Dubai (/duːˈbaɪ/, doo-BY; Arabic: دبي, romanized: Dubayy, IPA: [dʊˈbajj], Gulf Arabic pronunciation: [dəˈbaj]) is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, the most populated of the country’s seven emirates. Established in the 18th century as a small fishing village, Dubai transformed into a regional trading hub from the early 20th century and experienced rapid growth in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, focusing on tourism and luxury. It boasts the second most five-star hotels globally and is home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, standing at an impressive 828 meters (2,717 ft).
Located on the eastern Arabian Peninsula along the coast of the Persian Gulf, Dubai is a major global transport hub for passengers and cargo. Oil revenue played a crucial role in accelerating the city’s development, already being a major mercantile hub. A center for regional and international trade since the early 20th century, Dubai’s economy relies on revenues from trade, tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services. Oil production contributed less than 1 percent of the emirate’s GDP in 2018. The city’s population is approximately 3.60 million as of 2022.
Etymology: The origin of the word “Dubai” has been subject to various theories. One theory suggests it used to be the souq in Ba, while an Arabic proverb implies “Daba Dubai,” meaning “They came with a lot of money.” According to scholar Fedel Handhal, the word may have originated from “dabba,” meaning “to creep,” referring to the slow flow of Dubai Creek inland. Another interpretation by poet Ahmad Mohammad Obaid traces it to the alternative meaning of “baby locust” due to the abundance of locusts in the area before settlement.
Pre-oil Dubai: Dubai’s geographical proximity to Iran made it a crucial trade location, attracting foreign tradesmen, especially from Iran. The town was an important port, with the early 20th century witnessing its development into a significant port. Dubai was renowned for its pearl exports until the 1930s when the pearl trade suffered due to the 1929 Great Depression and the innovation of cultured pearls. In 1937, an oil exploration contract was signed, leading to oil striking in 1966. The collapse of the pearling industry during the Great Depression led to a deep economic downturn, and Dubai had a border dispute with Abu Dhabi in 1947, escalating into war before being resolved through British arbitration.