Dubai is a city in the United Arab Emirates, located within the emirate. The emirate of Dubai is located on the southeast coast of the Arabian Gulf and is one of the seven emirates that make up the country. It has the largest population in the UAE (2,106,177) and the second-largest land territory by area (4,114 km2) after Abu Dhabi, the national capital. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the only two emirates to have veto power over critical matters of national importance in the country’s legislature. The city of Dubai is located on the emirate’s northern coastline and heads up the Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman metropolitan area. Dubai is nowadays often misperceived as a country or city-state and, in some cases, the UAE as a whole has been described as ‘Dubai’.
The earliest mention of Dubai is in 1095 AD, and the earliest recorded settlement in the region dates from 1799. The Sheikhdom of Dubai was formally established in 1833 by Sheikh Maktoum bin Butti Al-Maktoum when he persuaded around 800 members of his tribe of the Bani Yas, living in what was then the Second Saudi State and now part of Saudi Arabia, to follow him to the Dubai Creek by the Abu Falasa clan of the Bani Yas. It remained under the tribe’s control when the United Kingdom agreed to protect the Sheikhdom in 1892 and joined the nascent United Arab Emirates upon independence in 1971 as the country’s second emirate. Its strategic geographic location made the town an important trading hub and by the beginning of the 20th century, Dubai was already an important regional port.
Today, Dubai has emerged as a cosmopolitan metropolis that has grown steadily to become a global city and a business and cultural hub of the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf region. It is also a major transport hub for passengers and cargo. Although Dubai’s economy was historically built on the oil industry, 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 has recently attracted world attention through many innovative large construction projects and sports events. The city has become symbolic for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, such as the world’s tallest Burj Khalifa, in addition to ambitious development projects including man-made islands, hotels, and some of the largest shopping malls in the region and the world. This increased attention has also highlighted labor and human rights issues concerning the city’s largely South Asian workforce. Dubai’s property market experienced a major deterioration in 2008–2009 as a result of the worldwide economic downturn following the financial crisis of 2007-2008. However, a 2013 report by the Oxford Business Group said that Dubai was making a gradual recovery with help coming from neighboring emirates.
As of 2012, Dubai is the 22nd most expensive city in the world, and the most expensive city in the Middle East. Dubai has also been rated as one of the best places to live in the Middle East, including by American global consulting firm Mercer who rated the city as the best place to live in the Middle East in 2011.
In 2012, the Global City Competitiveness Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Dubai at No. 40 with a total score of 55.9. According to their 2013 research report on the future competitiveness of cities, in 2025 Dubai moves up to 23rd place overall in the Index.Indians are top foreign investors in Dubai realty.
Although stone tools have been found at many sites, little is known about the UAE’s early inhabitants as only a few settlements have been found. Many ancient towns in the area were trading centers between the Eastern and Western worlds. The remnants of an ancient mangrove swamp, dated at 7,000 BC, were discovered during the construction of sewer lines near Dubai Internet City. The area was covered with sand about 5,000 years ago as the coast retreated inland, becoming a part of the city’s present coastline. Pre Islamic ceramics have been found from the 3rd and 4th century. Prior to Islam, the people in this region worshiped Bajir (or Bajar). The Byzantine (Greek) and Sassanian (Persian) empires constituted the great powers of the period, with the Sassanians controlling much of the region. After the spread of Islam in the area, the Umayyad Caliph, of the eastern Islamic world, invaded south-east Arabia and drove out the Sassanians. Excavations by the Dubai Museum in the region of Al-Jumayra (Jumeirah) found several artifacts from the Umayyad period.
The earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095, in the “Book of Geography” by the Andalusian-Arab geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri. The Venetian pearl merchant Gaspero Balbi visited the area in 1580 and mentioned Dubai (Dibei) for its pearling industry. Since 1799, there has been a settlement known as Dubai town. In the early 19th century, the Al Abu Falasa clan (House of Al-Falasi) of Bani Yas clan established Dubai, which remained an important dependent of Abu Dhabi until 1833. On 8 January 1820, the sheikh of Dubai and other sheikhs in the region signed the “General Maritime Peace Treaty” with the British government. In 1833, following tribal feuding, the Al Maktoum dynasty (also descendants of the House of Al-Falasi) of the Bani Yas tribe left their ancestral home of the Liwa Oasis, South-west of the settlement of Abu Dhabi and quickly took over Dubai from the Abu Fasala clan without resistance.
Dubai came under the protection of the United Kingdom by the “Exclusive Agreement” of 1892, in which the UK agreed to protect Dubai against the developing interests of France, Germany, and Russia in the Persian Gulf. Two catastrophes struck the town during the 1800s. First, in 1841, a smallpox epidemic broke out in the Bur Dubai locality, forcing residents to relocate east to Deira. Then, in 1894, fire swept through Deira, burning down most homes. However, the town’s geographical location continued to attract traders and merchants from around the region. The emir of Dubai was keen to attract foreign traders and lowered trade tax brackets, which lured traders away from Sharjah and Bandar Lengeh, the region’s main trade hubs at the time. Persian merchants naturally looked across to the Arab shore of the Persian Gulf finally making their homes in Dubai. They continued to trade with Lingah, however, as do many of the dhows in Dubai Creek today, and they named their district Bastakiya, after the Bastak region in southern Persia.
Dubai’s geographical proximity to Iran made it an important trade location. The town of Dubai was an important port of call for foreign tradesmen, chiefly those from Iran, many of whom eventually settled in the town. By the beginning of the 20th century, it was an important port. Dubai was known for its pearl exports until the 1930s; the pearl trade was damaged irreparably by World War I, and later on by the Great Depression in the 1930s. With the collapse of the pearling industry, Dubai fell into a deep depression and many residents starved or migrated to other parts of the Persian Gulf.
In the early days since its inception, Dubai was constantly at odds with Abu Dhabi. In 1947, a border dispute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi on the northern sector of their mutual border, escalated into war. Arbitration by the British and the creation of a buffer frontier running south eastwards from the coast at Ras Hasian resulted in a temporary cessation of hostilities. Electricity, telephone services, and an airport were established in Dubai in the 1950s, when the British moved their local administrative offices there from Sharjah. After years of exploration following large finds in neighboring Abu Dhabi, oil was eventually discovered in Dubai in 1966, albeit in far smaller quantities. This led the emirate to grant concessions to international oil companies, thus igniting a massive influx of foreign workers, mainly Indians and Pakistanis. Between 1968 and 1975 the city’s population grew by over 300%.
On 2 December 1971 Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and five other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates after the former protector, Britain, left the Persian Gulf in 1971. In 1973, Dubai joined the other emirates to adopt a uniform currency: the UAE dirham. Qatar and Bahrain chose to remain independent nations. In 1973, the monetary union with Qatar was dissolved and the UAE Dirham was introduced throughout the Emirates.
During the 1970s, Dubai continued to grow from revenues generated from oil and trade, even as the city saw an influx of immigrants fleeing the Lebanese civil war. Border disputes between the emirates continued even after the formation of the UAE; it was only in 1979 that a formal compromise was reached that ended hostilities. The Jebel Ali port was established in 1979. Jafza (Jebel Ali Free Zone) was built around the port in 1985 to provide foreign companies unrestricted import of labor and export capital.
The Gulf War of 1990 had a negative financial effect on the city, as depositors withdrew their money and traders withdrew their trade, but subsequently the city recovered in a changing political climate and thrived. Later in the 1990s, many foreign trading communities—first from Kuwait, during the Gulf War, and later from Bahrain, during the Shia unrest—moved their businesses to Dubai. Dubai provided refueling bases to allied forces at the Jebel Ali Free Zone during the Gulf War, and again during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Large increases in oil prices after the Gulf War encouraged Dubai to continue to focus on free trade and tourism.
