Are the UAE a British colony?
Where once there was only sand and desert, today huge skyscrapers screw themselves into the sky. Hardly any other city in the world has developed as rapidly as Dubai. But how did this amazing transformation from a former fishing village into a pulsating metropolis come about? What historical events shaped the city in the centuries before the discovery of oil? We go on a journey through time and take a look at Dubai's history: We discover a city with an Arab identity that has always been an influential link between Europe and the Far East and still is today.
When does Dubai's story begin?
Hard to believe, but true: The history of Dubai goes back at least to the fourth millennium BC. Archaeological excavations show the first settlements in the Bronze Age. However, until the arrival of the Portuguese in the 17th century, who opened up important trade routes to India, no significant events were known.
Historic wind tower in the old town of Dubai
From the 18th century onwards, there were far-reaching political events along the southeast coast of the Arabian Gulf, which are still visible today. In 1793 the tribe of the Bani Yas seized political power in the region, settled in Abu Dhabi and created the emirate of the same name, which at that time also included the area around Dubai. In 1833, Sheikh Maktoum Bin Buti Al Bu Falasah settled on Dubai Creek and proclaimed Dubai's independence. The Al Maktoum dynasty is the ruling family in the Emirate of Dubai to this day.
British Influence: Dubai's History in the 18th and 19th Centuries
The history of Dubai in the 18th and 19th centuries is particularly shaped by the “Empire” of the United Kingdom. As the imperial colonial power of that time, the British also had a noticeable influence on the Arabian Peninsula and concluded treaties with the sheikdoms in the coastal areas to protect their trade routes to India. From then on, the British called the emirates involved Trucial States: the sheikdoms undertook not to wage any armed conflicts against each other and not to allow any other states except the United Kingdom to settle in their ports.
Dubai around 1960
The local population lived mostly from fishing and the harvest of the date palms in the oases. Around 1870, however, pearl fishing became the city's most important economic factor, making Dubai the most important port on the Gulf Coast. It received the title of free port in 1904 after Persian merchants settled in Dubai, founded the Bastakiya district and since then British merchant ships have regularly headed for Dubai.
The Oil Boom and the Transition to Modernity: Dubai's History in the 20th Century
Around 1920 Dubai developed further into an international trading center and the first drilling concessions for the search for crude oil were awarded. While the pearl trade gradually collapsed, the Trucial States developed into the largest trading center on the Arabian Gulf for goods from Persia and India. In the second half of the 20th century, the oil trade became the emirates' primary source of income. In 1962, Abu Dhabi exported oil abroad for the first time. Dubai begins oil production and export in 1969.
The clock tower in Deira in the 1960s
After Great Britain's announcement that it would withdraw from the Gulf region, a decisive turning point in the history of Dubai took place: On December 2nd, 1971, on the initiative of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, six sheikdoms merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In 1972 Ras Al Khaimah joined the federation as the seventh emirate. The then head of the Emirate of Dubai, Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, decided to expand the city according to a master plan due to the economic growth. This included numerous infrastructural measures, e.g. the construction of bridges, tunnels, roads and sea desalination plants. In addition, residential and industrial districts were created, as well as health and educational facilities.
Dubai's present and future as a smart city
The recent history of Dubai is characterized by enormous construction projects and the establishment of tourism, both areas have now overtaken the oil sector. The construction of the Burj Al Arab in 1999 and above all the completion of the Burj Khalifa in 2010, the tallest building in the world, are impressive proof of this development.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been ruling the emirate of Dubai since 2006, is also Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and is considered an architect and pioneer of Dubai towards a luxury and high-tech metropolis.
Dubai today - a modern metropolis
For the future, Dubai is tackling the transformation into a so-called Smart City: The digitization of many urban and infrastructural areas is imminent - from driverless and climate-neutral local transport to taxi drones and police robots, Dubai is ideally equipped for the future.
Tip: If you want to get a personal picture of the history of Dubai, it is worth visiting the Dubai Museum in the restored Al Fahidi Fort. There you will get a clear and informative overview of the history of the Arab metropolis.
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