Dubai’s more-recent history has been founded on its pearl diving, gold trading and economic importance mainly due to its strategic geographical location, situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean with its sea and air links to countries in the Gulf region, Africa and the Far East.
In 1833 the Bani Yas tribal family moved into Dubai headed by Sheikh Maktoum bin Butti, who became the founder of the Al Maktoum family that still rule the Emirate of Dubai.
In 1892 Sheikh Maktoum launched a formal trading agreement with the British government and as a result of that agreement permitted a full tax exemption to all foreign traders, which continues to this day.
As a result of being duty free the re-export business, whereby cheap goods could be imported into a duty free port and immediately exported to another market, mainly in Europe, accelerated.
In 1912, Sheikh Rashid, often referred to as the father of Dubai, was born. He was the first ruler to visualise the trade potential that Dubai had to offer and was responsible for ordering firstly, the development of Port Rashid to handle shipping imports and re-exports and also further development of the shipping trade, most notably in gold. The commercial enterprise continued and Sheikh Rashid was also responsible for ordering the dredging of Jebel Ali Port, which is now the largest deep-water port in the world today.
Sheikh Rashid had a special relationship with the British and was said to enjoy a close friendship with Queen Elizabeth II. His sons all completed their education at Sandhurst and it is perhaps not surprising that the affable relationship between the two countries continues to this day. Sheikh Rashid died in 1990 but his legacy continues through his sons.
The British had already decided to leave the region to the east of the Suez Canal and after oil was discovered in the Gulf countries in 1966, the United Arab Emirates were formally established on 2nd December 1971.
After the death of Sheikh Rashid, the mantle passed firstly to his son Sheikh Maktoum and in January 2006 following his death, to the current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed. There is no doubt that he will forge ahead with plans to make Dubai one of the most modern cities in the world today.
Dubai continues its vigorous development and construction continues, albeit at a slower rate than before the recent worldwide recession. It is perhaps easy to forget that Dubai is a very new city, but there always seems to be a belief and a buzz about the place, and it will be interesting to contemplate what Dubai will look like in say, five or ten years time.