Dubai Profile According to official figures, 99 per cent of the residents of the small, once insular United Arab Emirates (UAE) reside in Dubai City. This makes the distinction between city and Emirate very small indeed.
Dubai is growing faster than any other city in the Persian Gulf region. New and luxurious hotel complexes, shopping centres and high-rise apartment buildings are being built daily. The face of this highly modern city with over a million inhabitants is constantly changing, yet always a bit eccentric. In addition to countless corporate headquarters, ultra-luxurious hotels and resorts, and high-end shopping malls, Dubai is also home to the largest indoor snow park in the world, fittingly called Ski Dubai, itself located inside a gargantuan shopping mall. Opened in December 2005, the temperature inside the facility at the edge of the Arabian Desert is a constant —1 Â°C, while the temperature outside soars to 40 Â°C under the merciless desert sun. It would seem that in the city of Dubai, anything is possible.
Oil — black gold of the Emirs.
Dubai has been governed for over 170 years by the Al-Maktoum clan. Under their leadership, and with substantial investment from Britain, the harbour of Dubai has become the most important commercial port in the Persian Gulf. The local inhabitants used to earn their living by diving for pearls. Their lifestyles changed drastically with the discovery of oil in 1966 and the economic boom that followed.
Persian Gulf tourist destination.
In addition to the oil industry, Dubai’s economy relies on tourism, banking and trade. Great efforts have been made to promote Dubai as a tourist destination. The most exclusive residential quarter of the Emirate now boasts a number of world-class luxury hotels, including the famous Burj At Arab, the “Arab Tower”. Designed to resemble the sail of a traditional Persian Gulf ship, the 54-storey hotel is 321 metres tall. It is the tallest, most expensive and most luxurious hotel in the world. Visitors can play tennis at a dizzying height on top of the “helipad” overlooking the Arabian Gulf 311 metres below. The Wild Wadi Water Park and Madinat Jumeirah shopping mall are located nearby in the suburb of Jumeirah. Then there are the Palm Islands, tear-shaped artificial land masses built in the shallow gulf waters. They provide additional land for vacation homes, villas and hotels. Several nearby Gulf islands await similar development.
The river that is not a river.
The wetlands known as Ras Al-Khor divide Dubai into northern and southern sections. Ras Al-Khor is not a river but a shallow inland bay. Small passenger ferries called abras carry people from one side to the other for a small fee, or traditional lateen sailboats can be rented for a more extensive tour. A protected national wildlife area, the Ras al-Khor is home to over 100 species of birds, including a resident population of 500 greater flamingos.
Tourism promotes restoration.
Most of the places of greatest interest to visitors in Dubai’s Old City are found along the Ras Al-Khor. Naturally, there are also many mosques in Islamic Dubai. The Great Mosque, built in 1998, is between the al-Fahidi Fort and Ras al-Khor. Al-Fahidi Fort was once the seat of the emirs of Dubai. Restored in 1970, it is now the National Museum. The Bastakia Quarter is one of the oldest parts of the city, making up the larger part of its historic centre. Having survived the twentieth-century building boom without sacrificing its ancient charm, the government now plans a complete restoration, including a museum, cultural centre, restaurants and art galleries. Houses in Bastakia are notable for their “wind towers”, a traditional means of air conditioning. Cool air currents are pulled into the centre of the house through vents and windows. The system is so cleverly designed that that even the smallest breeze circulates through the rooms below.