after the trial period has been completed. She will organize the sale of the products in cooperation with the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs

Information obtained from Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 1978, and an ILO expert at UNDP office, Abu Dhabi, and will create an extension service. The present lack of trained personnel in the Social Development Centres limits their functions to the free distribution of raw materials to those interested in doing crafts and to the buying of handcrafted products.

4. Measures Designed to Guarantee the Continuation of Animal Husbandry in the Rural Bedouin Regions of Abu Dhab;

Until 1966 the traditional economic pursuits of the local populations of Abu Dhabi were largely camel herding along horizontally ordered migration routes; the cultivation of date gardens in oases; and such supplementary economic activities as pearl diving, slave trading, and seasonal labour in neighbouring states.

The coexistence of camel herding and cultivation of date palms was a special feature of the lives of most of the bedouin population of the emirate (Lorimer 1915; Heard-Bey 1974;Wilkinson 1977). The traditional economic habits and the seasonal mobility of the migratory groups, whose members were generally related to one another, enabled the bedouins to exploit the ecological conditions of Abu Dhabi and to secure their livelihoods. The regional movements through different production areas at the same time maintained the spatial unity of the elementary functions of "work" and "habitation." Figure 12 shows the traditional organization of the annual migration movements and the locations of production for the Al Dhafrah region which constitutes the Bani Yas tribal land.

The continuation of their traditional economic and social habits and patterns by some of the population was evident immediately following the occupation of the first new settlements in the rural bedouin areas. For example, the inhabitants of al-Wathba, founded 1972, continued to practice nomad animal husbandry and their new community was regarded as a temporary place of settlement. Those new settlers who took jobs and who commuted to the urban areas drastically reduced the number of animals they owned for they were no longer needed. The reduction in the number of livestock in the grazing areas reduced the distances covered by those who still took part in nomadic movements. Official support for bedouins in the granting of jobs resulted in the final abandonment of nomad animal husbandry by new settlers. The result was a general decline in animal breeding though it was not given up entirely. While the camel completely lost its importance as a means of transportation and as a source of skins, hair, and fuel, its great value to the diet of new settlers in the rural bedouin areas remains undiminished. Camel milk was the main staple in the diet of nomads in the traditional economy and culture and although it has lost its traditional importance, it is still valuable to the sedentary population. Traditionally camel of the Dhafrah Region, Abu Dhabi Emirate milk was regarded as a source of energy and indispensable for the preservation of good health. In view of this the government now permits every bedouin family that settles in an urban area to keep a camel.

FIG. 12. Traditional Migration Routes of the Bedouin Population

In the new settlements young animals and milk animals are generally kept in stalls and pens made of various materials between and behind the low-cost houses. Other animals are led to the traditional grazing grounds to be d fed. The animals are not herded continuously, but the new settlers drive out to the grazing grounds in their jeeps at least once a week to check on their animals. Besides camels, residents of new settlements also keep sheep and goats. Unlike camels which are slaughtered only for special occasions such as weddings, these animals provide the daily needs in meat and, in addition, produce milk. The new settlers generally care for their animals themselves, but they sometimes delegate these tasks to hired herders from Oman. Fodder is purchased at markets in Abu Dhabi and al-Ain, or it is grown at one of the new agricultural projects or on the agricultural plots at al-Ain.

The emirate's animal husbandry policy has four objectives. The government is encouraging a smooth transition of the bedouin population from its traditional economic pursuits to new occupations. It seeks to cover the population's meat and milk needs as inexpensively as possible (meat prices have risen more than 80 per cent in the past four years). The government is also attempting to preserve one of the bedouin's sources of income and, finally, it is trying to combat the desertion of the rural bedouin areas.

The following measures have been taken to encourage animal husbandry.

a. A yearly feed subsidy of 200 dirhams is paid for every camel, and one of 60 dirhams for every goat and sheep (information from Department of Agriculture, al-sin and Abu Dhabi).

b. Watering places are being developed and maintained in the rural bedouin areas and water is supplied by diesel fuelled pumps. In 1978 the first solar-powered pump, for which very little maintenance is required, was in stalled near Beda Zayed.

c. The cultivation of animal feed is being subsidized and chemical fertilizers have been available free of charge since 1969 for fields on which alfalfa is grown.

