Deira Clock Tower in Dubai

Page update - Sep 12, 2022

Once upon a time, before the construction of the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab, the Dubai Clock Tower was the symbol of the Emirate of Dubai. Now it has lost its status as the emirate's iconic landmark and is now referred to as the Deira Clock Tower.

However, its beauty and interesting design have not lost. It is interesting to see, especially since it is free of charge. On this page we will tell you all the most important and interesting: how to get there, what to look at, the history of its construction and cultural references.

Interesting news

In 2020 Dubai nominated the Deira Clock Tower as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They did it more "for the tick", as the chances of getting on the list are almost zero. But anyway, the tower already has the title of "candidate for the UNESCO list".

Brief description

The tower is about 65 feet (20 meters) high with a clock in the center and is located in the Deira district at the traffic circle in front of the Al Maktoum Bridge. Further beyond the bridge is the Bur Dubai area.

The tower is famous for its original design. It looks like a big spider on four legs. We will talk about the reasons and the developers of such a design below when we talk about the history of construction.

The clock has four dials that point in different directions. There is a fountain at the tower base. A backlighting has been arranged. This attraction is purely for sighting and to be photographed against the background.

Most drivers from Dubai airport go through this traffic circle and on to Al Maktoum Bridge. You can probably see the tower while driving from the airport.

How to get there

The Deira Clock Tower is about 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) from Deira City Centre or Al Rigga subway stations. See our page "Dubai Metro" for the actual metro map and fares.

It's possible to walk to, but difficult. First, it is difficult to navigate, there are no landmarks in the area. Secondly, you often have to cross the roads, and crosswalks are hard to be found.

It's easier to take the Metro to Deira City Centre or Al Rigga Station and catch a cab there. The minimum cost for a cab ride in Dubai is AED 12, which you should pay. See the current exchange rates on the page "Money in the UAE".

In our opinion, there is not much sense to go especially to see the Clock Tower of Deira because it is not the most interesting attraction of Dubai. It is better to combine the trip with a visit to Deira City Centre. After sighting the tower, take a cab back to Deira City Center for the same AED 12, the mall is right next to the subway station.

If you want to see the tower close, it is not easy. It is located in the center of the traffic circle, and there is no crosswalk to it, and traffic is heavy. You can try to run across the road. But remember that in this case you act at your own risk.

If you don't spare money, you can take a cab directly from the hotel. Since Dubai is a big city, it's impossible to predict the exact trip cost - from AED 12 to AED 100, depending on the distance. See our page "Cabs in the UAE" for the fares.

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Operation hours

All year round, 24/7.

Cost of visit

Free of charge, you only have to pay for transport.

History of construction

In the 1960s, Dubai was ruled by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Ahmad bin Ali Al-Thani was his son-in-law. Let's remember at that time Dubai was a separate state under a protectorate of Great Britain. The state of the United Arab Emirates was founded only in 1971, about what read in detail on the page "History of the Arab Emirates".

In 1963, a milestone event happened in Qatar - the first shipment of oil from the first oil field Id al Sharqi. To commemorate the event, Sheikh Ahmad presented a huge clock to his father-in-law.

Sheikh Rashid did not know at first what to do with this huge clock. He consulted the architect Otto Bulart (Overseas AST company) who had recently finished designing the Zabeel Palace for him. Boulart advised him to build a tall clock tower at Dubai's first traffic circle, and he also created the first design. And so it was done.

The calculations and construction were entrusted to the Syrian architect Zaki Al-Homsi (see his photo nearby). The main idea of the design was the openness of the structure. Because the tower was being built in the center of an interchange, Bulart and Al-Homsi wanted to make the clock visible from each of the roads, and for approaching drivers to see the other roads.

The design was so unusual by Middle Eastern standards that at first the tower was called "Bulart's Folly". The tower received this nickname when the clock had not yet been installed. When the clock had been installed, the tower was called the Deira Clock Tower.

Zaki Al-Homsi hired 30 workers and they started kneading the concrete by showels since they didn't have concrete mixers. They built the tower in nine months and finished it in 1964. Recall that Dubai was a poor country at the time, oil had not yet been explored, so the lack of concrete mixers is not surprising. Oil had just been explored and started to be extracted in Abu Dhabi.

We know all this from the memories of Zaki Al-Homsi and other people who worked in Dubai in the 60s. No official documents were kept about the construction. We will not get any new information from Al-Homsi, he passed away in March 2017.

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No sooner was it built than it began to crumble

The first problems began as early as the following year, 1964. Local beach sand was used for the concrete, which had a bad effect on the quality of the structure. Beach sand contains salt, which allows water to penetrate into the concrete, corroding the reinforcement. This phenomenon is called "concrete cancer", analogous to human disease.

In 1972, urgent repairs were already needed. AST was entrusted with the restoration work. They completely removed the old concrete, repaired the steel reinforcement and poured new concrete.

However, this did not help, it was necessary to build another reconstruction in 1982. The replica was built. Now there is nothing left of the Al-Homsi structure. A fountain was installed under the tower, and lighting was arranged. The clock was also completely new and digital. What happened to the original clock, which was presented to Dubai by Sheikh Ahmad, history does not say. As the tower looked in 1982, after the opening, see the photo above, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen.

In November 2008, there was one last change: the dials were changed. Before 2008, the digits used to be the traditional Arabic ones, now they are Roman. This is significant, because the traditional Arabic numerals are not understood by everyone. Dubai is moving towards world culture.

The Clock Tower - the symbol of the new Dubai

The clock tower was of great importance as a symbol of the renewal of the Emirate of Dubai. Back in the 50s, many locals did not have the opportunity to use watches, it was a luxury for people. After all, the oil era had not yet begun.

The clock became a symbol that the benefits of civilization come to Dubai. So the tower is very important to the people of Dubai themselves, but not so interesting for tourists.

Have a good walk in Dubai, read our interesting pages about the UAE (see list of the pages below).


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