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Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Official flag of Dubai
Official flag of Dubai

City flag
Classification Emirate, City
Emirate Dubai
Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Area 3,885 km² [1]
— City proper
UAE rank
1,141,959 (total) [2]
1,137,376 [3]
2nd (Emirate), 1st (City)
Timezone (UTC) +4
Latitude / Longitude 25°16′ N 55°20′ E
Official website

Dubai or Dubayy (in Arabic: دبيّ, IPA /ðʊ-'bɪ/, generally /dʊ-'baɪ/ in English) refers to either

The ruler of Dubai is H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the Vice-President of the federation of the United Arab Emirates. The crown prince and Minister of Defence of the UAE is H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, one of the Sheikh's younger brothers.

Dubai is the second largest emirate in the federation after Abu Dhabi. The emirate is located on the Persian Gulf, southwest of Sharjah and northeast of Abu Dhabi, and reaches into the interior. The town of Hatta is an exclave of the emirate of Dubai and borders Al Wajajah, Oman.

Dubai is distinct from other members of the UAE in that revenues from oil account for only 10% of its gross domestic product. A majority of the emirate's revenues are from the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZ) [4] and now, increasingly, from tourism.


History of Dubai

Dubai City as seen from space
Dubai City as seen from space

There are records of the town of Dubai ("Dubai") from 1799, which was a dependent of the settlement of Abu Dhabi until 1833. The then sheikh of Dubai was a signatory to the British sponsored "General Treaty of Peace" of 1820. In 1833, the Al Maktoum dynasty of the Bani Yas tribe left the settlement of Abu Dhabi and took over the town of Dubai, "without resistance". From that point on, Dubai, a newly independent emirate, was constantly at odds with the emirate of Abu Dhabi. An attempt by the Qawasim pirates to take over Dubai was thwarted. In 1835, Dubai and the rest of the Trucial States signed a maritime truce with Britain and a "Perpetual Maritime Truce" about two decades later. Dubai came under the protection of the United Kingdom by the Exclusive Agreement of 1892.

The rulers of Dubai fostered trade and commerce, unlike the town's neighbors. The town of Dubai was an important port of call for foreign tradesmen (chiefly Indians), who settled in the town. Until the 1930s, the town was known for its pearl exports.

After the devaluation of the Gulf Rupee in 1966, Dubai joined the newly independent state of Qatar to set up a new monetary unit, the Qatar/Dubai riyal. Oil was discovered 120 kilometres off the coast of Dubai, after which the town granted oil concessions.

Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and five other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates after Britain left the Persian Gulf in 1971. In 1973, Dubai joined the other emirates to adopt a single, uniform currency: the UAE dirham.

Dubai maintained its importance as a trade route through the 1970s and 1980s. Dubai and its twin across the Dubai creek, Deira (independent at that time), became important ports of call for Western manufacturers. Most of the new city's banking and financial centers were headquartered in this area.

The city of Dubai has a free trade in gold and is the hub of a "brisk smuggling trade" of gold ingots to India, where gold trade is restricted. Oil reserves in Dubai are less than one-twentieth that of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, and hence oil income is a minor contributing factor to the city's prosperity.

Today, Dubai is also an important tourist destination, bolstered by its rapidly-expanding airline Emirates, which is headed by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, an uncle of the Sheikh. Dubai is also diversifying as a hub for service-based industries such as IT and finance, with the new Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

The government has set up industry-specific free zones throughout the city. Dubai Internet City, now combined with Dubai Media City as part of TECOM (Dubai Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media Free Zone Authority) is one such enclave whose members include IT firms such as EMC Corporation, Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM, and media organisations such as MBC, CNN, Reuters, and AP. Dubai Knowledge Village (KV) is an education and training hub is also set up to complement the Free Zone’s other two clusters, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City, by providing the facilities to train the clusters' future knowledge workers.

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum was an important personality in the city. He ruled Dubai for over 30 years, during which time large projects like the Jebel Ali free zone, World Trade Centre, and Dubai International Airport were sanctioned.


Silhouette of a dhow in the Bur Dubai creek
Silhouette of a dhow in the Bur Dubai creek

Dubai is unusual in that its population comprises mainly expatriates, with UAE nationals (Emiratis) constituting the minority. The vast majority of these expatriates come from South Asia and the Philippines. The UAE government does not allow any form of naturalization or permanent residence to expatriates.

