2002 The property boom began thanks to a law change that allowed foreigners to buy property (although not land). November’s Cityscape saw further announcements of the Palm Jumeirah (on which dredging began) and Dubai Festival City, while reports claimed that property prices had spiked 27-fold in the decade from 1992-2002. Key hotels such as The Fairmont and The Montgomerie opened, Elton John played the Creek Club in October and, in more unusual news, a British woman attempted to smuggle a chameleon from Dubai to Manchester by perching it on her head hoping people would think it was a hat.
2003 Tiger Woods turned down a March appearance at golfing tournament Dubai Desert Classic, citing it as ‘unsafe’ due to the Iraq War (a connection that would no longer be made today). In June, Emirates Airlines put in an order for 41 Airbus planes, leading the New York Times to state: ‘Emirates is trying to transform itself into a globe-circling airline that will carry passengers between Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas through its hub in Dubai.’ Goal achieved.
2004 In January 2004 the Burj Dubai tower was announced, causing a media fervour (it is now called the Burj Khalifa). In September, shopping destination Saks Fifth Avenue was unveiled and December saw the first race at the Dubai Autodrome, as well as the inaugural Dubai International Film Festival – which continues to go from strength to strength. Sadly, in November 2004 the UAE’s founder and president, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, passed away.
2005 Roger Federer and Andre Agassi famously played a few sets on the helipad at the Burj Al Arab in February to promote the Dubai Open tournament (Federer then defeated Agassi in the semi-finals and went on to win the title). In November Michael Jackson caused a tiny stir by accidentally using the ladies room (and powdering his nose) at Ibn Battuta Mall, and in December Ski Dubai opened in Mall of the Emirates – a true ‘only in Dubai’ milestone.
2006 On January 4, at the age of 57, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum took the reins as ruler of Dubai, upon the passing of his elder brother. Luxury London designer department store Harvey Nichols opened its largest branch outside the UK at Mall of the Emirates, bringing with it an endless supply of ‘It-bags’. Popular Swedish chain store H&M opened its first Middle Eastern franchise, with two stores at Mall of the Emirates and another at Ibn Battuta.
2007 Putting Dubai on the map as a hotspot for visiting international artists, performers including The Prodigy, Shakira and DJ Paul van Dyk graced stages at various events throughout the city. Dubai International Fashion Week and Art Dubai launched their first events as a platform to showcase a number of emerging designers and artists from the region to international and local buyers. American music TV stalwart MTV got a Middle Eastern makeover when the regional version of the channel, MTV Arabia, debuted on air this year.
2008 After seven years, construction on the Palm Jumeirah was completed, ensuring it could be seen from space. The eye-catching Atlantis hotel opened its doors to guests on September 24; the official opening party on November 20 attracted celebs including Robert De Niro and Kylie Minogue, and became the most expensive launch party in history at a reported Dhs85 million. Global recession? What recession? Mega mall complex The Dubai Mall also opened on November 4, offering Dubaians a place to shop, scuba-dive and play ice hockey.
2009 Becks (that’s David Beckham) played a match for AC Milan against Hamburg in our fair city in January, and Brazil won the FIFA Beach Football World Cup after playing on Jumeirah Beach in November. The city’s beautiful people had a new place to be seen at Japanese restaurant-lounge Okku (Zuma had already opened in 2008). Iron Maiden rocked Dubai Media City, while Keane gently swayed the Madinat Jumeirah, but it was the economic meltdown that made the news after thousands of expats fled the city, reportedly abandoning their cars in parking lots.
2010 The new decade heralded the inauguration of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, also home to the Armani Hotel. Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in his Al Bustan Rotana hotel room by Mossad (and a fascinating surveillance tape guide to the murders was released by officials, leading everyone to be suspicious of plump men in tennis gear). In happier news, the year marked the first Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Raceourse. Glória de Campeão came in first, though more people will remember the rip-roaring post-race gigs by Elton John and Santana.