Everyone thinks the UAE is this young, modern country, but civilisations have flourished here for millennia. That rich, little-known past is the focus of our new documentary, History of the Emirates. It spans 125,000 years, from the earliest settlements through to the 1971 unification, in themed episodes (society, innovation, trade, belief and unity). The findings are really enlightening: discoveries like the remains of a Christian monastery, Sir Bani Yas, and evidence of snake cults and sun worship, all show that diverse belief systems, tolerance and multiculturalism have been part of our DNA from the start. Coins from the ruins of one ancient city, Mleiha, suggest a dynasty of queens ruled – female empowerment, circa 200 BC. Archaeologists have been working in the region for decades, but now we have the technology to bring the history to life with unprecedented dynamism and detail. Using CGI, ground-penetrating radar scanning and drone footage, the series doesn’t just narrate how these sites looked, it visualises ruins transformed into complete, inhabited buildings on-screen. It’s groundbreaking stuff. And we’re taking that story global with an international cut narrated by Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons, airing in 80 countries, plus an interactive VR app. With Expo 2020 Dubai coming up, it’s the right moment for people to really understand the UAE’s roots.
Khalid Khouri is COO of Image Nation