Understanding Dubai, the city, History and Heritage

Dubai is located on the Eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, in the south west corner of the Arabian Gulf. It is extremely well known for its warm hospitality and rich cultural heritage, and the Emirati people are welcoming and generous in their approach to visitors. With year-round sunshine, intriguing deserts, beautiful beaches, luxurious hotels and shopping malls, fascinating heritage attractions and a thriving business community, Dubai receives millions of leisure and business visitors each year from around the world.
The local currency is the dirham, which is pegged at AED 3.67 to 1 US dollar. Dubai is tolerant and cosmopolitan and all visitors are welcome. However, Islam is a way of life in the city, and therefore tourists should adopt a certain level of cultural and religious sensitivity for the duration of their stay.


Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf and is the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the country. The city of Dubai is located on the emirate’s northern coastline and heads the Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman metropolitan area.
Dubai emerged as a global city and business hub of the Middle East. It is also a major transport hub for passengers and cargo. By the 1960s, Dubai’s economy was based on revenues from trade and, to a smaller extent, oil exploration concessions, but oil was not discovered until 1966. Dubai’s oil revenue helped accelerate the early development of the city, however today less than 5% of the emirate’s revenue comes from oil.

The Emirate’s Western-style model of business drives its economy with the main revenues now coming from tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services. Dubai was recently named the best destination for Muslim travellers by Salam Standard. Dubai has recently attracted world attention through many innovative large construction projects and sports events. The city has become iconic for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, in particular the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Dubai was rated as one of the best places to live in the Middle East by U.S. global consulting firm Mercer.

History of Dubai
Some 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe, led by the Maktoum Family, settled at the mouth of the creek in 1833. The creek was a natural harbour and Dubai soon became a center for the fishing, pearling and sea trade.
By the turn of the 20th century Dubai was a successful port. The souk (Arabic for market) on the Deira side of the creek was the largest on the coast with 350 shops and a steady throng of visitors and businessmen. By the 1930s Dubai’s population was nearly 20,000, a quarter of whom were expatriates.
In the 1950s the creek began to silt, a result perhaps of the increasing number of ships that used it. The late Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, decided to have the waterway dredged. It was an ambitious, costly, and visionary project. The move resulted in increased volumes of cargo handling in Dubai. Ultimately it strengthened Dubai’s position as a major trading and re-export hub.
When oil was discovered in 1966, Sheikh Rashid utilized the oil revenues to spur infrastructure development in Dubai. Schools, hospitals, roads, a modern telecommunications network … the pace of development was frenetic. A new port and terminal building were built at Dubai International Airport. A runway extension that could accommodate any type of aircraft was implemented. The largest man-made harbor in the world was constructed at Jebel Ali, and a free zone was created around the port.
Dubai’s formula for development was becoming evident to everyone – visionary leadership, high-quality infrastructure, an expatriate-friendly environment, zero tax on personal and corporate income and low import duties. The result was that Dubai quickly became a business and tourism hub for a region that stretches from Egypt to the Indian sub-continent and from South Africa to what are now called the CIS countries.
Since the 1960s, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum had dreamed of creating a federation of the Emirates in the region. Their dreams were realized in 1971 when Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and (in 1972) Ras Al Khaimah, joined to create the United Arab Emirates.
Under the late Sheikh Zayed, the first President of UAE, the UAE has developed into one of the richest countries in the world with a per capita GDP in excess of US$17,000 per annum.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Dubai took a strategic decision to emerge as a major international-quality tourism destination. Investments in tourism infrastructure have paid off handsomely over the years.
Dubai is now a city that boasts unmatchable hotels, remarkable architecture and world-class entertainment and sporting events. The beautiful Burj Al Arab hotel presiding over the coastline of Jumeira beach is the world’s only hotel with a seven star rating. The Emirates Towers are one of the many structures that remind us of the commercial confidence in a city that expands at a remarkable rate. Standing 350 meters high, the office tower is the tallest building in the Middle East and Europe.
Dubai also hosts major international sporting events. The Dubai Desert Classic is a major stop on the Professional Golf Association tour. The Dubai Open, an ATP tennis tournament, and the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race, draw thousands every year.

The rulers of Dubai
Since 1833 the reigning Al Maktoum family have ruled Dubai. Under their wise and progressive leadership Dubai has prospered and it is now the business and tourism hub for a region that stretches from Egypt to the Indian sub-continent, and from South Africa to the CIS countries.
The eighth ruler from the Al Maktoum family, the late His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai from 1958 – 1990, guided the Emirate with compassion and understanding. He realized what was necessary to transform Dubai into the cosmopolitan, prosperous city it is today. Sheikh Rashid along with Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is credited with playing a key role in establishing the federation of the United Arab Emirates.
Following the death of Sheikh Rashid in November 1990, Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum became Ruler of Dubai and Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, positions he held until he passed away in January 2006.
On January 4th 2006, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum became the Ruler of Dubai following the death of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Under his leadership Dubai is fast becoming one of the major cities in the world. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed is also the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE.
On 1st February, 2008, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was proclaimed Crown Prince of Dubai. He is also Chairman of Dubai’s Executive Council. The Deputy Rulers of Dubai are HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum is also the UAE’s Minister of Finance.

Culture and Heritage
Dubai’s culture is rooted in Islam, providing a strength and inspiration that touches all aspects of everyday life. Virtually every neighborhood has its own mosque, where the faithful congregate for prayer five times every day. One of the largest and most beautiful mosques is Jumeirah Mosque- a spectacular example of modern Islamic architecture. Built of stone in medieval Fatimid style, the mosque is particularly attractive at night when subtle lighting throws its artistry into sharp relief.
Courtesy and hospitality are among the most highly prized of virtues in the Arab world, and visitors will be charmed by the warmth and friendliness of the people.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding has been set up to bring down barriers between people of different nationalities, and to help understand the traditions, customs and religion of the UAE.One activity carried out to bring this vision to life is the popular Jumeirah Mosque visit, which takes place four times a week as a fixed public tour. Guests at the mosque are treated to a talk on the UAE Culture and the UAE’s official religion, Islam. A question and answer session is held afterwards.
Other activities on offer include Spoken Arabic courses, UAE Culture & Dubai Orientation courses, Bastakiya Walking Tours, Cultural Breakfast and Lunch, Coffee Mornings, Question and Answers sessions & Story Circle for Children.
The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority aims to build on Dubai’s status as one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, where East meets West and will actively encourage the over 200 nationalities living and working together in Dubai to contribute to the culture and arts renaissance happening in Dubai. Some initiatives of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority include the first ever Muhammad the Messenger Museum and the Khor Dubai Cultural Project.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation fosters cross-cultural dialogue with other cultures. It also promotes Arabic heritage through its Oktub (writing), Tarjem (translate), Turjuman (translator), Arab Narrative Encyclopedia, and International Poetry Festival.

 

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