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إمارة دبيّ
—   Emirate  —
Emirate of Dubai
Downtown Dubai

Dubai is located in Dubai
Location of Dubai in the UAE
Coordinates: 25°15′00″N 55°18′00″E
Country United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates
Emirate Dubai Dubai
Incorporated (town) 9 June 1833
Independence from UK 2 December 1971
Founder Maktoum bin Bati bin Suhail (1833)
Seat Dubai
 • Type Constitutional monarchy
 •  Ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
 •  Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
 •  Emirate 4,114 km2 (1,588 sq mi)
Population (2008)
 •  Emirate 2,262,000
 • Density 408.18/km2 (1,057/sq mi)
 •  Metro 3,410,737
 • Nationality 
17% Emirati
9.1% Other Arab nationalities
42.3% Indian
13.3% Pakistani
7.5% Bangladeshi
2.5% Filipino
1.5% Sri Lankan
0.9% European
0.3% American
5.7% other countries
Time zone UAE standard time ( UTC+4)
Website Dubai Emirate
Dubai Municipality

Dubai (English pronunciation: /duːˈbaɪ/ doo-bye; Arabic: دبيّ‎, Dubayy) is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the second-largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the only two emirates to have veto power over critical matters of national importance in the country's legislature.

The earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095, and the earliest settlement known as Dubai town dates from 1799. Dubai was formally established in the early 19th century by the Al Abu Falasa clan of Bani Yas, and it remained under clan control when the United Kingdom assumed the protection of Dubai in 1892. Its geographical location made it an important trading hub and by the beginning of the 20th century, it was an important port. In 1966, the year oil was discovered, Dubai and the emirate of Qatar set up a new monetary unit to replace the Gulf Rupee. The oil economy led to a massive influx of foreign workers, quickly expanding the city by 300% and bringing in international oil interests. The modern emirate of Dubai was created after the UK left the area in 1971. At this time Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and four other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates. The following year Ras al Khaimah joined the federation while Qatar and Bahrain chose to remain independent nations. In 1973, the monetary union with Qatar was dissolved and the UAE Dirham introduced throughout the UAE. A free trade zone was built around the Jebel Ali port in 1979, allowing foreign companies unrestricted import of labour and export capital. The Gulf War of 1990 had a negative financial effect on the city, as depositors withdrew their money and traders withdrew their trade, but subsequently the city recovered in a changing political climate and thrived.

Today, Dubai has emerged as a global city and a business hub. Although Dubai's economy was built on the oil industry, currently the emirate's model of business, similar to that of Western countries, drives its economy, with the effect that its main revenues are now from tourism, real estate, and financial services. Dubai has recently attracted world attention through many innovative large construction projects and sports events. This increased attention has highlighted labour rights and human rights issues concerning its largely South Asian workforce. Dubai's property market experienced a major deterioration in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the worldwide economic downturn following the Financial crisis of 2007–2010.


In the 1820s, Dubai was referred to as Al Wasl by British historians. Few records pertaining to the cultural history of the UAE or its constituent emirates exist and because of the region's oral traditions, folklore and myth were not written down. The linguistic origins of the word Dubai are disputed; some believe it to have originated from the Persian language, while some believe that Arabic is its linguistic root. According to Fedel Handhal, a researcher in the history and culture of the UAE, the word Dubai may have come from the word Daba (a derivative of Yadub, which means to creep); referring to the slow flow of Dubai Creek inland. The poet and scholar Ahmad Mohammad Obaid traces it to the same word, but to its alternative meaning of locust.


Although stone tools have been found at many sites, little is known about UAE's early inhabitants as only a few settlements have been found. Many ancient towns in the area were trading centers between the Eastern and Western worlds. The remnants of an ancient mangrove swamp, dated at 7,000 BC, were discovered during the construction of sewer lines near Dubai Internet City. The area was covered with sand about 5,000 years ago as the coast retreated inland, becoming a part of the city's present coastline. Early Islamic ceramics have been found from the 3rd and 4th century. Prior to Islam, the people in this region worshiped Bajir (or Bajar). The Byzantine and Sassanian (Persian) empires constituted the great powers of the period, with the Sassanians controlling much of the region. After the spread of Islam in the area, the Umayyad Caliph, of the eastern Islamic world, invaded south-east Arabia and drove out the Sassanians. Excavations by the Dubai Museum in the region of Al-Jumayra ( Jumeirah) found several artifacts from the Umayyad period.

Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1799, is the oldest existing building in Dubai – now part of the Dubai Museum

The earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095, in the "Book of Geography" by the Andalusian-Arab geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri. The Venetian pearl merchant Gaspero Balbi visited the area in 1580 and mentioned Dubai (Dibei) for its pearling industry. Since 1799, there has been a settlement known as Dubai town. In the early 19th century, the Al Abu Falasa clan ( House of Al-Falasi) of Bani Yas clan established Dubai, which remained a dependent of Abu Dhabi until 1833. On 8 January 1820, the sheikh of Dubai and other sheikhs in the region signed the "General Maritime Peace Treaty" with the British government. In 1833, following tribal feuding, the Al Maktoum dynasty (also descendants of the House of Al-Falasi) of the Bani Yas tribe left their ancestral home of the Liwa Oasis, South-west of the settlement of Abu Dhabi and quickly took over Dubai from the Abu Fasala clan without resistance.

