major part of the Dubai emirate consists of rolling sand dunes
lapping the foothills of the arid Hajar mountains in the east.
Until a decade or two ago, the dunes were inhabited by nomadic
bedouin roaming with their flocks and herds. Today the nomads
have all settled, in villages in the few fertile oases or valleys,
or else in the city.
Dubai is the product of the past 20 years of intensive development.
Prior to that, Dubai was a small trading port, clustered around
the mouth of the Creek.
had grown gradually from a fishing village inhabited in the 18th
century by members of the Bani Yas tribe. Its origins, however,
go back into the far more distant past. The townís museum displays
a rich collection of objects found in graves of the first millenium
BC at nearby Al-Qusais, while a caravan station of the sixth century
AD was excavated in the expatriate suburb of Jumairah.
village really began to grow in the early 19th century, when some
800 members of the Bani Yas tribe, the Al Bu Falasah, moved north
and settled in Dubai.
lacked the productive hinterland of Abu Dhabi, with its fertile
oases of Liwa and Al Ain - its inhabitants were committed to life
on the coast, and looked to the sea for their living. They based
their livelihood on fishing, pearling and sea trade.
the turn of the 20th century Dubai was a sufficiently prosperous
port to attract settlers from Iran, India and Baluchistan, while
the souk on Deira side was thought to be the largest on the coast,
with some 350 shops. The facilities for trade and free enterprise
were enough to make Dubai a natural haven for merchants who left
Lingah, on the Persian coast, after the introduction of high customsí
dues there in 1902. These people were mostly of distant Arab origin
and Sunni, unlike most Persians, and naturally looked across to
the Arab shore of the Gulf finally making their homes in Dubai.
They continued to trade with Lingah, however, as do many of the
dhows in Dubai Creek today, and they named their district Bastakiya,
after the Bastak region in southern Persia.
a flourishing Indian population had also settled in Dubai and
was particularly active in the shops and alleys of the souk. The
cosmopolitan atmosphere and air of tolerance began to attract
other foreigners too: by the 1930s, nearly a quarter of the 20,000
population was foreign, including 2,000 Persians, 1,000 Baluchis,
many Indians and substantial communities from Bahrain, Kuwait
and the Hasa province in eastern South Arabia. Some years later
the British also made it their center on the coast, establishing
a political agency in 1954.
international trade which flowed from Dubaiís cosmopolitan contracts
was the basis of rapidly increasing prosperity. This gave the
city an early start in development before the beginning of oil
production in the late 1960s. Like the other towns along the coast,
Dubai had been severely affected by the decline of the pearling
industry, due to competition in the 1930s from Japanese cultured
pearls, and by the drop in trade in the Second World War. But
Dubai contacts and mercantile skills increased resilience and
the ability to profit from favourable conditions for entrepot
trade with Persia and India after the 1939-45 war.
successful early development was due in large part to the foresight
of Dubaiís rulers. During the 20th century the city has benefited
from the stabilizing influence of two exceptionally long rules:
that of H H Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum from 1912 to 1958, followed
by that of his son, H H Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed al-Maktoum. For
many years prior to his fatherís death in 1958 Shaikh Rashid has
played a leading role in directing the state. Since then he has
guided Dubai in its expansion from a small, old-world town to
a modern state with excellent communication, and industrial infrastructure,
and all the comforts of contemporary life. Since 1980 Shaikh Rashid
has played a background role due to ill health but his four sons
have continued his policies in exactly the same mould.
this development has been greatly facilitated by the discover
of oil and its production from the 1960s, oil revenues in Dubai
have always been a fraction of those in Abu Dhabi, so Dubaiís
growth has always depended partly on the inhabitantsí own entrepreneurial
Abu Dhabi or Sharjah, Dubai has only one substantial town. While
the emirate of Dubai covers 3,900 square kilometers, the population
(estimated at 889,518 in 1990) is largely concentrated in Dubai
town. This has enhanced the popularity of a number of oases which
provide a welcome break at weekends from the competitive commercial
life of the city. The emirate is mainly desert, with sand dunes
ranging from near white along the coast to a deep orange inland
near the mountains, and in places dotted with a scrub of desert
bushes and even some large trees.
one-and-a-half hour drive along a good asphalt road leads to Hatta,
most easterly of Dubaiís territories. This pleasantly green valley,
is a small enclave in the dramatic, arid Hajar mountains and is
completely surrounded by land belonging to Oman, to Ajman and
to Ras al-Khaimah. Here, the charming Hatta Fort Hotel in its
beautiful gardens gives a warm welcome to visitors.
to Dubai, and only about 20 kilometers inland, are the twin oases
of Khawanij and Awir. These oases, which can be reached in 25
minutes from the town center, lie in attractively wooded dune
lands. They have been extensively developed over the past 20 years
and boast fine country houses with superb gardens for some of
Dubaiís leading families. The districtís ample water supply has
enabled local enthusiasts to create garden so lush and colourful
that the visitor finds it hard to believe that this is still Arabia.
emirateís largest urban development outside Dubai city is, however,
the industrial complex of Jebel Ali, 20 kilometers southwest along
the coast. The government has built the largest man-made harbour
in the world, with a dredged deepwater approach channel stretching
far out to sea, and to create a complete industrial complex it
has established such major undertakings as an aluminium smelter
and gas separation plant, as well as a residential village of
more than 300 houses.
is the arabic word for market or place where any kind of goods
are brought or exchanged. Trditionally, dhows from the Far East,
China, Ceylon, India would discharge their cargos and the goods
would be bargained over in the souks adjacent to the docks.
the years the items on sale have changed dramatically from spices,
silks and perfumes to include electronic goods and the latest
in consumer items.However, the atmosphere of the bustling market
with noisy bargaining and friendly rivalry remains.
fish souk in Deira is an attraction by itself. Early morning and
late nights, local fishermen unload mountains of fresh fish which
they then sell in a frenzied bargaining session. King fish, red
snapper, rock cod, barracuda, tuna, lobster, crab, king prawn,
seabream, squid, pomfret, shark, mackerel, sardine and other species
are available in abundance for most of the year.