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Dubai History

Within less than 300 years, Dubai has grown from small pearl fishing village into a modern metropolis with a skyline studded with skyscrapers. The story begins with the current rulers, the Al Maktoum family.

In 1833, they led 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe to what is now Dubai Creek, where they set up home. The creek was a natural harbour and during the 19th century, it served as Dubai’s commercial engine, establishing itself as a centre for fishing, pearling and maritime trade. Old dhows (traditional sailing boats) still ply the routes between Dubai, India and beyond.

By the turn of the 20th century, Dubai had established itself as a successful port. The souk on the Deira side of the Creek was the largest on the coast with 350 shops, attracting a steady stream of visitors and businessmen. By the 1930s, the city’s population was nearly 20,000, a quarter of whom were expatriates.

In the 1950s the creek began to silt, so ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum decided to have the waterway dredged. It was ambitious and costly project but one that proved visionary thanks to the vast increase of cargo traffic as a result.

When oil was discovered in 1966, Sheikh Rashid turned the petro-dollars into building projects, and also used it to kick-start the tourist industry. In 1971, Dubai became part of the United Arab Emirates following the British withdrawal. In 1972, the project was completed when the final emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the fledgling country.

Even though the visionary Sheikh Rashid died in 2006, and was succeeded by his son Sheikh Mohammed, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates have continued to flourish.

The city state suffered a setback in 2008 when recession hit and it had to be bailed out by Abu Dhabi, but today Dubai is back on track and the cranes that dot its skyline are as busy as ever.

Did you know?
• Before the discovery of oil, the pearl trade was Dubai’s major source of wealth.
• The oldest reference to Dubai is by the Venetian Gasparo Balbi in 1580.
• In 2001, Dubai became the home of the world’s largest artificial island, the Palm Jumeirah, which can be seen from space.

Featured Hotels

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Desert Palm Dubai

Set away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai proper, the Desert Palm Dubai is a peaceful spot that conspicuously lacks the bling that characterises many of the city’s ultra-luxe hotels. Gorgeous gardens and a full-size polo field surround it, while the onsite spa is particularly good.

InterContinental Dubai Festival City

Set in one of Dubai’s many shopping, culinary and entertainment destinations, InterContinental Dubai Festival City offers a luxury yet affordable experience. It is also conveniently located by a massive Event Centre, with exclusive direct access to Dubai Festival City Mall.

Jumeirah Emirates Towers

These two ultra-modern skyscrapers are among the tallest buildings in the Middle East. Part office, part hotel, each state-of-the-art room is geared towards business guests and have all the essentials, including super-speedy Wi-Fi. Although most of the rooms are ultra-modern, the deluxe rooms come with their own opulent chaises longue.

Grand Hyatt

Few business hotels come with a lobby floor decorated with mosaic tiles made from real gold but then again this is Dubai. Away from the lobby things are a bit less bling and very comfortable – think huge cushions and beds with crisp white sheets. It also boasts good restaurants and an excellent spa.

Citymax

Citymax has targeted the budget market in a bold way, opening large properties in Al Barsha and in the heart of the central Bur Dubai district. Its Al Barsha hotel is conveniently close to Mall of the Emirates and boasts comfortable, clean rooms – all within striking distance of the beaches and nightlife of the Marina.

EasyHotel Dubai

Sunglasses at the ready – Dubai's EasyHotel is almost entirely decked out in the Easy brand's trademark bright orange and white. That said, the hotel is comfortable and super-cheap, and offers free Wi-Fi in all of its rooms. The main downside is the location – Jebel Ali is about 25km (16 miles) from Jumeirah.