Part 1: Agent Interrobang's writeup on DubaiIn fact, since I'd like to do so, have an effortpost.
Dubai: History and Culture
With a population of over 2 million and growing, Dubai is one of the most influential and certainly the most wealthy city in the Middle-East, with Tel Aviv a distant second. First established on official records in 1833, it was eventually placed under the protection of Great Britain in 1892, to safeguard the emirate against the then-aggressive Ottoman Empire. Due to its coastal location and easy access to the rest of the Persian region, it served as an important port and trading hub. Dubai's close naval proximity to Iran made it an extremely valuable port before the revolution which put the current theocratic government of Iran in power.
In 1971, Dubai, along with Abu Dhabi and five other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates as a mutual defense and economic pact when Britain pulled out of the Persian Gulf. The discovery of oil that same year cemented Dubai as a future economic powerhouse. As the oil industry boomed, Dubai's wealth and influence grew massively; this would suffer as a result of the Gulf War in the early 1990s, but has been on a steady upward trend ever since.
Culturally, Dubai is extremely cosmopolitan and in many ways can be considered the most 'Western' city of the Middle-East. Due to its long life as a trade hub and major port, it has cultural and economic influences from around the globe shaping it, and Dubai imports both workers and goods from around the world. While it was built on the back of the oil industry, Dubai relies primarily on tourism, real estate, and financial services such as banking and stock trading for its income. As it is a primarily trade-based economy, many in Dubai are bi- or even trilingual; common languages spoken include Arabic, Farsi, English, and recently Hindi, thanks to a large influx of Indian and Pakistani investors and laborers.
If I'm making Dubai sound lovely, well, it is, but there is a downside. Dubai is almost synonymous with crass consumption and ill-advised opulence in the Arab world: it is a city of luxuries, and overblown luxuries at that, ranging from a glittering skyline built using poorly-paid labor and even an entire artificial set of islands made to house resort properties, meant to attract wealthy Western tourists. It also plays home to some of the most cutthroat businessmen and corporations on the face of the planet, and it has an almost entirely deregulated economy; the economic gap between the wealthy and the poor is stark. Dubai is also widely used as a tax shelter by the disgustingly rich, and is the center of the gold trade in the Middle-East.