One of seven sheikhdoms forming the United Arab Emirates, Dubai traces its history back 5000 years. Settlements sprang up along what is now called Dubai Creek thanks to the area's ample freshwater supply and its easy access to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, which made it a pivotal stop in overland and maritime trade routes. Pearl-diving, too, became a thriving industry, as warm, still gulf waters yielded some of the world's finest specimens. However, in the 1920s, the Great Depression and a growing market for cultured pearls handcuffed the industry until it nearly died out. Ever the survivor, Dubai recovered by promoting its duty-free trade zone and becoming one of the Middle East's economic goliaths. The discovery of oil in the 1960s provided the catalyst for the city's transformation into the premier commercial centre it is today. But tourism is now the prime focus as the Dubai Government aims to attract 15 million visitors a year by 2010. Jetsetters from around the world daily arrive in Dubai, relaxing at its fabulous resort hotels and taking advantage of cosmopolitan dining, nightlife and shopping scenes. Dubai is more than just a Western-style resort, though, and exploration of the city reveals "souks" (traditional open-air markets), where shoppers can find fabulous deals on jewelry and fabrics; architectural ruins at Jumeirah Beach; a quaint Old Town where ornate wind towers loom over narrow lanes; and exquisite parks such as Creekside, Jumeirah Beach and Zabeel. Indeed, the city embraces its past while still managing to keep both eyes on the future, a mentality reflected in many of Dubai's ultra-modern business towers and shopping centers, which bear distinctively Middle Eastern-themed designs.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates Factoid
The official United Arab Emirates weekend is Friday-Saturday, but up until 2006 it was Thursday-Friday.