Halcrow’s first commission in Dubai was based on a £388,000 price tag. Company representatives treated it like a courtesy call. The British government mustered an annual £2,500 retaining fee to keep Halcrow in Dubai. The rest was payment in kind as an unwritten promise. By depositing the check, Halcrow accepted a near-guarantee of a monopoly on Dubai’s future infrastructural contracts, although no one guaranteed there were more contracts to come. Soon after Harris’s town plan was approved, Halcrow sent three prefabricated houses to Dubai for its staff, in addition to the one already installed for Allen’s family. They opened an office and waited.
Neville Allen would remain in Dubai for the rest of his career, but at first there was little work to keep him there. The simple, repetitive work of building roads according to the 1960 plan did not pay much: Dubai could afford only twenty kilometers of asphalt as of 1965. Neville Allen’s permanent presence in Dubai was indicative of the company’s commitment to Dubai’s growth, but it needed to be justified with more profitable contracts. Even Al Maktoum Bridge, scaled down to a minimal production effort, was not enough. In order to invest in Dubai’s future, Halcrow had to propose its own. All the more reason, then, that Halcrow would have investigated future sites in 1960.
Speculation gathers more densely over the large, seaside roundabout without hardening into fact.
The earliest evidence of Port Rashid is dated 1964, but the problem that begged for the new port was planted in the 1960 town plan. In November 1960, a half year after the plan’s issuance, a British development official visited Dubai and realized as much. He observed that Halcrow’s engineered creek suffered from its own success. Slipshod warehouses were springing up as fast as their kits of parts arrived, but the built-up city obstructed the wharves’ access to the new roads proposed beyond. The British official criticized the proposed road system for insufficiently connecting the harbor to Dubai’s new districts and Abu Dhabi. He correctly estimated that the port would suffocate on its own growth if the road system remained as planned. The plan was not revised. When Halcrow proposed it in 1964, Port Rashid must have seemed a gasp for air.
The engineering company expected to secure the development contract. It had helped create the problem and, its engineers thought, they owned the solution. When Rashid’s advisers recommended hiring another British firm for the job, Neville Allen protested. He cried of an “unethical entry” into Halcrow’s “own preserve.” With his monopolistic and territorial claims, Allen spoke of something as of yet unspoken. His exasperation was based on years of investment, biding, and forethought. His tantrum, delivered with a threat not to deliver other projects, coerced the British government, in an act of apparent obligation, to cajole the competing company into standing down. For them, British officials found work in Abu Dhabi.