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History of Dubai

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From humble fishing village to modern metropolis

Dubai's roots reach all the way back to 3,000 BC when the area where Dubai now lies was a vast mangrove swamp. Bronze Age nomadic cattle herders were believed to be the first to settle in the area and by 2,500 BC, they had established a thriving date palm plantation. Fast forward to the 5th Century AD and the area now known as Jumeirah, had become a caravan station along the trade route linking Oman to what is now Iraq.

The earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095, in the Book of Geography by the Andalusian-Arab geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri. The livelihood of the area's inhabitants was based on fishing, pearl diving, boat building, and providing accommodation and sustenance for the traders, who would pass through on their way to sell gold, spices and textiles.

In 1793, the Bani Yas tribe assumed political power and settled in Abu Dhabi, with Dubai becoming a dependency. The Al Fahidi Fort was built around that time, now the site of the Dubai Museum. Under the Al Maktoum dynasty Dubai became independent and, in 1894 trading in the area was given yet another boost as new rules granting tax exemption for expatriates saw a huge influx in the number of foreign workers, with Indian and Pakistani traders descending to take advantage of the excellent business conditions.

However, the city was still 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, as in 1966 suddenly everything changed for Dubai: it struck oil.

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the then ruler, began the development of Dubai transforming the city from a small cluster of settlements near the Dubai Creek to a modern port city and commercial hub.

Major infrastructure development to support Dubai's goals to become a leading trade hub saw Rashid Port, Jebel Ali Port and Dubai Drydocks take shape, along with the widening of the Dubai Creek.

In 1971, the United Arab Emirates was formed to safeguard the area's prosperity and ensure that the vast and newly discovered riches would be distributed fairly.

Leadership and vision allowed the UAE to push ahead with ambitious building and social projects and in the space of just half a century, Dubai exploded in growth, building modern wonders such as Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah.

All information courtesy of