History of Dubai
From a fishing village to Modern-Day Metropolis.
Early Minoan period (3000 BCE to 5th century CE)
Dubai’s roots reach all the way back to the early Minoan period. The site where Dubai now lies used to be a vast mangrove swamp. By 3000BCE that swamp had dried up and become inhabitable. It is believed that Bronze Age nomadic cattle herders were the first to settle in the area. Come 2500 BCE, they had established a thriving date palm plantation and it was the first time that the site was successfully used for agriculture. Skip a couple of millennia ahead of quiet farming. During the fifth century CE, the area we now know, as Jumeirah, home to beautiful beach side restaurants; was a caravan station along the trade route linking Oman to what is now Iraq.
The Bani Yas tribe (1000 to 1700s)
The earliest mention of Dubai was recorded in 1095, in the Book of Geography by Andalusian-Arab geographer Abu Abdullah Al Bakri. Other records like the journal of Venetian pearl merchant Gaspero Balbi, dates back to 1580 when he visited the area for its pearl trade. The livelihood at the time relied heavily on fishing, pearl diving, boat building, as well as providing accommodation and sustenance for traders passing through to sell gold, spices and textiles. Today, these can be found in our souks, as perfect souvenirs to take back home. The next milestone in the history of the UAE came in 1793, when the Bani Yas tribe settled with political power in Abu Dhabi, and Dubai became a dependency.
The walled city (1800-1832)
Records show that Dubai was a walled city in the early 1800s. The Al Fahidi Fort was built around the same time Dubai became a dependency. The wall on the Bur Dubai side extended from Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood through Al Fahidi Fort, ending at the Old Souk. On the Deira side, Al Ras area was walled as well. However, in 1820, Britain negotiated a maritime truce with local rulers, meaning that the trade routes would be open and business could thrive. With this began a consistent interaction with countries from around the world, making Dubai a centre for crucial activity.
Al Maktoum dynasty (1833 to 1893)
A milestone year in Dubai’s history, Maktoum bin Butti of the Bani Yas tribe led his people to the Shindagha Peninsula at the mouth of Dubai Creek in 1833. He settled there and declared the town’s independence from Abu Dhabi. From then onwards, Dubai was regarded as a fishing village. Today, even with all the massive changes the emirate has undergone, the Al Maktoum dynasty continues to rule Dubai. Visitors can explore the city’s yesteryears with a walk along the banks of Dubai Creek. An anchor to the emirate’s heritage, the site is a hub of bustling activity with abras and boats gliding along the historic waterways.
Welcoming expatriates (1894 to 1966)
Under the Al Maktoum leadership, Dubai began to thrive remarkably. In 1894, trading in the area was given yet another boost, as new rules granted tax exemption for expatriates. This led to a huge influx in the number of foreign workers entering the city. Indian and Pakistani traders descended to Dubai, to take advantage of the excellent business conditions. While this was a reasonably successful period in Dubai’s history, it was still wholly reliant on fishing, trading and pearl diving. And when artificial pearls were invented in Japan in the 1950s, the vulnerability of the region’s economy was exposed. However, the financial downturn did not last long. In 1966, everything suddenly changed for Dubai: it struck oil.
The boom of present-day Dubai (1966 to present)
With the discovery of oil, the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum began the development of Dubai. He began transforming the city from a small cluster of settlements near Dubai Creek to a modern port, city and commercial hub. Rashid Port, Jebel Ali Port, Dubai Drydocks, the widening of the Dubai Creek, and the Dubai World Trade Centre were few of the major projects completed at the time. Leadership and vision allowed the UAE to push ahead with ambitious building and social projects. In the space of just half a century, Dubai exploded in growth, building modern wonders such as the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa, which are now very closely associated with the metropolis. As part of the city’s efforts to consistently expand, explore innovation and create opportunities, Dubai continues to plan landmark projects to attract tourists and business alike.