Bigger, taller, faster.
The Emirate of Dubai is a place of superlatives and records.
The City of Gold might as well be called the City of the Future.
Why? You’ll find out in this article featuring 33 fun facts about Dubai.
From the world records of its ultramodern architecture to the most surprising historical facts, and from the weirdest rules to the most peculiar customs, every Dubai fact has been carefully curated like a neckless of pristine travel pearls.
Read until the end to discover the craziest facts about Dubai.
To get the full picture of what awaits you in the city on the Persian Gulf, we suggest you check out our Dubai travel tips as well.
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Interesting Facts About Dubai’s History and Way of Life
In its relatively short history, Dubai has managed to grow from a modest fishermen’s village to an important sea trading port. Then, it turned into a stunning, futuristic city. This section will show you the most interesting facts about the history and everyday life of Dubai and its citizens.
- Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates. It is one of the seven emirates, which comprise the country. Despite not being the actual capital, many consider Dubai to be the commercial capital of the U.A.E.
- Until the 1930s, the pearl industry was the main source of income for the region. The Great Depression and the cultivating of pearls completely destroyed it. Trading goods, especially gold, in the fast-growing Emirate became the new livelihood.
- There are several reasons for the nickname City of Gold. For starters, one of the most profitable industries in the Emirate has been gold trading. Later, the rapid growth – especially in the beginning of the 21st century – required enormous investments. And last but not least, you can literally see gold, luxury, and display of wealth everywhere in the city.
- Dubai’s wealth doesn’t come from oil any more. In the mid-1960s, oil was found off the coast of Dubai. The fresh opportunity attracted workers from Asia and the Middle East. The city’s population skyrocketed and the infrastructure expanded greatly. Although the oil industry contributed enormously for the development of modern Dubai, the Emirate’s reserves were never as huge as neighboring Abu Dhabi’s, for example. However, the rulers of Dubai made smart choices and invested the oil and trading revenues in infrastructure and tourism. The first hotel opened in 1959, and more followed shortly after.
- There are no formal borders between the Emirates. In the early days of forming the U.A.E., border disputes occurred often. Nowadays, you can “sense” you’ve crossed into Abu Dhabi by the change of the color of the road and the abundance of greenery you’ll see.
- Emirati citizenship is one of the hardest to receive. Most other countries in the world allow immigrants and expats to obtain a citizenship after a certain amount of time spent living on their territory. The U.A.E.’s rules are much stricter. Men of non-Arabic descent can almost never become Emirati, no matter how long they’ve lived in the U.A.E. For women, the only way to obtain a citizenship is after 7 years of marriage to an Emirati and giving birth to a child, or 10 years of marriage without children.
Note: As of 2021, the U.A.E. has started granting citizenship by investment as well. You’ll have to buy a property for about $1.36 million to qualify.
- Dubai boasts the impressive 2,059 mosques. The number is constantly growing. The authorities build a mosque every half a mile for the convenience of the Muslim population. The largest temples accommodate several thousand people. Emirati are also tolerant to other regions. Non-Muslims may visit Dubai’s mosques, as well as build their own temples and practice their religion.
- Locals prefer to wear the traditional Emirati clothes. Men dress in kandura, an ankle-length white shirt from wool or cotton. Women clothe in abaya, a loose over-garment robe. Men’s clothes are white to reflect the light. Women wear black for two reasons. Firstly, black is non-transparent. Secondly, women are believed to be men’s shade.
- Dubai has one of the highest water consumptions in the world. Due to the hot climate, Emiratis shower several times per day, and change clothes just as often. Now, you’d think that’s crazy because the Emirate is in the heart of the desert, right? However, Dubai is also on the Arabian Sea coast. So, authorities use desalted water as tap water. What’s even crazier is that the city boasts tons of greenery and even features the largest garden in the world, Dubai Miracle Garden (read more below). The water for all the plants comes from treated wastewater.
- The city is built with imported sand even though it is in the desert. The reason for this interesting fact about Dubai is that the wind-formed desert sand is too fine for construction. Hence, the U.A.E. imports hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of sand, stone, and gravel every year to keep up with the demand of building new record-breaking structures (see the Dubai facts #21-33 below).
- Buying alcohol in Dubai is extremely difficult. Itis legal, but you’ll need a liquor license. Without it, you can only buy alcohol at the airport. You’ll find it in the duty-free shops. The amount of your purchase is limited to 4 liters of concentrate or 48 cans of beer. The good news is: ordering a drink at a bar or restaurant doesn’t require a license. However, only establishments at chain hotels have permission to sell alcohol.
Fun Facts About Dubai That Will Make You Smile
Some of the most amusing facts about Dubai are about certain customs, traditions, and rules. We urge you to laugh but still follow the dos and don’ts of the country.
