How Dubai Tells Time

A Brief History of the Iconic Deira Clock Tower How the Deira Clock Tower – formerly known as the Dubai Clock Tower – came into existence and why it is placed where it is actually stems from two separate stories: one story about the clock, itself, and one story about the tower and why it was built in the first place.

Let’s start with The Clock

In 1958, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum became ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. Sheikh Rashid’s daughter married Sheikh Ahmad bin Ali Al Thani who became the Emir of Qatar in 1960. In the early 1960s it is said that Sheikh Ahmad gifted a fairly large, beautiful clock to Sheikh Rashid who wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it at the time it was received, but eventually, a plan came together resulting in the magnificent structure as it is known today.

Construction of Deira Clock Tower Via Elaph (right) photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower in view via Al Bayan Newspaper.jpg

Construction of Deira Clock Tower Via Elaph

Construction of Deira Clock Tower Via Elaph (right) photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower in view via Al Bayan Newspaper.jpg

Construction of Deira Clock Tower Via Elaph

Construction of Deira Clock Tower Via Elaph (right) photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower in view via Al Bayan Newspaper (1).jpg

Photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower in view via Al Bayan Newspaper

Construction of Deira Clock Tower Via Elaph (right) photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower in view via Al Bayan Newspaper (1).jpg

Photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower in view via Al Bayan Newspaper

Onto The Tower

Prior to Dubai becoming the metropolis of concrete skyscrapers it is currently and home to the tallest building in the world, The Burj Khalifa, Dubai – in the 18th century – had been established as a fishing and a pearling village largely due to its location in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula on the coast of the Persian Gulf. In the early 1930s the first oil company teams conducted geological surveys in the UAE. And a little over thirty years later, in 1962, the first cargo of crude oil was exported from Abu Dhabi. In celebration of this feat, the idea of a clock tower – using the clock gifted to Sheikh Rashid by Sheikh Ahmad – started to take shape.

Many articles have been written over the years about how and why the Dubai Clock Tower came to be. Some of those pieces contain conflicting information as it pertains to the year by which it was completed and the reasons why, and even who was really responsible for the design and ultimate construction of the iconic landmark.

Through research, however, it is determined that the original idea for the clock tower may have been a joint concept thought up between Austrian engineer Otto Bulard and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, himself, and although Bulard is not credited for the clock tower’s eventual blueprints, it is said that he provided the original sketches for the idea and the whereabouts of the structure.

Vintage photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower via Bayut.jpg
Vintage photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower via Bayut.jpg

Vintage photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower via Bayut

Vintage photo of Dubai with the Deira Clock Tower via Bayut

Bringing it all together

Ultimately, it was Syrian architect Zaki Al-Homsi of Architecture Design Construction (ADC) who was brought on board to develop and help build the final design for the clock tower. The location for the clock tower in Deira – a roundabout situated at the crossroads of Umm Hurrair Road and Al Maktoum Road (Route D89) – was apparently chosen because the landmark would be one of the first things seen by visitors arriving both by ship and the then new international airport. The clock tower offers access to the well-known Al Maktoum Bridge, separating Deira from Bur Dubai.

After the structure was finished in 1965, it was apparent, fairly quickly, that the materials originally used would not stand the test of time, so by the mid-1970s, work began on the structure to make it stable and sound, and the landmark was refurbished entirely in concrete by 1989.

With regard to the clock itself, the faces of it have only been replaced once since the tower came to be. All four original clock sides were replaced with Omega “dials” which incorporated GPS devices so that there would be no doubt of the accuracy of the time.

To this day, the Deira Clock Tower remains as one of the must-see landmarks of the city of Dubai.

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