Dubai (2000s) / DSO / Dubai Silicon Oasis: free zone erection in unmanned desert
Dubai Silicon Oasis is located in the inland region between Sheikh Mohammed Road and the Emirates Road, intersected with the Dubai-Al Ain Road. That is a region far from the coastal line area, which has a relatively long history since British architect John Harris made the second master plan for Dubai in the 1970s. It is the inauguration of Sheikh Mohammed Road (E311) in 2001 that pushed Dubai’s expansion towards inland untraveled desert one step forward¹. We can observe how E311 functions as an activator of that region from the satellite images above. Comparatively speaking, the long-existing Dubai-Al Ain Road has little to do with activating the region in history.
The regional planning idea for area occupied by Silicon Oasis was revealed in Dubai structural plan 1993, and 2003. It underwent a change from ‘recreational use’ in 1993 to ‘commercial use’ – a car race site – in 2003. Several factors may have triggered the planned transformation from recreation to car race site, and finally to the Silicon Oasis today.
Firstly, the recreational space in Dubai was planned into three major zones – Mina Seyahi, Ras Al Khor and south of Jebel Ali, which did not include region here². So its functional plan was relatively flexible. Since the inaugural season in 1991, Formula Renault spread its popularity throughout the world from the Europe. It soon became an important event to display global influence in the coming years. So from 1993 to 2003, the need for a high-end international car race site emerged for Dubai, a city fascinated by the power of globalization.
Secondly, in 2004, a specific ‘motor city’ was planned in Dubai next to the ‘sports city’. The featured facility there is the Dubai Autodrome. That brought the use of that piece of land again into reconsideration.
Thirdly, since 2002, Dubai government started to issue declaration and regulations about ‘freehold property’³. Especially following the ‘one country two systems’ formula, ‘free zone’ became the focal idea involved in Dubai’s planning. That is typically how Dubai responds to the globalization. It functions as a mechanism, expanding and diversifying the urban economy by creating specific urban centers, and welcomes foreign forces to manipulate each of them4. Then, following Law no.16 of 2005, with the Mission to “facilitate and promote modern technology based industries”, the need for a free zone similar to Silicon Valley was made clear5.
Besides functional considerations, there are also some significance in terms of location.
Firstly, the site is at the crossroad of Sheikh Mohammed Road (E311) and Dubai-Al Ain Road (E66). That is a privilege location with easy accessibility from highway running in both longitude and latitude directions. With highway, the airport, central business center, and shipping port are all within 30 minutes’ driveway from the site6.
Besides, it is next to the Academic City where universities are located. Just like the Silicon Valley has Stanford and Berkeley in its backyard, Silicon Oasis is imitating that accent in Dubai. Education and new technology are always friends.
What’s more, the site is far from Dubai’s coastal line development. It represents Dubai’s attempt to overcome its desert image at the beginning of this era.
The construction of Dubai Silicon Oasis also further reshaped the existing regional fabric, especially infrastructure. In 2009, Dubai department of transportation decided to upgrade the Sheikh Mohammed Road, and turn that into a new strategic link between Dubai and Abu Dhabi7. Also, more free zones and regional centers chose to build along this road after Silicon Oasis, which reveals how Silicon Oasis as a starting point, activates this road. Besides, the extension direction of Dubai Metro blue line is proposed towards the Silicon Oasis, as a response to its potential in capital growth.
- Deepak. ‘Emirates Road renamed to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road.’ Emirates Diary. 02 Jan, 2013. Retrieved from: http://emiratesdiary.com/uae-tips/emirates-road-renamed-to-sheikh-mohammed-bin-zayed-road
- Yasser Elsheshtawy. Dubai: Behind an urban spectacle. UK: Routledge, 2009.
- Michael Pacione. ‘City Profile: Dubai.’ Cities, Vol. 22, No. 3 (2005): 255–265.
- Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority. ‘About DSO.’ Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority Official Website. Retrieved from: https://www.dsoa.ae/en/about-dubai-silicon-oasis/
- Department of Municipal Affairs and Transportation. ‘New Abu Dhabi – Dubai Main Road.’ Department of Municipal Affairs and Transportation Official Websit. Retrieved from: https://dot.abudhabi.ae/en/info/New_Abu_Dhabi_-_Dubai_Main_Road
Deepak. ‘Emirates Road renamed to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road.’ Emirates Diary. 02 Jan, 2013. Retrieved from:
Department of Municipal Affairs and Transportation. ‘New Abu Dhabi – Dubai Main Road.’ Department of Municipal Affairs and Transportation Official Website. Retrieved from:
Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority. ‘About DSO.’ Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority Official Website. Retrieved from:
Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai: Behind an urban spectacle. UK: Routledge, 2009.
Pacione, Michael. ‘City Profile: Dubai.’ Cities, Vol. 22, No. 3 (2005): 255–265.