The earliest known human habitation in the UAE dated from 5500 BC. At this early stage, there is proof of interaction with the outside world, particularly with civilizations to the north west in Mesopotamia. These contacts persisted and became wide-ranging, probably motivated by trade in copper from the Hajar Mountains, which commenced around 3000 BC. Foreign trade, the recurring motif in the history of this strategic region, flourished also in later periods, facilitated by the domestication of the camel at the end of the second millennium BC.
By the 1st century AD overland caravan traffic between Syria and cities in southern Iraq began. Also, there was seaborne travel to the important port of Omana (present-day Umm al-Qaiwain) and then to India. These routes were an alternative to the Red Sea route used by the Romans. Pearls had been exploited in the area for millennia but at this time the trade reached new heights. Seafaring was also a mainstay and major fairs were held at Dibba, bringing in merchants from as far as China.
Advent of Islam
The arrival of envoys from the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 630 heralded the conversion of the region to Islam. After Muhammad, one of the major battles of the Ridda Wars was fought at Dibba resulting in the defeat of the non-Muslims and the triumph of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
In 637, Julfar (today Ra's al-Khaimah) was used as a staging post for the Islamic invasion of Sasanian Iran. Over many centuries, Julfar became a wealthy port and pearling center from which dhows travelled throughout the Indian Ocean especially to neighboring land of Sindh and its cities of Thatta and Debal.
Portuguese expansion into the Indian Ocean in the early 16th century following Vasco da Gama's route of exploration saw them battle Safavid Persia up the coast of the Persian Gulf. The Portuguese controlled the area for 150 years, in which they conquered the inhabitants of