Originally a small fishing settlement, Dubai was taken over in about 1830 by a branch of the Bani Yas tribe from the Liwa oasis led by the Maktoum family who still rule the   emirate today.

  Traditional activities included herding sheep and goats, cultivating dates, fishing and pearling, but the inhabitants built up trade too. By the turn of the century, Dubai was   reputed to have the largest souks on the Gulf coast, with 350 shops in the Deira district alone.

  Commercial success allied to the liberal attitudes of Dubai's rulers, made the emirate attractive to traders from India and Iran, who began to settle in the growing town.   But, while trade developed, Dubai remained politically a protectorate of Britain as part of the Trucial States extending along the northern coast of the Arabian peninsula.

  On 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.

  This was shortly after the discovery of oil in 1966, which was soon to transform the emirate and its way of life. Dubai's first oil exports in 1969 were followed by a period of   rapid development that laid the foundations for today's modern society. Much of the credit for this development can be traced to the vision of the late Ruler, HH Sheikh   Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who ensured that Dubai's oil revenues, despite being relatively modest by the standards of the region, were deployed to maximum effect.

  His work has been continued by the present Ruler, HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and his brothers, Their Highnesses Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al   Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry, and General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE   Minister of Defence. The result is that Dubai is constantly building up its infrastructure of transport facilities, schools, hospitals, tourism developments and other   amenities of an advanced society.

  As the leading regional trading hub, Dubai offers a rapidly growing economy and access to a market of outstanding potential.

  Among its key characteristics are:

  » A large market - more than $17 billion in domestic imports annually; gateway to a regional import market with a population of 1.4bn;
  » A growing market - Dubai's imports have more than doubled since 1989; regional economic growth and liberalisation are set to boost demand;
  » A prosperous market - strategic location at the heart of one of the world's richest regions;
  » A diversified market - wide import requirements; opportunities for suppliers of most products;
  » An accessible market - served by more than 170 shipping lines and 86 airlines;
  » An open market - no exchange controls, quotas or trade barriers.

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