Beginning about 40,000 years ago early man was recording their memories in cave paintings. Much later, he began to write poems and prose. But only in the past 100 years has it become possible for us to record and interpret the world around us through photography.

My wish is that these photographs will speak to you of the world as I have seen and experienced it.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015


DUBAI - 1965

When I arrived in Dubai in 1965 it was a much different country than it is this 50 years later. In the mid 1960’s the Trucial States were little changed from the way they were 100 years before.  Potable water was available in a few places in the town of Dubai, but only for the past 3 years.  Paved roads, or any prepared roads for that matter, totaled only 10 miles in Dubai and for 1.5 miles south to what now known as Jumeriah. The new Dubai airport had had a paved landing strip in the sand of the desert for only 2 years. Agriculture was non-existent. There was no manufacturing. And except for the local public market, the only business and commerce was the smuggling of consumer goods to Persia, Pakistan, and gold bullion and consumer goods to India. For most considerations there had been few changes in Dubai in the past dozen or so decades.

So what is the brief history of the Trucial States and Dubai, its principal population and commercial center? “The Trucial States are a group of sheikhdoms in the southeastern Arabian Gulf, previously known to the British as the 'Pirate Coast', which were signatories to treaties (hence 'trucial') with the British government. These treaties established a protectorate by Great Britain for the sheikhdoms, or emirates, from 1820 until December 2, 1971, when the seven principal trucial sheikhdoms became independent. Six (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qawain and Fujairah) were to form the United Arab Emirates on that day, the seventh - Ras Al Khaimah - would join the Federation on 10 February 1972.” –from Wikipedia

Flag of the Trucial States

In the reality of history as it has played out along the “Pirate Coast”, for many decades the residents of the villages along the “Pirate Coast” had no reliable means of livelihood. There was no agriculture and no manufacturing. There was fishing for personal use and sale in the villages, a few date groves, and the occasional camel or goat for meat.  So in order to survive the Pirate Coast preyed on the merchant ships of the Portuguese and British as they passed thru the Indian Ocean on their way to the Far East and back.  The pirates would come out of the Arabian Gulf into the Indian Ocean and wait for a passing merchant ship, which would be either poorly armed or not at all.  After taking over the ship, it would be taken into the Arabian Gulf and after removing all merchandise and food they would tear it apart for the use of the lumber in their houses and sailing vessels. There were no trees or lumber along their part of the Arabian Gulf.  After the Portuguese first and then the British suffered these attacks over 200 years or more, the British launched a brutal attack with marines on the villages along the Pirate Coast, killing many until those remaining agreed to sign a truce and halt their attacks on merchant shipping. This began the period of the British Protectorate from 1820 to 1971.

I arrived in Dubai in 1965, just 6 years before the area was granted independence.  So who there an American presence in Dubai in 1965? Continental Oil had signed an oil exploration agreement with Dubai and specifically requested the establishment of an American bank to service their banking needs.  Thus First National City Bank of New York, later known as Citibank, opened the first American bank there.  However, by the time Citibank opened the bank and Continental Oil opened their operation, the Sheikh established a bank called Arab Bank and required the oil company to do all their banking with them.

So in a curious way Citibank was in a similar position to the pirates in 1820.  When the truce was signed in 1870, the Arabs had no means of livelihood. So instead of pirating the merchant ships, they began smuggling goods into Persia, Pakistan, and India.  By the time Citibank opened a bank branch in the 1960’s, Dubai was an important center of commerce in the Middle East where consumer goods and gold bullion was imported into Dubai for the sole purpose of smuggling the same goods into markets in the Middle East and India where the same goods were prohibited from import. So my job, and the major function of Citibank at that time, was to support the importation of goods by the local smugglers.  In dollar value the gold bullion was a large percentage of the total and it went almost totally to India.

So with the history of the “truce” that was forced upon the Pirate Coast by the British, you can understand that there was some ill will on the part of the Arabs.  But over the subsequent 150 years they were able to utilize the support of the British to their advantage.  It has been asked what the culture was like and how the British affected it.  Under the truce the Sheikh had authority over the Arab population and their commerce and legal regulation. But the British has authority over all non-Arabs and in addition the British handled the foreign and military affairs of the Trucial States.  Consequently, there existed two societies and cultures: the Arab-Moslem culture and society, which functioned in Arabic and operated under the local laws and codes, and the British-Christian culture and society which functioned in English and operated under the laws of the British Crown.  Therefore, I and each of the non-Arabs were subject to the local British Political Agent, as the representative of the British Crown. Unfortunately, very few Arabs spoke English and fewer still of the westerners spoke Arabic.  So there was little interaction between the two communities, except for a small number of the senior Arab business leaders.

But What A Change. We are all aware of the great changes that took place in Dubai after the discovery of oil in 1966! The photo below is only an indication of the changes that have taken place along the Dubai Harbor, as compared to the 1965 photo at the beginning of this article. Oil paid for this fantastic growth in Dubai.  Now they are trying to reprogram their economy to commerce, medicine, and high tech industries to carry them forward into the future when oil may not contribute the same wealth as it has in the past 50 years.

DUBAI - 2007

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