This month marks 44 years since the Dubai World Trade Centre was officially opened.
Originally named Sheikh Rashid Tower, the building was one of the first skyscrapers built in Dubai. Construction of the building began in 1974. It was designed by UK architect John Harris under the auspices of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, Ruler of Dubai at the time. The tower was inaugurated on February 26, 1979 by Queen Elizabeth II.
The building, with 38 storeys and 184m tall, loomed as a solitary structure beside a slimmer version of Sheikh Zayed Road and in the middle of a pale ochre expanse.
"Harris didn't want to use a lot of glass,” architect and writer Todd Reisz told The National in 2021. “He was mindful of what technologies were available and what technologies could be repaired and maintained in Dubai at the time so that you weren't stuck with a tower of 30 storeys and then the elevators didn't work."
Once it opened, the tower quickly became the centre of the region’s business community and was featured on the Dh100 bank note.
Today, the Dubai World Trade Centre is dwarfed by the towering buildings flanking an ever-busy Sheikh Zayed Road. However, the tower retains its idiosyncratic majesty, with its recessed windows and hive-like exterior.
The Dubai World Trade Centre has expanded over the years to become a sprawling complex of exhibition halls and mixed-use buildings.
In April 2020, during the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was converted into a field hospital with the capacity to treat up to 3,000 patients.
Four decades on, the Dubai World Trade Centre remains a vital business hub that it is keeping up with the times.
In December 2021, authorities announced that the tower would become a specialised crypto zone as part of a drive to create new economic sectors. Co-ordinating with the private sector for the initiative, the move will enforce rigorous standards for investor protection, tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and track cross-border transactions in the virtual assets and cryptocurrencies sphere.
“The World Trade Centre will deliver and oversee a new world-class regulatory framework of virtual asset legislative and enforcement policies," authorities said. “[It] will be critical to facilitating and broadening cross-border operations and ecosystem innovation to enable safe market adoption and growth for this sector in Dubai."