If you pay a visit to UAE’s major cities such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi, the well-developed city infrastructure and ultra-modern urban architecture you witness might leave you with the impression that the UAE is an old nation and has come a long way to reach this extent of development. The truth, however, is otherwise. The country we know today as the United Arab Emirates was born in 1971. Being a relatively young nation with deep roots in the rich Arabian culture, the UAE has many fresh stories to share, one of which being the history of its flag. What does it symbolize? When did it come to be? Who designed it? In this article, we are going to review the history of the UAE flag. Read on to find the answer to these questions.
A Brief Summary of the UAE’s History
After long years of war over the control of trade routes in the waters of Oman sea, the British government intervened and signed a truce in 1820, known as the General Maritime Treaty, with the coastal tribes residing in southeastern Arabia. These tribal confederacies that had signed protective treaties with the British government, were eventually known as the Trucial States of the Coast of Oman. The Trucial States represented themselves with a red and white flag; a white stripe in the middle and two red stripes above and below it. In the center of the flag was also a green seven-pointed star representing the seven sheikhdoms.
Further treaties and agreements were signed between the British government and also among the Trucial States themselves. Over time, smaller sheikhdoms joined their larger neighbors and this way, the emirates originated gradually. In 1960, the discovery of oil in the region prompted the emirates to join each other and form a unified nation.
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the ruler of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, led the unification movement and in 1971, when the truce with the British government was abolished, six of the emirates allied with each other and formed the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Zayed became the first president of the country. The seventh emirate, Ras Al Khaymah, joined the union in 1972.
Since the birth of the country, Al Maktoum and Al Nahyan royal families have put a lot of effort into the growth of the UAE. They are now the most prominent royal families of the UAE and are rulers of the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi (read our guide to royal families of the UAE to learn more).
History of the UAE Flag
On the 2nd day of December, 1971, the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Umm Al Quwain, and Ajman united under one flag and formed the United Arab Emirates. In order to depict the unity of the emirates, a new national flag was designed featuring the Pan-Arab colors red, green, white, and black. On December 2nd, the UAE National Flag was raised for the first time by the nation’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
This momentous event has been commemorated every year since 1971 by the people of the UAE. The government has declared December the 2nd a public holiday called the UAE National Day. On the UAE National Day, the country goes vibrant with a plethora of fun and joy when everyone celebrates the independence of the nation. If you are curious to know what goes on during this public holiday, read our article “Things to Do on the UAE National Day” to learn more.
Now that you know a brief history of the nation and the UAE flag, let’s review a number of interesting facts about this flag:
- Shape of the UAE Flag
The UAE flag is a rectangle with a length twice its width. It consists of four rectangular stripes, each with a distinct color. The vertical stripe is red and fills the left segment of the flag. The three horizontal stripes constitute the rest of the flag and are arranged horizontally with the green one on the top, white in the middle, and black below.
- Designer of the UAE Flag
The UAE flag was designed by Abdullah Mohammed Al Maaniah in 1972. He was only 19 years old back then! Two months prior to the unification of the emirates and birth of the UAE, Al Diwan Al Amiri (The Rulers Court) of Abu Dhabi sponsored a competition for designing a national flag for the UAE. An advertisement announcing the competition was published in Abu Dahbi’s Al Ittihad newspaper.
The young Abdullah saw the announcement and decided to join the competition. More than a thousand designers participated in the competition among whom only 6 designs made it to the short-list. Ultimately, the authorities chose Abdullah’s design. Fun fact, Abdullah was not informed that his design had been selected! He found out when he went to the royal palace of Abu Dhabi to watch the rising of the flag. When Sheikh Zayed raised the flag for the first time in 1971, Abdullah realized that he had won the competition. Several months after the announcement of the UAE independence, he was recognized by the authorities and received a prize money of 4000 riyals.
Later, Abdullah became a UAE ambassador for many foreign regions. In 2011, he had an interview with The National newspaper in which he explained how he was inspired to come up with the design of the UAE flag. To him, black was a representation of the oil that ran beneath the land and transformed the UAE, green was a reflection of prosperity and fertility, and the red and white were the main colors used in the flag of each of the emirates.
- The UAE Presidential Flag and the UAE Emblem
There are not any shapes or emblems on the UAE flag. However, there is a special version of the flag that carries the UAE emblem. Only the president of the UAE is allowed to carry this version of the flag and that’s why it is called the UAE presidential flag.
The UAE emblem that the presidential flag features is a falcon with open wings holding onto a parchment on which the Arabic name of the nation is transcribed. The UAE’s official emblem was originally a golden hawk with a circular red shield along with seven stars and a white Arabian sailboat in the front. However, the emblem changed in 2008 and the red shield was replaced with a circular UAE flag encircled by seven stars (representations of the seven emirates of the UAE).
