A guide to serviced offices and office space to rent in Dubai as well as general information that may be useful if you are thinking of renting office space in Dubai.
History & Geography
Rising from the desolate sands of the Arabian Peninsula south of the Persian Gulf, Dubai is one of the most modern cities in the Middle East and an international icon of capitalism and commerce. The city is located on the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and shares borders with Sharjah, Oman and Abu Dhabi. The area around Dubai was first settled in the seventh century by the Umayyads, the first true Muslim dynasty. The Umayyads introduced Islam to the area and opened up numerous trade routes. The first mention of the area by a European was in 1580 from Gaspero Balbi, a pearl merchant, who traded heavily in the region. The city proper was established in the early 19th century by the Abu Falasa clan. However in 1833 the Al Maktoum clan invaded from the neighbouring Abu Dhabi and assumed power, which they still hold to this day. Gradually Dubai turned into a major trading port as well as an important hub of the pearl industry and its population prospered. In 1892 Sheikh Maktoum signed a treaty with the British which turned Dubai into a British protectorate. This was followed in 1894 by the decision to grant a full tax exemption to all foreign traders. This further boosted trade and many foreign merchants made their homes in Dubai. In the early 19th century the pearl industry declined and Dubai experienced political unrest caused by the resulting poverty and perceived inequality between classes. With the help of the British the Al Maktoum clan squashed the unrest and in the late 1960s oil revenues helped stabilize the emirate’s economic situation. In 1973 Dubai joined the United Arab Emirates along with Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Kaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. Since then Dubai has expanded rapidly, marketing itself as a centre of tourism, commerce, construction and technology.
Recently the economy of Dubai was valued at close to USD 50 billion. Up to the recession in the late 2000s Dubai was experiencing a construction boom that saw a full third of all the cranes in the world located in the city. Originally the bulwark of Dubai’s economy was its oil and natural gas sector, however today these make up less than six percent of the total economy. Dubai’s government has decided to concentrate its efforts on the service and tourism-related industries which in turn has boosted real estate in the emirate. Among the megaprojects which have and continue to fuel the emirates construction industry are The World, Palm Island, Dubai Marina, Dubai Waterfront, Jumeirah Village and Dubailand. Among the service industries currently important in Dubai are financial services and technology. The recently built Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), occupied by top international banks such as Standard Chartered has boosted the city’s presence in the financial services industry, while the Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City have in turn helped develop the city as an IT and Media hub for the region. Additionally Dubai has a long-established reputation as one of the most important centres of the gold trade in the world.
Tourism has become a major part of Dubai’s economy. Among the attractions Dubai has to offer the main ones are year round sunshine, beaches, shopping and other both ancient and modern attractions. Dubai is singular among its contemporaries in the UAE in that its revenue from oil and natural gas only makes up a small part of its economy. Therefore the emirate has made a concerted effort to boost its tourism industry. The city has been dubbed the shopping capital of the Middle East as is especially known for its souk districts, atmospheric markets where bargaining is part of the shopping process. The city is also known for its numerous and well-appointed shopping malls, which contain some of the world’s most renowned boutiques and labels. In January every year the Dubai Shopping Festival is held and the entire emirate becomes one big shopping centre, as well as hosting music, dancing and art exhibitions. Tourists in search of old Dubai go to the Bur Dubai area which has large sections of the old city. The Al Fahidi Fort, which dates back form 1799 is another popular attraction for those seeking a slice of history. Dubai is a centre of the hotel industry, and while being seen as fairly high priced, has plentiful accommodation for any tourist.
Dubai is served by Dubai International Airport which is the hub for the city’s rapidly growing airline Emirates. The airport is the sixth busiest in the world for international air traffic and is also an important cargo hub. The city itself is served by an extensive bus and taxi system as well as the Dubai Metro which recently went operational. The metro currently has two lines but another is being planned. The Palm Jumeirah development is connected to the city by a monorail which opened in 2009. A favored way of getting to the Deira area of the city is by using the abras, which are small boats on which one can negotiate the fare. Recently a water bus system was also implemented which can take passengers to various destinations around the city and Port Rashid and Port Jebel Ali.
Dubai has traditionally had a strong office market due to its position as a regional hub of trade. However the development pipeline has been reduced significantly since the global recession with many major projects being delayed or cancelled outright. The vacancy rate city-wide remains high at 44 percent. Despite Dubai’s stability during the Arab Spring demand still remains fairly low as US and European companies remain cautious on making any major moves. Prime rents in Dubai’s CBD remain at AED 1,615 per square metre per annum. Because demand is so low landlords are currently offering generous incentives.