Time Frame: Circular Art

  • Clock Tower Roundabout in Deira. Courtesy Alain St Hilaire
  • Clock Tower Roundabout in Deira. Courtesy Alain St Hilaire

If any art form can be said to represent the modern UAE, then perhaps it ought to be the traffic roundabout monument.

Built to adorn the middle of major junctions, these often extravagant and imaginative creations are now an endangered species, as the demands of heavier traffic mean roundabouts are increasingly out of favour.

This photograph includes the Clock Tower Roundabout in Deira. The oldest monument in Dubai, it was built in 1964 and still stands, after major restoration in the early 1970s. It was joined in 1969 by the Flame Monument, shown here just before it was opened, in an image taken by the French documentary photographer Alain St Hilaire.

The flame was lit by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, on October 13 of that year to mark the start of oil production in the emirate.

In the mid-1970s, the flame was moved close to the entrance of the airport, but traffic demands again pushed it to a nearby junction.

The building in the background of this photograph is another story. One of the earliest high-rise blocks in Dubai, it was known locally as the Philips Building because a large advertisement for the electrical firm was placed on the top.

It was demolished in 1971 after part of the facade collapsed, fortunately without causing casualties.

* James Langton

Explore our pictorial history of old Abu Dhabi with the interactive map below, and see all of our Time Frames here.

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