5. Measures Designed to Preserve and Expand the Amount of Cultivated Land in the Rural Bedouin Areas

As indicated above, the goal of the emirate is to help the bedouin population adjust to a new way of life by means of a process in which new elements are continually added while traditional elements are retained. Local and federal goals include the production of agricultural goods based on demand and using all the local natural resources available, and the diversification of native sources of income. Prices of fresh vegetables have risen by more than 100 per cent in the last four years and this adds a great financial burden to the individual household since fruit and vegetables make up an essential part of the diet.

In the rural bedouin areas of Abu Dhabi the bedouin population is able to intensify and expand agricultural activity while it maintains the traditional scheme of economic and cultural values. Modifications are achieved by means of changes in agricultural machinery, cultivation methods, or production goals.

The government's measures are directed at the traditional cultivated zones, the al-sin area, and the Liwa, and at the development of land that can be used for agricultural purposes.


Every native inhabitant can be granted one agricultural plot by the government. The property can be acquired through application to Sheikh Zayed, to members of the royal family, or to the responsible government agencies. Statistics for the period 1970 to 1977 show a decided increase in the number of farms in the al-sin area (table 19).

Discussions in the Agriculture Department in al-sin and interviews in the new settlements along the al-sin Expressway reveal that many settlers have already taken the opportunity to acquire title to a piece of land. The parcels, which are not uniform in size but average three hectares each, are granted free of charge. The owners of the parcels receive subsidies for the cultivation of their plots (table 20).

Where the owner of a parcel must contribute partially to the costs! the government extends liberal conditions and credit. In the al-sin area, support and assistance for the farms is provided by 10 Agricultural Centres which are similar to the Extension Units of the Agricultural Ministry of the United Arab Emirates. Dates, vegetables, and feed crops are cultivated on the new farms; the owner decides whether he will engage in monoculture or polyculture and whether to produce for his own use or for the market. Newly settled bedouins grow date palms in addition to a variety of vegetable and feed crops. Dates represent now, as in the past, one of the staples in the bedouin's diet. Irrigation is usually carried out by means of diesel pumps; the traditional system of irrigation ditches is still dominant and

* Information from the Department of Agriculture, al-Ain, 1978.

TABLE 19. Number of Farms in the al-sin Area

1970 287
1971 320
1972 335
1973 364
1974 395
1975 476
1976 543
1977 610

Source: Unpublished material, Department of Agriculture, al-Ain, 1978.

TABLE 20. Field Service and Distribution of Costs in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi

Purpose of subsidy Bearer of costs
Work with the soil x  
Fencing 50% 50%
First pump x  
Every additional pump 50% 50%
Fertilizer 50% 50%
Seed and seedlings x  
Insecticides/pesticides x  
Use of machinery x  
Professional advice and help x  

Sources: Al-Otalba 1973; Department of Agriculture, al-sin and

Abu Dhabi, 1978. requires the use of large amounts of water. The Agricultural Centres are making efforts to introduce new, water-saving irrigation systems. The seed and seedlings distributed by the centres have undergone several years of testing in the government's own Arid Lands Research Centre on Sadiyat and in the Centre Experimental Agricole in Maziad (al-Ain). They have been successfully adapted to the ecological conditions of the area and to the habits of the consumer.

The owners of these parcels of land do not usually work themselves but use their strong financial position to employ farmhands for a monthly wage of 1,000 to 15,000 dirhams. The owner's activities are limited to supervising the farm, to checking the personnel occasionally, and to marketing the produce by selling it to individuals, merchants, or the government in al-Ain.

In several cases, feed crops, which are especially successful in the al-sin area because of the edaphic conditions, are sold from the field to bedouins as additional fodder for the animals they raise in the new settlements. The government pays guaranteed prices regardless of differences in quality and demand and thus ensures the farmer's income even when there is a surplus of vegetables on the market. In times of a declining or short supply of vegetables, the farmer sells his products to merchants in order to maximize his profits; if the market value sinks to or below the level of the guaranteed price, the produce is sold to the government.


