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Propsearch guide to Dubai

History of Dubai


1 Early Settlers

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In the Neolithic period, when the climate was wetter, people began to settle in the Gulf region. They travelled abroad and encountered other civilisations with whom they probably traded. Until recently pearling provided the local people with a livelihood, and as seafaring developed so did the trade in pearls. Present day Ra’s al-Khaimah was a major pearling centre, and with the arrival of Islam in 630CE it became an important military port as well.

2 The Trucial States

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The Portuguese, Dutch, English and Ottomans all tried to control the shipping route, resulting in continuous skirmishes that also involved local traders. In 1820, the British Government agreed a General Treaty of Peace with the sheikhs of Ra’s al-Khaimah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ajman, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi. A maritime truce was agreed whereby the British would police the Gulf waters. The seven participating emirates became known as ‘The Trucial States’.

3 The Maktoums

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1833 around 800 members of the Al bu Falasah, a branch of the Bani Yas tribe in Abu Dhabi, came and settled by the Creek in Dubai under the leadership of the Maktoum family. The Creek was a natural harbour and gradually became a centre for pearling, fishing and maritime trade, but when in the 1930s the Japanese began flooding the market with cultured pearls, the trade in natural pearls collapsed. By this time Dubai's population had grown to almost 20,000, including some 5,000 expatriates. Fortunately, oil was discovered Dubai in 1963 and oil exports began in 1969.

4 The United Arab Emirates

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In 1968 the British announced their plan to withdraw from the Arabian Gulf and in 1971 the emirates formed a new state, the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the de facto Ruler of Dubai since 1939, used the new oil revenues to develop the city’s infrastructure and improve living conditions for the people.

5 Development begins

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Dubai International Airport opened in 1960 with flights to and from India and Pakistan. Maktoum Bridge, the first permanent bridge over the creek, opened in 1963 while at the same time Port Rashid was being construct at the mouth of the Creek. The port opened in 1972 leading to a huge increase in trade, most notably the import of building materials to fuel the burgeoning construction industry. (Read more about Port Rashid by clicking this link).

6 New Dubai

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The development of ‘New’ Dubai, that is the coastal strip from Safa Park to the Abu Dhabi border, began in the 1970s. Sheikh Zayed Road, the highway running the length of Dubai, was widened several times; from dual carriageway to the present six lanes in either direction. High-rise buildings sprang up along its flanks, the first being the Nasser Rashid Lootah Building, constructed in the early 1970s. Commonly known as the Toyota building, this residential block is still standing on Sheikh Zayed Road, although its Toyota advertising board has been removed.

7 The beginning of high-rise

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In 1976 construction began on the Jumeirah Grand Mosque, and two years later the World Trade Centre tower was completed at the north end of Sheikh Zayed Road. Also in 1978 the first modern hotel, Sheraton on the Creek, welcomed its first guests in Deira. Meanwhile in Jebel Ali the huge container port was being built. It opened in 1979 as did the aluminium smelting plant alongside it.

8 Chicago Beach

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Dubai’s first beach resort, the Chicago Beach Hotel, was built in 1978 on the site where huge oil storage tanks had been constructed before being floated out to sea and submerged. The hotel was demolished in 1997 to make way for the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Two years later the world’s first seven star hotel, Burj Al Arab, opened on its own island off Jumeirah Beach.

9 Developing tourism

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In the 1980s and early 1990s, Dubai took a strategic decision to become a major international-quality tourism destination and ploughed money into its tourism infrastructure. When in 2000 the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah opened at the end of The Walk in JBR it stood alone on the sandy beach.

10 Major projects

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In 2006 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid became ruler of Dubai and pressed ahead with the emirate’s rapid expansion that he had been championing for the previous ten years. In 2001 the six-year development of Palm Jumeirah began, and in 2003 the Dubai Marina canal was completed and buildings began to appear around it. Jumeirah Beach Residence opened in 2007 as did Mall of the Emirates, followed by The Atlantis in 2008, the Dubai Metro in 2009, and Burj Khalifa in 2010.

11 Expo 2020

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In 2013 Dubai was chosen to host the 2020 Universal Exposition (Expo 2020), the catalyst for another surge in development following the sluggish revival of construction after the 2008-9 financial crisis. In 2016 the massive engineering project, Dubai Canal, was completed, linking New Dubai to the Old.

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