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From rickety souk to global powerhouse: How Dubai became the City of Gold

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Ashleigh Stewart
CNN, Atlanta
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

As a child, Mihir Vaya helped his father run his fledgling jewelry business in Dubai.

He remembers riding with him across Dubai Creek in an abra boat as he went to sell his pieces. He remembers when the Gold Souk, today home to hundreds of retailers, was just a few rickety stalls stuck like barnacles to the river banks. But most of all, he remembers helping his father in his workshop.

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He and his sister would hold gold wires so they could be wound into intricate pieces of jewelry.

"It was probably nothing, those small jobs. But you felt so important," Vaya says. "Ever since then I've been inclined to work there."

Ashwin Vaya, Mihir's father, is one of thousands of Indian gold traders, jewelers, artisans, and business people who flocked to Dubai in the later years of the 20th century to make their fortunes in the burgeoning gold trade. Alongside enterprising Emiratis and other immigrants from around the region, these are the people who are responsible for Dubai's emergence as an international center for gold.

Pre-pandemic, the gold and jewelery market made up 20% of the UAE's total non-oil exports -- the majority of that coming from Dubai. An estimated 20% to 40% of the world's gold stocks pass through Dubai every year. ...

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