A ‘before and after’ video uploaded to TikTok shows just how much the landscape of Dubai has changed in just 40 years.


Ask someone today to describe Dubai in a few words and they’ll likely respond with “money,” “the Burj Khalifa” and “more money.” But the city – the most populous in the United Arab Emirates – was all but a desert less than half a century ago.

If you struggle to picture just what that would look like, then fortunately for you, we’ve found a video posted to TikTok by user @michael.pezzaioli, that perfectly juxtaposes how Dubai looked in 1980 compared with 2022.

WATCH: Dubai’s Epic 40-Year Transformation





It’s hard to imagine the images in the video are of the same place, the change is that vast. And, for all your thoughts or opinions on the land of oil and money, you can’t deny the sheer scale and craftsmanship of the infrastructure is nothing short of impressive.

As just mentioned, Dubai’s 40-year glow-up is thanks to the discovery of oil in 1966. Before this, Dubai was a bustling trade location and sourced the bulk of its money from the trading of pearls. This ended in 1930 following the Great Depression 1929 and Dubai actually fell into poverty. A far cry from the ultra-expensive metropolis it has become today.

But Dubai always planned to build big. The city’s former ruler, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum commissioned British architect John Harris to devise a master plan for the rejuvenation of Dubai in 1959. Following the discovery of oil in territorial waters in 1966, the plan was put into action.

A lot of the building efforts were put into trade, with a huge shipping port being one of the first items of business. Income from the trading port, plus continued income from oil, allowed Dubai to continue growing.

And grow it most certainly has. Dubai is now home to the world’s tallest building; the Burj Khalifa, which stands at 828m tall. However, once construction resumes, Saudi Arabia could eventually take the crown with the Jeddah Tower, which plans to be the first building to be 1km in height.

Being a city of excess and grandeur, Dubai is also home to the world’s second-largest mall, the Dubai Mall, albeit only by total land area (we bet they’re cussing the guys in Iran, which is home to the Iran Mall, the world’s biggest) and what is often regarded as the world’s most luxurious hotel.

The Burj Al Arab, which has hosted several iconic events on the helipad, such as David Coulthard performing doughnuts in an F1 car and Roger Federer playing tennis with Andre Agassi, is the epitome of opulence and wealth and has been described by some critics as the world’s first seven-star hotel.

Dubai is also home to Deep Dive Dubai, home to the world’s deepest pool at 60.02 metres/197ft. Put simply, if there’s an engineering record to be broken, you can be sure Dubai is going to try and break it.

However, Dubai’s oil reserves are expected to eventually run out, with estimates predicting that to happen within the next 20 years. As one commenter on the TikTok video says, “The moment the petrol is gone, Dubai is gone.”

That said, oil isn’t the highest earner for Dubai, believe it or not. Trade, tourism and real estate contribute significantly to Dubai’s overall wealth. It will be interesting to see how the income from these sources will affect how Dubai looks in the next 40 years.

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