Nearly all of the commercial establishments are run by expatriates with a silent local partner who merely "rents" the business license for a negotiated annual fee without taking part in any capital investment. The numerous free trade zones allow for full expatriate ownership.

There is an increasing number of "freehold" villas and flats on artificial islands such as the Palm Islands. The "lease" on these freehold properties is for 99 years. It is, however, illegal to seek employment on this visa. Ownership of lease does not guarantee any form of legal residency status in the UAE. The Federal Government is still formulating laws pertaining to ownership of property and considering issuing residency status to those who own such property.

Language and religion

The official language is Arabic, but English and Hindi are also widely spoken, along with Persian, Urdu, Malayalam, Punjabi, and Tagalog.

Islam is the official religion of all of the emirates. A vast majority of the locals are Sunnis. There are foreign minority Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians as well. Dubai is the only emirate that has Hindu temples and a sikh gurudwara.

The Meena Bazaar area of the city has both a Shiva and Krishna temple. Both are believed to be sanctioned by the late ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

There is an electric crematorium run by a group of Indian expatriates.

Non-Muslims in the country are free to practice their religion but may not proselytize publicly or distribute religious literature. The government follows a policy of tolerance towards non-Muslim religions and, in practice, interferes very little in the religious activities of non-Muslims.

In early 2001, ground was broken for the construction of several additional churches on a parcel of land in Jebel Ali donated by the government of Dubai for four Protestant congregations and a Catholic congregation. In May 2001, the Crown Prince of Dubai authorised the construction of a Greek Orthodox church on donated land.

Apart from donated land for the construction of churches and other religious facilities, including cemeteries, non-Muslim groups are not supported financially or subsidised by the government. However, they are permitted to raise money from among their congregants and to receive financial support from abroad. Christian churches are permitted to openly advertise certain church functions, such as memorial services, in the press.


English is the medium of instruction in most schools in Dubai. Annual fees for nursery and pre-school vary greatly.

Some primary schools conduct entrance tests. Most schools cater to one or more expatriate communities. Our Own English High School, Modern High School, and Indian High School offer either a CBSE or an ICSE Indian syllabus. Modern Renaissance School, the Horizon School, Dubai English Speaking School, Jumeirah Primary School, Jumeirah English Speaking School, and Jebel Ali Primary School all offer British style primary education to the age of eleven. St. Mary's High School, Dubai College, English College, and Jumeirah College are all British style eleven-to-eighteen secondary schools which offer GCSE and A-Levels. The Emirates International School and Cambridge International High School are also secondary schools that offer a combination of GCSE, IGCSE, and IB courses to the expatriate community. The International School of Choueifat and Emirates International offer both British and American curricula.

A growing number of K-12 schools offer the American syllabus. The American School of Dubai (ASD), which is located in Jumeirah, and Dubai American Academy (DAA) have been around the longest. ASD offers an accredited American high school diploma; DAA offers both an American-accredited high school diploma and the International Baccalaureate [IB] diploma. There are also some primary and high schools that offer Canadian and Japanese syllabuses.

Many expatriates tend to send their children back to their home country for university education. However, a sizable number of foreign accredited universities have been set up in the city over the last ten years. Some of these universities include the American University in Dubai (AUD), Al Ghurair University, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Middlesex University, Dubai, Dubai Women's College, University of Wollongong in Dubai, and Zayed University.


The annual month-long Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) draws shoppers from the Indian subcontinent and around the world. Attendance at the 2005 Festival topped 3.3 million visitors. Other, smaller shopping festivals, such as "Dubai Summer Surprises" are held throughout the year.

The city has many malls such as City Centre, Lamcy Plaza, Al Ghurair City, Mercato Mall, Oasis Centre and Wafi Centre that have international stores, theaters, gaming arcades, and food courts. The Oasis Centre caught fire and recived major damage on 9 September 2005. Two more shopping malls have recently opened, the Mall of Emirates, the largest mall in the world, which will soon also have the world's largest indoor ski slope, and Ibn Battuta Mall. Soon to overtake the Mall of Emirates as the world's largest will be the Dubai Mall, part of the Burj Dubai development that will be home to the tallest building in the world when completed.

