'Dubai 2005 to 2021': old photographs reveal how the city has transformed over the years

A video montage created for the Golden Jubilee shows how the emirate's ever expanding skyline has changed since 2005

To celebrate the UAE turning 50, a Dubai photographer has created a striking time-lapse video that shows how the emirate has changed over the years.

Florian Kriechbaumer was only a teenager when he first visited Dubai in 2004, the city that he now calls home.

During his time in the UAE, he has captured some epic drone shots of the country's natural beauty, but decided to turn his focus to Dubai’s man-made development ahead of the Golden Jubilee.

His short video Dubai: from 2005 to 2021 shows some of the city’s most popular areas and how they have changed over the years.

“When I visited Dubai the first time it was 2004 and I was only 16, but I already admired the vision that had been spelt out for the city and country. It was fitting to create a kind of tribute from then to now, to show how much the UAE has grown and how much opportunity it has given to people like me over those years,” he tells The National.

From Downtown Dubai to Palm Jumeirah, the video shows how the emirate's skyline has changed through the years.

Opening with an image taken by Kriechbaumer in 2005 showing the foundations of Burj Khalifa and construction towers in Downtown Dubai, the video moves to an image of the city taken in 2021. Sixteen years later, it shows the world’s tallest building towering over countless gleaming skyscrapers, luxury hotels and the city’s metro system. The images were taken from what was then the Chelsea Tower, and is now Al Salam Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Kriechbaumer's idea for the video came while he was searching through archives of images a few months ago and came across some old photographs of Dubai.

Click on the slider to see the before and after of images used in the creation of the video.

“I knew that I wanted to create a tribute to the progress I was lucky enough to observe first hand," he says.

The video shows Sheikh Zayed Road when the Dubai World Trade Centre was one of only a handful of tall buildings surrounding the famous highway, then cuts to the 14-lane road in 2021 with the Museum of the Future sitting on one side not too far from Gevora Hotel, the world’s tallest hotel, which opened in 2018.

Dubai’s famed sail-shaped building also makes the cut. The Burj Al Arab opened in 1999 and is seen in the video after Kriechbaumer captured images from a helicopter in 2007. Only opened for a few years when the photograph was taken, the world's only "seven-star" hotel lies in front of a Jumeirah that’s replete with open sandy lots.

The video shows how the structure has extended into the Arabian Gulf with the addition of The Terrace, the world’s first man-made luxury beach platform that spans some 10,000 square metres, and the neighbouring community that has also undergone a transformation.

Palm Jumeirah also makes an appearance, with the foundations of Atlantis, The Palm on display in front of a bare man-made island in the opening shot. In the subsequent pan, the hotel is completed, the Palm Monorail has appeared and the island is thriving with villa-filled fronds. The city backdrop behind Palm Jumeirah has also changed dramatically.

Over the past two decades, Kriechbaumer has observed how the UAE has grown from behind the lens.

“I continue to find it fascinating that it was possible for the country to build a nation that is so diverse in many ways and yet so unified in the vision to build a better tomorrow for themselves, and that literally everyone has an opportunity to contribute to that,” he says.

The video took more than 30 hours to create, with Kriechbaumer having to source imagery from over the years shot from the same vantage point.

“Creating this video took a lot of effort, so it probably concludes my National Day photography ambitions,” he says.

“Having said that, seeing everyone celebrate outside and the entire country decorated might make me decide to grab the camera again."


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Updated: December 3rd 2021, 7:14 AM