National Geographic : 1975 Oct
The gold trade flourished; Dubai merchants bought it in London and Zurich, then sold it legally to others who smuggled it into India and Pakistan. Then, in the late 1960's, when the oil boom was building up, Rashid sensed a need for a new deepwater port. European advisers urged him to build four berths, then add others as the need arose. To their dismay, he ordered 15 built in quick succession. "He was right," one consultant says. "Every berth is occu pied." Expansion plans now call for 22 more berths, with the breakwater placed to allow even further expansion. And so, while freighters queue off other Gulf ports, incurring delays of as long as 100 days and commensurate penalties, there sel dom is congestion at Port Rashid. Only once last year did the port jam up. Cement became scarce; the price shot from 15 to 28 dirhams a bag; Dubai merchants and contractors sensed a killing and placed orders from the Baltic to Korea. In three months a quarter of a million tons arrived at the port. Everyone had played the game. During my visit bags of cement were stacked in the desert. The price was back to 15. To further encourage trade, the sheikh allows importers 20 days' free warehouse storage and charges only moderate fees there after. Dubai per capita is today among the world leaders in external trade-$28,000 of trade per man, woman, and child a year. Rashid's day begins at 6:30 at the palace, where he issues instructions, confers with favored businessmen, and receives un announced callers, like a young man who arrived carrying a suitcase on his shoulder. Opening it, he pulled out a new edition of the Koran, just printed in Bombay. Would not Rashid buy the lot and give them to mosques? Inheriting the windfall, a Bedouin family of Abu Dhabi pitches a goat-hair tent while awaiting the completion of their govern ment-built home next door. Designed with tradition in mind, a separate front room will accommodate a husband's male guests while women remain in the family quarters. Seeming infinity of houses stretches across Kuwait's new town of Rikkah (following pages). Most Gulf states provide free school ing, medical care, and low-income housing for their own people. The Arab World, Inc.