Although it is a common misconception that oil was the catalyst, trade triggered Dubai's explosion from a sleepy village into the Southern Gulf's leading port. It began with the rule of the Al Maktoum family. In 1833, Sheikh Maktoum bin Buti began the Al Maktoum family's rule of Dubai. Realising the potential of Dubai creek's natural harbour, he established a trading port.
At the turn of the twentieth century, traders were re-routing goods through Dubai to avoid the high customs elsewhere in the region. Persia's principal port, Lingah, was particularly hard hit. To take advantage of the influx of merchants to the Arab coastal settlements, Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum 'established Dubai as a free trade port, abolished import and export tariffs, and began a systematic programme to encourage Lingah's leading merchants to relocate. He offered free land and personal guarantees of protection in his peaceful trading haven.'1 The economy grew as smaller traders followed the more prominent merchants and resettled in Dubai. Dubai established itself as the Gulf's leading entry port and the centre of the pearling trade.
|A DISPLAY FROM DUBAI MUSEUM,
DEPICTING FISHERMEN AT WORK
Pearling and fishing were the primary occupations for Dubai's residents at the time. 'It may safely be stated that trade other than barter would have hardly existed in the Trucial States (UAE) but for the proceeds from the pearling industry. Pearls and mother-of-pearl constituted almost the only export.' 2
While trade was the grit around which the pearl of Dubai was formed, oil has definitely played a part in the emirate's story. By the early 1970s, as one of the Middle East's principal oil producers, the UAE was experiencing an unprecedented economic boom.
Recognising the risk involved in depending on a single source of income, the rulers decided to encourage alternate industries, developing infrastructure and continuing Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher's policy of offering favourable operating conditions to international companies. 3
Dubai's economy blossomed and a thriving city emerged from the desert sands in less than half a century.
1- WILSON, GRAEME, Father of Dubai, Media Prima, Dubai, 1999, p.33.
2. HEARD-BEY, FRAUKE, From Trucial States to United Arab Emirates, Longman, London & New York, 1996, p.188.
3. GERARD, BERNARD, The United Arab Emirates, Editions Delroisse, 1973.
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