Little is known of the early history of Dubai, but it appears to have been a dependency of Abu Dhabi until 1833. Along with the other sheikhdoms that now compose the federation, it became a British protectorate in the 19th cent. Dubai became the commercial capital of the sheikhdoms and was an important port of call for British steamers to India. From 1945 to 1948 Dubai was at war with Abu Dhabi. Dredging in 1961 made Dubai the Middle East's most accessible port. Oil was discovered in Dubai in the early 1960s, production began in 1966, and oil revenues played a key role in transforming Dubai into an international hub.
Dubai became part of the United Arab Emirates at its founding in 1971. In the 1970s its deepwater port was modernized and a supertanker dock was constructed. The development of Dubai resulted in a property boom, the residence of many foreign expatriates, and an influx of low-paid Southeast Asian workers, especially in construction. Anger over wage, labor, and living conditions issues led foreign construction workers to riot in 2006. In 2009, amid the global recession, property prices fell sharply in Dubai, construction slowed dramatically, and many expatriates left the country. The recession also led to liquidity problems in the sheikhdom, especially in the government's heavily indebted business arm, and Dubai was forced to seek aid totaling some $25 billion from oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
See Dubai: Architecture and Design (2006); C. M. Davidson, Dubai (2009); J. Krane, City of Gold (2009); S. Ali, Dubai: Gilded Cage (2010).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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