The Al Ras district in Deira, Dubai in the 1960s

Dubai came under the protection of the United Kingdom by the "Exclusive Agreement" of 1892, in which the UK agreed to protect Dubai against the Ottoman Empire. Two catastrophes struck the town during the 1800s. First, in 1841, a smallpox epidemic broke out in the Bur Dubai locality, forcing residents to relocate east to Deira. Then, in 1894, fire swept through Deira, burning down most homes. However, the town's geographical location continued to attract traders and merchants from around the region. The emir of Dubai was keen to attract foreign traders and lowered trade tax brackets, which lured traders away from Sharjah and Bandar Lengeh, which were the region's main trade hubs at the time.

Dubai's geographical proximity to Iran made it an important trade location. The town of Dubai was an important port of call for foreign tradesmen, chiefly those from Iran, many of whom eventually settled in the town. By the beginning of the 20th century, it was an important port. Dubai was known for its pearl exports until the 1930s; the pearl trade was damaged irreparably by World War I, and later on by the Great Depression in the 1930s. With the collapse of the pearling industry, Dubai fell into a deep depression and many residents starved or migrated to other parts of the Persian Gulf.

In the early days since its inception, Dubai was constantly at odds with Abu Dhabi. In 1947, a border dispute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi on the northern sector of their mutual border, escalated into war. Arbitration by the British and the creation of a buffer frontier running south eastwards from the coast at Ras Hasian resulted in a temporary cessation of hostilities. Electricity, telephone services, and an airport were established in Dubai in the 1950s, when the British moved their local administrative offices there from Sharjah. After years of exploration following large finds in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, oil was eventually discovered in Dubai in 1971, albeit in far smaller quantities, after which the town granted concessions to international oil companies. The discovery of oil led to a massive influx of foreign workers, mainly Indians and Pakistanis. Between 1968 and 1975 the city's population grew by over 300%.

On 2 December 1971 Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and five other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates after the former protector, Britain, left the Persian Gulf in 1971. In 1973, Dubai joined the other emirates to adopt a uniform currency: the UAE dirham. In the 1970s, Dubai continued to grow from revenues generated from oil and trade, even as the city saw an influx of immigrants fleeing the Lebanese civil war. Border disputes between the emirates continued even after the formation of the UAE; it was only in 1979 that a formal compromise was reached that ended hostilities. The Jebel Ali port was established in 1979. Jafza ( Jebel Ali Free Zone) was built around the port in 1985 to provide foreign companies unrestricted import of labour and export capital.

The Gulf War of 1990 had a huge effect on the city. Depositors withdrew massive amounts of money from Dubai banks due to uncertain political conditions in the region. Later in the 1990s many foreign trading communities—first from Kuwait, during the Gulf War, and later from Bahrain, during the Shia unrest—moved their businesses to Dubai. Dubai provided refuelling bases to allied forces at the Jebel Ali free zone during the Gulf War, and again during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Large increases in oil prices after the Gulf War encouraged Dubai to continue to focus on free trade and tourism.


City level map of Dubai

Dubai is situated on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates and is roughly at sea level (16 m/52 ft above). The emirate of Dubai shares borders with Abu Dhabi in the south, Sharjah in the northeast, and the Sultanate of Oman in the southeast. Hatta, a minor exclave of the emirate, is surrounded on three sides by Oman and by the emirates of Ajman (in the west) and Ras Al Khaimah (in the north). The Persian Gulf borders the western coast of the emirate. Dubai is positioned at 25.2697°N 55.3095°E / 25.2697; 55.3095 and covers an area of 4,114 km² (1,588 mi²), which represents a significant expansion beyond its initial 1,500 sq mi (3,900 km2) designation due to land reclamation from the sea.

Dubai lies directly within the Arabian Desert. However, the topography of Dubai is significantly different from that of the southern portion of the UAE in that much of Dubai's landscape is highlighted by sandy desert patterns, while gravel deserts dominate much of the southern region of the country. The sand consists mostly of crushed shell and coral and is fine, clean and white. East of the city, the salt-crusted coastal plains, known as sabkha, give way to a north-south running line of dunes. Farther east, the dunes grow larger and are tinged red with iron oxide.

View of Dubai from Jumeirah
View of dubai desert

The flat sandy desert gives way to the Western Hajar Mountains, which run alongside Dubai's border with Oman at Hatta. The Western Hajar chain has an arid, jagged and shattered landscape, whose mountains rise to about 1,300 meters in some places. Dubai has no natural river bodies or oases; however, Dubai does have a natural inlet, Dubai Creek, which has been dredged to make it deep enough for large vessels to pass through. Dubai also has multiple gorges and waterholes which dot the base of the Western Al Hajar mountains. A vast sea of sand dunes covers much of southern Dubai, and eventually leads into the desert known as The Empty Quarter. Seismically, Dubai is in a very stable zone—the nearest seismic fault line, the Zagros Fault, is 200 km (124.27 mi) from the UAE and is unlikely to have any seismic impact on Dubai. Experts also predict that the possibility of a tsunami in the region is minimal because the Persian Gulf waters are not deep enough to trigger a tsunami.

The Dubai- Sharjah- Ajman metropolitan area at night

The sandy desert surrounding the city supports wild grasses and occasional date palms. Desert hyacinths grow in the sabkha plains east of the city, while acacia and ghaf trees grow in the flat plains within the proximity of the Western Al Hajar mountains. Several indigenous trees such as the date palm and neem as well as imported trees like the eucalypts grow in Dubai's natural parks. The houbara bustard, striped hyena, caracal, desert fox, falcon and Arabian oryx are common in Dubai's desert. Dubai is on the migration path between Europe, Asia and Africa, and more than 320 migratory bird species pass through the emirate in spring and autumn. The waters of Dubai are home to more than 300 species of fish, including the hammour. The typical marine life off the Dubai coast includes tropical Fish, jellyfish, coral, dugong, dolphins, whales and sharks. Various types of turtles can also be found in the area including the Hawksbill turtle and Green Turtle which are listed as endangered species.

Dubai Creek runs northeast-southwest through the city. The eastern section of the city forms the locality of Deira and is flanked by the emirate of Sharjah in the east and the town of Al Aweer in the south. The Dubai International Airport is located south of Deira, while the Palm Deira is located north of Deira in the Persian Gulf. Much of Dubai's real-estate boom is concentrated to the west of the Dubai Creek, on the Jumeirah coastal belt. Port Rashid, Jebel Ali, Burj Al Arab, the Palm Jumeirah and theme-based free-zone clusters such as Business Bay are all located in this section.


Dubai has a hot arid climate. Summers in Dubai are extremely hot, windy and dry, with an average high around 40 °C (104 °F) and overnight lows around 30 °C (86 °F). Most days are sunny throughout the year. Winters are cool and short with an average high of 23 °C (73 °F) and overnight lows of 14 °C (57 °F). Precipitation, however, has been increasing in the last few decades with accumulated rain reaching 150 mm (5.91  in) per year.

Climate data for Dubai
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 31.6
Average high °C (°F) 24
Daily mean °C (°F) 19
Average low °C (°F) 14.3
Record low °C (°F) 6.1
Precipitation mm (inches) 18.8
Avg. precipitation days 5.4 4.7 5.8 2.6 0.3 0 0.5 0.5 0.1 0.2 1.3 3.8 25.2
 %  humidity 65 65 63 55 53 58 56 57 60 60 61 64 59.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 254.2 229.6 254.5 294 344.1 342 322.4 316.2 309 303.8 285 256.6 3511.4
Source #1: Dubai Meteorological Office
Source #2: (extremes, sun),, NOAA (humidity, 1974-1991)

Governance and politics

Dubai police car, a BMW 5 Series Sedan

Dubai's government operates within the framework of a constitutional monarchy, and has been ruled by the Al Maktoum family since 1833. The current ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is also the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and member of the Supreme Council of the Union (SCU). Dubai appoints eight members in two-term periods to the Federal National Council (FNC) of the UAE, the supreme federal legislative body.

The Dubai Municipality (DM) was established by the then ruler of Dubai, Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum in 1954 for purposes of city planning, citizen services and upkeep of local facilities. DM is chaired by Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai and comprises several departments such as the Roads Department, Planning and Survey Department, Environment and Public Health Department and Financial Affairs Department. In 2001, Dubai Municipality embarked on an e-Government project with the intention of providing 40 of its city services through its web portal ( Thirteen such services were launched by October 2001, while several other services were expected to be operational in the future. Dubai Municipality is also in charge of the city's sanitation and sewage infrastructure.

The Dubai Police Force, founded in 1956 in the locality of Naif, has law enforcement jurisdiction over the emirate; the force is under direct command of Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai.

Dubai and Ras al Khaimah are the only emirates that do not conform to the federal judicial system of the United Arab Emirates. The emirate's judicial courts comprise the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation. The Court of First Instance consists of the Civil court, which hears all civil claims; the Criminal Court, which hears claims originating from police complaints; and Sharia Court, which is responsible for matters between Muslims. Non-Muslims do not appear before the Sharia Court. The Court of Cassation is the supreme court of the emirate and hears disputes on matters of law only.

Human rights

Dubai has approximately 250,000 labourers, mostly South Asian working on property development projects such as the Dubai Marina.