Dubai hosts many world class sporting events, including the Dubai Tennis Open, Dubai Desert Golf Classic, and the Dubai World Cup, an annual horse racing event. The World Cup is world's highest stakes horse race, with over US $15 million worth of prize money handed out.

Dubai currently has two waterparks in Wonderland and Wild Wadi with more being planned for Dubailand. Dubailand, an entertainment city vaguely planned off the concept of Disneyland was launched in October 2003. Through subsequent revisions, the master planned development will span over 3 billion square feet (300,000,000 m²) with the 1st phase to be completed by 2008. [5]

A large population of prostitutes work in Dubai, spurred on by the large amount of tourism [6]

Besides the obvious presence of prostitutes, however, Dubai also has a lively and well-known nightlife, with many state-of-the-art nightclubs and bars being strewed in all areas of the Emirate, mainly joined to hotels (properties not adjoined to hotels are not allowed to serve alcohol). Despite the relatively early closing time of 3am for these clubs, their trade is brisk and at any day of the week a wide variety of dressed-up characters, from middle aged English women to under-aged Indians can be spotted heading to these clubs.

Real estate and property

The Burj al-Arab Hotel
The Burj al-Arab Hotel
Dubai's skyline at night
Dubai's skyline at night
A satellite image of Dubai, the Jumeira Palm
A satellite image of Dubai, the Jumeira Palm

The government's decision to diversify from a trade-based but oil-reliant economy to one that is service- and tourism-oriented has made real estate more valuable, and corporations such as Emaar Properties, and Nakheel have benefited. Corporate office enclaves on Sheikh Zayed road were developed to shift Dubai's traditional business area from the Dubai creek to the western parts of the city.

Dubai's land-reclamation projects — the Palm Islands of Jumeira, Jebel Ali, and Deira and The World archipelago — will be the world's largest artificial island complexes, developed with villas, golf courses, and holiday resorts.

The first villa freehold properties that were occupied by non-UAE nationals were The Meadows, The Springs, and The Lakes (upper-class neighborhoods designed by Emaar Properties, collectively called Emirates Hills). Somewhere from 2005 to 2006, most of the freehold skyscrapers and other villa projects will be ready for occupancy.

The city has modern skyscrapers such as Emirates Towers, which are the 12th and 24th tallest buildings in the world[7], and the Burj al-Arab located on the Persian Gulf and is currently the tallest hotel in the world.

Emaar Properties is currently constructing what will become the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai. It is expected to be completed in 2008.

In February 2005, Dubai Waterfront was announced, it will be 2½ times the size of Washington D.C., the size of the island of Manhattan. Dubai Waterfront will be a mix of canals and islands full of hotels and residential areas that will add 500 miles of man-made waterfront.

Dubai has also launched Dubiotech. This is a new park to be targeted at Biotech companies working in pharma, medical fields, genetic research and even biodefense. The aim of this park is to foster the growth of this sector in Dubai and to utilize the region's talent in addressing this rapidly growing sector.

The International Media Production Zone is a project targeted at creating a hub for printers, publishers, media production companies, and related industry segments. This project was launched in 2003 and is estimated to be completed by 2006.

See the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing's list of developments [8] in Dubai for more information.

Stamps and postal history of Dubai

A post office of British India was opened August 19, 1909. It used the stamps of India on mail, with postmark "Dubai Persian Gulf", until India's independence in 1947, then stamps of Pakistan until March 31, 1948. When Pakistan also became independent, the British government set up a postal administration for Eastern Arabia and used overprinted British stamps until January 7, 1961, when Dubai issued its own stamps inscribed "Trucial States". Despite the name, these were only on sale in Dubai's post office.

The Dubai Post Department took over the postal service on June 14, 1963 and the following day issued a series of stamps depicting sea life, views of Dubai, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum. This was the opening salvo of a barrage of stamp issues over the next few years. The emirate discovered that stamp collectors were willing to give it money for colored labels with "Dubai" printed on them, and by the time the postal system was merged with those of other emirates in mid-1972, it had issued over 400 stamps, few of which ever saw usage on mail.


Dubai is serviced by several commercial ports and Dubai Creek is still used by local traders in Dhows:


Dubai International Airport is a fortress hub for Emirates airlines and has a large Duty Free shopping centre. Dubai airport has won many awards for its excellence in design and services. A third terminal is currently under construction and due to open in 2006. The new terminal will be dedicated to Emirates airlines and will fully support the Airbus A380. When completed this will double the capacity of the airport.

