Dubai’s Mercurial Rise
When you look at magnificent civilizations today, you often find they have been growing steadily over hundreds of years or longer and it makes sense. Normally, it takes a bit of time to go from nothing to a mega city and tourist attraction, but Dubai has accomplished it in record time.
Research is ongoing on the early inhabitants of the area, basically because there have been few ancient settlements discovered. We do know there were inhabitants around 1095, thanks to a mention in the Book of Geography, by Abu Abdullah AL-Bakri.
Geographically, Dubai has always been a popular trade location. Iranians had used the port for many years and some even settled in the area. Fishing and pearling were the name of the game in Dubai. In fact, it was well known for its pearl exports until the Great Depression.
Between the world wide economic depression and the development of cultured pearls, Dubai’s one claim to fame was decimated. Images of the city around this time frame are starkly different from the glittering skyline you would see today. So what exactly happened?
Was it the Oil?
There is no doubt the discovery of oil helped fund the rise of this magnificent city, but in truth, a lot of leg work on infrastructure was completed before oil was discovered. Around 1958, the ruler of the area decided to invest in private companies that would provide electricity, telephone service to go along with an airstrip built on salt flats and the region’s first hotel.
For nearly a decade, this ruler ignored advice against pressing forward and determined to build a jet airport and even borrowed money to build a bridge across Dubai Creek. You kind of get the feeling that Dubai shares many characteristics with the fictional Little Engine that Could.
Oil was eventually discovered off the coast, and while some would have thought Sheikh Rashid would have pulled back a bit and allowed the oil to become the major product, he instead continued to build infrastructure and expand Dubai’s opportunities. This included a 16 berth deep water port that allows larger vessels to make port.
If you had been a resident of Dubai even 50 years ago, it would be hard to imagine the “pearl in the desert” she has become. It is now a thriving metropolis that draws businesses, trade and even Hollywood movies to the shores. You may not find a great deal of ancient history on this area, but if you watch closely, you can see history in the making.