Dubai City, United Arab Emirates
Capital of the emirate of Dubai and second city of the UAE, Dubai City is considered the most vibrant city in the Gulf. Located on the coast in the northeast of the country, its prosperity is built on oil wealth. With its natural harbour, Dubai has long been an important commercial and trading centre and is increasingly promoted as a tourist destination.
Dubai Museum holds a collection of artefacts found in graves dating from the first millennium BC at nearby Al-Qusais. A caravan station dating from the 6th century AD has been excavated in the city suburb of Jumairah. Like neighbouring Abu Dhabi, the area came under Portuguese commercial domination in the early 16th century and then under British hegemony from the 18th. At that time the settlement at Dubai was a small port and fishing village inhabited by members of the Bani Yas tribe (who had also settled in Abu Dhabi). The Dubai and Abu Dhabi branches of the Bani Yas split in the first half of the 19th century, forming two dynastic lines from which the current ruling families (al-Maktoum and al-Nahyan) are descended.
Lacking the fertile hinterland of Abu Dhabi (with its oases of Liwa and Al-Ain), Dubai’s inhabitants looked to the sea for a living based on fishing, pearling and maritime trade. At the turn of the 20th century Dubai was sufficiently prosperous to attract settlers from Iran and the Indian subcontinent. By around 1930 nearly a quarter of its population was foreign, and such cosmopolitan links helped to cement Dubai’s reputation as the region’s principal trading centre. Like the rest of the Gulf coast, it suffered from the decline of the pearling industry from the 1930s (owing to Japanese competition) and the general drop in trade in the Second World War. However, it maintained its position as the main entrepôt of the lower Gulf. Then in the 1960s oil was discovered in the emirate, prompting intensive infrastructure and industrial development.
Having expanded along both banks of the Dubai Creek (a natural sea-water inlet which cuts through the centre of the city), Dubai’s central business district is divided into two parts—Deira on the northern side and Bur Dubai to the south, linked by two bridges and a tunnel passing under the Creek. Beyond this core, the city extends to the emirate of Sharjah to the north, and spreads south and west along the Gulf through the districts of Satwa, Jumairah and Umm Suqeim. Further west lies the coastal industrial complex and free trade zone of Jebel Ali—a project conceived and directed by Sheikh Rashid bin Said al-Maktoum in the 1970s. In Jan. 2010 the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, opened in Dubai, standing 830 metres (2,722 ft) high.
Places of Interest
Dubai has sophisticated international transport links and offers some of the best conference and exhibition facilities in the Middle East, such as the Dubai International Congress Centre (which can accommodate 10,000 delegates) and Dubai World Trade Centre. There is also extensive hotel accommodation. Tourist attractions include the Bastakia district with its old waterfront wind tower houses, the Deira souk (market), the Dubai Museum and the Heritage and Diving Villages (recreating traditional lifestyles). The Emirates-sponsored Dubai World Cup, staged in March, is the richest single-day horseracing meeting in the world. Other notable events are the Dubai Air Show, Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Fashion Week.