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At the Dubai races | © Jaguar MENA/Flickr
At the Dubai races | © Jaguar MENA/Flickr
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So Why Is the City of Dubai So Rich?

Picture of Jessica Harn
Updated: 13 December 2017
Dubai, a city of contrasts, a city of old and new and a city most famous for its elaborate riches and luxury is known for being rich. With hoards of tourists each year and a growing number of expats moving to this booming city, many people simply take the riches of Dubai for granted. But how – and why – did Dubai get so rich? It certainly didn’t just start growing money from trees one day. To really appreciate Dubai’s complex and colourful history, visitors must look to the past to discover what really makes this city so groundbreaking and unique, among other wealthy cities in the world. We must first look to its very humble beginnings.
As on display at the Dubai Heritage Museum now, Dubai first grew into a town from the bustle of fishermen and pearl divers | © A. Davey/Flickr

Before Dubai was the glittering city that it is now, it was once a humble fishing village. From as early as the 1770s, there were settled fishermen and pearl divers, although archeology has proved that the land around what is now Dubai had been populated by nomadic Bedouins even as far back as the 3rd century BCE. Since the 1770s, however, when Dubai first began to take shape as a small and sleepy fishing village, people were drawn to this coastal hub because of its pearls. Pearl diving and the trade that came with it was what first gave Dubai the push it needed towards its bright future. After the establishment of the ruling family of Dubai, the Al Maktoum family, the city became a working and collaborative city recognized both domestically and internationally.

Oil was then discovered in Dubai in 1966, which propelled the city into unthinkable riches and made Dubai into the modern city it is today. With the first shipment of oil sailing out of Dubai in 1969 and the establishment of the nation-state of the UAE after independence from Great Britain in 1971, the city was operating independently and strongly as a force to be reckoned with in the international community.

After the discovery of oil, nothing was the same in Dubai | © Panoramas/Flickr

So why is Dubai so rich? Yes, the discovery of oil coupled with strategic maneuvering by the Al Maktoum royal family was important, but it was also innovation, a commitment towards modernity and human creativity that attracted entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and expats to move to Dubai and help enrich the city. The foundation of pearl diving and a strong sense of tradition also laid the groundwork for Dubai, without which nothing could have been built. The reasons why Dubai is such a strongly rich city is based on a number of factors and not only because of the recent oil boom (although this did play a strong role). A long history of trade, innovation by the local people of the land and a commitment towards building for the better has helped Dubai achieve the status of one of the leading cities of our century. So next time you enjoy the luxuries and riches of Dubai, remember its humble beginnings and the traditions of its nomadic people and pearl divers who worked so hard to lay the groundwork for what would become the grand city of Dubai.