- In Dubai, you’ll get a fine if you’re caught jaywalking, flower picking, or kissing in public. The fines are quite harsh, starting at about $272 for picking a flower. Tourists, however, get a second chance and don’t pay the first time they break the law. We still won’t advise you to test the viability of this Dubai fact. If you’re planning on moving to Dubai with your better half, have in mind that living without marriage is forbidden. If the authorities catch you, they’ll deport both of you.
- Most Emiratis work for the government on 6-hour days. Fridays and Saturdays are off days, while on Thursdays they only work half-days. If that didn’t make you jealous enough, how about the following? Emiratis can get an interest-free loan from the state. Many take the loan, build a skyscraper, and rent it out. The rent pays back the loan and supports their cost of living. However, people who fail to return the loan end up in jail.
- Dubai’s jails are quite luxurious. The reason for the good conditions is that prisoners are not seen as “real” criminals. Most of them simply failed to repay their loans (see the previous Dubai fact). The crime rates in the Emirates are otherwise extremely low.
- Prisoners can reduce their sentences or even get free by learning the Quran. Here comes another fun fact about Dubai. The sentenced have the choice to study the Quran. If they learn half of it, their sentence is reduced by half. If they memorize the whole Quran, they are not only set free but also don’t have to pay the rest of their loan back. The catch? The Quran is 604 pages long, and contains 77,430 words in 114 chapters. So, learning to recite even half of it will take several years and a great memory.
- More than 30 free-trade zones exist in Dubai. Within them, foreign investors don’t pay tax concessions and customs duty. Each zone is set for a different industry. Businesses can get a license to operate in a free-trade zone only if they work in its designated industry. Companies registered in the free zones can be 100% owned by foreigners. Some of the most popular areas are Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai Media City, and Dubai Internet City.
- The tax-free Dubai Knowledge Park is a gigantic human resources hub. It’s a one-stop shop for education and training, featuring prestigious schools and universities from around the world. The over 400 companies and institutions on its area compete to hire the graduates.
- Outside the free-trade zones, you can own a maximum of 49% of your business. The rest goes to your Emirati partner. In addition, companies have to employ at least one Emirati citizen and pay him a full salary. He does not have to actually work. Now, you understand why an Emirati citizenship is like the Holy Grail.
- Police officers in Dubai do not take bribes. Not only because their religion forbids it, but also because they have large families. So, if someone takes a bribe, people will know. The officer and his family will be disgraced. For officers of foreign descent, the fear of being deported is what stops them. They know they can’t find such a well-paying job in their home countries, so it makes no sense to risk being caught.
- The New Year’s Eve celebrations in Dubai break world records every year. Emiratis know how to welcome a new year with a bang. Among the records the city holds are:
- The largest ever fireworks display. 479,651 shells were fired in just six minutes on New Year’s Eve. That’s a rate of almost 80,000 shells per minute and 1,332 fireworks per second.
- The longest-running fireworks show. It ran continuously for 35 minutes. Fireworks launched from 16 towers.
- The longest Girandola fireworks show in the world.
- The highest flame projection in a music concert.
- The most flame projections launched simultaneously in a music concert.
Crazy Facts About Dubai’s Record-breaking Achievements
Since the beginning of the 21st century, Dubai has experienced vertiginous growth. The result is an ultra-modern city of groundbreaking records. The following crazy Dubai facts about the city’s attractions will blow your mind.
- Dubai Expo 2020 is the first World Exposition to be postponed rather than canceled. The main site occupies a gigantic 438-hectare area, which equals to about 14,600 tennis courts. This makes it the third-largest World Fair ever organized. 192 countries have confirmed their participation. You can experience the exhibition between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. It revolves around a central plaza, surrounded by three large thematic districts. Each one is dedicated to one of the sub-themes of Expo 2020 – Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. 80% of the constructions will continue to be used after the event’s end.
- Dubai Metro has the world’s longest, fully automated, driverless train system. The tracks cover the impressive 46.6 mi (75 km). The subway has two lines, which run underground up to 98.4 ft. (30 m) deep, as well as on elevated tracks. It started operating on September 9, 2009 at 9:09 AM. The 200 million passengers per year can count on 99.9% punctuality and speeds of up to 56 mi/h (90 km/h). All trains and stations are air-conditioned.
- Burj Khalifa holds several records, not just for the tallest building in the world. The 2,722-ft. (829.8-m) high structure is the tallest freestanding building, the tallest skyscraper, and the building with the most floors, among others. 57 elevators service it. They also hold several records – for the world’s highest elevator installation and the longest travel distance.
Tip: For breathtaking views of Dubai, visit the observation deck At the Top or stay at the first-ever hotel designed by Giorgio Armani. The deck is at the 124th and 125th floors, while Armani Hotel occupies the floors between 0 and 39. You can get a special skip-the-line ticket, ride in an express elevator, and visit not just the 124th and 125th floors but also go to the 148th. Click here to check the availability.