Article 25 of the Constitution of the UAE provides for the equitable treatment of persons with regard to race, nationality, religious beliefs or social status. However, many of Dubai's 250,000 foreign labourers live in conditions described by Human Rights Watch as being "less than human." NPR reports that workers "typically live eight to a room, sending home a portion of their salary to their families, whom they don't see for years at a time." On 21 March 2006, workers at the construction site of Burj Khalifa, upset over bus timings and working conditions, rioted: damaging cars, offices, computers, and construction tools. The global financial crisis has caused the working class of Dubai to be especially hard hit, with many workers not being paid but also being unable to leave the country.

Alleged labour injustices in Dubai have attracted the attention of various human rights groups, which have tried to persuade the government to become a signatory to two of the International Labour Organization's eight core conventions, which allows for the formation of labour unions. The Dubai government, however, denied any kind of labour injustices and stated that the watchdog's accusations were misguided. Towards the end of March 2006, the government announced steps to allow construction unions. UAE labour minister Ali al-Kaabi said: "Labourers will be allowed to form unions".

Prostitution, though illegal by law, is conspicuously present in the emirate because of an economy that is largely based on tourism and trade. Research conducted by the American Centre for International Policy Studies (AMCIPS) found that Russian and Ethiopian women are the most common prostitutes, as well as women from some African countries, while Indian prostitutes are part of a well organised trans-Oceanic prostitution network. A 2007 PBS documentary entitled Dubai: Night Secrets reported that prostitution in clubs is tolerated by authorities and many foreign women work there without being coerced.


Year Population
18221 1,200
19001 10,000
19301 20,000
19401 38,000
19541 20,000
19601 40,000
1968 58,971
1975 183,000
1985 370,800
1995 674,000
2005 1,204,000
1 The town of Dubai first conducted a census in 1968. All population figures in this table prior to 1968 are estimates obtained from various sources.

According to the census conducted by the Statistics Centre of Dubai, the population of the emirate was 1,771,000 as of 2009, which included 1,370,000 males and 401,000 females. The region covers 497.1 square miles (1,287.4 km²). The population density is 408.18/km² – more than eight times that of the entire country. Dubai is the second most expensive city in the region, and 20th most expensive city in the world.

As of 2005, 17% of the population of the emirate was made up of UAE nationals. Approximately 85% of the expatriate population (and 71% of the emirate's total population) was Asian, chiefly Indian (51%), Pakistani (16%), Bangladeshi (9%) and Filipino (3%). A quarter of the population however reportedly traces their origins to Iran. In addition, 16% of the population (or 288,000 persons) living in collective labour accommodation were not identified by ethnicity or nationality, but were thought to be primarily Asian. The median age in the emirate was about 27 years. The crude birth rate, as of 2005, was 13.6%, while the crude death rate was about 1%. Although Arabic is the official language, English is the lingua franca of the city and is very widely spoken by residents. Urdu, Persian, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Tagalog, Chinese, Malayalam, and other languages are spoken in Dubai by its many foreign residents.

Article 7 of the UAE's Provisional Constitution declares Islam the official state religion of the UAE. The government subsidises almost 95% of mosques and employs all Imams; approximately 5% of mosques are entirely private, and several large mosques have large private endowments.

Dubai also has large Christian, Hindu, Bahá'í, Sikh, Buddhist, and other religious communities residing in the city. Non-Muslim groups can own their own houses of worship, where they can practice their religion freely, by requesting a land grant and permission to build a compound. Groups that do not have their own buildings must use the facilities of other religious organisations or worship in private homes. Non-Muslim religious groups are permitted to openly advertise group functions; however, proselytising or distributing religious literature is strictly prohibited under penalty of criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and deportation for engaging in behaviour offensive to Islam.

Currently the only religion that is not allowed to have a place of worship nor practice freely is Judaism. In addition, Israeli citizens are not allowed into the country unless they get special permission from government officials.


Dubai's gross domestic product as of 2008 was US$ 82.11 billion. Although Dubai's economy was built on the back of the oil industry, revenues from oil and natural gas currently account for less than 6% of the emirate's revenues. It is estimated that Dubai produces 50,000 to 70,000 barrels (11,000 m3) of oil a day and substantial quantities of gas from offshore fields. The emirate's share in UAE's gas revenues is about 2%. Dubai's oil reserves have diminished significantly and are expected to be exhausted in 20 years. Real estate and construction (22.6%), trade (16%), entrepôt (15%) and financial services (11%) are the largest contributors to Dubai's economy. Dubai's top exporting destinations include India (US$ 5.8 billion), Switzerland (US$ 2.37 billion) and Saudi Arabia (US$ 0.57 billion). Dubai's top re-exporting destinations include India (US$ 6.53 billion), Iran (US$ 5.8 billion) and Iraq (US$ 2.8 billion). The emirate's top import sources are India (US$ 12.55 billion), China (US$ 11.52 billion) and the United States (US$ 7.57 billion). As of 2009 India was Dubai's largest trade partner.

