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17 April 2024

The narrow inlet that formed Dubai’s future

By Adrian Murphy



For centuries Dubai Creek has been at the centre of life in the emirate – from its humble beginnings as a fishing and pearling community to a global trading hub of the 21st century.


But in the coming years the Creek will undergo its biggest transformation since it was dredged in the 1960s. The waterway’s 12km extension, of which 8km has already been completed, will see it loop through Dubai and rejoin the Gulf.


Included in this transformation will be three major projects – Dubai Festival City, the Lagoons and Business Bay – with a combined value of more than Dh200 billion. These, like the office buildings that tower over today’s Creek, will take Dubai’s waterway forward into the future.


More road crossings are promised – a total of 100 lanes by 2020, with 52 to open to motorists by the end of this decade. Most recently the Roads and Transport Authority announced what it described as its most ambitious project yet – a Dh3bn, 12-lane bridge, which when complete will be the longest arch structure of its kind in the world, stretching 607m and rising 205m.


It will have a Metro line and station plus links to the waterbus service and will allow more than 20,000 vehicles to cross from Dubai Festival City to Al Jaddaf each hour. Ultimately, the Creek will be a waterfront home to thousands of people and a place of business and commerce for thousands more.


Alya Abdulrahim Abdullah, head of Dubai Municipality’s coastal management section, said the decision to extend the Creek back to the sea would mean it remained at the heart of Dubai’s business and leisure life.


“This is a strategic waterway for businesses and we will have extensive water taxis with the RTA planning ferrying stations that will cater to the entire Creek,” he said.


“Our job is to take care of the extension without losing what we already have. We are now in the process of restructuring the key wall along the present Creek as well as overseeing the extension.”


The natural end of Dubai Creek is at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, 14km from its mouth on the Gulf.


Plans to extend the Creek – approved 18 months ago – will bring the waterway past Ras Al Khor to encompass the Dh66bn Lagoons and Dh110bn Business Bay projects. It will eventually rejoin the Gulf, crossing Sheikh Zayed Road and passing through Al Wasl and Jumeirah – though a final decision on the route has yet to be announced.


Dr Claudia Giarrusso, a coastal engineering specialist working for the municipality, said the Creek extension was an important project for Dubai – though it was not without problems. “Dubai Creek is a beautiful asset for the city and the extension will be an enhancement of this,” she said. “We are trying to control the project with ‘flushing’ and environmental studies, while ensuring the water’s quality. It was decided to extend the Creek to the sea because this would help with the flushing of the waterway. At the moment we have problems at the wildlife sanctuary. As the tide comes in there is not enough time for it to flush around to the end. By extending it to the sea we will have the tide coming in another way as well.”


The man-made extension of the Creek will open up 12.2km of prime waterfront real estate for thousands of properties. The municipality’s coastal section said it had undertaken research to ensure the habitat of migrating birds at Ras Al Khor would not be disrupted.


Officials have also agreed to work with the new Meydan racecourse city being built at Nad Al Sheba to construct a canal to allow race-goers to sail to events such as Dubai World Cup.



Creek history


The late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum realised the strategic importance of the Creek and ordered an economic and technical study in 1954. Then, under his guidance, the Creek was dredged in the 1960s to remove silt and allow larger ships in. This transformed Dubai from a small coastal town into a rich trading hub and now a world business centre.


Before the completion of dredging, it was deemed necessary to link both sides with bridges and Maktoum Bridge became the first of a number of crossings in 1964. The Creek has eight wharfages and handles 720,000 tonnes of cargo. Countries that depend on the Creek for trade include the GCC plus Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and India.