Dubai: then and now

We gathered a selection of aged images and had them reshot from the exact same position, years later. Spot the difference! Discuss this article

© ITP Images
View slideshow
  • Picture 1 of 2
Dubai gone by

Long-term residents’ memories
"My sister and I used to think the old arcade in Safa Park was the best place in the world in 1995-96. So we were absolutely beside ourselves when Deira City Centre opened and introduced us to Magic Planet for the first time."
Holly Sands, Music and Nightlife editor

"We arrived in Dubai in February 1975 and lived in apartments in Bur Dubai before moving to the ‘expat’ suburb of Umm Suqeim. We left in January 1980. Our first house telephone was installed in November 1979, after four and a half years without one. Our first air-conditioned car arrived in March 1979 replacing the open-topped, no-doors Suzuki Jeep with black plastic seats. Wall-mounted a/c units were installed in our first apartment on May 1 1975, three months after we arrived.

In 1979 you could navigate anywhere in Dubai using the landmarks of the Trade Centre and the Dry Dock cranes, which could be seen for miles. We used to drink sweet water from wells. Almost everyone suffered with one tummy upset but had no problems after that. My most vivid memories? Water skiing at Khor Fakhan, towed by a jeep driven along the beach. And the thousands of Bedouin and Emiratis who came and camped between Diyafah Street and Port Rashid for the week-long celebrations of HH Sheikh Mohammed [Bin Rashid Al Maktoum]’s wedding in 1979."
Rab Brown (our editor’s dad)

"In 1978 the (current) pharmacy on the corner of Al Wasl and the road to Defence Roundabout (originally Albert Abela Hypermarket) was the effective ‘end of town’. In 1980 we moved out to an isolated compound near the Offshore Sailing Club, with friends quizzing us as to why we had gone to the ‘boonies’[the middle of nowhere]. However, one could drive onto Al Wasl with any need to look for cars, and you could do U-turns on Sheikh Zayed Road whenever. People went from Jumeirah to Al Nasr Square (Deira) for shopping and entertainment.

The only mall was Al Ghurair, which appeared some years later. English movies were at the Rex (a drive-in near the airport, where they stuck a portable a/c in the rear window so that the windscreen would keep misting up). Parking was never an issue, you could get a brew at the little Chinese restaurant on the corner, haircuts were Dhs10 with a free Pepsi (no Coke in those days), and South Africans were banned! In 1978-9, people queued at the Beach Road Choithrams to get ‘fresh’ milk flown in by British Airways once a week. But it was normally off after the second day! Everywhere else used UHT. A year or so later, poor old Unikai kicked in with ‘reconstituted’ milk, posing as ‘fresh’ though made from powder, only to be usurped by the entry of the first dairy farms in the region. Life was less harsh after that! "
Dave Torbet

"Being born in Dubai was unique – now lots of kids are born here! One of the first houses I lived in, from 1978, is now somewhere underneath one of the holes on the Al Badia golf course.There was a time when we could drive off the Beach Road onto Jumeirah Beach and have a barbecue. We did it every Friday. The police used to drive up and down the beach. As a kid we’d wave at them – along with the helicopters that went up and down too. I used to ride horses along Jumeirah Beach. Safa Park was the edge of Dubai. The houses we lived in next to Safa Park in 1988 were only bulldozed a year or two ago. The expat community was so small we all knew each other."
Annisa Loadwick

By Becky Lucas and Lucy Usher
Time Out Dubai,

Add your review/feedback

Subscribe to Daily Dubai newsletter

Prove you're not a robot:



Explore by

Most viewed outlets