x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Time Frame: Before Port Rashid, there was the Cement Wharf

This picture, taken at Dubai Creek in January 1967, shows workers carrying bags of cement that had been brought in by ships moored offshore during the city's massive expansion.

The Cement Wharf in Dubai, 1967.
The Cement Wharf in Dubai, 1967.

Dubai was undergoing a period of tremendous expansion when this photograph was taken in January 1967.

Five years earlier, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, had ordered planning to begin for what would become Port Rashid. Ignoring the advice of a Halcrow survey, he demanded 15 berths instead of the recommended four.

The other great task was to restore the navigability of the Creek itself, which was badly affected by silting. While dredgers went to work, land reclamation replaced the crumbling edges of the port with proper concrete wharves.

In the city itself, all the fundamentals of a modern metropolis were being installed, from running water to electric light, libraries, schools and hospitals.

To accommodate the growing number of workers needed to build the city, thousands of new homes were constructed.

This image, from the Hulton Archive collection, shows the scale of the task. Vast quantities of cement were needed, with ships first mooring offshore, and cargoes then coming in on smaller barges, where an army of workers would carry each bag off the wharf individually.

Demand for cement was so high that in 1968 supply shortages threatened to derail the city's expansion, until Sheikh Rashid ordered nearly 3,000 tonnes from India.

Three years later, the first cargo vessel made its way into the newly completed deepwater Berth 3 at Port Rashid, discharging cement directly into a fleet of lorries waiting on the quayside, consigning scenes like this to history.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae.