Dubai today is a unique synthesis of old and new, East and West. It is a vibrant and cosmopolitan environment which is supported by advanced infrastructure and a large expatriate community.
Dubai offers a wide range of leisure and recreational facilities that are comparable to those in any modern city in the world. The hosting of several high-profile sporting events and exhibitions, the availability of high-quality luxury and budget hotels and the presence of well-maintained beaches and public parks have all contributed to Dubai’s enhanced profile as a destination for leisure, as well as business.
Dubai society is marked by a high degree of tolerance for different lifestyles. It is a liberal society by any measure and is rated as among the safest in the world. Foreigners are free to practice their own religion, and the dress code is liberal. Women, whether married or single, do not face any form of discrimination and may drive, work, and move around unescorted.
Originally a small fishing settlement, Dubai was taken over in circa 1830 by a branch of the Bani Yas tribe from the Liwa oasis, led by the Maktoum family, who rule the Emirate today.
Traditional activities included herding sheep and goats, cultivating dates, fishing and pearling. The original inhabitants also engaged in trading and, by the turn of the century, Dubai was reputed to have the largest souks (traditional markets) on the Gulf coast. Commercial success, allied with the liberal attitude of Dubai’s rulers, made the Emirate attractive to traders from India and Iran, who began to settle in the growing town. As trade developed, Dubai remained a protectorate of Great Britain-part of the Trucial States, which extended along the northern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
After the British withdrawal in 1971, Dubai came together with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and (in 1972) Ras Al Khaimah, to create the federation of the United Arab Emirates.
The creation of the federation occurred shortly after the discovery of oil in 1966, which transformed the Emirate and its way of life. Dubai’s first oil exports in 1969 were followed by a period of rapid development, which laid the foundations for today’s modern society.
Over the past two decades, Dubai has built an impressive, first-class network of roads which connect all parts of the city and the surrounding areas.
A widely-spread network of public transport buses and taxis operates – at reasonable fares – throughout Dubai. Furthermore, Dubai has recently opened its light rail system (also known as the Dubai Urban Rail Transit or Dubai Metro) for operation linking the various residential areas of Dubai with Dubai’s international airport, the city centre, the business district and various shopping malls.
Healthcare in Dubai is highly advanced and the services provided by both public and private medical establishments are of a uniformly high standard.
The state provides a subsidised national health service which allows employees (holding medical cards) and his/her dependents admittance to government clinics and hospitals at a nominal charge. There are four government hospitals in Dubai, as well as a number of privately-run hospitals such as the American Hospital, Welcare Hospital and Al Zahra Hospital. There are also a number of international private medical insurance organisations operating in the local market.
Dubai offers an extensive options of private primary and secondary schools, technical colleges and universities in Dubai. Private educational institutions offer a wide range of curricula, including the American, British, French and German systems.