History and Meaning of the UAE Flag Colors
Before the unification of the seven emirates of the UAE, each emirate had their own specific flag. After the UAE’s declaration of independence, the four-colored UAE flag became the national flag of all the emirates. However, the emirates still retain their traditional flag and fly it usually right next to the national flag. In many cities, though, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, only the national flag is displayed in order to depict the solidarity of the nation.
The major feature of the UAE flag is the Pan-Arab colors. Pan-Arabism is an ideology stating that Arabian nations, constituting the western Asian and north African countries, are actually a single nation and should, therefore, unite. The Pan-Arab colors are black, white, green, and red; each representing a certain aspect of Arabian history and Culture.
The Arabian history can be divided into separate periods each characterized by the ruling dynasty of the time, also called caliphate. Every Arabian caliphate represented themselves with a specific color. Black was the dynastic color of the Abbasid caliphate while white represented the Umayyad and Fatimid caliphates. Rashidun caliphate represented themselves with green color (the color associated with Islam religion) and red was the dynastic color of choice for Hashemite caliphate.
These colors had always been used separately and in various designs by different Arabian nations before 1916. In 1916, however, British diplomat Mark Sykes combined these four colors and designed a flag for the Arab forces battling the Ottoman empire. The four-colored flag was famously known as the Flag of Hejaz. The Flag of Hejaz is the origin of many current flags of the Arabian nations. Such is also the case for the four-colored flag of the UAE.
The colors of the UAE flag are also reflect the characteristics of Arab people. Inspired by these characteristics, the prominent Iraqi poet Safi al-Din al-Hilli wrote this poem in the 13th century:
“We are people whose character refuses, for honor, to cause harm to those who do not harm us. White (pure) are our deeds, black are our battles, green are our field, red (bloody) are our swords.”
Today, with all the facts taken together, the UAE flag colors are interpreted as follows:
- Red: The only vertical stripe of the UAE flag binds together all of the other colors and means “together in unity”. The red color represents strength, hardiness, bravery, and courage. It perfectly reflects the sacrifices that had to be made by the previous generations to lay the foundation of the union. Red also depicts the nation’s strong allegiance to prophet Mohammed and the religion of Islam.
- Green: It is a representation of growth, prosperity, and progress. The green stripe of the UAE flag reflects the country’s natural resources and honors its agricultural heritage.
- White: The central bar of the UAE flag is a symbol of peace and charity. It reflects the nation’s pure intentions and charitable acts.
- Black: The lower stripe of the UAE flag is a representation of courage and power. Black reflects the Emirati might and is a symbol of rejecting injustice.
The UAE Flag Day
In 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s prime minister and Emir of Dubai, declared November the 3rd the UAE Flag Day. On this day, gigantic UAE flags are raised across the nation to commemorate the appointment of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the first president of the UAE. Every year on the anniversary, citizens, organizations, and ministries hoist the UAE flag simultaneously and demonstrate the unity of the nation. The UAE Flag Day is not a public holiday though. Check out our list of UAE public holidays for 2022 to learn about your off days.
Rules Regarding the Display of the UAE Flag
If you are a resident of the UAE and want to fly a UAE flag, there are several unofficial and official rules you better know about. If you stroll the streets of the cities in the UAE, you’ll see that every UAE flag flying around every residential home you come across looks brand new. This is the result of an unofficial law stating that those who fly the national flag in their homes should check it every 45 days and make sure it is not damaged. This law is not enforced strictly but all the UAE residents abide by it.
Aside from the unofficial law that obliges the citizens to check their flags every 45 days, there is also an official law stating that any UAE national flag on official display must be changed every 6 months. This ensures that all the publicly displayed UAE flags remain in good condition.
This concludes the history of the UAE flag. The story behind the national flag of the United Arab Emirates is one of the many tales the country has to share. The nation’s history is full of ups and downs and yet, it has achieved a lot in the short period of time that has passed since the country’s birth. From the unification of the seven emirates in the early 1970s until now, the UAE has reached the highest levels of social, economic, and technological development.
The country’s most recent hallmark of growth, however, is the acknowledgment of the importance of diversity and inclusiveness by its government. This led to the institution of new nationality laws (we have covered all about the new UAE nationality law in another article) with the aim of attracting the brightest minds and talents from all around the globe to contribute to the nation in any way they can.
Thanks to the new UAE nationality laws, foreigners can now become UAE citizens by offering their talents or through investment. If you want to become a UAE national and benefit from the myriad useful perks that come with owning the nation’s passport, you can start by buying property in the UAE. Our team at dxboffplan.com can guide you through every step of your purchase.