Historically, Dubai and its twin across the Dubai creek, Deira (independent of Dubai City at that time), were important ports of call for Western manufacturers. Most of the new city's banking and financial centres were headquartered in the port area. Dubai maintained its importance as a trade route through the 1970s and 1980s. Dubai has a free trade in gold and, until the 1990s, was the hub of a "brisk smuggling trade" of gold ingots to India, where gold import was restricted. Dubai's Jebel Ali port, constructed in the 1970s, has the largest man-made harbour in the world and was ranked seventh globally for the volume of container traffic it supports. Dubai is also a hub for service industries such as information technology and finance, with industry-specific free zones throughout the city. Dubai Internet City, combined with Dubai Media City as part of TECOM (Dubai Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media Free Zone Authority) is one such enclave whose members include IT firms such as EMC Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Microsoft, and IBM, and media organisations such as MBC, CNN, BBC, Reuters, Sky News and AP.

The government's decision to diversify from a trade-based, oil-reliant economy to one that is service and tourism-oriented made property more valuable, resulting in the property appreciation from 2004–2006. A longer-term assessment of Dubai's property market, however, showed depreciation; some properties lost as much as 64% of their value from 2001 to November 2008. The large scale real estate development projects have led to the construction of some of the tallest skyscrapers and largest projects in the world such as the Emirates Towers, the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Islands and the world's second tallest, and most expensive hotel, the Burj Al Arab. The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) was established in March 2000 as a secondary market for trading securities and bonds, both local and foreign. As of fourth quarter 2006, its trading volume stood at about 400 billion shares, worth $95 billion in total. The DFM had a market capitalisation of about $87 billion.

Dubai's property market experienced a major downturn in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the slowing economic climate. Mohammed al-Abbar, Chief Executive Officer of Emaar told the international press in December 2008 that Emaar had credits of $70 billion and the state of Dubai additional $10 billion while holding estimated $350 billion in real estate assets. By early 2009, the situation had worsened with the global economic crisis taking a heavy toll on property values, construction and employment. As of February 2009 Dubai's foreign debt was estimated at approximately $80 billion, although this is a tiny fraction of the sovereign debt worldwide.

A City Mayors survey rated Dubai as 44th among the world's best financial cities in 2007, while another report by City Mayors indicated that Dubai was the world's 33rd richest city in 2009, in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). Dubai is also an international financial centre and has been ranked 37th within the top 50 global financial cities as surveyed by the Mastercard Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index (2007), and 1st within the Middle East.

Tourism and retail

Dubai Mall is one of the largest malls in the world.

Tourism is an important part of the Dubai government's strategy to maintain the flow of foreign cash into the emirate. Dubai's lure for tourists is based mainly on shopping, but also on its possession of other ancient and modern attractions. As of 2007, Dubai was the 8th most visited city of the world. Dubai is expected to accommodate over 15 million tourists by 2015. Dubai is the most populous emirate of the seven emirates of United Arab Emirates. It is distinct from other members of the UAE in that a large part of the emirate's revenues are from tourism.

Dubai has been called the "shopping capital of the Middle East". Dubai alone has more than 70 shopping malls, including the world's 7th largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall. The city draws large numbers of shopping tourists from countries within the region and from as far as Eastern Europe, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. While boutiques, some electronics shops, department stores and supermarkets operate on a fixed-price basis, most other outlets consider friendly negotiation a way of life.

Dubai is also known for its souk districts located on either side of the creek. Traditionally, dhows from the Far East, China, Sri Lanka, and India would discharge their cargo and the goods would be bargained over in the souks adjacent to the docks. Many boutiques and jewellery stores are also found in the city. Dubai is known as "the City of Gold" and Gold Souk in Deira houses nearly 250 gold retail shops. Dubai Duty Free at the Dubai International Airport offers merchandise catering to the multinational passengers using the airport.



Dubai has a rich collection of buildings and structures of various architectural styles. Many modern interpretations of Islamic architecture can be found in Dubai, due to a boom in construction and architectural innovation in the Arab World in general, and in Dubai in particular, that has been supported by the top architectural and engineering design firms of New York and Chicago. As a result of this boom, modern Islamic - and world - architecture has literally been taken to new levels in the last decade in skyscraper building design and technology, culminating in 2010 with the completion of the Burj Khalifa (Khalifa Tower), now by far the world's tallest building at 828 m (2,716 feet). The Burj Khalifa's design is derived from the patterning systems embodied in Islamic architecture, with the triple-lobed footprint of the building based on an abstracted version of the desert flower hymenocallis which is native to the Dubai region. The completion of the Khalifa Tower, following the construction boom that began in the 1980s, accelerated in the 1990s, and took on a rapid pace of construction unparalled in modern human history during the decade of the 2000s, left Dubai with the world's tallest skyline as of January 4, 2010.


