Peter Hellyer first came to Abu Dhabi in 1975 to record a documentary about the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The cultural and the media community in the UAE has mourned the death of author, columnist and cultural historian Peter Hellyer, who died Sunday evening in Abu Dhabi after a struggle with illness.

Hellyer leaves behind a valuable legacy in the field of archaeological excavation and discovery of historical sites in the country, along with a large collection of literature on various topics.

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Hellyer came to Abu Dhabi in 1975 to record a documentary about the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He loved the Emirates and lived here for more than 45 years, during which he worked as a journalist, historian and consultant in the field of oil and gas.

Author of several books on the UAE

He also authored several books on topics related to the environment and the rich archaeological heritage of the UAE.

He also had a great passion for archaeology, and he was the founding partner and director of the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, which was able to discover a number of important archaeological sites in the UAE, which contributed to revealing the hidden past.

He also participated in a project to conduct an archaeological excavation on Sir Bani Yas Island at the archaeological site of a 1,400-year-old monastery, one of the oldest Christian archaeological discoveries in the region, which received high attention and appreciation at the global level.

His dedication and devotion to this land and its people was evident through his commitment to protecting the environment and history in this country at a time when it was witnessing rapid progress and development.


In honour of his sincere efforts, he was awarded the Abu Dhabi Prize in 2013.

Hellyer, who was 75, began a decades-long association with the UAE in the 1970s when he moved to the country to develop documentaries about the overseas visits of the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

He later helped establish the English-language service of Wam news agency, as well as head of foreign language radio broadcasting for Abu Dhabi and served as managing editor of the Emirates News Newspaper. He was a long-term information adviser to the National Media Council.

He was awarded citizenship for services to the nation and in 2013 received an Abu Dhabi the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a civilian in the emirate, for his work in identifying key archaeological sites in the UAE.

This included the discovery in the 1990s of a Christian monastery on Sir Bani Yas island.

Hellyer’s death was confirmed by his family and tributes have been pouring in on social media.


Condolence session

In the presence of Sheikh Salem bin Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of Culture and Youth, a condolence session was held in Al Bateen Hall at the Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi at 6pm on Monday, to mourn the death of Peter Hellyer, journalist, researcher and historian in the field of archaeology and the environment in the Emirates, who passed away in Sunday.

The condolence session was attended by a large number of journalists, researchers and writers from the cultural and media community, besides friends and colleagues.

Condolences will be received for three days starting today.

The burial ceremony of the deceased was held after the Asr prayer on Monday at the Bani Yas cemetery mosque. The ceremony was attended by a large number of friends and colleagues.

Rich tributes paid

Ian Fairservice, managing partner of Motivate Media Group, said, “It is unbelievably sad news that we have lost such a friend and wonderful colleague in Peter Hellyer. We worked together for many years, on so many projects and his contribution in terms of researching and recording our region’s heritage and culture is incalculable. Certainly, Motivate and our archives and library owe Peter gratitude - as do I for his personal support and encouragement. I was privileged to count him as one of my closest friends for over 30 years. It’s surely a comfort that generations to come will continue to learn from the knowledge and understanding of the Arab world that Peter Hellyer shared through his insightful work as a writer, editor and documentary maker.”

The Emirates News Agency (WAM) also mourned the death of the veteran Emirati chronicler.

Hellyer, along with Ibrahim Al Abed, significantly contributed to establishing the Emirates News Agency (WAM) and is considered the founder of the English-language department at WAM. He wrote many books on the environment and the rich archaeological heritage in the UAE and worked as a journalist, historian and consultant in the field of oil.