Abu Dhabi is known as the political capital of the United Arab Emirates, and has held that position for the 39 years that the country has existed. But it wasn’t supposed to be that way. Under Article 9 of the UAE Constitution, signed on 18 July 1971, an Emirate-neutral federal capital (in the spirit of the District of Colombia) was supposed to be established on the border of Abu Dhabi and Dubai:
1. The Capital of the Union shall be established in an area allotted to the Union by the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the borders between them and it shall be given the name ”Al Karama”.
2. There shall be allocated in the Union budget for the first year the amount necessary to cover the expenses of technical studies and planning for the construction of the Capital. However, construction work shall begin as soon as possible and shall be completed in not more than seven years from the date of entry into force of this Constitution.
3. Until the construction of the Union Capital is complete, Abu Dhabi shall be the provisional headquarters of the Union.
Al Karama was never build, and Abu Dhabi stayed on as the capital of the UAE until 1994, when it was recognized as the permanent capital of the nation. The plan for a federal capital independent of any Emirate has been scrapped, but there are a few relics of the plan still to be found. Take for example the telephone areas codes of the UAE. The 02, 03 and 08 area codes are for Abu Dhabi; 04 is for Dubai; 05 is for mobiles; 06 is for Sharjah and Ajman; 07 for Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah; and 09 is Fujairah. The 01 area code was, and remains, reserved for Al Karama phone numbers.