Originally a small fishing settlement on a Khor or Creek, Dubai was taken over by a branch of the Bani Yas tribe in about 1830. They had come from the Liwa Oasis in the far south of the present day United Arab Emirates, and were led by the Maktoum family, who still rule the emirate today.
Traditional activities included herding sheep and goats, cultivating dates, fishing and pearling. Pearling in particular gave Dubai's inhabitants a head start in building trade relations. By the turn of the century, the town was reputed to have the largest markets on the Gulf coast, with 350 shops in the Deira district alone.
Commercial success allied to the liberal attitudes of Dubai's rulers, made the emirate attractive to traders from India and Iran, who began to settle in the growing town. Dubai continued to take advantage of a regional maritime peace enforced by the British Navy in the area to forge strong sea-trading links with the states around it.
On the British withdrawal in 1971, Dubai came together with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and (in 1972) Ras Al Khaimah to create the federation of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi became the federal capital, while Dubai began to command the position of commercial centre.
This was shortly after the discovery of oil in 1966, which was soon to transform the emirate and its way of life. Dubai's first oil exports in 1969 were followed by a period of rapid development that laid the foundations for today's modern society. Much of the credit for this development are traced to the late Ruler, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who ensured that Dubai's oil revenues, despite being relatively modest by the regional standards, were deployed to maximum effect.
His work has been continued by the present Ruler, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and his brothers, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry, and General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence. The result is that Dubai is constantly building up its infrastructure of transport facilities, schools, hospitals, tourism developments and other amenities of an advanced society.