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The Emirate of Dubai


Dubai stretches along the coast of Arabian Gulf, over a distance of about 72 km. The emirate covers around 3885 Sq km, equivalent to 5% of the country's total area. The population has reached to 1.2 million in 2004.

In the 18th century, Dubai was a small fishing and trading village inhabited by members of the Bani Yas. The Al Maktoum family settled in Dubai in 1833 when members of the Al Bu Falasah seceded from Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Maktoum bin Buti ruled Dubai effectively and it grew into a flourishing coastal town. As the population grew, Dubai branched into three distinct areas: Deira was the largest and the main commercial centre. On the western bank, Bur Dubai and Shindagha were separated by a wide stretch of sand called Ghubaiba, which would flood during high tide. Shindagha, situated on a narrow strip of land separating the sea from the creek, was the smallest area and the main residential district. The ruling sheikhs traditionally lived here and the late Sheikh Saeed's house is still standing. Shindagha was probably the site of the original Bani Yas village.

The discovery of Oil in 1966 was a turning point in the fortunes of the emirates. The late ruler, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum who became the ruler of Dubai in 1958 carefully invested the oil revenue, building Dubai into the modern city it is today. His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum succeed his father as the ruler of Dubai in 1990 when Sheikh Saeed passed away, and Sheikh Maktoum later appointed his oldest brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum as the Deputy Ruler, and his second brother General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as the Crown Prince.

In 1959, work began on dredging the creek, which had silted up rapidly during the 1950's, limiting the number of seagoing vessels that could enter it. By the end of 1960, the creek project was completed and shipping lines began using Dubai as their main port in the Gulf. In 1967, the construction of a new deep-water harbor started, and Port Rashid officially opened on 5 October 1972. The second port was later built at Jebel Ali, just south of the city. Jebel Ali port is the world's largest manmade port.

Built around the port, Jebel Ali Free Zone was founded in 1985. Jebel Ali was initially seen as the ideal base for multinationals to warehouse and distribute their products in the Gulf region. Over the years, industries settled in the free zone have ranged from the whole spectrum of manufacturing, trading and services and the market has grown to cover all the Middle East, the Asian sub-continent, Africa, ex-Soviet Union, East Europe and for many, the entire world. By the end of 2002, there were around 2,500 companies in the Free Zone from eighty countries.

The airfield that Sheikh Rashid ordered in 1959 opened in 1961. As more companies established bases in Dubai and the population grew, the airfield was continuously expanded. In 1985, Dubai International Airport became the home base for the newly founded Emirates airline. Dubai International Airport is now considered as the Middle East's premier and busiest airport. In 2003, a total of 18 million passengers passed through the airport registering a 13% growth over 2002. The ACI traffic statistics have ranked Dubai International Airport as one of the fastest growing airport in the world. Anticipating the travel demands of the 21st century, the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation commenced a US$540 million expansion program in 1997, which was completed with the opening of the Sheikh Rashid Terminal in 2000. Dubai International Airport currently has the capacity to handle 22 million passengers annually. However, according to the new expansion project, 60 million passengers are expected to enjoy the services of Dubai International Airport by 2010. With these figures in mind, the Department of Civil Aviation began the 2nd phase of expansion costing US$ 4.1bn in the first quarter of 2002. The expansion is scheduled to be completed by 2006 including Terminal 3, Concourse 2 and Concourse 3.

The establishment of Dubai Internet City on October 2000 and of Dubai Media City on January 2001 have offer their clients state-of-the-art infrastructure and attractive business incentives, ensuring the world's major IT and media giants a presence in Dubai. Joint with Dubai Knowledge Village, they make up with the Dubai Technology, E- Commerce and Media Free Zone, a critical plan for Dubai's future. The chairman of the free zone is Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Mohammed's third son.

Dubai has also moved into international finance arena, with the opening of the Dubai International Financial Center on February 2002, which Sheikh Mohammed announced would be a bridge for financial services between the region and the international markets 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

The most well known recreational & shopping event is the Dubai Shopping Festival, an annual month-long event. One of the most popular features of the Shopping Festival is the Global Village, where each country has its own pavilion and takes the opportunity to show their cultural heritage. Every evening throughout the Shopping Festival, crowds flock to the Village to enjoy Dubai's cosmopolitan feature.

In recent years, travelers to Dubai have witnessed the rapid development of Hotel industry in Dubai. Emirates Towers, which opened in 2000, overshadows the Dubai World Trade Center on Sheikh Zayed Road, and Burj Al Arab stands on a man-made island just off the shore of Jumeirah, resembling the sail of a traditional Arabian dhow. Burj Al Arab has become the centerpiece of Dubai's tourism industry.

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