For centuries, Dubai Creek has been a focal point of trade in the Arabian Peninsula and beyond to East Africa and the Indian subcontinent. In the middle of the 19th century, Dubai’s prominence as a major trading hub rose as trade and traders moved from the city of Lengeh in present-day Iran. In 1958, before oil revenues began boosting the emirate’s coffers, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum took a loan from Kuwait to commission the dredging of the creek to a depth of nine metres so that larger vessels could use it. The move solidified Dubai Creek’s prominence as a commercial hub in the region.
Given the size and the trading power of other Dubai ports like Jebel Ali, one would be mistaken to think that Dubai Creek has been relegated to the status of a mere tourist attraction in recent years. Far from it. Last year, it was visited by 24,000 dhows and its markets generated Dh30 billion in trade, according to Eng Rashard Bukhad, the director of the architectural heritage department of Dubai Municipality. As The National reported yesterday, Dubai Creek has a special place in the history and development of the UAE. The area is a physical monument to how the country has remained anchored in the region while undergoing rapid economic transformation.
Partly due to this, Dubai Creek has caught the attention of Unesco and it is now a contender to be a world heritage site. What sets the creek apart from other contenders is that it still buzzes with life and trade as opposed to being a dusty old relic of a forgotten time. The port is currently enjoying a burst of restoration that is focusing on old buildings and structures that will preserve the area’s distinct architecture while preparing it for further growth and development.
As a Unesco world heritage site, it could be an example of the vibrant trade that has typified this part of the world for centuries . While we have new ways of connecting with the world, the Dubai Creek will always remain as a physical testament to our place in the region.