Traditionally the cultivation of date palms in the Liwa was vital to the bedouin population of Abu Dhabi. The date groves lost their fundamental importance with the creation of new job markets and new sources of income. Although a decline in the number of groves could have been expected, an increase in the number of gardens and an intensification of cultivation of date palms in the Liwa was observed in the spring of 1978. This is a result of governmental measures.

The government has selected sites for the new settlements of those owning date groves in the Liwa where they are located conveniently to the Liwa and to the new job sites; the settlements of Beda Zayed, Medinat Mohammed and Mafaa are examples. A road from Beda Zayed to the Liwa is under construction; it will connect the Liwa to the main traffic arteries of the emirate. The roadbed has already been laid and covered with gravel and asphalt. When it is completed, the travel time between the new settlement and Liwa will have been reduced considerably.

The government carries out excavation work and the drilling of wells in the date groves free of charge. In 1978 the government distributed for the first time 100 diesel pumps, without charge, through the Diwan in Beda Zayed. Date palm starters can be obtained free of charge from al-Bujer Garden which is maintained by the Forestry Department and is located next to Beda Zayed on the road to Liwa.

Every member of a clan, sub-tribe, or tribe with traditional ownership rights in the Liwa can, upon application, be granted a parcel of about 400x400 ft, free of charge, by the government. The parcels are granted according to traditional inner-tribal and inter-tribal patterns of land ownership.

New job opportunities and sources of income have given the owners of date groves the financial means to hire foreign workers. These are mostly Pakistani and work during the growing period. Only during the date harvest (July to September) does the owner spend a longer period with his family in the date grove in the former traditional manner. Although they usually live during this period in the traditional barastis, the portable colour television sets, refrigerators, and air conditioners they bring with them are an indication of the changes that have taken place. The harvest is used in the household of the owner and is not marketed.


The government of the emirate has been undertaking agricultural projects in the rural bedouin areas since 1974, and has intensified its efforts since 1977. The Agriculture and Forestry departments grant self-contained agricultural plots, described as farms or gardens, in the immediate neighborhood of low-cost housing settlements. The farms or gardens are divided into square parcels of from 1.5 to 3 ha (see fig. 13) and are given to the bedouins free of charge. The government bears the costs of the excavation, soil enrichment irrigation measures, fencing, and wind protection that are needed. Since the bedouin population has no experience in growing vegetables and feed crops, with the exception of the traditional date palm, government advice and assistance are necessary. Demonstrations are given of the seasonal tasks required, and seeds and seedlings, fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, and such are provided free. At the end of the demonstration period the owner of the land is expected to work the land himself and the government subsidies will be reduced to the amount normally prevailing in Abu Dhabi.

Figure 14 shows the organization of the individual parcel in a very generalized schema: date palms are planted in rows; a distance of seven metres between individual palms and between the rows is maintained to guarantee optimal growth; drip irrigation, an innovation here, is provided as being the most efficient use of water. Vegetable and feed plant beds are irrigated by main, cement-lined canals with tributary ditches leading from them. The owner is able to select types of fruit, vegetable, and feed crops from a range of plants introduced for outdoor cultivation. In 1978 one project near Medinat Mohammed produced tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, lady finger, eggplants, carrots, onions, chills, melons, and lettuce.

The projects have not been in effect long enough to permit an evaluation. However, the project begun in Sueyhan in 1974 has yielded, from parcels about 3 ha in size, a surplus beyond the needs of the owners which is sold to merchants or to the government market in al-Ain. The government plans to set up an organization that will market the surplus collectively. The initial phase has been completed for large parts of the Sueyhan project, and the responsibility for the individual plots has been turned over to the locals.

FIG. 13. Medisis Farms, 1978

FIG 14. Model of an Agricultural Plot

6. Creation of Jobs in the Rural Bedouin Areas

Abu Dhabi's financial reserves and steadily growing income from oil have led to economic development in primary production and even more so to development in secondary industries.

