Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
This looks nothing like the glitzy metropolis we know now.
The UK-based Kinolibrary recently uploaded a 35mm film from 1969 that shows the city in much humbler times. At the time, its population was only 60,000 and still two years away from independence from Britain.
Dubai's port gave it economic relevance in the early 20th century. But the collapse of the pearling industry left its economy reeling in the 1930s.
The city saw a small revival In the 1950s, when the British relocated their administrative offices to Dubai from Sharjah. They brought with them electricity, phone services, and an airport. And in 1966, just three years before the above film, oil was discovered.
Its population exploded soon after, expanding 300 percent in the following 10 years. During that time, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and five other emirates formed the UAE. Aided by the creation of the multiple free economic zones, a busy port, and a brisk gold trade, Dubai's skyline has grown further since, officials focused on making the city a tourist destination on top of everything else.
Dozens of realized architectural fever dreams and skyscrapers later, a flyover of the city (now with 2 million people) looks more like this: