40 Fun Facts About Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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1. Located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf with a population of 2,327,000 residents (at the end of 2014), Dubai is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

2. In addition to being a leading global city, Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the country known as the United Arab Emirates or simply the “Emirates” or the “UAE.”Established in December, 1971, the seven emirates of UAE are Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Each emirate is governed by an absolute monarch; together the monarchs make up the Federal Supreme Council. One of the seven monarchs is selected as the President of the United Arab Emirates.

3. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the only two of the seven emirates to have veto power over critical matters of national importance in the United Arab Emirates legislature.

4. Although English is widely used, Arabic is the official language of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

5. Islam is the official religion of Dubai and the UAE.

6. UAE nationals, called Emiratis, make up only 10-15 percent of the Dubai population. The other 85 percent of residents are expatriates, many of whom either have been in the country for generations or were born in the UAE. Approximately 85 percent of the expatriate population is Asian, chiefly Indian (51%), Pakistani (16%), Bangladeshis (9%) and Filipinos (3%.)

City of Dubai, UAE at night

City of Dubai, UAE at night, from a September, 2009 image from NASA.

7. Dubai is approximately 52 feet above sea level and covers an area of 1,588 sq. miles. About 88 sq. miles of Dubai are the result of land reclaimed from the sea.

8. The currency of Dubai is the dirham. Currently, 1 US Dollar equals 3.67 United Arab Emirates Dirham.

9. Dubai’s Burj Khalifa – rising to a height of 2,722 feet – is the world’s tallest building. Burj Khalifa was designed by Adrian Smith then of the Chicago-headquartered Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Opened in 2010 as part of the new development called Downtown Dubai, the Burj Khalifa building was named in honor of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

10. Visitors to Burj Khalifa can pay to visit one of two outdoor observation decks. At the Top, opened on January 5, 2010 on the 124th floor at 1,483 ft., making it the highest outdoor observation deck in the world when it opened. Adult admission ranges from 125 – 300 AED depending on the time of day and if the visit is booked in advance.

11. After Cloud Top 488 opened a deck at 1,601 ft on the Canton Tower in China, Burj Khalifa opened the 148th floor SKY level at 1,821 ft., once again giving it the claim of having the world’s highest observation deck. Visits to At the Top Sky booked in advance cost 500 AED, or approximately $136 U.S. dollars.  

12. Dubai lies directly within the Arabian Desert. The flat sandy desert gives way to the Western Hajar Mountains, which run alongside Dubai’s border with Oman at Hatta.

13. As a desert climate, most days in Dubai are sunny year round.  During January, the coldest month, daytime high temperatures average 75 °F while overnight low temperatures average 57 °F. Summers in Dubai are extremely hot, windy, and humid, with high temperatures averaging 106 °F and overnight lows around 86 °F in August.

14. Rainfall averages 3.71 inches per year.

15. Good to know if you are visiting Dubai: it is located in a stable zone with minimal risk of earthquakes or tsunamis. The Persian Gulf waters are not deep enough to trigger a tsunami.

16. Dubai has one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with a growth rate of 6.1% in 2014, and a projected GNP of $107.1 billion U.S. dollars.

17. Real estate and construction, trade and financial services are the largest contributors to Dubai’s economy. Revenues from oil and natural gas account for less than five% of the emirate’s revenues.

18. China is Dubai’s largest international trading partner, followed by India, followed by the United States at $22.62 billion in 2014.

19. Tourism is an important part of the Dubai government’s strategy to maintain the flow of foreign cash into the emirate. Based on air traffic, the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index reports Dubai as the fourth most popular destination city for tourism worldwide in 2015.

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20. The Dubai International Airport (DXB) was the seventh busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic in 2014 with 70.4 million passengers. Dubai is the hub for Emirates Airlines, the national airline of Dubai. As of 2014, it flew to 142 destinations in more 70 countries across six continents.

