In 1833, Sheikh Maktoum Bin Buti began the reign of the Maktoum family as rulers of Dubai and transformed this small town into a flourishing coastal city.
For some 4,000 years, small fishing communities populated the barren Gulf coast, leaving little behind to record their lives and deaths, but records show that by the 18th century, Dubai was inhabited by members of the Bani Yas tribe who made a living trading as well as fishing.
Natural commercial instincts allied with the liberal attitudes of the rulers attracted the attention of neighbouring traders from Persia, India and other Gulf countries and by the late 1870s, Dubai had become the principal port of the southern coast developing major souks to enable visitors to barter their wares.
Pearls, collected from offshore beds, were a mainstay of the emirate’s prosperity until the 1940s – when Japanese cultured pearls devastated the trade – but gold and other products ensured the prosperity of the City of Merchants prior to the age of ‘black gold’.
It was not until the mid 1960s that oil reserves were discovered in the emirate’s territories, coinciding with the announcement that Britain was to withdraw from the region, having exercised a benign rule over the area for nearly a century.
The decision prompted the formation of the United Arab Emirates, a federation that allowed each of the seven emirates to pursue its own policies and development strategies and enabled Dubai, under the progressive leadership of the Al Maktoum dynasty, to invest in its infrastructure, education and healthcare.