IntroductionDubai is one of the fastest growing cities in the history of the world. Located in the desert of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where temperatures can reach 50? Dubai is one of the most humid locations on the planet. Yet, this small state on the Persian Gulf has undergone impressive modernisation and has developed into one of the most advanced cities in the world.Only 50 years ago Dubai was a quiet trading and pearl diving village but has since emerged as a central hub for trade, business, luxury tourism, multi-billion dollar real estate venues and air travel.
So, how was Dubai able to emerge into the global city it now is?History of Dubai and surrounding Emirates Dubai’s history has been shaped by its unique location at the Southern end of the Arabian Gulf, tucked in between sea and sand. The History of the Dubai before the colonial era still remains extremely vague due to the lack of written records until the arrival of the British in the eighteenth century. But historians are certain that there was a lack of development and low population levels. The harsh desert environment prevented sustained settling and not until the advent of oil and air conditioning in the 1960’s did the cities population rise above 100,000.Colonial DubaiThe first permanent settlement around the Dubai Creek appears to have been established sometime during the eighteenth century by the Al Bu Flash branch of the Bani Yas which was then controlled by the Qawasim. Around the same time, the Gulf began to enter the mainstream of colonial politics thanks to its strategically convenient location on the sea route between Britain and India. The British then started to make up tales of “Qawasim piracy” against British and Indian shipping.
Which led to the Royal Navy’s punitive attack against the Qawasim in 1820 leading to the death of over 7,000 troops forcing the Qawasim to surrender. The Qawasim never entirely recovered the power they once used to have.The British were warmly welcomed by the Dubai emirate leaders (the Maktoums) as a result of a significant reduction of Qawasim attacks and threats. The British then signed a series of “anti-piracy” treaties with the rulers of the varying Gulf emirates which now make up the United Arab Emirates. The Maktoums quickly began to establish Dubai as a political and economic force in the Gulf with the Granting of the British and their protection. The pearl diving industryThe Maktoums successfully managed to make Dubai a profitable state thanks to its largely flourishing pearl diving industry, which made some of the world’s finest pearls, exported to London and the rest of the world. Seeing a major chance in this Sheikh Maktoum took drastic measures, abolishing customs duty and licences for vessels in Dubai turning the entire city into a free port.
Which led to the arrival of the Iranians who established Dubai as their hub for Iranian trade, channelling massive amounts of money and merchandise through the city. However the new prosperity was not to last, and the cities continued reliance on the pearl diving industry proved fatal. The Great Depression in 1929 signalled the beginning of the end. Overseas interest on Dubai’s pearls dried up overnight. Japanese scientists discovered a reliable method for creating pearls, instantly wiping out pearl diving in Dubai and elsewhere. The effect this had on Dubai’s economy was catastrophic. Many of the cities businesses went bankrupt, the educational system collapsed and then came the food shortages.
Dubai citizens were furious and blamed their leader Sheikh Saeed. Citizens demanded that Sheikh Saeed handed over 85% of his income for public use.Political ChallengesIn 1968 the British suddenly announced that they would be withdrawing from the Gulf within three years. The ruling sheikhs, who had lived under British protection since 1820, were understandably alarmed, fearing that their tiny emirates might fall prey to much larger and more powerful states such as Saudi Arabia. Sheikh Rashid urgently requested Britain to keep its military forces in the UAE and even offering to pay for the cost of the troops themselves, however not surprisingly the request was rejected. The sheikh’s decided to unite with surrounding emirates but Qatar and Bahrain decided to go their own way leaving Abu Dhabi and Dubai, along with Sharjah, Ras al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain and Fujairah. The British believed that Sheikh Rashid would rule this country but Sheikh Rashid himself asked Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi to rule the country considering the Abu Dhabi’s larger oil reserves. Independence arrived in December 1/1971, with the newly formed country taking the name of the United Arab Emirates (the UAE).
Despite the fact that surrounding countries refused to recognize the UAE as a country the newly independent nation prospered.Oil In DubaiThe idea that Dubai is a massive oil country is often heard but is far from the truth. The UAE as a country sits on top of the world’s 5th largest discovered oil reserves and is the world’s 3rd largest oil exporter. Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum understood that compared to its neighbours (Abu Dhabi) Dubai had a limited amount of oil reserves( 1/20th compared to its neighbour Abu Dhabi). At its peak in 1991 Dubai was producing just over 400,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). However, Dubai’s time as an oil state was brief. In 1975, petroleum revenues accounted for two-thirds of the national GDP.
Today the figure is under five percent and falling. Ironically, Dubai is now unable to meet all its own fuel needs and has become a big importer of oil, while according to latest estimates the emirate’s reserves are expected to be exhausted within twenty years.Despite the modest finds, oil played a brief but vital role in the city’s development, allowing Sheikh Rashid to invest in a wide range of infrastructure projects.The rise of DubaiThe transformation into modern Dubai began with the dredging of the creek and the establishment of The Jebel Ali Port both led by Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum.
