Earliest known sketch of Abu Dhabi uncovered in archives


A new sketch of Abu Dhabi was just uncovered, showing a rare glimpse into the desert port before it became a super city. The sketch which reveals its most humble beginnings as a desert outpost, with tower to guard the island’s water resources is a sharp reminder of how quickly cities and empires can be built out of nothing. I see this sketch also as forewarning – a sign showing us that we need to think more in terms of lasting outcomes and sustainability before towering super cities take over our horizons.

The sketch was found last year when Liza Rogers working at the archives of the National Maritime Museum in London was looking around for documents relating to the history of Qatar. She opened the sketchbook of a leather-bound collection by R W Whish thinking she might see something there on Qatar.

To her surprise she found a faint, 155-year-old pencil sketch depicting a horizon, light cloud, a fort, some towers and the masts of several ships in the harbour. The sketch was sub-headed: “Aboothubbi, HMS Mahi, 3½ fms”.

While not considered a great work of art, it sheds light onto the early history of Abu Dhabi which has erected itself quite literally out of the sand in the last 100 years or so.

Abu Dhabi skyline today


There isn’t much historical documentation of Abu Dhabi, evaluators of the sketch say.

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