Deep Dive: Dubai, UAE

Welcome to our Deep Dive Blog Series. Throughout this series, we will look at different locations around the globe to analyze some of the aspects that make them ideal candidates for the installation of our seasteading communities. These seasteads will be designed to withstand different forces and pressures from natural and man-made environments. Each location has been identified by Arktide as a place that would be strategic and fundamental in connecting our seasteading communities to existing global networks.

With that being said, let us introduce you to Dubai, UAE.

Dubai is located on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates, sharing borders with Abu Dhabi in the south, Sharjah in the northeast, and the Sultanate of Oman in the southeast. “Dubai” also refers to that emirate’s main city, often called “Dubai City” to distinguish it from the emirate. Over 90 percent of the emirate’s population resides within Dubai City. For more than a century, the area was the center of the emirate, because the early city relied on fishing, pearl diving, and maritime trade. Dubai’s population has grown steadily over the past two centuries, from just a few thousand local inhabitants to well over two million. Most of the early population increases were due to merchants from neighboring countries choosing to relocate to Dubai’s business-friendly environment. Expatriates in the city now vastly outnumber native Emiratis.

Public school here is generally taught in Arabic, while most private schools and all universities teach in English. Two universities, the American University in Dubai (1995) and Zayed University (1998) enjoy good reputations locally. Most of the staff are expatriates, with a significant proportion being from North America. Although Arabic is the official language of Dubai, other widely spoken languages include Persian, Malayalam, English, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Tagalog. The diversity as well as the business-friendly environment make it easier for people from any place in the globe to easily integrate into this rapidly expanding city.

Dubai does not have an oil-based economy. The oil wealth acquired between the 1960s and the 1990s was used to enhance other sectors of the economy by building physical infrastructure. Trade remains important to Dubai’s economy, with the city operating two of the world’s largest ports and a busy international air cargo hub. Port Rashid handles cargo as well as passenger vessels. By the early years of the twentieth century, it was second only to Kuwait among the commercial ports on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf. Port Jebel Ali was constructed further away from downtown Dubai in the early 1980s to supplement Port Rashid’s infrastructure. In 2008, there was an announcement that all cargo operations would be moved to Port Jebel Ali and Port Rashid would become a cruise terminal and mixed-use urban waterfront area. Proximity to these two important ports will provide seasteading communities access to global trade networks, which is an important aspect for the communities’ sustainability. The western area of Dubai benefits from small stretches of sandy beaches, which have helped to catalyze the city’s tourism industry. To increase the city’s limited seafronts, and, in the absence of natural offshore islands, developers were encouraged to construct giant man-made islands off the coast of the city. Seasteads would help to further expand this idea of offshore man-made space, with the only difference being that seasteads can easily be moved around, allowing for more organic expansion.

Although Dubai’s economy was built thanks to the oil industry, revenues from oil and natural gas now account for less than 6 percent of its revenues. It is estimated that they produce 240,000 barrels of oil a day and substantial quantities of gas from offshore fields. Dubai’s share in UAE’s gas revenue is about two percent. Its oil reserves have diminished significantly. The largest contributors to Dubai’s economy are trade (16 %), entrepôt/transshipment (15 %), and financial services (11 %). The Jebel Ali free-trade zone was established in the 1980s to attract industrial investment. Dubai is also increasingly developing as a hub for service industries such as IT and finance. Dubai is a relatively crime-free place where administrative efficiency and openness to business have encouraged growth.

The topography of Dubai is significantly different from the southern portion of the UAE. Much of Dubai’s landscape is roughly at sea level and highlighted by sandy desert patterns. A sea of sand dunes covers much of southern Dubai, eventually leading into the desert known as The Empty Quarter.  The flat desert gives way to the Western Hajar Mountains, which run alongside Dubai’s border with Oman at Hatta. Dubai has no natural river bodies or oases. However, Dubai Creek is a natural inlet that has been dredged to deepen it enough for large vessels to pass through. With the city being so close to sea level it is important to begin considering solutions for rising sea levels, which could easily hurt this thriving environment. With the integration of Seasteads, important infrastructure could be moved offshore to provide backup in case of future rising seas.

Like much of the Persian Gulf coastline, Dubai has a year-round hot climate. Humidity is high in the summer months and moderate the rest of the year, with the mean humidity being 60%. The coldest month is usually January, with lows of about 15 °C (49 °F), while the hottest month is July, with highs of more than 40 °C (104 °F). Rainfall is light and usually centered around January, February, and March with about 100 mm per year. In Dubai’s Persian Gulf, the water temperature is about 28.1°C (82.6°F) based on an annual average. The lowest water temperatures are reached in February at around 21.8°C (71.2°F). The highest water temperatures are around 33.60°C (92.5°F) during August.

Dubai has recently begun to develop aquaculture with the company Fish Farm LLC spending the past several years growing sea bream, sea bass, shrimp, and yellowtail kingfish. Using Recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) focuses on marine fish breeding and hatcheries is part of the UAE’s efforts to reduce its dependency on imported fish. The main advantage of RAS fish farming is the ability to reduce the need for fresh and clean water while still maintaining a healthy environment for fish. Ninety-two percent of fish consumed in the UAE is imported, creating great opportunities for the development of both land and marine-based aquaculture. Dubai is an extremely suitable location for fish farming since it is a trade hub with major ports and airlines. The ministry is determined to improve food production as the country’s population is expected to reach 11.5 million by 2025. Because the desert is a difficult place to farm, high-tech solutions like RAS are drawing attention. This industry could highly benefit from offshore infrastructure on which to develop its infrastructure and industry. Having fish farms on water would make it easier to transport to local markets on land and to more distant markets through the ocean.

Overall, Dubai is a place that has many of the aspects needed to help a seasteading community to thrive. Diversity in culture, as well as economy and developing aquaculture with access to major ports, are just a few of the opportunities that seasteads could benefit from in this part of the world.






A salmon farm in Dubai, because of course

Start RAS Fish Farming (Recirculating Aquaculture System)

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