The Statesman’s Yearbook Online

edited by Dr Barry Turner


Image courtesy of wikipedia


Dubai City is the capital of the emirate of Dubai and second city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It has transformed from a small fishing village to a modern metropolis in just over four decades. Known for its ambitious construction projects, Dubai is considered the most vibrant city in the Gulf and one of the world's top tourist destinations.


Although the earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095, artefacts have been found in graves dating from the first millennium BC at nearby Al-Qusais. The area came under Portuguese commercial domination in the early 16th century and then under British hegemony from the 18th. In the early 19th century, a segment of the Bani Yas tribe split from the branch in Abu Dhabi and established the town.

Dubai's inhabitants looked to the sea for a living based on fishing, pearling and maritime trade. At the turn of the 20th century Dubai was sufficiently prosperous to attract settlers from Iran and the Indian subcontinent. By around 1930 nearly a quarter of its population was foreign, and such cosmopolitan links helped to cement Dubai's reputation as the region's principal trading centre. The city suffered from the decline of the pearling industry from the 1930s and the general drop in trade in the Second World War. In 1947 a border dispute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi escalated into armed conflict and tensions were not formally resolved until 1979, eight years after the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971.

The discovery of oil in 1966 prompted a massive influx of foreign workers, intensive infrastructure and industrial development. Although the Persian Gulf War in 1990 affected the city economically, Dubai recovered with many foreign trading communities moving their businesses there in the 1990s.

Investment in construction has made Dubai one of the world's fastest-growing cities. However, economic growth has been hampered by the global financial crisis while the poor living conditions of construction workers has drawn criticism from human rights groups.


Dubai is located in the northeast of the UAE. Having expanded along both banks of the Dubai Creek (a natural sea-water inlet which cuts through the centre of the city), Dubai's central business district is divided into two parts - Deira on the northern side and Bur Dubai to the south, linked by two bridges and a tunnel passing under the Creek. Beyond this core, the city extends to the emirate of Sharjah to the north, and spreads south and west along the Gulf through the districts of Satwa, Jumairah and Umm Suqeim.

More than nine-tenths of the emirate's population lives in Dubai City and its suburbs.

The city has grown from a population of approximately 60,000 in 1972 to 1,640,000 in 2011.


Dubai's government operates within the framework of a constitutional monarchy and appoints eight members in two-term periods to the Federal National Council of the UAE, the supreme federal legislative body. The Dubai Municipality manages city planning, environmental protection and improvement, as well as sanitation and public health.

Current leader: Hussain Nasser Lootah

Position: Director General, Dubai Municipality

Hussain Nasser Lootah graduated in engineering from the United States and joined the UAE's ministry of electricity and water, where he served for five years.

He joined the Dubai Municipality in 1985 and was promoted later to be the Director of the Drainage Department and then Assistant Director General for Environment and Public Health.

In 2004 he was appointed the Assistant Director General for Planning and Building Affairs, in charge of the Planning and Survey Department, Housing Department, Geographical Information Systems Centre and the Statistics Centre.

Nasser Lootah became Deputy Director General of the Municipality in 2005 and was promoted to Director General in 2009.


Recent years have seen Dubai's economy diversify and move away from its reliance on shrinking oil reserves. In addition to the oil industry, Dubai's economy relies on tourism, real estate and construction, trade and financial services. Revenues from oil and natural gas currently account for less than 6% of the emirate's revenues.

With no direct taxes on corporate profits or personal income (except for oil companies and branches of foreign banks) Dubai has become a leading multi-purpose business centre attracting banking and finance companies. The success of the Jebel Ali port, a free trade zone built in 1979, has spurred the development of new tax free zones including Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City.

Attempts to promote the city as a tourist destination have made it the eighth most visited city in the world with 8·3 million visitors in 2010.

During the credit boom post 2000, the city attracted foreign investment for ambitious construction projects. However, following the international downturn in 2008, the pace of development slowed and Dubai was left facing large debts. In Dec. 2009 Abu Dhabi bailed out Dubai with US$10bn. to pay off debts of the government-owned company Dubai World.


Dubai has sophisticated transport links. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) manages the public bus, metro rail and taxi services. The driverless, fully automated Dubai Metro is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula. Dubai International Airport, located south of Deira, serves the city of Dubai and other emirates in the country. Al Maktoum International Airport opened in June 2010. Once operations are fully completed in 2015 it will be the largest passenger and cargo hub in the world with five runways, four terminal buildings and capacity for 160 million passengers and 12 million tones of cargo.



The Dubai Shopping Festival, an annual retail event to promote trade and tourism, runs from Jan. to Feb. Its counterpart, Summer Surprises, lasts some ten weeks (usually from June to Sept.) and includes outdoor concerts, themed expositions and discounted shopping. The Emirates-sponsored Dubai World Cup, staged in March, is the richest single-day horse racing meeting in the world.

Places of Interest

Tourist attractions include the Bastakia Quarter (one of the oldest parts of the city with narrow lanes and distinctive Arabian architecture); the Deira souk (traditional markets); and the Heritage and Diving Villages (recreating traditional lifestyles). Built in 1799, Al-Fahidi Fort is the oldest building in Dubai. It is now home to the National Museum. The Deira Clocktower, built in the 1960s to mark the country's first oil exports, is also a major landmark.

Dubai is home to some impressive constructions. These include the Burj al Arab, a leading luxurious hotel; the Palm Islands, the world's three largest man-made islands in the shape of palm trees; and the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower standing 828 meters (2,716 ft) high.


The city's largest circulating Arabic language newspapers are Dar Al Khaleej, Al Bayan and Al Ittihad. English newspapers include Gulf News and Khaleej Times. The Arabian Radio Network , broadcasdting eight FM radio stations, is also based in Dubai City. The internet is regulated with a proxy server filtering out sites deemed to be against cultural and religious values of the UAE.


Ali, Syed., Gilded Cage (Yale University Press, 2010)

Davidson, Christopher M., The Vulnerability of Success (C Hurst and Co, 2009)

Krane Jim, City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism (Picador USA, 2010)

Krane, Jim, Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City (Atlantic Books, 2010)

Tatchell, Jo, A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in the World's Richest City (Sceptre, 2010)

Dubai city skyline, including the burj khalifa, the world's tallest building

Al-Fahidi Fort and National Museum

The palms development