Dubai has numerous small parks and gardens. In addition, there are a number of large parks, amusement parks and heritage villages. Dubai Municipality's Strategic Plan for 2007–2011 seeks to increase the per capita green area to 23.4 m² (27.98 yd²) and the cultivated land in urban areas to 3.15% by 2011. The Municipality has started a greenery project which will be completed in four phases planting 10,000 trees in each phase. Famous parks include:

  • Creekside Park, Bur Dubai
  • Safa Park, Sheikh Zayed Road
  • Al Mumzar Beach Park, Deira
  • Jumeirah Open Beach Park, Jumeirah Beach Road
  • Za'abeel Park, Sheikh Zayed road
  • Mushrif Park, Deira, Dubai
  • Wild Wadi Water Park, Jumeirah Beach Road
  • Wonderland Amusement Park, Bur Dubai

Sanitation issues

Currently, human waste is collected daily from thousands of septic tanks across the city and driven by tankers to the city's only sewage treatment plant at Al-Awir. Dubai's rapid growth means that it is stretching its limited sewage treatment infrastructure to its limits. Because of the long queues and delays, some tanker drivers resort to illegally dumping the effluent into storm drains or behind dunes in the desert. Sewage dumped into storm drains flows directly into the Persian Gulf, near to the city's prime swimming beaches. Doctors have warned that tourists using the beaches run the risk of contracting serious illnesses like typhoid and hepatitis. Dubai municipality says that it is committed to catching the culprits and has imposed fines of up to $25,000 and threatened to confiscate tankers if dumping persists. The municipality maintains that test results show samples of the water are "within the standard".


Dubai Bus
A Dubai Bus in Dubai Marina
Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport is the single largest building in the world by floor space
Dubai Metro on its opening day
The Red Line on the Dubai Metro. The Dubai Metro is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula.
Abra on Dubai Creek
Abras are the traditional mode of transport between Deira and Bur Dubai.

Transport in Dubai is controlled by the Roads and Transport authority. The public transport network faces huge congestion and reliability issues which a large investment programme is attempting to address, including over AED 70 billion of improvements planned for completion by 2020, when the population of the city is projected to exceed 3.5 million. In 2009, according to Dubai Municipality statistics, there were an estimated 1,021,880 cars in Dubai. In January 2010, the number of Dubai residents who use public transport stood at 6%. Although the government has invested heavily in the Dubai's road infrastructure, this has not kept pace with the increasing number of vehicles. This, coupled with the induced traffic phenomenon, has led to growing problems of congestion.


Five main routes — E 101 (Sheikh Zayed Road), E 311 (Emirates Road), E 44 (Dubai-Hatta Highway), E 77 (Dubai-Al Habab Road) and E 66 (Oud Metha Road) — run through Dubai, connecting the city to other towns and emirates. Additionally, several important intra-city routes, such as D 89 (Al Maktoum Road/Airport Road), D 85 (Baniyas Road), D 75 (Sheikh Rashid Road), D 73 (Al Dhiyafa Road), D 94 (Jumeirah Road) and D 92 (Al Khaleej/Al Wasl Road) connect the various localities in the city. The eastern and western sections of the city are connected by Al Maktoum Bridge, Al Garhoud Bridge, Al Shindagha Tunnel, Business Bay Crossing and Floating Bridge.

The Public Bus Transport system in Dubai is run by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). The bus system services 140 routes and transported over about 109.5 million people in 2008. By the end of 2010, there will be 2,100 buses in service across the city. The Transport authority has announced the construction of 500 air-conditioned (A/C) Passenger Bus Shelters, and has plan for 1,000 more across the emirates in a move to encourage the use of public buses.

Dubai also has an extensive taxi system, by far the most frequently used means of public transport within the Emirate. There are both government-operated and private cab companies. There are more than 3000 taxis operating within the emirate. Taxi cabs in Dubai make an average of 192,000 trips every day, lifting about 385,000 persons. In 2009 taxi trips exceeded 70 million trips serving around 140.45 million passengers.


Dubai International Airport ( IATA: DXB), the hub for the Emirates Airline, serves the city of Dubai and other emirates in the country. The airport was the 15th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic handling 40.9 million passengers in 2009. The airport was also the 6th busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic. In addition to being an important passenger traffic hub, the airport is the 7th busiest cargo airport in world, handling 1.927 million tonnes of cargo in 2009, a 5.6% increase compared to 2008 and was also the 4th busiest International freight traffic airport in world. Emirates Airline is the national airline of Dubai. As of 2009, it operated internationally serving 101 destinations in 61 countries across six continents.

The development of Al Maktoum International Airport, was announced in 2004. The first phase of the airport, featuring one A380 capable runway, 64 remote stands, one cargo terminal with annual capacity for 250,000 tonnes of cargo and a passenger terminal building designed to accommodate five million passengers per year, has been opened. When completed, Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International will be the largest airport in the world with five runways, four terminal buildings and capacity for 160 million passengers and 12 million tons of cargo.

