Oil was discovered in Dubai just over 50 years ago, but only accounts for one percent of its earnings. So, what makes the city of Dubai so rich?
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From the 1770s up until the late 1930s, the pearl industry was the main source of income in the Trucial States, which today make up the United Arab Emirates. For residents of the sleepy fishing villages of the Persian Gulf, pearl diving was their humble beginning in trade, but it set the scene for something much larger later on.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi clashed over their borders in the search for oil in the late 1950s, leading to many people moving out of Dubai to other places in the Gulf as the city struggled and Abu Dhabi thrived. In 1958, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, started investing in infrastructure and completed its first airport in 1960 thanks to loans amounting to tens of billions of dollars.
The move away from oil led to a boost in tourism, and the little oil Dubai eventually discovered in 1966 went towards building the city we know today.
Dubai began shipping oil in 1969 before gaining independence from Great Britain in 1971, when it became one of the UAE’s seven emirates.
As part of Emirates, but with relative independence over its economy, Dubai continued to diversify its revenue stream throughout the 1980s in order to compete with Abu Dhabi’s growing profit from the oil industry.
The city established its first free zone in 1985: Jafza, the Jebel Ali Free Zone, which at 52 sqkm (20 sqmi) is the largest in the world.
This became a big attraction for global businesses, which today take advantage of the emirate’s 30 free zones that offer tax breaks, custom duty benefits and lack of restrictions for foreign owners.
Several thousand Jafza companies make up 20 percent of foreign investment in Dubai, and the estimated 144,000 employees are generating $80 billion in non-oil money. That’s 21 percent of the city’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The UAE is the third-richest country in the world, below Luxembourg at number two and Qatar at number one, with a GDP per capita of $57,744. The bulk of its money comes from the production of goods and provision of services related to petroleum, petrochemicals, aluminium and cement.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.