Life in Dubai CreekBe the first to comment 21 August 2012
A couple of boats further along, we spot a weathered Iranian sailor unloading the morning supply of ice, a primitive cooling mechanism for the crew’s supplies. We approach him and discover he’s spent 30 years traversing the narrow 90-mile stretch of the Gulf that separates Dubai from Iran’s ports. After carefully counting a wad of notes, he looks up to offer us a crooked smile.
The luxuries of fresh blocks of ice and a diesel engine are among the few developments that have graced the dhows since the creek became a bustling trade hub around 130 years ago. It was about this time that Dubai’s status as a trade hub was kick-started: Iran’s rulers had started to tax Qawasim merchants docking at Bandar Lengeh, and later Bushehr, on the country’s southern coast. In a bid to entice the tribesmen to dock at Dubai instead, then-ruler HH Sheikh Hasher bin Maktoum Al Maktoum (1850-1886) abolished trade taxes, which is believed to have been the beginning of the city’s long-standing reputation as a tax-free haven. This move led to the influx of Iranian merchants – 500 arrived by 1901 – who were each given a free plot of land on the south side of the creek, which they used to build the wealthy Bastakiya neighbourhood, with its iconic air-cooling towers that are still standing today (albeit heavily reconstructed).
Above, ‘The Chief’ waits aboard as goods are lifted up to him.
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