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Dubai: Then & Now – An incredible transformation

Dubai: Then & NowAn incredible transformation

From a fisherman’s village to an opulent metropolis, Dubai has come a long way to gain its current stature. In the 1970s, Dubai was in for a big surprise since the discovery of oil brought to the Emirate enormous growth and reputation as an emerging getaway for the whole MENA region.

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 regional hub. 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. As a result, Dubai’s appeal to foreign cultures and nationalities is somewhat a tradition that has travelled through the years, turning the city into a crossroad of civilisations.


Raising from the desert, Dubai became the city of millionaires and a bright example of human ingenuity. During earlier times, Dubai was known for pearling, fishing and sea trade but it experienced a shift in the late 60s and early 70s. Determined to reach its full potential, the Emirate started catering to the needs of tourism while striving to make its mark. In 1978, the Dubai World Trade Centre was built – the first architecture accomplishment meant to attract even more people in the Emirate.

During the 80s, Dubai started entering the tourism business quite moderately and to no one’s imagination back then, it has become nowadays the ultimate destination for upscale and high-end hospitality services. However, if we look back we can see that Dubai’s formula for development was evident. Investment in high-quality infrastructure, zero income tax and low import duties were envisioned by the leadership to turn the city into an expatriate paradise.


The infrastructure boom commenced in the 1990s and for some parts of Dubai, it hasn’t stopped ever since. For example, Sheikh Zayed Road previously known as Abu Dhabi Road was a desert strip. Now the road is one of the main arteries in the UAE connecting the Exhibition Centre, the Dubai Mall and the iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper with the rest of the UAE. Dubai nowadays hosts advanced infrastructure and the best road quality in the world while being the world’s second best city to drive in.

The rise of Dubai International Airport over the last 15 years has also been remarkable. What used to be a small airport in the middle of nowhere has come to be one of the busiest airports of the world. Incorporating advanced ID checks and minimum time checkouts, the Dubai airport aims to deliver an outstanding experience to visitors.


The construction of Burj Khalifa was one project to rule all other projects since it has redefined architecture and engineering, as it is the tallest building in the world. Completed in 2010, Burj Khalifa comprises of 163 storeys of mixed-used space and is definitely the staple of Dubai’s financial and design prosperity. And this is only the beginning of luxury construction and innovative design thinking.


Dubai has never hidden its desire for the superlatives and the Dubai Waterfront proves that. This artificial archipelago is the largest waterfront development in the world hosting homes, hotels, restaurants and attractions. The Dubai Canal is one of the city’s main attractions, with 7,800 million litres of water held in it, plus five new Water Canal marine transport stations.


To commemorate Dubai’s scenic past and connect with the present, the Dubai Frame was created as a bridge between the old and the new. The latest attraction is a two-tower frame of 150m each, that are connected by a 93m bridge at the top. The space between the towers forms a pretty clear view of the city from a high altitude. The bridge serves as an observatory providing uninterrupted views of “Old Dubai” to the north, and “New Dubai” to the south.

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