The creek divides Dubai into two parts – Deira Dubai and Bur Dubai. The creek is 14 Kms long. It now has eight wharfages each capable of catering to 31 ships of capacity of up to 800 tonnes. Around 720,000 tonnes of cargo pass through the creek each year. Only wooden ships are allowed to enter the creek to keep its traditional feature.
Countries which depend on the creek in their trade with Dubai are countries in the Gulf states, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and India.
The Creek has played a major role in the economic development achieved by Dubai. Since the early days, when Dubai was a center for pearl fishing and pearl trade, Dubai’s trade development was attributed to the creek.
Ships and dhows from the Gulf, Iran, the Indian subcontinent and even from European coasts called on Dubai. These ships laden with between 200 and 300 Tonnes of cargo used to anchor at the creek to fulfill the needs of the local markets or for re-export purposes, emphasizing the historical position of Dubai as a center for regional trade.
The Creek has constantly been an important and a safe harbor for small and medium size ships which sail to the ports of the Arabian Gulf Region, the countries of the Indian Subcontinent and East Africa, loaded with different goods which are re-exported to these various Regions.
In the early years, only small dhows were able to enter the creek. The bigger vessels had to unload goods into small boats at the entrance of the creek. The lateH.H. Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, even before he became the Ruler of Dubai, realized the strategic importance of the creek. He ordered an economic and technical study in 1954 on deepening and widening the creek.
Despite the lack of financial resources at that time to cover the cost of the project, a fund called the “Dubai Creek Dredging Fund” was established with a sum of Two hundred thousand pounds sterling . It was paid by one of the operating banks in Dubai, along with another four hundred thousand pounds sterling paid as a loan by Kuwait.
Initially, a canal 4000 ft long and six ft deep was dug and in the second stage sheet piling of length 1200 ft and 11,700 ft was laid on both sides of the creek. as a result, shipping movement increased and ships of a capacity of 500 tonnes were able to enter the creek. Upon completion of the dredging operations, it was necessary to link both sides with permanent bridges and hence the Al Maktoum bridge was completed in 1964. With the discovery of oil in 1967, a mobile part of the bridge was introduced in 1968 to facilitate the movement of oil tankers.
With the increasing trade movement and hence the increase in number of cars and other vehicles it was vital to solve the problems of traffic jams on Al Maktoum bridge. The Al Shindagah undersea tunnel was completed in two years time in 1967.
Abras (small wooden boats) serve as taxis for those who want to cross from the Deira side to the Bur Dubai side. The journey takes around ten minutes and costs just 50 fils.
An imaginative way of seeing Dubai is to take a tour of the creek by traditional wooden dhow or cabin cruiser. Most of the major landmarks can be seen from the waterway. Daytime or evening cruises are available with food and beverages on board.