Video: How did Dubai get its name? The mystery continues

Dubai - 'Civilisation in Dubai started around 12,000 years ago or 2,000 years BCE (before the common era)'


Angel Tesorero

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Published: Wed 11 Apr 2018, 4:07 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Feb 2023, 1:41 PM

Did you know that the name 'Dubai or Dubayy' first appeared in a book in Andalusia in the 11th century? And that the name of the emirate was derived from the small migratory locusts, while the first commercial map showing Dubai appeared in 1822 and the population back then was just 1,000 people.

But no one still knows who gave the name Dubai and this was one of the challenges posed at the two-day Dubai Historical Documents Conference which started on Wednesday at the Zayed University.

Speaking to Khaleej Times at the conference sponsored by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC), Rashad Bukhash, chairman of the UAE Architectural Heritage Society, said: "Who gave the name Dubai? It will be difficult to know because we don't have a lot of documents in this area."

"So, we rely on different interpretations by people. But we should find more historical documents and I pose this challenge to our young generation - to look into the past, do researches and investigate historical documents - to know more of our roots."

The lack of historical documents pose a lot of question like how Dubai was called before. "Some say it was Al Wasl - but Al Wasl is just an area in Dubai. We have a lot of archaeological sites like Saruq Al-Hadid but there were no writings and we could only find daggers or swords 1,000 to 2,000 years ago," Bukhash said.

Bukhash added: "Civilisation in Dubai started around 12,000 years ago or 2,000 years BCE (before the common era), but the first recorded mention of Dubai appeared in a book by Al Bhakri from Andalusia around 1,000 years ago."

Another reference to Dubai was recorded in a book published in Italy by a Venetian pearl merchant named Gasparo Balbi. "He traveled to the East between 1579-1588 and he mentioned 'pearl industy cities' such as Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain," Bukhash told Khaleej Times.

"Meanwhile, the oldest map we have is from the British maritime archives dated in 1822, showing the walled city and it was mentioned that the population of Dubai back then was just around 1,000 people," he added.

Bukhash underlined: "It is very important to study these historical documents to know the political, economic, social, cultural and even the personal relationships of people before."

Bukhash said to learn the history of Dubai, they had to go house to house and learn oral history from early Emiratis. "We used photos taken in the 1950s to build museums, recreate old houses, and portray the socio-economic conditions before," he added.

"The study of the UAE history is very important for both locals and expats. By looking into the past, people will know how the various emirates got their names: like Abu Dhabi, which means gazelle; Sharjah for the east; Fujairah, which came from the word fajr which means dawn in Arabic and Ras Al Khaimah, which means head of the tent. People will learn the meaning of the areas where they live like Al Barsha which means 'small grass'," Bukhash emphasised.

Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, founder of Crossroad of Civilizations Museum, noted the important collaboration among the private sector, academicians and the government in pursuing historical researches.

"History is like a big mosaic of pictures. We will have a better, bigger and much beautiful picture of history if there is active collaboration from all sectors," Al Mansoori noted.

Meanwhile, siblings Shaikha Al Kaabi, 22, and Mooza Al Kaabi, 20, who are studying IT security and general studies respectively at Zayed University said: "By looking at the past, we get to know and understand how our forefathers lived. We appreciate more our heritage, bridge the generation gap, and have a stronger sense of patriotism."

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