By this time the population of Dubai had topped 100,000 and over four thousand dhows were registered in the city, carrying a wide range of goods including textiles, gold and electronics. The Persian Gulf is located in the perfect location for trade connecting Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Dubai established itself as a central hub of trade with the Jebel Ali Port in 1979, which became the largest man-made harbours and the largest in the Middle East. The Jebel Ali Free Zone quickly followed in 1985 with an airport currently under construction (Al Maktoum International Airport). Dubai was now up and running.While Abu Dhabi and neighbouring countries and Emirates were busy building their economies around their vast oil reserves, Dubai was developing an economy that would be founded upon trade, business and an airline to link it to the world.But over the following years, it became increasingly apparent that it was Sheikh Rashid’s third son, current ruler Sheikh Mohammed, who was the driving force behind Dubai’s ongoing mass development.
Emirates AirlinesAnother way Dubai grew is by establishing its own massively successful airline “Emirates”. Emirates airlines were established in 1985 by the Dubai government starting out with only two aircrafts. Emirates airlines have now expanded into a hugely successful airline with over 150 destinations around the globe and an extensive fleet of over 100 Airbus A380 aircrafts(the largest operator of the Airbus A380) and Boeing 777 aircrafts(the largest operator of the Boeing 777-300er) equipped with lavish first class suites.
With over 200 aircraft orders to come, Emirates will continue to grow. Modern DubaiSheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is considered by many locals as responsible for Dubai’s next phase of development. In fact, between 2004 and 2009, Dubai has approved $40~$60 billion USD to projects such as Dubai-land, The Palm Jumeirah and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
With business sorted in Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed focused on his second objective, transforming Dubai into a tourist destination. His first move was to establish the Jumeirah group to create 5-star luxury hotels around the emirate such as the Burj Al Arab and the Arabic themed Madinat Jumeirah Resort. The Sheikh then moved on to creating attractions for tourists, which was accomplished by creating world-class shopping venues and unique massive world-class projects. Whether it was the famous gold souks or the top brand fashion boutiques, Dubai has established itself as a shopping destination. coupled with mega-projects such as The Palm, The World, the Burj Al Arab, Dubai is now placing itself on the global map beyond business but as a major tourist destination now making it in the top 5 most visited cities in the world(beaten only by London, Paris and Bangkok).
In 2002 restrictions on foreign ownership of property were lifted, meaning that expats could suddenly buy their own homes, and foreign investors could enter the local property market. A massive real estate boom ensued. Foreign money poured in and construction companies went berserk, turning large parts of the city into an enormous building site –during then it was estimated that a quarter of all the world’s cranes could be found in Dubai. At the same time, work began on Palm Jumeirah and other landmark developments including the Atlantis resort and the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building which opened in January 2010.
Why Dubai?Western investors have chosen to Dubai to establish their regional headquarters yet, with Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and other nations establishing similar plans on paper, why is Dubai still the destination of choice?The first reason would be speed. Sheikh Mohammed has impressed western investors with his speed in planning to launch. Dubai’s growth rate is so fast that it has become one of the highest in the world.
however, speed has its disadvantages such as labour abuse.Another reason would be culture. Dubai has been extremely open to westerners and Pro-Western by opening world-class restaurants and nightclubs serving alcohol in a Muslim country. Although others have tried to create similar systems they are yet to surpass Dubai’s success in collaborating with westerners.And last but not least Dubai’s attitude to change and move on. Gulf countries are well known for their non-transparent governments.
However, Dubai is attempting to change that with more transparency through ways such as an executive council. By these methods, Dubai as a city has hugely impressed westerners and has been able to attract foreign investment.Future DubaiA government study published in early 2016 suggested that the city’s population is expected to double in size, to around five million, by 2030.
Meanwhile, a string of major new developments is coming steadily, including the Dubai Canal, Deira Islands, Marsa al Seef, and the new Bluewater’s Island, home to the Dubai Eye. Many of the projects are scheduled to open in time for Dubai’s hosting of the World Expo in 2020. These include a circular Museum of the Future next to the Emirates Towers; the golden/bronze Dubai Frame (a huge picture frame-shaped building in Za’abeel Park); and the interestingly shaped Aladdin City on the Creek.
The 1200km/h Hyperloop one is supposed to connect Dubai and Abu Dhabi in approximately 10 min (currently takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes by car).Beyond DubaiDubai’s phenomenal growth over the past few decades has impressed and inspired many people from all around the world. Dubai has changed the area from a heavy oil-reliant state to a business and tourism mega hub with a truly diverse economy with expats from around the world. With its prime location for trade with the world, Dubai will surely continue to grow even bigger and continue to evolve. Nobody knows what Dubai will look like in the future.
As long as there are foreign investments and businesses the opportunities are limitless.