The settlement in Dubai town is known to have began from 1799. The sheikh of the emirate, then a minor, signed the British-sponsored General Treaty of Peace (1820), but the area was seemingly dependent on Abu Dhabi for virtually anything until 1833. In that year, a group of Āl bū Falāsāh clansmen of the Banī Yās, chiefly pearl fishers, left Abu Dhabi in a rivalry dispute and took over and settled in Dubai town without resistance. From then on, and even till this era Dubai became, by local standards, a powerful state and was frequently at loggerhead/odds with its former rulers. As time went on, the Qawāsim pirates tried to take control of it, but its rulers retained their independence by playing and manipulating the neighboring sheikhdoms against each other.
NB: They played them so that by the time they are done fighting each other, Dubai would have gone far in aspect of development and socio-economic development.
Together with the rest of the original Trucial States, the emirate signed with Britain a maritime truce in 1835 and subsequently, the Perpetual Maritime Truce in 1853. Its foreign relations were placed under British control by the Exclusive Agreement of 1892. However, when Britain finally left the Persian Gulf in 1971, Dubai was already powerful, and also a prominent founding member of the United Arab Emirates.
The sheikhs of Dubai, unlike most of their neighbors, long fostered trade and commerce; Dubai was an important port by the beginning of the 20th century. Many foreign merchants (chiefly Indians) settled there; until the 1930s it was known for pearl exports. More recently, Dubai (including its twin city and commercial centre, Dayrah, on the opposite side of the creek) has become the region’s chief port for the import of Western manufactured products. Most of the United Arab Emirates’ banks and insurance companies are headquartered there. Following the devaluation of the gulf rupee (1966), Dubai joined the country of Qatar in setting up a new monetary unit, called the riyal. In 1973, Dubai joined the other emirates in the adoption of United Arab Emirates national currency, the Dirham. The emirate has free trade in gold, and there is a brisk smuggling trade in gold ingots to India, where gold imports are restricted.
In 1966 the offshore oil field of Fatḥ (Fateh) was discovered in the Persian Gulf about 75 miles (120 km) due east of Dubai, in the waters where the state had granted an oil concession. By the 1970s to store up crude oil, three 20-story submarine tanks, each holding 500,000 barrels, were installed on the seabed at the site. Shaped like inverted champagne glasses, they are popularly called the “Three Pyramids of Dubai.” and the site location acts as tourists destination to some. Dubai has a small fraction of crude oil reserves in comparison to their emirate neighbors. Dubai Emirate has an estimated oil reserves less than one-twentieth those of neighboring Abu Dhabi. However, management and foresight is key in any successful venture. The combination of the limited oil income with trading wealth has made Dubai a very prosperous state, and an envy of other states of the United Arab Emirates. A number of industrial plants, including an aluminum smelter and an associated natural gas fractionator, were built in the late 1970s. Since the late 1980s aluminum production has greatly increased through a number of staged expansions of the smelter’s facilities. The rapid industrialization of Dubai has made it a clear aspired destination for economic migrants, business men, and expatriates.
Dubai is skyscraper studded, and has concentrated on a wide range of development and construction plans designed to promote tourism, transport, and industry. Port Rāshid was opened there in 1972, and a supertanker dry dock was completed in 1979. In an effort to boost industrial investment, the Jabal ʿAlī (Jebel Ali) port and industrial centre was declared a free-trade zone in the early 1980s; the move was largely successful, and numerous international companies responded favourably by opening facilities there. The emirate seems to be blessed with visionary leaders. The project of overseeing Port Rāshid and Jabal ʿAlī was taken over by the Dubai Ports Authority in the early 1990s, which was created for the task. The emirate is served by the Dubai International Airport, and Emirate Airlines, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, was established by the Dubai government in the mid-1980s. In September 2009 the first portion of a driverless rapid-transit metro line, the first in the gulf region, went into operation in Dubai.
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In the early 21st century a range of transportation and construction projects like Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and others were underway, including light- and urban-rail systems, a sports complex, luxury hotels, and island developments. Though interrupted by strikes held by the city’s large population of expatriate labourers, construction on the Burj Dubai tower (“Dubai Tower”), as it was then known, was ongoing. Although the building’s interior was not entirely complete, upon its official opening in January 2010—as Burj Khalifa—then, it was easily the world’s tallest building and its tallest freestanding structure. Investment in the tower and numerous other extravagant projects entailed heavy borrowing, however, and with the escalation of the global financial crisis of the previous years, the emirate’s economy was troubled by massive debt and substantial quantities of real estate that lacked prospective buyers. New reliance upon neighbouring Abu Dhabi—which had recently provided its financially troubled neighbour with a bailout of some $10 billion—explains to some extent the surprise decision to rename the Burj Dubai in honour of Abu Dhabi’s emir, Sheikh Khalīfah ibn Zāyid Āl Nahyān, upon its opening. Pop. (2014 est.) emirate, 2,270,128.