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History of Dubai, UAE

Monday 18 February 2019 (UAE)   

A Brief History of Dubai

Dubai as a town or city has existed for much longer than the past two or three decades during which it gained prominence in the modern world - it wasn't until 1969 that oil was first exported from Dubai. Before the business, oil and tourist sectors developed, it was already a significant trading port in addition to having a pearl diving and fishing industry.

Going back a little further, there have been tombs found in the Jumeirah area which date from the second century BC and older tombs found elsewhere in the UAE. It is likely that people lived in the UAE region as far back as 5000 BC. In 1095 AD there is a written record of Dubai and Dibba is mentioned as a well-known Arab market during the time of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Dubai and some of the other emirates are mentioned in the writings of a pearl merchant from Venice (unlikely that it was THE Merchant of Venice however) in the 16th century.

By the turn of the last century in 1900, Dubai was already on the map as a trading hub. Even then, a large component of its 20,000 population was made up of foreigners.

On 02 December 1971, the UAE came into being (six emirates at first with Ras Al Khaimah signing up on 10 February 1972) and replaced the Trucial States.

Restoration of historic buildings in Dubai and UNESCO
  • Historical Buildings Maintenance Unit (now known as Historical Buildings Restoration Section) was established in 1991 by the Dubai Municipality.
  • Up until 2006, about 100 buildings have been restored.
  • Dubai Municipality Historical Building Section intention is to restore another 320 buildings by 2010.
  • None currently on UNESCO World Heritage Sites list but attempts being made to get several sites on the list including Sheikh Saeed House, Al Fahidi Fort, Al Ahmadiya School, and Hatta Heritage Village as well as the Bastakia and Shindagha areas.
Historic Landmarks in Dubai

As of 01 September 2006, government department weekends will change from Thursday/Friday to Friday/Saturday. This will probably not affect opening hours of historic tourist sights but you may want to double-check if going anywhere on a Saturday.

  • Al Ahmadiya School - first school in Dubai, built in 1912, renovated as a Museum of Education.
  • Al Fahidi Fort (Al Faheidi) - Bastakiya Quarter, oldest fort in Dubai, built in 1799, was home to Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher al Maktoum in the late 19th century. Now houses the Dubai Museum. Restored from 1993 and opened to public in 1995.
  • Al Ghuraifa Majlis
  • Al Hijaz Heritage Motel
  • Al Qusais (Ghusais) graveyard - excavation dating back to before 0 BC. Not open to public, enquire at Dubai Museum for permission to visit.
  • Al Sufouh (Sufooh) graveyard - excavation dating back to before 0 BC. Not open to public, enquire at Dubai Museum for permission to visit.
  • Al Wakeel House
  • Bait Al Wakeel - first office building in Dubai, built in 1934 by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, restored in 1995.
  • Bastakia Quarter (Al Bastakiya Area or Al Bastakia Area) - original center of Dubai, in Bur Dubai near Dubai Creek, now known for its restored windtowers - about 55 of them. Some of which are now in buildings with cafes and art galleries including the Basta Art Café, Majlis Gallery and Cafe, Ostra Gallery, XVA Art Gallery and Guesthouse. The area was originally built by Persian merchants trading in Dubai in the late 1800s, who named it after the town of Bastak in Iran (since that's where many of them came from).
  • Bur Dubai creek - along the creekside between Bastakia and Shindagha are many old buildings that have had resotaration work done.
  • Bur Dubai Souk / Souq
  • Burj Nahar - Deira another fort dating from 1876 and restored in 1992. Not to be confused with the Burj Nahar Hotel (or Burj Naher).
  • Deira Souk / Souq
  • Dubai Museum - in the restored Al Fahidi fort in the Bastakia Quarter. Definitely worth a visit. If any cynical resident expats try and tell you otherwise, ask them if they've been, and drag them along if they haven't. Tel +971-4-3531862, open 0830-1930 daily except Fridays 1330-1930, during Ramadan 0900-1700 and Fridays 1400-1700. Admission cheap.
  • Ghurfat Um Al Sharief majlis
  • Grand Mosque - oldest mosque in Dubai, built in 1850
  • Grand Souq
  • Hatta archaeological site - not open to public, enquire at Dubai Museum for visiting permission.
  • Hatta Fort
  • Hatta Heritage Village - 16th century village in the Hajar or Hajjar mountains, one hour's drive from Dubai. Also called Hatta Village, Historical Hatta Village, or Hatta Old Village.
  • Heritage House in Al Ras, Deira - dates back to around 1890.
  • Heritage Village and Diving Village (or Heritage & Diving Village) - Al Shindagha area near mouth of Dubai Creek, live demonstrations of pottery and other crafts. The Diving Village describes the pearl diving industry. Open 0800-2200 daily except Fri 0800-1100 and 1600-2200. During Ramadan 0900-2400 with activities from 2100-2400.
  • Jumeirah archaeological (or archeological) site - excavation with relics found dating back to between the 7th and 15th centuries. Not open to public, enquire at Dubai Museum for permission to visit.
  • Lootah Mosque
  • Majlis Um al Sheif - Jumeirah, built for Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum in about 1955.
  • Nahar Tower - see Burj Nahar
  • Naif Fort - another fort
  • Round House - Jumeirah, replica of original Roundhouse where documents signed forming the UAE.
  • Sheikh Obaid bin Thani House - Shindaga, near Sheikh Saeed al Maktoum House. Built in 1916, converted into a museum (completion date?).
  • Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House or Shaikh Saeed House - built in 1896 for Sheikh Saeed who was ruler of Dubai from 1912-1958. Opened in 1986 as a museum with a historic stamp, photo, coin and document collection. Also referred to as Sheikh Saeed’s House. Open 0800-2030 daily except Friday 1530-2130. During Ramadhan 0900-1700 daily, 1400-1700 Friday. Tel +971-4-3937139.
  • Shindagha area
  • Umm Rayool Square / Tower (or Murabba'at Umm Rayool / Umm Royool / Um Rajool) - a weapons store and vehicle checkpoint. Of sorts, it was built (in 1838) on legs or pillars. The tower was relocated and restored in 2004 in Union Square near the Deira taxi station. And knocked down again in 2005 to make way for Dubai Metro's Union Station.
Dubai Municipality Historical Buildings Section
  • Tourist maps of the historic sights are apparently available.
  • Walking tours can be organised.
  • Can become a member of the Society for the Conservation of Historical Buildings in the UAE.
Updated Tuesday 15-Jun-2010
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