Dear Mummy, 

I heard somebody say yesterday that there is no history in Dubai – and it isn’t true! So I thought I’d tell you all about what I have learnt, Mummy. Are you ready?

Did you know that people have lived in Dubai since 1833, when the Bani Yas tribe decided to settle here? There were around 800 people living in Dubai then – and most people worked either as fishermen or in the pearling trade. It was a sleepy fishing village at first – but as the years went on, Dubai got busier and busier. By the early 1900’s, there were 20,000 people living here! There was no Dubai Marina, or Arabian Ranches, or Dubai Land back then – it was all just desert. So the settlers all lived close to the banks of the Creek on the Deira side. 

Can you imagine what it was like living in Dubai back then, Mummy? There wasn’t Sheikh Zayed Road to travel up and down, but there were so many boats sailing up and down the Creek. And there were nearly 350 shops so the people could shop for everything they needed! There must’ve been so much noise living near to the Creek back then – work-men in their shops, children playing outside, families meeting and chatting, and men shouting as they unloaded goods from boats. It would’ve been hot and dusty too, especially during the summer.

There was no air conditioning back then, but the houses had big chimneys called Wind Towers. This let the hot air rise out of the house, while whooshing colder air down to cool everyone down. The bigger houses were all built around a courtyard in the middle called a majlis. I like the idea of a garden in the middle of the house, don’t you Mummy? If I shut my eyes, I can imagine families gathering at the end of the day to snack on dates as they laughed together and chatted about what they had been doing that day. 

The houses were originally made of palm fronds (can you imagine that?) – but when a big fire wiped out a lot of the market and homes, they rebuilt them with materials that would last. They chose to build the new houses from sea stone and coral from Dubai Creek – and then set it with a mixture of sand, mud and rock. Remember when we went to Dubai Museum, Mummy? A lot of the buildings in that area are still made from those materials! How amazing is that?

Most people made their money through the pearling trade – and business was good! People in Dubai had enough money to buy food and live very happily. It was an exciting time to live in Dubai – but then something called ‘The Great Depression’ happened across the world in 1929. Not many people could afford to buy pearls anymore and trade slowed down overnight.

This could’ve been a big problem for the people of Dubai – but luckily the world still thought Dubai was a good place to trade. This is because it was much cheaper to bring goods into Dubai than it was to bring them into countries nearby. So the boats kept coming – and Dubai kept growing!

But with all those boats going up and down the Creek, it was getting harder to get down it – so in 1960, a decision was made to make it deeper and wider. It doesn’t sound very exciting, but this was a big moment in Dubai’s history, Mummy! More and more boats came – and with all that extra trade, Dubai started to grow into the city we all live in today! 

There have been lots of other moments in Dubai’s history, like the opening of the port in Jebel Ali, the discovery of oil, and the first flights to take off from Dubai International Airport. It wasn’t long before buildings were getting taller, roads were getting busier, and holidaymakers started arriving to enjoy the sunshine.

But it’s the bit about the sleepy fishing village alongside the Creek that I like thinking about, Mummy. Isn’t it amazing how far this city has come in just over 100 years?

Love from me xx

Read more:

A Love Letter to the UAE

What Expat Tribe Are You?

You Know You’re A Mum in Arabian Ranches When..

A Peek Inside UAE Culture 

Growing Up In Dubai In The 80’s

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