Another visionary project – the futuristic development masterplan of Palm Jebel Ali – has been announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Wednesday.
He said: “Palm Jebel Ali will further strengthen our urban infrastructure and consolidate the city’s emergence as one of the world’s leading metropolises. This new groundbreaking project reflects our strategic development plan centred on raising the quality of life and happiness of residents.”
In his tweet, he also said, “Dubai is growing and thriving… and every day we add a new brick in building the most beautiful city in the world.”
Dubai’s exceptional growth is indeed a history of building the city from the desert steadily and continuously, transforming it with innovation, vision and creativity one brick at a time.
With a timelapse video produced by global real estate consultancy Knight Frank, we look back at the phenomenal evolution of Dubai in the past six decades, from the 1960s to the 2020s.
Dubai was a small fishing settlement in the 1960s, and the discovery of oil happened only later in the decade.
The late ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum ordered the airport’s construction in 1959 on a desert area some 4km from what was then the edge of Dubai.
On September 30, 1960, the airport comprising a sand-compacted runway and a small terminal building, was opened and was capable of handling aircraft up to the size of a DC-3. The 1,800-metre-long (5,900 ft) runway starkly contrasts what it is today.
Dubai International Airport (DXB) currently has a capacity for 90 million passengers per annum. This year, it has held its position as the world’s number one airport for international passengers for the 9th year running.
The major turning point in the history and fortunes of Dubai was the discovery of oil in 1966 at Fateh Oil Field.
In 1969, Dubai began exporting oil, and Sheikh Rashid focused on developing projects to improve the quality of life of his people and the emirate.
The UAE was founded on December 2 1971, and Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was appointed the first president and Sheikh Rashid the first prime minister.
Dubai established its position as a trade corridor with the Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) opening in 1985. From having only 19 companies that year, Jafza grew to 500+ businesses a decade later in 1995, and today it hosts over 9,500 companies and is considered the world’s leading free zone.
Another historic milestone in 1985 was the first Emirates flights from Dubai to Karachi and Mumbai, using a Boeing 737 and an Airbus 300 B4 wet‑leased from Pakistan International Airlines.
1994 – 1999
Dubai received around 1 million tourists in 1994. Jumeirah Beach Hotel, one of Dubai’s first modern resorts, opened in 1997. Two years later, on December 1, 1999, the iconic Burj Al Arab – standing on an artificial island at 920 ft – started receiving its first guests. Construction began on the iconic landmark in 1994. It took two years to create the island and then three years to build the hotel.
On April 15, 2000, Emirates Towers, a building complex in the heart of Dubai that contains the Emirates Office Tower and Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel, opened to the public. The towers are connected by a two-storey retail complex known as The Boulevard.
Dubai International City and Dubai International Airport Terminal 1 were both inaugurated in 2000 and by this time, Dubai has recorded 3.4 million tourists in one year.
Work started in 2001 to construct Palm Jumeirah, an archipelago resembling a stylised palm tree within a circle. Land and basic infrastructure were in place by 2004. Construction of the buildings began in 2006, and the first residents arrived in 2007. Designed to be a city within itself, Palm Jumeirah is home to upscale shopping centres, restaurants, hotels, and residential properties.
Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Festival City opened in 2007. The following year, on September 24, Atlantis The Palm, a luxury hotel resort located at the apex of the Palm Jumeirah, received its first guests.
The backbone of the city’s public transportation was rolled out at precisely the 9th second of the 9th minute at 9pm on September 9, 2009. It was when Sheikh Mohammed tapped the first Dubai Metro card to officially start the operations of the region’s first and the world’s longest driverless metro rail transport system.
The excitement was palpable: Fireworks lit up the sky, and people gathered around to witness the historic event as Sheikh Mohammed, senior government officials, dignitaries, VIPs, and members of the Press took the maiden Metro ride from the Mall of the Emirates station towards Rashidiya Station on the Red Line.
The world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, opened on January 4, 2010. At over 828 metres and more than 160 storeys, Burj Khalifa holds the following records:
- Tallest building in the world
- Tallest free-standing structure in the world
- Highest number of stories in the world
- Highest occupied floor in the world
- Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
- Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
- Tallest service elevator in the world
This year, Dubai recorded 10 million tourists.
All eyes were on Dubai when it won the 2020 World Expo bid to host it. It was the first time the event would come to the Middle East.
A little over three years after it was first announced, one of Dubai’s grandest projects – the Dubai Water Canal – was inaugurated this year. What is impressive about this 3.2km is its 6.4km-long waterfront that cuts through the emirate, starting from the Business Bay and stretching to Safa Park, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 2 and Jumeirah Road to end in the Arabian Gulf at the Jumeirah Beach Park. Not only Dubai added a new waterway but another island as well to its geography.
RTA announced that the Dubai Investment Park Station and Expo 2020 Station on Route 2020 of the Dubai Metro, which runs from Al Rashidiya Station on the Red Line to Expo 2020 Station, would be opened on June 1, 2021. The opening of the two new stations comes six months after the opening of Route 2020, which launched its maiden journey on January 1, 2021, with four stations – Jebel Ali (a transfer station on the red line), The Gardens, The Discovery Gardens, and Al Furjan.
The highlight of this year was the opening of the Dubai World Expo. Although initially scheduled to run from October 20, 2020, to April 10, 2021, the world gathering was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Expo 2020 officially opened on September 30, 2021, and closed on March 31, 2022, after a successful run.
Dubai’s Museum of the Future, the latest attraction showcasing what the next 50 years could look like for the UAE and beyond, opened on February 22, 2022.
The seven-storey pillarless landmark on Sheikh Zayed Road is dubbed ‘the most beautiful building in the world’. It is 77 metres tall and occupies an overall area capacity of 30,548 square metres. Its façade is made of stainless steel, consisting of 1,024 pieces manufactured using a specialised robot-assisted process and covering a total surface area of 17,600 square metres. Its symbolic form represents humanity, while the green mound the museum sits atop represents the Earth, and the void represents the unknown future. Over one million tourists and residents from 136 countries have visited the museum in the past year.
The government’s decisive response has accelerated Dubai’s rebounding in the wake of the pandemic and is now on course to see tourist numbers surpass pre-Covid levels. Indeed, 4.7 million visitors passed through the emirate’s gateways in the first quarter of 2023 alone.
On May 31, 2023, Sheikh Mohammed announced a new incredible project: Palm Jebel Ali, a development that will be twice the size of Palm Jumeirah. He described in a tweet how this new destination comes as part of an ambitious plan to make the emirate “the most beautiful city in the world”.
Watch the transformation of Dubai here:
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