Brian Page Constant, Manager of the Abu Dhabi Branch of The Ottoman Bank from 1965 to 1970 recalls his days as a resident of the UAE during the third day of the "Memoirs of the Emirates through Oral Narratives" seminar in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: There were only three banks and no avenues for socialisation even until the 1970s in the UAE.

This was revealed during the final day of the National Centre for Documentation and Research's (NCDR) seminar, titled "Memoirs of the Emirates through Oral Narratives".

The seminar was held under the patronage of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the NCDR.

"I arrived in 1965 to take over, for what was supposed to be three weeks, the running of The Ottoman Bank from then manager David Gillespie, who had to return to the UK for medical treatment. I ended up staying five years. At that time, there were only three banks, ours, The British Bank of the Middle East and the Eastern Bank (now Standard Chartered). Commercial banking was minimal as much of the imports by merchants came through Dubai. There weren't even ports. The only way to load and unload anything was through the Gray Mackenzie barges on the seafront in front of the three banks," said Brian Page Constant, who was the manager of the Ottoman Bank branch in Abu Dhabi from 1965 to 1970.

Successful businesses

"When Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan took over in 1966, everything changed as Abu Dhabi was opened up. Under Shaikh Zayed's rule, commercial businesses were very successful and I'm very happy to see that it is continuing to do so," he added.

The final speakers of the seminar, however, provided a light-hearted ending to the three-day event, as they provided anecdotes of their experiences as the first female expatriates to live in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the 1960s and '70s.

"I arrived [in] Dubai in 1968 with my husband, who was stationed there as a political agent. When we arrived, electricity, running water and other amenities [were] already established. We even had a swimming pool!" said Lady Margaret Bullard.

"During our stay, I converted the agency's commercial room, which wasn't being used, into a library, which proved to be a hit. In fact, it's still there but it just moved to a new location in Jumeirah," she added.