Before the Burj Khalifa, before the Burj Al Arab, there was the Dubai World Trade Centre. Completed in 1979, it ruled the city’s skyline as a towering statement of intent; a symbol of Dubai’s ambitions as a regional financial center and rising economic force. Thirty-nine stories and 489 feet high, at the time it was the tallest building between Mumbai and Athens, according to the centre’s former director and first employee Guy Guillemard. From wild rumors the tower wasn’t straight to questions over why builders had to wash beach sand for its construction, the Dubai World Trade Centre has an interesting and little-known backstory. Now, thanks to a modern heritage initiative by Dubai Municipality, the city’s most venerable high-rise is to be preserved to ensure its protection. Watch the video above to learn about the skyscraper that started it all for Dubai. To discover more about the rise of one of this century’s defining cities, scroll through the timeline below. Timeline: designed by Sarah-Grace Mankarious, developed by Marco Chacon, produced by Tom Page.