- You can ski all-year-round in the Mall of the Emirates. The gigantic shopping arcade features Ski Dubai – the first themed winter park in the Middle East. The ski resort is also the world’s largest indoor snow park. The temperature inside is constantly around the freezing point. What a huge difference from the heat in the surrounding desert!
- The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world by total land area. If the previous fact about Dubai impressed you, get this. The Dubai Mall is double the size of the Mall of the Emirates! Apart from 1,200+ stores, it features an Olympic-sized ice rink, an aquarium, and an underwater zoo. The Dubai Aquarium holds the mind-boggling 10 million liters (2.64 million gallons) of water and over 3,300 animals of more than 140 species. Automatic lights change the ambience according to the time of the day.
- The Tallest Block in Dubai Marina holds the world record for the tallest residential building. Each new skyscraper erects taller than the previous to make sure Dubai keeps this record. The finished structures rise between 600 ft. (183 m) and 1,693 ft. (516 m) high. Concentrated on one block, they dominate the skyline and provide astonishing views of the city, the sea, and the desert.
- In Dubai, you can fly like Superman on the longest urban zipline in the world. The one-kilometer long rope links a 558-ft. (170-m) high platform in Dubai Marina with the Dubai Marina Mall. You’ll zip over the manmade harbor with a speed of about 50 mi/h (80 km/h). You can share the experience with another person as well, making it a perfect couple’s experience.
- In Dubai, you can overnight in the tallest hotel on the planet. Gevora Hotel is 1,169 ft. (356 m) high, which earns it the title tallest hotel building in the world. The luxurious four-star hotel features 528 rooms spread over 75 floors, plus 5 restaurants, a SPA, and a pool. If you fancy waking up to the fantastic views of Downtown Dubai, you can book a room via this link.
- You can also visit the second-tallest hotel in the world while in Dubai. JW Marriott Marquis was completed in 2012. The 72-storey skyscraper rises 1,165 ft. (355 m), making it just one meter shorter than the winner Gevora Hotel. However, JW Marriott Marquis holds the record for the tallest identical twin towers hotel in the world. The five-star gem offers 1,608 elegant rooms, 15 award-winning restaurants, several bars and lounges, a SPA, and a swimming pool. Sounds intriguing? You can book a night here.
Tip: Interested in the city’s futuristic skyline? Read more about the tallest hotels in Dubai.
- Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural flower garden. Just try to wrap your head around this fact for a moment. Dubai – a city amid the desert – houses the largest flower garden in the world! The award-winning attraction occupies the whopping 780,000 sq. ft. (72,000 sq. m) and boasts 150+ million blooming flowers. The most popular sculpture at the park is the Emirates A380. The double-decker is a 1:1 model of the popular airplane. It’s covered with 500,000 living flowers and plants, and holds the world record for the biggest garden structure.
- Dubai is home to two manmade archipelagos. The Palm Jumeirah and The World Islands were created using land reclamation. They’re composed mainly of sand dredged from Dubai’s shallow coastal waters. You can reach The Palm via a driverless, 3.4-mile (5.4-kilometre) long monorail, the first of its kind in the Middle East. On the tip of the archipelago, you’ll find the jaw-dropping Atlantis Hotel.
- The City of Gold is a shopping mecca. Dubai – a city of approximately 3.5 million people – has 66 malls and 15 more are under construction. Moreover, two major shopping festivals take place each year. In January, you can attend the Dubai Shopping Festival, and in July – the Dubai Summer Surprises. You’ll enjoy great deals and hefty discounts if you decide to visit them.
- Dubai Global Village holds the impressive 25 world records. The unique attraction features 90 country pavilions. You can discover culture, shopping, and entertainment from across the globe. For its 25 anniversary, the village achieved its 25th record. Here are some of the most impressive ones:
- Largest underwater mesh screen – 53,963.8 sq. ft. (5,013.4 sq. m) and 223,000 pixels.
- Highest altitude skydiving firework display – 16,100 ft. (4,907.28 m).
- Most LED lights on a car – 37,671.
- Largest picnic table – 9.826 ft. x 18.048 ft. x 13.123 ft. (2.995 m x 5.501 m x 4 m).
- Largest flag number – 1,096.
- Most nationalities waving simultaneously – 65.
- Most letters to Santa collected in 24 hours – 2,144.
What’s Your Favorite Fact About Dubai?
Dubai is surprising, trailblazing, and fascinating.
A city erected in the middle of the desert, which defies all odds and expectations and manages to astonish and delight everyone who visits it.
If at least one of these 33 facts about Dubai didn’t blow your mind, we don’t know what would 🙂
Now, share in the comments below:
What was your favorite Dubai fact?