Dubai is situated on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates and is roughly at sea level (16 m or 52 ft above). The emirate of Dubai shares borders with Abu Dhabi in the south, Sharjah in the northeast, and the Sultanate of Oman in the southeast. Hatta, a minor exclave of the emirate, is surrounded on three sides by Oman and by the emirates of Ajman (in the west) and Ras Al Khaimah (in the north). The Persian Gulf borders the western coast of the emirate. Dubai is positioned at 25.2697°N 55.3095°E and covers an area of 1,588 sq mi (4,110 km2), which represents a significant expansion beyond its initial 1,500 sq mi (3,900 km2) designation due to land reclamation from the sea.
Dubai lies directly within the Arabian Desert. However, the topography of Dubai is significantly different from that of the southern portion of the UAE in that much of Dubai’s landscape is highlighted by sandy desert patterns, while gravel deserts dominate much of the southern region of the country. The sand consists mostly of crushed shell and coral and is fine, clean and white. East of the city, the salt-crusted coastal plains, known as sabkha, give way to a north-south running line of dunes. Farther east, the dunes grow larger and are tinged red with iron oxide.
The flat sandy desert gives way to the Western Hajar Mountains, which run alongside Dubai’s border with Oman at Hatta. The Western Hajar chain has an arid, jagged and shattered landscape, whose mountains rise to about 1,300 meters in some places. Dubai has no natural river bodies or oases; however, Dubai does have a natural inlet, Dubai Creek, which has been dredged to make it deep enough for large vessels to pass through. Dubai also has multiple gorges and waterholes which dot the base of the Western Al Hajar mountains. A vast sea of sand dunes covers much of southern Dubai, and eventually leads into the desert known as The Empty Quarter. Seismically, Dubai is in a very stable zone—the nearest seismic fault line, the Zagros Fault, is 200 km (124.27 mi) from the UAE and is unlikely to have any seismic impact on Dubai. Experts also predict that the possibility of a tsunami in the region is minimal because the Persian Gulf waters are not deep enough to trigger a tsunami.
The sandy desert surrounding the city supports wild grasses and occasional date palms. Desert hyacinths grow in the sabkha plains east of the city, while acacia and ghaf trees grow in the flat plains within the proximity of the Western Al Hajar mountains. Several indigenous trees such as the date palm and neem as well as imported trees like the eucalypts grow in Dubai’s natural parks. The houbara bustard, striped hyena, caracal, desert fox, falcon and Arabian oryx are common in Dubai’s desert. Dubai is on the migration path between Europe, Asia and Africa, and more than 320 migratory bird species pass through the emirate in spring and autumn. The waters of Dubai are home to more than 300 species of fish, including the hammour. The typical marine life off the Dubai coast includes tropical Fish, jellyfish, coral, dugong, dolphins, whales and sharks. Various types of turtles can also be found in the area including the Hawksbill turtle and Green Turtle which are listed as endangered species.
Dubai Creek runs northeast-southwest through the city. The eastern section of the city forms the locality of Deira and is flanked by the emirate of Sharjah in the east and the town of Al Aweer in the south. The Dubai International Airport is located south of Deira, while the Palm Deira is located north of Deira in the Persian Gulf. Much of Dubai’s real-estate boom is concentrated to the west of the Dubai Creek, on the Jumeirah coastal belt. Port Rashid, Jebel Ali, Burj Al Arab, the Palm Jumeirah and theme-based free-zone clusters such as Business Bay are all located in this section.
Dubai has a hot desert climate. Summers in Dubai are extremely hot, windy, and humid, with an average high around 42 °C (108 °F) and overnight lows around 29 °C (84 °F). Most days are sunny throughout the year. Winters are warm with an average high of 23 °C (73 °F) and overnight lows of 14 °C (57 °F). Precipitation, however, has been increasing in the last few decades with accumulated rain reaching 250 mm (9.84 in) per year. Dubai summers are also known for the high humidity level, which can make it uncomfortable for many.