Dubai's Iconic Clock Tower

Dubai's Clock Tower became Dubai's first internationally known Icon. Clock Tower has survived over 50 years of Dubai's development and yet was built only to solve a problem with unexpected Gift Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum received from his son-in-law.

Engineer Edgar Bublik (General Manager Overseas AST Dubai 1970s) explains

Otto Bulard
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.My predecessor, Mr Bulard (photo left), had just completed designing Zabeel Palace for Sheikh Rashid so he made a sketch of his idea for a Clock Tower. Mr Bulard gave the sketch to his Engineer to make the structural calculations and produce a design. The shape and design of the Clock Tower was from Mr Bulard's own ideas and did not represent an Oil Drilling Bit or any other object. Doha Clock TowerIn the early 1960s the area where the Clock Tower is located today had become an important road intersection so Mr Bulard suggested this as a suitable location for the Clock Tower. He also suggested the Clock Tower be placed on a traffic roundabout to protect the Tower. This was one of the first roundabouts in Dubai. Mr Bulard did not build the Clock Tower. That was done by a local Builder.

It is possible that Sheikh Ahmed gave Sheikh Rashid such a large Clock because a Clock Tower had been built in Doha around the same time. But Doha's Clock Tower was not very attractive.
Dubai Clocktower under construction

A view has developed that Deira Clock Tower is the proper name since the Clock Tower is located in Deira. This view ignores the fact Sheikh Rashid was presented with the original Clock as the Ruler of Dubai i.e. it was a gift to the Emirate of Dubai and not the "suburb" of Deira. The reason the Clock Tower's location in Deira was chosen because back then this was the major access point to Dubai and the Clock Tower was the first significant structure seen by Travelers and Traders arriving overland. In the early 1960s Dubai had no external roads so Travelers came across the desert and into Dubai via that roundabout. That changed many years later with the building of Abu Dhabi/Dubai road, Hatta Road all linked with Dubaiside and Deira via Al Maktoum Bridge.

"Dubai's Clock Tower" may be a more "correct" description but generally people simply referred to "The Clock Tower" and it is only in latter years has "The Clock Tower" started sometimes to be referred to as Deira Clock Tower.

Clock Tower 1965

Dubai's Clock Tower started to "crumble" soon after it around 1964. The local builder who constructed the Clock Tower had used unwashed beach sand 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 start to corrode the internal reinforcing steel. Corrosion products build up around the reinforcing steel causing the concrete covering to crack and weaken. The structure deteriorates over time. This is commonly called "concrete cancer". Dubai's Clock Tower began to crack and disintegrate such that by 1972 urgent repairs were necessary. Overseas AST was given the task of refurbishing the Clock Tower to restore its strength and structural integrity, removing defective material and encasing the complete structure 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.

NOTE: Details of the Clock Tower repair are uncertain. Accepted version was cancerous concrete was removed and the structure reinstated. There is another view that the entire Clock Tower was demolished and rebuilt as new. Neither version can be confirmed at this time.

NOTE: Apologies for the quality of these images. Good quality images from Clock Tower's early days are hard to find.

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