Metro rail

A $3.89 billion, Dubai Metro project is currently operational although partly under-construction. The Red Line is operational and runs through the heart of the city. The Metro system was partially opened on September 2009 and will be fully operational by 2014. UK-based international service company Serco Group is responsible for operating the metro. The metro comprises the Green Line from Al Rashidiya to the main city centre and the Red Line from the airport to Jebel Ali. A Blue and a Purple Line have also been planned. The Dubai Metro (Green and Blue Lines) will have 70 km (43.5 mi) of track and 43 stations, 37 above ground and ten underground. The Dubai Metro is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Palm Jumeirah Monorail is a monorail line on the Palm Jumeirah. The monorail connects the Palm Jumeirah to the mainland, with a planned further extension to the Red Line of the Dubai Metro. The line opened on 30 April 2009. Two trams systems are expected to be built in Dubai by 2011. The first is the Downtown Burj Khalifa Tram System and the second is the Al Sufouh Tram. The Downtown Burj Khalifa Tram System is a 4.6 km (2.86 mi) tram service that is planned to service the area around the Burj Khalifa, and the second tram will run 14.5 km (9 mi) along Al Sufouh Road from Dubai Marina to the Burj Al Arab and the Mall of the Emirates.

Dubai has announced it will complete a link of the UAE high speed rail system which will eventually hook up with the whole GCC and then possibly Europe. The High Speed Rail will serve passengers and cargo.


There are two major commercial ports in Dubai, Port Rashid and Port Jebel Ali. Port Jebel Ali is the world's largest man-made harbour, the biggest port in the Middle East, and the 7th-busiest port in the world. One of the more traditional methods of getting across Bur Dubai to Deira is through abras, small boats that ferry passengers across the Dubai Creek, between abra stations in Bastakiya and Baniyas Road. The Marine Transport Agency has also implemented the Dubai Water Bus System.


A traditional souk in Deira

The UAE culture mainly revolves around the religion of Islam and traditional Arab, and Bedouin culture. In contrast, the city of Dubai is a highly cosmopolitan society with a diverse and vibrant culture. The influence of Islamic and Arab culture on its architecture, music, attire, cuisine and lifestyle are very prominent as well. Five times every day, Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques which are scattered around the country. Since 2006, the weekend has been Friday-Saturday, as a compromise between Friday's holiness to Muslims and the Western weekend of Saturday-Sunday.

In 2005, 84% of the population of metropolitan Dubai was foreign-born, about half of them from India. The city's cultural imprint as a small, ethnically homogenous pearling community was changed with the arrival of other ethnic groups and nationals—first by the Iranians in the early 1900s, and later by Indians and Pakistanis in the 1960s. Dubai has been criticised for perpetuating a class-based society, where migrant workers are in the lower classes.

Major holidays in Dubai include Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and National Day (2 December ), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates. Annual entertainment events such as the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) and Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) attract over 4 million visitors from across the region and generate revenues in excess of $2.7 billion. Large shopping malls in the city, such as Deira City Centre, Mirdiff City Centre, BurJuman, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall and Ibn Battuta Mall as well as traditional souks attract shoppers from the region.


Arab food is very popular and is available everywhere in the city, from the small shawarma diners in Deira and Al Karama to the restaurants in Dubai's hotels. Fast food, South Asian, and Chinese cuisines are also very popular and are widely available. The sale and consumption of pork, though not illegal, is regulated and is sold only to non-Muslims, in designated areas of supermarkets and airports. Similarly, the sale of alcoholic beverages is regulated. A liquor permit is required to purchase alcohol; however, alcohol is available in bars and restaurants within hotels. Shisha and qahwa boutiques are also popular in Dubai. Dubai is known for its nightlife. Clubs and bars are found mostly in hotels due to the liquor laws. The New York Times described Dubai as "the kind of city where you might run into Michael Jordan at the Buddha Bar or stumble across Naomi Campbell celebrating her birthday with a multiday bash".

Dress and etiquette

The Islamic dress code is not compulsory, unlike in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Most Emirati males prefer to wear a kandura, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton, and most Emirati women wear an abaya, a black over-garment covering most parts of the body. This attire is particularly well-suited for the UAE's hot and dry climate. Western-style clothing is, however, dominant because of the large expatriate population, and this practice is beginning to grow in popularity among Emiratis.

Etiquette is an important aspect of UAE culture and tradition, to which visitors are expected to conform. Recently, many expatriates have disregarded the law and been arrested for indecent clothing, or lack thereof, at beaches. Western-style dress is tolerated in appropriate places, such as bars or clubs, but the UAE has maintained a strict policy of protecting highly public spaces from cultural insensitivity.


The United Arab Emirates is a part of the khaliji tradition, and is also known for Bedouin folk music. During celebrations singing and dancing also take place and many of the traditional songs and dances have survived to the present time. Yowalah is the traditional dance of the UAE. Young girls would dance by swinging their long black hair and swaying their bodies in time to the strong beat of the music. Men would re-enact battles fought or successful hunting expeditions, often symbolically using sticks, swords or rifles.