A second airport located at Jebel Ali—and a new free trade area within Dubai, marking the centrepiece of the Jebel Ali Airport City—was announced in 2004 and construction began in January 2005. Although initially intended as a predominantly cargo airport, plans are afoot for the new Jebel Ali airport to handle some 40 million passengers per annum within 20 years.


The Abra or Water Taxi
The Abra or Water Taxi

Dubai has a fairly large bus system run by the Dubai Municipality. The bus system has 59 unique routes on weekdays and transports over 200,000 people each week. The government has issued plastic, swipable "e-go" cards. There are also several discounts and period pass options available. Unfortunately though, the bus network is used extensively by lower income groups and does not do enough to attract higher income earners who would do well to use the bus transport system and ease traffic congestion that has recently become a major problem in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Traffic congestion has come about mainly due to lack of foresight on the recent rapid population increase, the relative ease of credit facilities for obtaining a car and the convoluted road networks that are constantly being changed, improved or reconstructed. Furthermore, Dubai has developed a reputation for having the most number of deaths and road accidents in the developed world clocking in with a statistic of having a minor road accident at least every 3 minutes. Due to the frequency of such incidents, road networks are blocked and held up quite frequently.

Dubai also has an extensive taxi system, by far the most frequently used means of public transport within the emirate. There are both government-operated and private cab companies. The Dubai Transport Corporation operates cream-colored taxis. Some of the private cab companies are Cars Taxi, National Taxi, and Metro Taxi. Prices are reasonable and cabs can be found anywhere, any time.

One of the more traditional methods of getting across Bur Dubai to Deira is through abras, small boats that ferry passengers across the Dubai creek for a nominal charge of 50 fils.

There is currently a $3.89 billion Dubai Metro project under construction for the emirate. The Metro system is expected to be partially operational by 2009 and fully operational by 2012. The construction contract for the project was given to Dubai Rapid Link (DURL)[9], a consortium lead by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Also involved are two other Japanese corporations, Obayashi and Kajima, and a Turkish company, Yapi Merkezi. The metro will comprise two lines: the Green Line from Rashidiya to the main city center and the Red Line from the airport to Jebel Ali. The Dubai Metro will have 70 kilometers of track and 43 stations, 33 above ground and ten underground. Trains are expected to run every 90 seconds when the project is completed. Dubai is building this train system to ease congestion on its road network and to meet the transportation demands of its growing population.


Dubai houses 1.5% of the world's cranes.
Dubai houses 1.5% of the world's cranes.

Since 2000, Dubai's municipality has initiated a plethora of construction phases and plans across the entire city of Dubai, predominantly in the Mina Seyahi area, located further from Jumeirah, towards Jebel Ali. Dubai houses 1.5% of the world's cranes. Construction in Dubai and the UAE in general is a much faster process than in any Western country. This is partly due to the fact that labourers from India accept lower wages than those from other countries.

One of the main reasons for the boom in constrution in Dubai is due to its drive to diversify the economy. The Dubai government does not want to depend on its oil reserves which are largely believed to become exhausted by 2010 and as such has diversified its economy to attract revenues in the form of expanding commercial and corporate activity. Tourism is also being promoted at a staggering rate with the construction of Dubailand and other projects that include the making of mammoth shopping malls, theme parks, resorts, stadiums and other various tourist attractions.

One of the other reasons for the boom in construction is the recent reversal of a law in 2002 that allows non-nationals of the UAE to own property (not land) in Dubai (albeit freehold and 99 year leases are actually sold to people with ownership still remaining with private companies). The larger of the property tycoons are Al Nakheel and Emaar Properties. In Dubai, demand is currently outstripping supply by a significant margin and is showing no signs of slowing in the near future. Rents have also skyrocketed with the recent inflow of professionals and companies from around the world who are attracted by Dubai's no-tax benefits. Legislation in this area is still sketchy as the property market is a new one and rights of tenants and landowners are based on shaky principles borrowed mainly from European law. Most contracts and tenancy agreements do not stand up to the standards of international law and almost always grossly favour the lessor or the company selling property.

See also

External links

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