Dubai's Clock Tower Rebuilt 1988

The Clock Tower is an instantly recognisable Dubai Icon yet its history has been obscure, Slowly details have emerged as to why and how the Clock Tower was built and who was involved. This page adds more detail to that history
Dubai's Clock Tower circa 1965 © L Hejze
Sheikh Rashid did not know what to do with a large clock presented to him by his son-in-law, Sheikh Ahmed of Qatar. Eng. Otto Bulart had just completed building Zabeel Palace for Sheikh Rashid so Sheikh Rashid asked for Eng. Bulart's advice. Eng Bulart drew up a design which he passed to his Engineer to calculate the structural design. Some years later, after the Clock Tower was built, the Engineer claimed credit for the Clock Tower's design.

The Late Eng Bulbick - Otto Bulart's Colleague and Successor

Dubai's Clock Tower circa early 1970s © L Hejze

When Eng Bulart first arrived in Dubai, he was in charge of Overseas AST, a joint Austrian/Kuwaiti Engineering Company. He subsequently left Overseas AST to set up his own Engineering and Architectural Practice and, in the process, became one of Sheikh Rashid's Advisors. Sheikh Rashid gave Otto the task of rebuilding Zabeel Palace. As Eng Bulbik explained, Sheikh Rashid also gave Otto the task of resolving the problem with the Clock. Otto then developed his Clock Tower design. Around that time, Otto Bulart went into partnership with Ziki Homsi, an Engineer and Architect newly arrived from England. Shortly after forming that artnership, Otto left the partnership to establish Dubai Zoo. Ziki Homsi then constructed the Clock Tower using very basic construction methods due to lack of suitable resources. He used unwashed beach sand for the concrete mix, then a common practice in Dubai. Unwashed beach sand is highly saline which causes the steel strengthening rods forming the Clock Tower's supporting structure to corrode and weaken. In 1972, Overseas AST carried out a major refurbishment to rectify this problem.

Dubai's Clock Tower after Refurbishment 1972 © L Hejze

Dubai's Clock Tower 1972 © L Hejze

These 1972 repairs were not effective and the Clock Tower continued to deteriorate. Around 1988, the Clock Tower was hidden behind scaffolding and tarpaulins while further repair was carried out. While there has never been any public acknowledgement that the Clock Tower was demolished and rebuilt during this process, there is private comment by some of those involved in the "repair", that the Clock Tower's deterioration was unrepairable, necessitating demolition and a complete rebuild. That was done out of public view behind the scaffolding and tarpaulin screen. The Clock Tower that exists today is (in all probability) not the Clock Tower that Otto Bulart designed and Ziki Homsi built.