Master Plan of Dubai 1954: Dredging of the Creek

The Dubai Creek has also been the heart of the city where trading with other parts of the world is frequently found. It had long been a landmark dividing the Dubai into two major parts – Deira in the east and Bur Dubai in the west.

Aerial View of Dubai Creek 2013
Aerial View of Dubai Creek © 2013 by Mittwoch
Aerial View of Dubai Creek 1960s
Aerial View of Dubai Creek © 1960 by Emirates Diary

Before the oil discovery in 1966, Dubai was famous for its pearl industry and had been a pioneering trading hub with its groundbreaking tax system. In addition, fishing industry is also a major business as the outstanding marine environment along the Creek provides an excellent habitat for many species.

As soon as the businesses boom, Rashid Al Maktoun realised the need to develop the creek to afford the ever-increasing business. In 1954, a strategic plan (the plan is only available in a government official document stored in a library in Dubai) was commissioned to study the possibility of deepening and widening the Creek. However, the price of the dredging job was exorbitant and the Dubai government could not afford it. Rashid, knowing the significance of the project, therefore sought help from various parties and set up a ‘Dubai Creek Dredging Fund’ for the development.

In 1961, with the aid of the fund, the shallow areas in the Creek were successfully dredged, making the Creek more convenient for loading and unloading cargo.  Larger ships would be enabled to land. Later in the 1970s, the Creek was further dredged to accommodate the local and coastal shipping from 200 tons to approximately 500 tons.

Dubai Creek in 1970
Dubai Creek in © 1970 by Emirates Diary
Dubai Creek in 1960
Dubai Creek © 1960 by Emirates Diary

The dreading was highly successful, making the city growing quickly and robustly. It allowed more continuous traffic of merchandise to take place and gained an edge over Sparjah, a major trading competition in the surrounding areas at that time. The quality of life had improved by leaps and bounds and the population doubled between 1955 and 1967, reflecting the boom of economy after the dredging.

Dredging of the Dubai Creek 1959
Dredging of the Dubai Creek © 1959 by Emirates Diary
Dredging of the Dubai Creek 1959
Dredging of the Dubai Creek © 1959 by Emirates Diary


Dredging of the Dubai Creek 1959
Dredging of the Dubai Creek © 1959 by Emirates Diary
Dredging of the Dubai Creek 1959
Dredging of the Dubai Creek © 1959 by Emirates Diary
Dredging of the Dubai Creek 1959
Dredging of the Dubai Creek © 1959 by Emirates Diary


1833: Bani Yas tribe moves to Bur Dubai area, led by Maktoum bin Butti, founder of the Al-Maktoum dynasty. Previously a neighbouring tribal power, the eight hundred tribesmen moved to Dubai at a time when the creek’s trade potential was already discovered.

1892: Sheikh Maktoum capitalized on the opportunity of the creek by signing an exclusive deal with the British

1894: Foreign traders were permitted a full tax exemption. Neighbouring Persians took advantage of this before traders from around the world joined in.

1903: The Sheikh convinced a major British steamship line to make Dubai a port of call, marking the beginning of a 25-year boom.

1929: Trade suffered due to The Great Depression and the discovery of artificial pearls, hampering the business of pearl diving that makes an integral part of Dubai’s history.

1954: Sheikh Rashid ordered an economic study of the creek on deepening and widening it.

1961: Dubai Creek is dredged to allow easier access for wider and larger vessels.

Re-export potential of the port was realized due to the duty-free trade of Dubai. While the pearl trade diminished, gold replaced it with a conviction that led to the Dubai being coined as ‘The City of Gold’ for many years to come. The creek also thrived, as it became a port for gold smuggling.

1961 and 1963: initially, a canal of 4,000 feet long and six feet deep was dug and in the second stage, sheet piling of 1,200 feet length and 11,700 feet was laid on both sides of the creek. As a result, shipping movement increased and ships of a capacity of 500 tonnes were able to enter the creek.

1964: The creek sees the construction of Al Maktoum Bridge to permanently connect the both sides of the much wider creek.

While most of the trade shifted to Jebel Ali by this time, the creek remained the port for regional traders and the smaller facility of Port Saeed continued to exits along the creek.

1975: Al Shindhage tunnel opened with a total of four lanes, two in each direction. It remains the only underwater crossing of the creek to date.

1976: Al Garhoud Bridge is opened with three lanes in each direction.

1993: Dhow Wharfage was launched, providing berth for over 200 traditional trading dhows.

2003: The creek has eight wharfages, each capable of catering to 31 ships of capacity of up to 800 tonnes.

2007: The fourth crossing over the creek, Business Bay Bridge is opened with a total of 13 lanes, built at a cost of Dh800 million. A few months later, the Floating Bridge is opened with six lanes.

2008: Al Garhoud Bridge sees expansion to seven lanes in each direction, built at a cost of Dh415 million.


Works Cited

Carter, Terry, and Lara Dunston. Dubai. Australia: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd, 2006.

Gupte, Pranay. Dubai: The Making of a Megapolis. New Delhi: The Penguin Group, 2011.

Saleem, Nadia. “Past meets present at the Dubai Creek.” Gulf News Features. 4 29, 2009. (accessed 12 16, 2015).

Jones, Jeremy. Nrgotiating Change: The New Politics of the Middle East. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2007.

Smith, John D., and Fiona Warburton. Cambridge Travel and Tourism. Cambridge: University Printing House, 2012.


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