Popular for being the shopping destination of the world the glitzy and glamorous city of Dubai is home to some of the most iconic landmarks. There is a plethora of magnificent shopping malls, traditional spice souks among others. Apart from being a huge shopaholic magnet this place also offers you the opportunity to take a peek into the life and times of the people in the Middle East.
Dubai City – The Great City-State
You must have heard of Dubai? Yes, the same Dubai that has overtaken the rest of the world in development and progress.
In just the last few years, Dubai has gone from a pearl fishing trading dock to a global hub of tourism, real estate and financial services.
There are no signs of slowing down for this behemoth and progress is only to increase rapidly, faster than ever before.
In what seems like overnight, Dubai has made a name for it on the global landscape and has established its position on the map stronger than ever before.
Not enough can be said about the progress of this small Emirate. Words are simply not enough. Other nations are simply looking at the development of Dubai in awe hoping to be part of it in some shape or form.
So where is Dubai?
Dubai is located in the country of United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Middle East region. It is the most populated Emirate and the second largest in land mass.
But don’t be surprised if it soon becomes the largest. How is that possible? The Dubai government is running out of land so fast that they are starting to “create” land by building artificial islands on the water to extend the shoreline.
Dubai is a peninsula located on the shore of the Persian Gulf region UAE. It’s bordering Emirates are Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. It also borders the Sultanate of Oman – an independent nation-state.
Dubai is just about 52 feet above sea level and covers an area just over 4,000 square kilometers (or 1,500 square miles) – smaller than most states in the US. But like I said to expect this number to grow with time.
History of Dubai
Published documents indicate that Dubai existed at least 150 years prior to the formation of the UAE. Prior to that all Emirates were independent.
The earliest record of Dubai’s history dates to 1095 CE. After that time nothing has been found until the mention of Dubai in a 1587 discussion that mentions the Emirate as a popular place for pearl diving.
Dubai volunteered to come under British protection in its early stages to get support from the Brits to fend off early challenges from its neighbours. Since its independence, it has always been ruled by the royal family of Dubai.
The rulers come from the Al Maktoum Dynasty which can be traced back to 1833 when they first arrived to claim Dubai from Abu Dhabi (current day capital of UAE).
This is when Dubai became an independent Emirate and here started the rule of the Al Maktoums. The ruler of Dubai (as of 2008) is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Under his regime, Dubai has transformed completely and has established itself at the forefront of modern-day development. Dubai has the most liberal, modern and forward moving Mindset of all Emirates as it has developed faster and farther than its counterparts.
Dubai weather is generally hot, just as you would expect in a desert environment. But there are some very good times to go during the year. Humidity levels can also get quite high due to its waterfront location.
The best time to go to Dubai is in the winter months, precisely between November and mid-March. These are typically the best months to be in Dubai whether you want to enjoy the indoors or outdoors.
See a 12 month Dubai weather progression chart here. The chart includes average temperatures, sunshine and rainfall levels throughout the year.
However quite a bit has changed since. Dubai is clearly a mixing bowl and its culture is also quite diverse. Local Nationals (citizens) make up less than 20% of the population I believe. The rest are all immigrants.
One can argue that Dubai has lost its own identity because of the large immigrant population that significantly outnumber the local Nationals.
However, one can also argue that because of the immigration, Dubai has found and established a whole new cultural identity unique to Dubai.
Dubai adapted the Arab Emirate Dirham after it joined the formation of the UAE. The Dirham can also be written as Dh. Dhs. or AED. You will see the symbol either before or after the currency amount.
The dirham has been pegged to the US Dollar at Dh. 3.67 per $1. It is divided into 100 fils, which is the equivalent of cents.
Contrary to popular belief, oil is not the reason for Dubai’s economic boom.
Dubai has less than 2% of the world’s oil supply and is less than 6% of its total economy (GDP). Currently, Dubai is at the forefront of tourism, real estate and financial services. Soon it will be at the forefront of everything and some more. Wait till you see where Dubai is heading…
Visa laws are interesting in Dubai. They change on the fly depending on what the government wants to do that day (sometimes it probably depends on the Sheik’s mood).
If you are not a National (citizen) you will need a visa to visit Dubai or anywhere else in the UAE. The only restriction in Dubai is that they don’t allow citizens of Israel to enter the country. This is a whole different topic for another day.
Dubai visas are easy to obtain. Citizens from many countries can get visa upon arrival with no problems at all. Some countries’ citizens require visa in advance prior to arriving in Dubai.
Dubai sounds like a fairy tale doesn’t it? Well like most fairy tales there is a witch in this story as well.
Dubai has its share of problems. Quite a bit in fact. It’s just that everything is on the up and up that people often don’t talk about the cons facing Dubai. Some choose to completely ignore them.
Some of Dubai’s main struggles (among many others) include the following:
- Government suppression that leads to no free speech in media or journalism.
- Racism and favoritism toward local Nationals (try getting in a car accident with a local).
- Lost cultural identity – Dubai doesn’t know what it wants. How can the government ban certain TV channels and websites when you can go out and get as many prostitutes you want down the road? This is just a small example of a much bigger issue.
- Growing debt – Yes we don’t see it or talk about it, but Dubai is becoming a heavy debtor much like the United States.
- Labor issues – human rights violations, poor working conditions for laborers and massive exploitation. The government is working to make this much better but time will tell how much progress we see here.
- No regard for nature and environmental deterioration – all the biggest and best structures, dumping sand in water to create man-made islands, the biggest indoor ski resort in the middle of the desert are all fantastic achievements. But are they deteriorating our environment? There are many arguments both ways on this topic.