ME and I got the opportunity to visit Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in late February. We were very impressed with the area and the remarkable achievements that have been made in the last 20 years. We have been very lucky to have lived and traveled to wonderful places in China and Southeast Asia and now the in Middle East and have continually been impressed with most of what we see. For me it is very interesting to learn why some countries succeed and others do not. The UAE is one of these great success stories. It has to do with seven emirates that share a common language, history, heritage and beliefs and the vision and dream of two extraordinary men.
“Emirate is a political territory that is ruled by a dynastic Muslim monarch styled emir. It also means principality.”
Below is a very condensed history to help you understand the vision the founders of the country had and how they were able to make their little sandbox in an dangerous part of the world the new must see destination of the 21st century.
The seven sheikhdoms making up the UAE have a history going back 7,000 years. The rulers have always coexisted through most of this history but in 1820 formed a treaty with Great Britain that protected and preserved their individual sovereignty. In the early 1960’s oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. By the mid 1960 with the rising oil income and demands from the people, the seven ruling families turned the leadership of there alliance over to Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Rasdid of Dubai. The change in leadership proved to be of unparalleled importance in the development of the UAE. With a clear vision of how the oil revenues should be used, they immediately launched a massive development program in all of the seven emirates. In 1968, Britain informed the seven rules that it could no longer afford to stay and would be pulling out of the Arabian Gulf area. The two sheikhs recognized the need to established closer links between the emirates so in December 1971 the United Arab Emirates was formed. Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid became the first president and vice-president of the new federation. They were determined to ensure that the rapid development was spread as evenly as possible throughout the new federation. Major programs where developed to build massive infrastructure such as roads, airports, and housing and every small town and village would receive water and electricity. Free education and healthcare across the emirates was also provided which had been non-existent up to this time.
Expanded oil production provided additional revenue and with the increase in oil prices in the 70’s it transformed the UAE from a relatively poor country into a state with one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world. Many of the other northern Middle Eastern countries along the gulf were marred in conflict during this time. Because of its location it gave the UAE the opportunity a become a major transshipment and trading center for the region. By the end of the 1970’s the country now derived much of its income from the commercial traffic allowing the additional expansion of the seaports and airports in the process.
Another massive program was to plant millions of trees, it was part of their dream to make the desert green, and now the UAE is one of the greenest counties in Arabia.
Over the next twenty years, the political and social stability, with the good fortune of the oil reserves and the vision and determination of these two men ensured that their dreams would came true.
Fast forward to the 21th century and the UAE has continued to transform itself. Now only 7% of the countries revenue comes from oil. Real estate, construction, financial services and shipping contribute heavily to the annual revenue. It is now a top-class sporting location, sponsoring many international events in tennis, golf, soccer, powerboat racing, and horse racing and a major tourist destination with miles of beautiful beaches and idea year around weather.
OK, Bob, enough with the history lesson , we want to see the pictures. Below are a few teasers, I will post shortly about our weekend in Dubai.
putting it on the map, (click to see a google map) UAE
map of the seven emirates
before and after pictures