Dubai (dōōbī´), sheikhdom (2010 est. pop. 1,800,000), c.1,500 sq mi (3,890 sq km), part of the federation of seven United Arab Emirates, SE Arabia, on the Persian Gulf. Nearly all of the sheikhdom's settled population is concentrated in the city of Dubai (2006 pop. 1,422,000), which is the principal port, commercial center, and largest city of the federation and is located on the sheikhdom's central Persian Gulf coast. The city's deepwater port, the oil industry, international trade and business, and tourism are economically important; it also is a gold- and diamond-trading hub. The sheikhdom is a regional center for international corporate headquarters and computer and media companies, and there are elaborate hospitality, shopping, and entertainment facilities. Modern highrises dominate the city of Dubai; the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, opened there in 2010. There is a large international airport.
Little is known of the early history of Dubai, but it appears to have been a dependency of Abu Dhabi until 1833. Along with the other sheikhdoms that now compose the federation, it became a British protectorate in the 19th cent. Dubai became the commercial capital of the sheikhdoms and was an important port of call for British steamers to India. From 1945 to 1948 Dubai was at war with Abu Dhabi. Dredging in 1961 made Dubai the Middle East's most accessible port. Oil was discovered in Dubai in the early 1960s, production began in 1966, and oil revenues played a key role in transforming Dubai into an international hub.
Dubai became part of the United Arab Emirates at its founding in 1971. In the 1970s its deepwater port was modernized and a supertanker dock was constructed. The development of Dubai resulted in a property boom, the residence of many foreign expatriates, and an influx of low-paid Southeast Asian workers, especially in construction. Anger over wage, labor, and living conditions issues led foreign construction workers to riot in 2006. In 2009, amid the global recession, property prices fell sharply in Dubai, construction slowed dramatically, and many expatriates left the country. The recession also led to liquidity problems in the sheikhdom, especially in the government's heavily indebted business arm, and Dubai was forced to seek aid totaling some $25 billion from oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
See Dubai: Architecture and Design (2006); C. M. Davidson, Dubai (2009); J. Krane, City of Gold (2009); S. Ali, Dubai: Gilded Cage (2010).