There are many things in Emirates to wonder at – history of this country, high level of all – round development, local traditions and custom, everything you see and hear from all quarters. The Dubai way of life did not always center on oil and its profits.
Dubai was originally a fishing settlement. Inhabitants lived by fishing, pearling, herding sheep and goats, and by the turn of the century was an important trading port.
The history of Dubai UAE is rather different from the histories of most similarly-sized cities in the West. The usual pattern is for different periods of history to be layered on top of each other in an imperceptibly slow process.
Then the historian’s job is to separate the half-blended strata in order to tease out the story of the place. But this approach doesn’t work when you’re finding out about Dubai, as the city’s dramatic transformation resembles a TV makeover show more than a gradual evolution.
Dubai began as a very small, sleepy settlement; until 3000 years BC the area in which Dubai UAE is now found was occupied by nomads who herded sheep, goats and cattle. These nomads supplemented their diet with fish.
Agriculture began half a millennium later with the cultivation of the date palm. During the Bronze Age, the area was linked with the copper trade. After that, there is a big gap in what we know until the 7th century, when the region became Islamic.
Trade expanded even as Dubai was under the British protectorate, and Dubai began to grow in merchant appeal. By the early 1900s, almost a quarter of the population was foreign.
The population in the 1930s was 20,000, and of that, 2,000 were Persians, 1,000 Baluchis, many Indians and substantial communities from Bahrain, Kuwait and the Hasa province in eastern South Arabia. In 1954, the British established a political agency there as well.
Many people think that it was the sudden discovery of oil in 1966 which poured wealth into Dubai resulting high demand for Dubai property, leading to its rapid reinvention from a quiet settlement to the land of the blink. This isn’t far from the truth, but the whole truth is more interesting and subtle.
The pearling industry in Dubai collapsed at the end of the 1920s, dealt a double blow by the Wall Street Crash and the invention of the artificial pearl. This forced the emirate to look around for other sources of revenue.
But the development of Dubai had already begun at the end of the nineteenth century, when the ruler at the time allowed tax exemption for foreign traders. This coincided with the port of Lingah in Iran losing its own status as a free port, so Dubai nabbed all its customers.
Thus began Dubai’s proud history as a place where items are re-exported. Debate rages over whether “re-exporting” is a euphemism for smuggling, just as it does over the issue of whether Dubai could have been important without the oil.
The most realistic answer to the second question is that Dubai used oil revenue to gain capital for the creation of a trade and manufacturing infrastructure, alongside a booming tourist industry.
If Dubai had relied on its oil reserves to spend freely without putting any money into developing other industries, the place would now be in serious trouble, as oil and gas reserves were small. Now, nearly 90% of Dubai’s revenue is not oil-based.
So, the secret to Dubai UAE’s success is doing the best with what you have – something every self-respecting makeover show advises.
Dubai is a popular choice with GCC locals and foreigners alike, both of whom are currently zapping up off plan property in Dubai before it has even had a chance to hit the market.
Many of those moving to Dubai for the first time are reluctant to buy due to the fact that they are still testing the waters so to speak. In addition, the red tape surrounding the purchase of Dubai property by non GCC citizens was enough to put many off buying before they had even considered investigating the market.
Thus the demand for Dubai property to rent opened the way for local landlords to hype rental prices substantially. It is estimated that in the last year or two alone, rental rates have increased by between 1000 and 5000 per annum.
In the event that you are able to purchase a decent apartment or villa and rent it out at a reasonable rate, you are likely to easily be able to cover your mortgage repayments and possibly still make yourself a little extra.