How Chicago Beach got its name...then lost it!
Search for "Chicago Beach" on a modern Dubai Map and you will not find it!
Chicago Beach has disappeared!
From 1960s to 1990s Chicago Beach was a familiar landmark to anyone living in Dubai.
Chicago Beach played an important part in Dubai's development.
Chicago Beach was a long stretch of beach on Dubai's coastline towards Abu Dhabi several kilometres from Dubai's outskirts. The beach was considered "remote" back then but, as this modern photo shows, the beach was soon to become part of Dubai. However it was not called "Chicago Beach" until after Dubai's oil was discovered in 1966.
Dubai's Oil was found offshore in 1966. That presented a problem on how and where to store the oil. Solution was a series of underwater storage tanks called Kazzans meaning "storage" in Arabic. Tanks resembled upturned Champagne Glasses with their bases sticking above the surface of the sea and their rims sitting on the bed of the sea. These 150 meter high structures were to be built on the shore and towed out to sea. The question was "Where?" The "remote" beach on the way to Abu Dhabi was ideal! The company building the Kazzans was the Chicago Bridge Engineering and Iron Company from USA. They set up their worksite on the beach, erecting their construction crane which then dominated the skyline. This crane carried a signboard advertising "Chicago Bridge and Engineering Company" which could be read from miles away. This crane and its signboard soon became a reference point for everyone traveling on Dubai's few roads or the many desert tracks connecting Dubai with Abu Dhabi. Soon the area was being referred to as "Chicago Beach" and commonly used when giving directions. Chicago Beach was never its official name despite that name being subsequently applied to a Government owned housing complex and hotels.
After the Kazzans were built, the area reverted to beach and sand dunes but the name "Chicago Beach" remained. Eventually a gated Residential Community was built near the site comprising about 100 villas and housing mainly Expatriate Families. This Residential Community was officially named as "The Chicago Beach Village".
Chicago Beach Village was built in the late 1970s to accommodate staff working in Dubai's Offshore Oil Industry. CBV was a gated community surrounded by a high wall with only one entrance and exit. Both of these had "drop Bar" gates controlled by Security Guards. Visitors needed to show a legitimate reason to enter CBV before the drop bar gate was lifted. Housing was mostly single storey Villas built around an internal road system. CBV's location out of town meant the Village had to be largely self sufficient with its own Club and Sports facilities etc. Although CBV was not the first gated estate in Dubai, it was the first "Exclusive Gated Estate"! CBV gained the reputation of being THE place to live in Dubai not only for its location and exclusivity but also for its value. Rents were relatively low and properties well maintained plus you got to live on the beach! Finding a CBV villa to rent was difficult because of the Oil Industry demand but over time more non Oil Industry people moved in to CBV.
Where was Chicago Beach Village located?
Chicago Beach Village was at the Abu Dhabi end of Jumeirah Beach Road. At least that is where it used to be! CBV was demolished in 2001 to make way for the Madinat Al Jumeirah
Chicago Beach Hotel was a great place for a Dubai Holiday in the 1970s, 80s and 90s! It was popular with locals too! Chicago Beach Hotel was ahead of its time in many ways. CBH offered the kind of exclusive resort holiday Dubai's New Hotels have only lately provided. 615 rooms, an exclusive beach, extensive leisure facilities, a range of bars and dining outlets, good quality rooms and excellent service were forerunners of what Dubai's Hotels began to provide in the new Millennium.
The construction of an iconic hotel to be built offshore from the old Chicago Beach Hotel was the first of many astonishing projects to change the face of "Old" Dubai. Announcement said the hotel was to be called the "new" Chicago Beach Hotel. This hotel was Sheikh Mohammed's personal project. On the day the hotel was completed Sheikh Mohammed announced a new name for his hotel - Burj Al Arab. Chicago Beach Hotel disappeared from Dubai's map and the name Chicago Beach faded from Dubai's vocabulary.
The only remaining link with Chicago Beach is its pier. Originally built during the construction of Dubai's Kazzans, the pier remained when Chicago Bridge and Engineering vacated Chicago Beach. This pier was later incorporated into Chicago Beach Village's beach entertainment facility. But when CBNV was later demolished the pier remained in place. It is still there today, some 50 years after it was built. It is now home to Pierchic - an up market restaurant - part of the Al Qasr Hotel.