In ancient times, Al Hasa (today's Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) was part of Al Bahreyn and adjoined Greater Oman (today's UAE and Oman).From the second century AD, there was a movement of tribes from Al Bahreyn towards the lower Gulf, together with a migration among the Azdite Qahtani (or Yamani) and Quda'ah tribal groups from south-west Arabia towards central Oman. In 637, Julfar (in the area of today's Ra's al-Khaimah) was an important port that was used as a staging post for the Islamic invasion of the Sassanian Empire.The spread of Islam to the North Eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is thought to have followed directly from a letter sent by the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, to the rulers of Oman in 630 AD, nine years after the hijrah.

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The harsh desert environment led to the emergence of the "versatile tribesman", nomadic groups who subsisted due to a variety of economic activities, including animal husbandry, agriculture and hunting.

The seasonal movements of these groups led to not only frequent clashes between groups but also the establishment of seasonal and semi-seasonal settlements and centres.

The country is a federation of seven emirates, and was established on 2 December 1971.

The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain.

The land of the Emirates has been occupied for thousands of years.

Stone tools recovered from Jebel Faya in the emirate of Sharjah reveal a settlement of people from Africa some 127,000 years ago and a stone tool used for butchering animals discovered at Jebel Barakah on the Arabian coast suggests an even older habitation from 130,000 years ago.

By the 17th century, the Bani Yas confederation was the dominant force in most of the area now known as Abu Dhabi.

The Portuguese maintained an influence over the coastal settlements, building forts in the wake of the bloody 16th-century conquests of coastal communities by Albuquerque and the Portuguese commanders who followed him – particularly on the east coast at Muscat, Sohar and Khor Fakkan.

The earliest Christian site in the UAE was first discovered in the 1990s, an extensive monastic complex on what is now known as Sir Bani Yas Island and which dates back to the 7th century.