Traditionally the economic activities of the local population were limited for the most part to the primary sector, so that although key positions in subsidiary developments were held by Abu Dhabians (Heard-Bay 1975) most natives lacked skills for the new development projects and the need for labour was met by employing foreign workers. Thus by the end of 1977, 90 per cent of all people working in the private sector, and over 70 per cent of those in the government service, were non-natives.

As was noted above, the government authorities were unhappy with this situation and adopted a series of measures designed to integrate the native population into the development of the economic infrastructure. Thus jobs in the public service have been created for the natives although these jobs have no economic justification and were set up for purely political reasons, thereby inflating the lower levels of the public service. Such positions demand for the most part no, or very limited, job qualifications; they place no physical or intellectual demands on the job-holders; and they consist primarily of a title with no clearly defined function. These jobs include such employment categories as foreman, watchman, and driver. Nevertheless the establishment of these jobs has not drawn the native population into active participation in the country's economic development. For example, native inhabitants were dominant in only one occupational area in the Ministry of Petroleum in 1976: of the 174 drivers employed, 117 were Emiratis (Statistical Yearbook 1976, p. 11, table 12). It should be noted that these jobs were very well paid.

The population of the rural areas finds work either in the public institutions in the new settlements (schools, clinics, etc.), or by commuting: those from the eastern province going to al-Ain, and those from the central province to Abu Dhabi Town. There is a good transportation system between their settlements and the development centres so that daily commuting is not a problem.

The situation is different in the western province as the region is less well developed. Establishment of the petrochemical industry in Ruweis, however, has just begun and will create new jobs. The government is adopting measures to provide job opportunities for the people according to their training in order to create new sources of income and although, legally, these measures are valid for the emirate as a whole, they apply primarily in the western province. The measures can be illustrated by the new settlement of Beda Zayed.

Of the 71 heads of households who are employed, 79 per cent work in government offices (Divan, Municipality, Social Service, and Labour Offices) or in institutions that are part of the infrastructure (schools, the clinic, the power station, the water supply facility). Most of the jobs available in these areas, such as watchman, foreman, driver, require only limited qualifications.

Foreign firms are required by government decree to offer jobs to the bedouin population. The companies located in the western province, mainly the oil companies in Bu Hasa, Asab, Habshan, and in the off-shore area are affected. Since those seeking employment usually have no training, they are also given non-skilled jobs. A survey in Beda Zayed revealed that wages up to 4,000 dirhams per month are paid. Seven per cent of the heads of households employed from Beda Zayed work for firms in the western province.

The government permits foreign companies to own only a limited number of vehicles and therefore these firms rent from bedouins who have purchased water-tankers and trucks. An office set up by the government in Beda Zayed organizes the rental of motor vehicles on a daily or a monthly basis; maintenance and repairs must be carried out by the companies that have rented the vehicles. Furthermore, the owners of these vehicles are often also drivers and therefore draw the salary of a driver in addition to the rental fees for the vehicles themselves. Of the heads of households with jobs in Beda Zayed, 8.5 per cent are in the field of transport. One inhabitant of Beda Zayed is reported to receive 30,000 dirhams a month for the rental of three vehicles to an oil company in Bu Hasa.

The rental of vehicles to foreign firms and also to the municipality (water transport) is pronounced in the central and eastern provinces and is related to the economic development of Abu Dhabi and al-Ain. During one afternoon in May 1978, 14 tanker vehicles and 9 trucks were counted in the new settlement of al-Wathba, Central Province, a settlement of only 40 dwellings. A survey revealed that the trucks had been rented to foreign firms doing business in Abu Dhabi.

Indirect Measures Contributing to Development in the Rural Bedouin Areas

1. Government Support for Planned Construction in the Urban Areas of the Emirate

Land grants in the rural bedouin areas of Abu Dhabi have been discussed. In addition, inhabitants of the emirate can apply for grants of property in the urban areas. Petitions must be addressed to the ruler directly or to members of the royal family, who usually respond favourably. Development of the property is financed either privately or through the government.

