Liminality: narratives of identity on Abu Dhabi’s desert islands


  • Marie-Claire Bakker
  • Mariam Yousef Alhammadi


liminality, islands, Dalmā, Abu Dhabi, transition


The coastline of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, with more than 200 islands, plays an important role in the narrative of national identity. This paper will focus on the desert island of Dalmā, exploring selected historical and contemporary oral history narratives of identity and place, bringing into focus the personal stories of these island inhabitants past and present. The numerous islands of the Arabian Gulf stand today on contested boundaries of geography, history, culture, language, and religion, and yet at the same time they have been part of a dynamic regional and global trade network stretching back millennia. Archaeological evidence points to major periodic shifts in climate, habitation patterns, and environment, resulting in the islands moving in and out of the consciousness of bordering coastal cultures. It is the ebb and flow of use, habitation, and development of these liminal spaces, from the height of the pearling economy to the discovery of oil and beyond, to the initiation of tourism and the consequent cycles of depopulation and repopulation that will be examined through a personal history.


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How to Cite

Bakker, M.-C., & Alhammadi, M. Y. (2018). Liminality: narratives of identity on Abu Dhabi’s desert islands. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 48, 13–23. Retrieved from