Dubai: Then and Now


Dubai is like no other place on Earth. It is the world capital of living large—a city of big business, luxury¹ hotels, skyscrapers, and huge shopping malls. In the early 20th century, Dubai was a successful trading port. People from all over the world stopped in Dubai to do business. But it was still a small city, and most people lived as fishermen, merchants, or by raising animals. Then in 1966, oil was discovered. I n time, this brought a lot of money into the region and soon Dubai began to change.

Today Dubai is one of the world’s most influential business centers. In fact, each year most of the city’s annual earnings come from business, not oil. The city is also a global trading port.

Recently Dubai has become a popular spot for tourists. People from abroad come to relax on its beaches, and every year, millions visit just to go shopping!


Dubai is also one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Construction is everywhere. Buildings (some of the tallest on Earth) are built in months. The city also has a number of man-made islands. One of these, the Palm Jumeirah, is shaped like a palm tree and is particularly beautiful.

The city is still an amazing mix of people from different backgrounds. Individuals from 150 countries live and work in Dubai, and foreigners now outnumber² Dubai natives eight to one!

Many people welcome the city’s growth. But an increasing number of Dubai natives have concerns³ about the speed of change. As Mohammad Al Abbar, a Dubai businessman, says, “We must always remember where we came from. Our kids must know we worked very, very hard to get where we are now, and there’s a lot more work to do.”

¹ Luxury is very great comfort, especially relating to beautiful and expensive things.

² If one group of people outnumbers another, the first group has more people than the second group.

³ A concern is a worry about a situation.

Did you Know?
Dubai has more shopping malls per person than any other city in the world.

© National Geographic 2017

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