21. Kissing in public in Dubai is strictly illegal and can result in deportation.

22. Only non-Muslims are allowed to consume alcohol, and only within licensed venues such as hotels or at home with the possession of an alcohol license. Typically, restuarants in Dubai outside of hotels are not permitted to sell alcohol.

23. Visitors to Dubai are prohibited from wearing wearing “indecent clothing” that reveals too much skin. The UAE has enforced anti-indecency prohibitions in all public places (aside from beaches, clubs, and bars.)

Map of the city of Dubai, UAE by AreJay.

Map of the city of Dubai, UAE by AreJay.

24. Dubai has no natural rivers; however, Dubai does have a natural inlet, Dubai Creek, which has been dredged to make it deep enough for large vessels to pass through. Dubai Creek runs northeast-southwest through the city.

25. More than 3,000 taxis operate within Dubai making an average of daily 192,000 trips, carrying about 385,000 persons. All Dubai taxi services are licensed by the RTA, and are easily identifiable by their cream-colored bodies and varied roof colors. The Dubai Taxi Corporation has a Ladies Taxi service, with pink roofs, exclusively for female passengers, using female drivers.

 Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab “Dubai’s seven star hotel”. Photo by Joi Ito.

26. Seven of the 10 world’s tallest hotels are located in Dubai. The third tallest but most iconic is the Burg Al Arab, a luxury hotel designed to mimic the sail of a ship. A British travel writer called it “The world’s only 7 star Hotel.” The Burj Al Arab stands on an artificial island 920 ft. from Jumeirah beach, connected to the city by a private curving bridge.  It has a helipad near the roof at 689 ft. above ground.

27. In 2014, Dubai’s hotel rooms were rated as the second most expensive in the world, after Geneva, Switzerland, making it a good place to visit via a cruise ship.

28. More than a half a million cruise passengers dock at the luxurious Dubai Cruise Terminal at Port Rashid each year.

29.  In addition to Port Rashid, Dubai has the biggest container port in the Middle East, Port Jebel Ali, located on the world’s largest man-made harbor. In 2013, the Port of Jebel Ali was the world’s 9th busiest container port.

The Dubai Mall is the world's largest shopping mall. Photo by Alberto-g-rovi.

The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping mall. Photo by Alberto-g-rovi.

30. With more than 70 shopping centers, Dubai has been called the “shopping capital of the Middle East.” Home to 1,200 shops, the Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping center based on total area.

31. Also referred to as “the City of Gold,” Dubai is home to the Gold Souk that houses more than 300 retail shops dedicated to gold. It is estimated that the souk contains 10 tons of gold at any given time. In 2013, 40 percent of the world’s physical gold trade occurred in Dubai.

32. The world’s largest flower garden opened in Dubai on Valentine’s Day in 2013. The Dubai Miracle Garden has 45 million flowers grown with drip irrigation.

33. Muslims in Dubai are called to prayer five times a day from the minarets of mosques. Since 2006, the Dubai and UAE weekend has been Friday-Saturday, as a compromise between Friday’s holiness to Muslims and the Western weekend of Saturday-Sunday.

34. Dubai celebrates two major holidays including Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and the December 2 National Day, which celebrates the formation of the United Arab Emirates.

35. While the sale and consumption of pork is legal in Dubai for non-Muslims, it is available only in designated areas of supermarkets and airports.

36. The internet was first available in Dubai and the UAE in 1995. Internet content is regulated throughout the UAE, and a proxy server filters content that the government deems to be inconsistent with the values of the country, such as sites pertaining to dating, gay and lesbian networks, and pornography.

37. Football (soccer to Americans) and cricket are the most popular sports in Dubai. 

38. The Dubai police fleet includes a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and a Bentley, to allow the police force to catch speeders who can outrun other cars.

39. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the world’s first Ferrari-themed park and the world’s largest indoor theme park.

40. Even though Dubai is in the middle of a desert, you can snow ski indoors at the Mall of the Emirates.

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