This City’s Growth From Desert To Metropolis Makes Las Vegas Look Quaint

Published March 2, 2016
Updated February 6, 2019
Dubai Before And After

Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s main thoroughfare, in 1990. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

You’re probably aware that Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world (as this dizzying Burj Khalifa video demonstrates) and that its urban planning is a marvel of modern civic engineering. Even still, you’re probably not aware just how much this one-of-a-kind metropolis has grown in recent decades.

In 1960, Dubai was nothing more than a regional trading center with one hotel and 40,000 people. Today, Dubai is a flourishing economic hub with the world’s second largest shopping mall, the world’s second most expensive hotels (on average), and close to 2.5 million people.

Its growth over the past few decades — and even just the past decade itself, in which the city has added one million people — is virtually unprecedented.

While some Westerners might suppose that Dubai’s miraculous growth is merely smoke and mirrors fueled by unsustainable oil money, that simply isn’t the case. Though the 1960s oil boom contributed heavily to Dubai’s first growth spurts, oil and natural gas account for just 1.5% of its GDP today. As these incredible Dubai before and after photos reveal, tourism, trade, and construction have transformed Dubai into a 21st century powerhouse.

Dubai Skyline 2015

The Dubai skyline, centered around Sheikh Zayed Road, in 2015. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Kuroski, John. "This City’s Growth From Desert To Metropolis Makes Las Vegas Look Quaint.", March 2, 2016, Accessed June 22, 2024.