Dubai is one of the United Arab Emirates, situated on the Persian Gulf. It borders on Abu Dhabi to the south, Sharjah to the northeast, and Oman to the southeast. Dubai is backed by the Arabian Desert. It has a population of approximately 2,262,000, of whom only 17% are native Emirati.
The first written record of Dubai as a city comes from the 1095 "Book of Geography," by the geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri. In the Middle Ages, it was known as a center of trade and pearling. The sheiks who ruled it made a deal in 1892 with the British, under which the United Kingdom agreed to "protect" Dubai from the Ottoman Empire.
In the 1930s, Dubai's pearl industry collapsed in the global Great Depression. Its economy only began to boom again after the discovery of oil in 1971. That same year, Dubai joined with six other emirates to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). By 1975, the population had more than tripled as foreign workers flocked into the city, drawn by freely-flowing petrodollars.
During the first Gulf War of 1990, the military and political uncertainty caused foreign investors to flee Dubai. However, it provided a refueling station for coalition forces during that war and the 2003 US-led Invasion of Iraq, which helped to cushion the economy.
Today, Dubai has diversified its economy, which relies upon real estate and construction, transit exports, and financial services in addition to fossil fuels. Dubai is also a tourism center, famed for its shopping. It has the largest mall in the world, just one among over 70 luxury shopping centers. Famously, the Mall of the Emirates includes Ski Dubai, the Middle East's only indoor ski slope.