Humankind thrives on stories, which from the beginning of time have helped us interpret the world around us. Myths may seem fantastical, but have generally evolved to explain the past, often with a basis rooted in fact. Actual happenings are embellished and added to, passed on from person to person, down the generations, to help them make sense of the present.

History is an attempt to uncover and create a factual account of the past. The history of the UAE can be traced back to the Neolithic age. How is its history being uncovered and documented? If myth and history represent different ways of looking at the past, what part can legend and myth play in uncovering our history? Where does fact meets fiction, and what is the responsibility of historians in ensuring that the true interpretation of events is portrayed?

Our speakers discuss the responsibility of historians while uncovering and retelling history.

Dr Abdulaziz Al Musallam is a poet and writer from Sharjah, and the Chairman of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage. He has worked on folklore including fairy tales, oral history and Nabati Poetry, and is considered the most popular folklore writers in the UAE. He has published three collections of poetry and nine books on culture and heritage, including Safar el Layali (1990), Baqaya el Lail (1995) and Tofolat Hob wa Salam (1998).

Bettany Hughes is a historian, writer and presenter. She has written about Socrates, Helen of Troy and the history of Istanbul, as well as presented television shows on many historical topics, most recently ancient Egypt. Her latest book, Venus & Aphrodite examines the complicated roots of Roman and Greek deities as well as what they meant to classical civilisations.

Peter Hellyer is a historian, writer and adviser at the UAE’s National Media Council. He was Executive Director from 1993–2005 of the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS), which discovered several of the UAE’s most important archaeological sites, including a pre-Islamic Christian monastery, Neolithic villages and a five-million-year-old trackway of fossil elephant footprints. He is author and editor of nearly twenty books on the UAE’s archaeology, history and environment.