Hollywood and Indian movies are popular in Dubai. Since 2004, the city has hosted the annual Dubai International Film Festival which serves as a showcase Arab film making talent. Musicians Amr Diab, Diana Haddad, Tarkan, Aerosmith, Santana, Mark Knopfler, Elton John, Pink, Shakira, Celine Dion, Coldplay, Keane , Phil Collins, Kavita Krishnamurthy, and A R Rahman have performed in the city. Kylie Minogue was reportedly paid 3.5 million dollars to perform at the opening of the Atlantis resort on 20 November 2008. The Dubai Desert Rock Festival is also another major festival consisting of Heavy metal and rock artists.


Dubai Tennis Stadium

Football and cricket are the most popular sports in Dubai. six teams (Al-Wasl, Al-Shabab, Al-Ahli, Al Nasr, Dubai C.S.C and Hatta) represent Dubai in UAE League football. Al-Wasl have the second-most number of championships in the UAE League, after Al Ain. Cricket is followed by Dubai's large community of Indians and the residents from other cricket playing nations (Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, England, Australia and South Africa). In 2005, the International Cricket Council (ICC) moved its headquarters from London to Dubai. The city has hosted several Pakistan matches and two new grass grounds are being developed in Dubai Sports City. Dubai also hosts both the annual Dubai Tennis Championships and The Legends Rock Dubai tennis tournaments, as well as the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament and the Dubai World Championship, all of which attract sports stars from around the world. The Dubai World Cup, a thoroughbred horse race, is held annually at the Meydan Racecourse.

2020 Summer Olympics bid

Dubai has expressed great interest in a 2020 Olympic bid but has not formally announced it will bid. Dubai's hosting of Sportaccord 2010 has been a great way to show off Dubai's sport infrastructure. Dubai has already won the rights to host the 10th FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m) . Statement from Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum: "We will have to take an honest look at our weaknesses as well as our strengths," Sheikh Mohammed said on 25 April. "I can assure you of this, though: if we decide to make a bid for the Olympics, we will be in it to win".


Dubai Knowledge Village was built to allow Universities to open branches and campuses in Dubai.

The school system in Dubai does not differ from that of the United Arab Emirates. As of 2009, there are 79 public schools run by the Ministry of Education that serve Emiratis and expatriate Arab people as well as 145 private schools. The medium of instruction in public schools is Arabic with emphasis on English as a second language, while most of the private schools use English as their medium of instruction. Most private schools cater to one or more expatriate communities.

The New Indian Model School, Dubai (NIMS), Delhi Private School, Our Own English High School, the Dubai Modern High School, and The Indian High School, Dubai offer either a CBSE or an Indian Certificate of Secondary Education Indian syllabus. Similarly, there are also several reputable Pakistani schools offering FBISE curriculum for expatriate children.

Dubai English Speaking School, Jumeirah Primary School, Jebel Ali Primary School, Cambridge International School, Jumeirah English Speaking School, King's School and the Horizon School all offer British primary education up to the age of eleven. Dubai Gem Private School, Dubai British School, Dubai College, English College Dubai, Jumeirah English Speaking School – Arabian Ranches, Jumeirah College and St. Mary's Catholic High School are British eleven-to-eighteen secondary schools offering General Certificate of Secondary Education and A-Levels. Emirates International School, Cambridge High School and Wellington International School provides full student education up to the age of 18, and offers International General Certificate of Secondary Education and A-Levels. Deira International School, Dubai International Academy and Jumeirah English Speaking School offer the International Baccalaureate program with the IGCSE program. Dubai American Academy, American School of Dubai and the Universal American School of Dubai offer curriculum of the United States.

The Ministry of Education of the United Arab Emirates is responsible for accreditation of schools. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) was established in 2006 to develop education and human resource sectors in Dubai, and license educational institutes.

Approximately 10% of the population has university or postgraduate degrees. Many expatriates tend to send their children back to their home country or to Western countries for university education and to India for technology studies. However, a sizeable number of foreign accredited universities have been set up in the city over the last ten years. Some of these universities include Manchester Business School, Michigan State University Dubai (MSU Dubai), Middlesex University Dubai campus, the Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani – Dubai (BITS Pilani), Murdoch University Dubai, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, Hult International Business School, American University in Dubai (AUD), the American College of Dubai, Mahatma Gandhi University (Off-Campus Centre), Institute of Management Technology – Dubai Campus, SP Jain Center Of Management, University of Wollongong in Dubai, and MAHE Manipal. In 2004, the Dubai School of Government in collaboration with Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Medical School Dubai Centre (HMSDC) were established in Dubai. The Dubai Public Libraries is the public library system in Dubai.

International relations

Twin towns and sister cities

Dubai has 32 sister cities; most of the twinning agreements have been made after 2002.

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