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Dubai and the UAE

Dubai History

How did Dubai develop from a desert trading post into the glittering cosmopolitan city it is today? Follow our timeline and get to know the history of Dubai and the UAE.

Early history

3000 BC

The earliest archaeological evidence points to Bronze Age settlers.

5th - 7th centuries AD

Jumeirah becomes a stop on the trade route from Oman to today’s Iraq. The main trades are fishing, boat-building and pearl farming.

16th century

The Portuguese bring their European influence along with their interest in the region’s trade routes.

18th – 20th century Dubai history


A period of tribal and political jostling. The Bani Yas tribe take political power, settling in Abu Dhabi.


Negotiations between local rulers and the British result in a series of maritime truces. The area becomes known as the Trucial Coast.


Maktoum Bin Butti of the Bani Yas tribe settles on the Shindagha Peninsula at the mouth of the Creek, declaring the town's independence from Abu Dhabi. His dynasty still rules Dubai today.


With a thriving pearl farming industry, Dubai prospers and becomes the main port on the Gulf coast.


Dubai sees a boost from migrating Iranian traders and Arab settlers. A prosperous period of local and overseas trade follows, and Dubai boasts the largest souks in Arabia.

Early 20th century Dubai history


Oil is discovered in the Trucial States.


A growth in the Indian and Pakistani population of Dubai breathes new life into the textile market and increases trade from the Indian subcontinent.

Modern Dubai history


It was a game-changing moment in Dubai history when oil is discovered in Dubai's Fateh oil field.


The Trucial States of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah form the United Arab Emirates and join the Arab League. Ras al Khaimah joins a year later. Dubai International opens.


Two big openings - Jebel Ali port and the Dubai World Trade Centre. It is the city's first high-rise building and prompts a long line of ambitious architectural projects.


Emirates takes off for the first time. Jebel Ali Free Zone is inaugurated, attracting considerable overseas investment.


The Dubai World Cup horse race is held for the first time. Dubai Shopping Festival launches.


The Burj Al-Arab opens and is hailed as the world's only seven-star hotel.


Sheikh Mohammed launches two areas of Dubai – Internet City and Media City, and makes real estate in selected areas available for private foreign ownership.


Ambitious projects begin, including the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, and 300 man-made islands – the World Islands.


Emirates Terminal 3 and the Dubai Metro launch to accommodate increasing air and road traffic.


The Burj Khalifa becomes the tallest man-made structure on earth at 830 metres high.


Dubai and the UAE celebrate their winning bid for the World Expo 2020.


Sheikh Mohammed opens the Dubai Water Canal that runs from the Dubai Creek through the city to the Arabian Gulf.


The 150-metre tall Dubai Frame opens in Zabeel Park, giving panoramic views of both the old side of Dubai and skyscrapers of the new.