DUBAI // Imagine the chaos on Dubai's furious roads if the authorities decided today that all cars should travel on the left, as they do in the United Kingdom.
If such a decision had to be made, it was much better suited to the scarce traffic of the mid-1960s, when the traffic committee of Dubai Municipality officially swapped driving lanes from the left side of the road to the right.
"Most people don't even know that we once drove like the British here," says Yousuf Sulaiman, the head of Dubai Municipality Museum.
"We are talking about a time when a cinema ticket was one rupee and there were barely any roads or traffic lights."
Dated August 15, 1966 and titled "The order to change the rule of the road from left to right in the Trucial States", the rule is just one of many official documents with great historic significance - often taken for granted - on display at the museum.
Before the UAE was formed on December 2, 1971, each emirate was governed independently and the dirham was not yet in use.
The Dubai road rule was signed by Kamal Hamzah, one of the longest serving directors of the municipality, who held office between 1961 and 1985.
The museum in the heart of Deira, next to the souq, was the first official municipality building in use, between 1957 and 1964.
Constructed in the 1940s and covering an area of 166 square metres, the building has two floors.
The bottom floor is a collection of stores. The top consists of four rectangular-shaped rooms, each with 11 windows for ventilation before air conditioning came to the emirate.
It was originally a rest house for merchants after they had docked their dhows.
The building was renovated and opened as a museum in 2006.
"Every room has a story and a collection of documents and objects that capture the important role the municipality played in transforming Dubai," Mr Sulaiman says.
The municipality was formed in 1954, and operated from just one room with six employees inside the customs building of Bur Dubai, near the Ruler's Court.
When it moved to the Deira site three years later, the authority boosted its staff to 72. That same year, the municipal council was formed.
The municipality later moved to a building on Al Maktoum Street, then shifted in 1980 to its current location on Bani Yas Road, with as many as 11,000 municipal employees.
"The municipality was the mother of all administrations in the emirate. It took care of everything, including birth and death certificates," says Mr Sulaiman, 38, who is also the administrative officer at the municipality's architectural heritage department.
Some of the early projects included establishing a public library and firefighting centre in 1962, the fish and vegetable markets at Bur Dubai and Deira, and building the landmark clock tower of Deira in 1963.
Also significant were the openings of Al Safa and Mushrif parks in 1976.
The municipality built more than 4,000 houses for nationals between the 1960s and 1970s, and paved roads. Dubai's first asphalt road was Al Seef Road in 1960, documents at the museum show.
The civic authority opened the Dubai airport in 1960 and Al Maktoum Bridge in 1964.
"The municipality was involved in every aspect of someone's life, from monitoring food to spraying insecticides, to garbage collection, to protecting trees and flowers, to burial of bodies," says Mr Sulaiman.
"The list of services was huge and almost limitless as everyone could come here and make a request about this or that."
When a complaint was filed by a "donkey driver" that someone had pierced his water sack while he was at a rest spot, the late Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Rashid issued a rule in 1957 from the municipality that anyone caught piercing the water sacks would be punished.
"Anyone could come and see his Highness Sheikh Rashid," says Mr Sulaiman, whose office was once occupied by the late Ruler.
"I can't believe it: I am sitting where the late Sheikh Rashid once sat and met with people. His Highness was hands-on with all the projects and he would often be found at the actual construction sites overseeing the development."
Visitors to the museum can also see the master plan of Dubai when it was drawn up from an aerial survey carried out in 1960 by the office of the British architect Sir John Harrison.
Now in enclosed cases, a set of 18 seals and stamps was used to approve a range of needs including buffalo meat and building permits.
This display is next to the first issue of Akhbar Dubai, the emirate's first newspaper, which was published and run by the municipality.
There are also elaborate charts with figures of the revenues and costs the municipality incurred over the years, as well as the total number of staff, with a breakdown of the number of male and female workers, posted on the walls.
"This museum gives you just a sneak peek into the municipality's history, which in many ways is the story of Dubai," Mr Sulaiman says.
Were you driving in Dubai when the rule of the road switched? Send your memories of that day to firstname.lastname@example.org