Dubai's Clock Tower History

History of Dubai's Clocktower has never been clearly defined. There are no public records to refer to so much of the Clocktower's history is gathered from what people remember and what people said they did or saw around the time the Clock Tower's construction. DAIUTB has recently talked to two people who were in Dubai at the time of the Clock Tower was built and knew the people involved in the Clock Tower's design and construction. Information is also gathered from freely available documentation on the WWW. This page brings that information together as an "unofficial" history of Dubai's Clocktower. Contents may be changed as more information becomes available.

Why was the Clocktower built?

Engineer Edgar Bublik succeeded Otto Bulart as General Manager Overseas AST in 1960s. Otto Bulart left Overseas AST to establish his own Architectural Practice in Dubai. Engineer Edgar Bublik explains the background to how the Clocktower came to be built.....

Sheikh Ahmed of Qatar was Sheikh Rashid's Son-in-Law. In the early 1960s Sheikh Ahmed gave Sheikh Rashid a large Clock as a Gift. In fact was a very, very large Clock. Sheikh Rashid did not know what to do with such a large Clock! So he sought advice from my predecessor, Mr Bulart, who had just completed designing Zabeel Palace for Sheikh Rashid.


Sheikh Rashid instructed Otto Bulart to design a monument in the newly built roundabout, where the new bridge approach road diverted from the Airport Road. Al Maktoum Bridge opened 1963 so 1964 sounds to be the correct date for the Clock Tower's construction.

The Clock Tower layout was Bulart's design but the structural calculation (reinforced concrete) was by Engineer Ziki Homsi who was working in partnership with Otto Bulart. Mr Bulart did not build the Clock Tower. That was done by a local Builder.


Doha, Qatar installed a Clocktower in 1957 set in the middle of a Doha City traffic roundabout.
In 1961 Sheikh Rashid's daughter married the Sheikh of Qatar.
It is conceivable Sheikh Rashid's new son-inlaw, Sheikh Ahmed of Qatar, gave the clock as a gift to Sheikh Rashid with the intention of replicating Doha's existing Clocktower which had been in place since 1957.

The Clocktower's actual Clock is said to have been purchased in Manchester UK which had a tradition of clock and watch making

 

Otto Bulart as Advisor

Otto had been one of Sheikh Rashid's Advisors on Construction. One of Otto's responsibilities was supervision of schools being built around the Trucial States under Aid from Kuwait. At the same time Sir William Halcrows and Partners were supervising the building of houses for the teachers at those schools. Otto and the Halcrow Consultants worked closely together on the projects. Halcrows often "stood in" for Otto when he was on leave.

Clocktower was constructed towards the end on the construction of Jisr al Maktoum. Basically the roundabout was the essential wheel in the cogs leading to the Clock. There was then only one surfaced road in Dubai, that leading from Sheikh Ahmed's Palace to Sheikh Rashid's Palace. This road would link to the road which would run over the Bridge. The other end of the Bridge road would end at the Deira/Sharjah road, which was then a graded sand road. The Clock Tower would be both a roundabout filler and an emblem at this important intersection as the other roads would in time be surfaced. The Clock Tower was referred to as "Bulart's Folly in the early days. The clock was not on it then."

Halcrow's Consultant who worked with Otto and knew Ziki Homsi

Dubai Clocktower under construction

Otto Bulart and Ziki Homsi as Partners

Ziki Homsi qualified as an Architect and Urban Planner in UK then moved to Dubai in late 1963. Originally a Syrian National he has since become a UAE Citizen. Initially he worked with Otto Bulart as Partners. Otto had a lifelong interest in animals, particularly lions having kept his own lion when he lived in Africa. By 1965 Sheikh Rashid offered Otto the opportunity to build his own Zoo on the outer edge of Dubai (now Jumeirah). Otto accepted the opportunity and no longer practiced as an Architect. Otto had no role in building the Clocktower.

Building Dubai's Clock Tower

Ziki Homsi is credited with building the Clocktower. Dubai's Clock Tower was a complex structure requiring finance, considerable resources and manpower to build it. At that time there was only one Construction Contractor - Khansaheb - who had the capabilities to build a project of that size. Ziki Homsi acknowledged this shortage of capable Contractors and decided on a "Do It Yourself" approach

We used three primitive techniques to implement the Clock Tower. We hired about 30 workers to do the implementation and mix the (concrete) in a large bowl where concrete mixers were’t available.

Ziki Homsi

That a complex project, as Dubai's Clocktower was, could be built without major resources is a remarkable achievement. The Clocktower was completed by the end of 1964 according to Ziki Homsi but there are no official records as to its building. There appears to have been no official opening.

Dubai's Clocktower start to Crumble

Clock Tower 1965

Unwashed beach sand had been used for making the concrete, a common practice in Dubai in those days. Beach sand contains salt which allows water to find its way through the concrete and corrode the internal reinforcing steel. Corrosion then builds up causing the concrete covering to crack. The structure deteriorates over time. This is commonly called "concrete cancer". By 1972 urgent repairs were necessary. Defective material was removed, corroded steel structure repaired and encased in a new "skin". The Clock was refurbished (said to have been Seiko who did the work) and the Clock Tower restored to its former glory. However problems continued requiring ongoing repairs until the Clock Tower was again refurbished in 1982. The original clock has also been replaced

Going under the Clocktower


Around 1982, Dubai's Clocktower Roundabout became an obstacle to Dubai's growing road traffic. An underpass providing a direct route Hamriya was built plus additional roads for traffic heading for Deira and the Airport.

At first the Clocktower was only referred to as "The Clocktower", its name omitting any reference to its location. As Dubai grew it began to be referred to as Dubai Clocktower and now latterly as Deira Clocktower. The Clocktower's location was originally the only entry point for visitors arriving in Dubai. Now visitors arrive from many points of entry