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Text and pictures courtesy, John J. Nowell LRPS

The tiny settlement of Dubai was first noted by the Roman chronicler, Pliny, who described the Creek and the town of Dubai as "Cynos" in the first century AD. In 1833, more than 700 members of the Al Bu Falasa tribe of the Bani Yas moved to Dubai from Abu Dhabi and formed the fledgling Sheikhdom of Dubai.

In 1960, there was not a single tarmac road in Dubai. Today, the city is a magic carpet of swirling road patterns, the most elegant of which are the sweeping flyovers constructed around the Garhoud Bridge.

Dubai's offshore oil production comes from eleven reservoirs in three geological formations. Prior to shipment, the oil is stored offshore in huge sub-sea "Khazzans", the Arabic word for storage. Each khazzan is ninety metres in diameter and seventy metres tall. They were built by The Chicago Iron & Steel Company twenty kilometres south-west of Dubai on a lonely stretch of beach that became known as "Chicago Beach". (In 1960, the only occupants of the beach at Jumeirah were the occasional fishermen who kept their catch in barasti (palm frond) shelters. Today, magnificent hotels stretch into the distance along the same strip of coastline.

Khazzans outside Dubai

Vision & Initiative
The Great port of Jebel Ali was conceived by Sheikh Rashid in 1978. Local businessman Abdullah Saleh tells of sitting with Sheikh Rashid on a lonely outcrop of rock halfway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Rashid,always keen to hear the opinions of others, asked Saleh what he thought of the idea of carving a port from the desert. Saleh replied that he thought many people would see the idea as ill-conceived but added that such a port would be ideal to export the aluminium from the planned smelter. Sheikh Rashid also hinted that there would be a need for a small, privately-financed hotel to cater for visitors to the port. Saleh expressed interest in the hotel. Soon after, Sheikh Rashid gave the memorable instruction: "Dig Jebel Ali Port and build your hotel." (Today, the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZ) ranks as one of the best in the world).

How it all started
Historically, there was little to attract settlers in large numbers to the lands bordering the Arabian Gulf. The cruel deserts and the lack of water made it a place to be passed in transit and this led to a high degree of isolation for the area. However, both the camel caravans and the trading ships (enroute to the well-developed settlements at Sumer, Egypt and the Indus) needed shelter along the coast and the settlements of Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Dubai gradually developed and prospered).
While in GoDubai, visit

A land of pioneers
Ahmad Ibn Majid was born in Julfar in what is now the UAE in 1435. His ancestors were credited with the discovery of the magnetic compass and he developed his father's knowledge and wrote the book "First principles and Rules of Navigation." The volume published in 1489, was used by the Portuguese until the eighteenth century. In 1498, he guided the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama to India and the Orient.

Change with continuity
Some aspects of daily life in Dubai never change, only the mode of transport. Since the coming of Islam, the devout have stopped at sunset to face makkah and pray. Today the camel has given way to an ultra-modern Land-Rover equipped with a Global Positioning System which can give an exact bearing and distance to Makkah from any sand dune.

Text and pictures courtesy 'Now & Then - The Emirates' by John J. Nowell LRPS

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