Dubai (/duːˈbaɪ/ doo-BY; Arabic: دبي‎, romanized: Dubayy [dʊˈbajj], Gulf Arabic pronunciation: [dəˈbaj]) is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the capital of the Emirate of Dubai. Established in the 18th century as a small fishing village, the city grew rapidly in the early 21st century into a cosmopolitan metropolis with a focus on tourism and hospitality. Dubai is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. It has the second most five-star hotels in the world and the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

Located in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula on the coast of the Persian Gulf, Dubai aims to be the business hub of Western Asia. It is also a major global transport hub for passengers and cargo. Oil revenue helped accelerate the development of the city, which was already a major mercantile hub. A centre for regional and international trade since the early 20th century, Dubai’s economy relies on revenues from trade, tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services. Oil production contributed less than 1 percent of the emirate’s GDP in 2018.According to government data, the population of Dubai is estimated at around 2,921,376 as of 2021. Dubai is rated as a city in the Middle East.

The emirate of Dubai was dubbed “the Happiness Capital of the World” in 2014 and is the most recent English speaking country to make the claim. In Arabic, Dubai’s name is Dābai, which means “lively”.

People from Dubai are called “Dubais”. The area that today encompasses the city of Dubai was previously inhabited by a handful of fishing villages that were mainly home to Arab tribes. However, in January 1820, the Al Bu Falasah clan of Dubai joined with other Aramean tribes from the northern coasts of the Persian Gulf and signed a treaty with the British government in Bombay that was aimed at safeguarding their mercantile interests in what was then known as the Persian Gulf Residency. This led to the establishment of ‘Trucial Bahrain’ (now Bahrain) as a protected, neutral enclave within the bounds of the East India Company’s sphere of influence. The inhabitants of the village Sibut were also converted to Islam, and continued to live there until the 20th century.

In 1892, a French ship visited Dubai’s ports on a hunt for rare spices. The ship was wrecked off Bur Dubai which later became the city’s main trading harbour. Dubai was named after Sheikh Dubai of Al Ahsa who signed an agreement with his neighbour Sheikh Reshoud in 1926 after he had offered protection from raiding Bedouin tribesmen for many years. (Reshoud lost his life during World War I) By 1928, Dubai had at least 60 hotels, however it remained largely underdeveloped until the 1960s.

Dubai’s growing population attributed to various factors, including economic expansion and tourism. Dubai grew quickly in the 1970s and 1980s, expanding its economy to include tourism, trade and financial services which made it an important global business centre. Dubai maintained its own customs of taxation, banking and currency long after many other Persian Gulf states have merged their customs systems into union union systems. In the late 1980s, Dubai continued to grow from revenues contributed by the tourism and financial service industries, albeit significantly slower than previous decades. The emirate’s Western-style model of business drives its economy with the main revenues now coming from tourism, real estate, and financial services. Dubai has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East.

Dubai is situated on one of world’s largest natural ports. It has also become an important financial centre, with the world’s busiest port, Dubai has become essential to world trade. Dubai was called “the City of Gold” by the Mongol ruler of Persia, due to its importance as a trading port for spices and silk in the region.

Mubarak bin Said bin Rashid Al Maktoum (1894–1971) ruler of Dubai between 1922 and 1958 initiated massive infrastructure development that transformed the area into a major port. In the next decade, Dubai was transformed into the most developed of all Gulf states and a major financial hub. The presence of large Western companies and big corporations such as Emirates Airlines, Etisalat and Dubai World (Dubai’s main airline) also contributed to the growth of the emirate.

The proceeds of oil sales in recent years have brought about substantial changes throughout the city since approximately 1999, with building projects often funded by foreign investment pouring in from around the world. The Growth and Development Plan of Dubai outlined a strategy of the construction of new infrastructure to provide for the projected growth. The plan calls for a doubling of Dubai’s population between 1990 and 2010, which is expected to bring an extra one million people living in the emirate by 2020. Dubai, along with Abu Dhabi and Qatar, was chosen as one of the seven “National Capitals” of the United Arab Emirates in its foundation charter. Dubai is also among the top 20 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the world with a growth of 43% between 2000 and 2004 and an annual population growth of 18% (Dubai City Plan, p. 51).

While the emirate has expanded quickly—from 2 million residents in mid-2000 to 3.36 million in mid-2008—the rapid expansion has caused tensions with nearby states that have put limits on construction, including issuing building permits in Dubai only for buildings that are already under construction there.

Amirates are traditional Arabic states or monarchies that ruled portions of the Arab world including the Hejaz, Najd, Al-Madinah and parts of Mesopotamia most notably Basra. The British ruled most of the Arab world between 1920 and 1956 after they partitioned the territory through a series of agreements with their respective local rulers under the name British Mandate for Palestine. Prior to World War I, most of these territories were part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The term “Emirate” was used to describe similar monarchies in this region. The United Arab Emirates name was thought by the Emiratis as an homage to all UAE rulers who have embraced modernization, since the founding of the federal state in 1971.

The rulers of the emirates are addressed as His Highness, with family names that are known throughout the country before their reigns.

The rulers of the emirates are referred to by their traditional honorifics, which is given before their name. The most common one is “His Highness” followed by “Habib”, which is used for kings, sheikhs and emirs.

Emirati society is strictly hierarchical with social status determined by tribal affiliation, with Emiratis belonging to various tribes originating in the United Arab Emirates.

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