This photo was taken in 1964. It’s Dubai Creek, the waterway that leads through the heart of the most important city in what is now the United Arab Emirates. The Greeks called in the River Zara. From ancient until relatively recent times, Dubai Creek was a base for fishermen and pearl divers. Dredging and other operations designed to make the waterway compatible for larger ships–thus increasing Dubai’s utility as a port–began in the 1950s, not long before this picture was taken. But as you can see, it was still pretty pastoral. Pearl fishing was the main economic activity of this area, which had been under British rule since 1892.

Then came oil. The UAE’s first oil exports went out to the world in 1969, and within two years the country was independent. Now, of course, Dubai is one of the most important ports and financial centers in the world. The vast wealth of this little country has enabled a construction boom unparalleled in modern history. This is what Dubai Creek looks like today.

dubai creek 2010s

What a difference fifty years–and oil–makes on a place!

The modern photo of Dubai Creek is by Flickr user David Jones and is used under Creative Commons 2.0 (Attribution) license.