If the prospective builder does not have the necessary financial means to develop his property, he can, on presenting his deed of ownership, apply for aid to the Supervisory Committee of Sheikh Khalifa's court, which was founded in 1976 and is responsible to the Diwan of Sheikh Zayed. In general, the committee only supports the construction of commercial buildings. It negotiates bank credit up to three million dirhams for the prospective builder. The loan is granted for a building period of six years at an interest rate of 11 per cent. The builder turns over to the bank the rental of the building and the rental fees accrued until his credit has been paid off, after which authority for the building reverts to the builder.

FIG. 15. Spatial Distribution of Ownership in the
New Market, Abu Dhabi

While the services of the Supervisory Committee can be used by all residents of the emirate, the support of the Abu Dhabi Development Finance Corporation (ADDFC) is limited to Abu Dhabians. The ADDFC, which was founded in 1972, also falls under the authority of the ruler's Diwan; its organization and responsibilities have been laid down by decree.

The ADDFC extends credit and provides assistance in the construction of commercial buildings. Repayment of the debt, for which five per cent interest is charged, begins one year after the completion of construction. The repayment period is open and depends on the financial means of the builder. Because of the current surplus in commercial buildings in Abu Dhabi, the ADDFC has stopped extending credit.

The ADDFC also builds for those who lack financial means. The ADDFC finances the building and then rents it until the accrued costs have been paid off, retaining 70 per cent of the income; 30 per cent is passed on to the builder. When the costs have been repaid, usually within five years, the building is turned over to the builder. If he leaves the rental of the building in the hands of the ADDFC, he must pay 5 per cent of the rent to the ADDFC for handling the matter. According to the ADDFC, most builders make use of this service.

There are no exact figures concerning the number of people supported by the ADDFC, but it is estimated that there are more than 300. Other institutions with similar functions are the Abu Dhabi National Bank and the Emirate's Bank.

In Beda Zayed and al-Wathba several members of the community own commercial buildings in the urban area of Abu Dhabi. These people have used, without exception, the services of the above-named institutions.

2. The Granting of Shops to Bedouins in the Markets of Abu Dhabi and al-Ain

The government has built large, self-contained markets in central locations in Abu Dhabi and al-Ain, such as the old market in Abu Dhabi with 196 shops, the new market in Abu Dhabi with 90 shops, the central market in al-sin with 60 shops, and the market at the taxi stand in al-sin with 24 shops.

Ownership of the shops has been granted to native inhabitants. Many of the shops are owned by inhabitants from the rural bedouin areas of Abu Dhabi (fig. 15). A detailed survey revealed that the owners do not, for the most part, run the shops themselves but rent them to non-residents, mainly Indians and Pakistanis. The shops are sometimes divided into three and four units to increase the rental income. Foreigners receive a business license, an essential prerequisite for operating a shop, only when they have been sponsored by a native resident. The shop owner usually demands a fee for his sponsorship as well as rent for his shop.


Since the 1930s traditional nomadism based on the camel in the area of the present United Arab Emirates has been undergoing a constantly growing crisis. This is due to the lessened importance of the camel as a means of transportation and to the loss of a supplementary economic activity, pearl fishing.

The beginning of oil production and the assumption of leadership by Sheikh Zayed have resulted in the rapid development of Abu Dhabi emirate, the home of the bedouins. The members of the government, themselves of bedouin origin, are ensuring that the bedouin tribes participate in the development of the country, although these tribes were in no way prepared for such a venture.

The development process has been very largely the work of foreigners and a decided "ethnic anomaly" exists: in Abu Dhabi, the native population made up only one-third of the total in 1978. Yet the emotional and social ties between members of the government and the bedouins are very strong and the integration of the tribes into the developmental process is a major goal of the government. It is hoped to adopt far-reaching innovations and to further development while at the same time retaining certain traditional features of the country. Thus it is intended that the native population will open up territory and ways of life previously unfamiliar to them without the risk of economic and social disorientation and decline. The government has specific settlement policies to further this aim.

Until the early 1970s the changes in the way of life in Abu Dhabi were primarily in the rural bedouin areas and they were spasmodic and slow. In the years since, government policies aimed at the integration of the bedouins have affected the entire country and the bedouin population is adapting successfully to developments throughout the country.

Contents - Previous - Next