Abu Dhabi Uni team catalogues early expat history in the region

Published:  7 May at 6 PM
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A team of students from Khalifa University along with expat and local volunteers are exploring Abu Dhabi’s non-Moslem Cemetery to find out more about the early expat history of the emirate. The Sas al Nakhi graveyard holds the remains of literally hundreds of residents, from Indian workers, army personnel and Chinese labourers to expatriates from the West who helped put the oil and gas-rich region on the world map. The many infant graves date back to a time when infant mortality was high due to a lack of sophisticated medical attention.

Led by Dr Athol Yates, an assistant professor at the university, the team are hoping to find out more about those buried in the cemetery in order to design an online map allowing viewers to click on a grave and view details of the deceased. For example, Roland Pope was born in 1924, joined the British Army and worked his way up to become a senior commander in the Abu Dhabi Defence Force. He died due to a helicopter crash in 1976 and was buried in the cemetery.

Another grave marks the resting place of Margaret McKay, a former UK politician who became a champion for the rights of Palestinians. After moving to Abu Dhabi in the late ’70s, she was befriended by Sheikh Zayed and died in 1996. Some 500 Abu Dhabi expat residents are buried in the cemetery, with 250 graves now identified, with the team checking church records, pastoral listings and death certificates. It’s believed use of the land was granted by Abu Dhabi’s then ruler in the 1960s, managed by the Anglican Church and served as a final resting place for Hindus and Buddhists as well as Christians up until its closure in 2012. .
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