Learn more about this glittering Emirate in the Middle East with these interesting facts about Dubai. See also this article on the best places to visit in the Middle East. And don't forget to buy some travel insurance before you go!
Interesting Facts About Dubai
Dubai is both a city and an Emirate in the United Arab Emirates, a country that borders Saudi Arabia and Oman. Without a doubt, it's the most famous internationally, known for its glitzy lifestyle and ambitious projects.
Sure, people may visit the other emirates for different reasons. Ras Al Khaimah loves the adventurous side of life, Sharjah embraces ecotourism and culture and F1 fans head to the capital Abu Dhabi for the Grand Prix and Ferrari World.
But like many travellers, my first trip to the U.A.E took me to Dubai. And it introduced me to this curious, complex and contradictory city which has so many sides.
Without further ado, let's get talking about some interesting facts about Dubai.
Basic Facts and Information About Dubai
The Weekend Starts on Friday
Like most of the Middle East, the weekend days are Friday and Saturday, with Sunday as the start of the week. Whether you're travelling to Dubai for business or leisure, it helps to know this fundamental fact!
Dubai has built up FAST
Travel back to the 1960s and the time of the Beatles and Dubai was a sleepy desert port with fishing boats and pearl traders. The discovery of oil combined with a pioneering mindset has led to incredible growth and building projects and a transformation of the city's skyline.
But social attitudes remain traditional
Kissing and petting in public are considered an offence to public decency. Holding hands is tolerated between married couples but frowned upon elsewhere and premarital sex is against the law. This includes by force, so if the worst does happen to you then speak to your embassy before the local police.
And alcohol is tightly regulated
While Dubai allows tourists to consume alcohol in approved bars, hotels and resorts, drinking outside in public is not allowed and it is an offence to appear intoxicated in public. It's also a good idea to avoid posting on social media about alcohol and to be more careful than usual about this.
Eating and Drinking on the Metro is not allowed
Yep, that's about the size of it. But at least you won't find crumbs and spills on the metro and no-one has to listen to that annoying rustle of plastic when someone eats a packet of crisps...Or perhaps that's just me?
And nor is dancing in public
Beachside parties with your own music? Think again. You can dance in a recognised venue but not out and about on the streets.
Some Public Transport Options are Segregated
Look out for pink taxis for women or separate women-only carriages on the metro. When boarding a bus, take a look around. You may only be able to sit in certain areas.
The population is about the same as Wales
At the last count, around 3.4 million people lived in Dubai, putting the population on a par with Wales and Slovenia.
Fun Facts About Dubai
While many interesting facts about Dubai sound pretty serious, the main element that runs through the place is a sense of ambition, glitz and fun.
Take a look at these things to know about Dubai...
Dubai is home to the world's tallest building
The Burj Khalifa is a structure that holds the record as the tallest building in the world. The tower was designed by Jean Nouvel and took five years to construct. It opened on January 4th, 2010 and its guest list includes the likes of Beyoncé and Kobe Bryant.
It has 163 floors, each sitting there smashing world records day after day.
And also 25% of the World's Cranes
At the height (sorry!) of the construction boom, Dubai contained one quarter of the world's cranes within its borders. While numbers dipped again for a while, reports suggest that bold new projects are bringing back those cranes.
Dubai created a Palm Shaped Island
The Palm Dubai is a multi-dimensional mix of luxury, leisure, business and culture. The project comprises of three distinct districts: The Palm Jumeirah, The Palm Jebel Ali and The Lagoon. When observed from the air, you can see a clear palm tree shape made from artificial islands. Down on the ground, you'll find a world class aquarium along with shops, offices and luxury hotels.
Dubai loves its bling
While the rules about dancing in public and kissing may seem strict, behind closed doors, Dubai loves a party. I attended a business conference once where women in sequins were dangling from the ceiling like chandeliers, topping up the champagne glasses of delegates.
You can buy gold at a vending machine
Yes, that's right. In keeping with the spirit of extravagance and luxury, you can buy gold at vending machines across Dubai.
The police have joined in with the bling
Police cars are a snazzy affair in Dubai. The police force fleet includes the Lamborghini Aventador and an Aston Martin One-77, along with the Ferrari FF and Bentley Continental.
Dubai has the highest population growth rate in the Arab world
This comes from a mix of people born in Dubai and a rise in the expatriate population.
Men outnumber women considerably in Dubai
Recent government surveys put the ratio of men to women at 2.3 to 1. That means, more than twice as many men than women live in the emirate. The explanation for that lies largely in the influx of male labourers in the expat community.
And 85% people are not originally from Dubai
All that building work needs a workforce and at the last count, around 85% of the people living in Dubai were not originally born there. Even those born in the United Arab Emirates do not automatically qualify for citizenship - that depends on the origin of their parents.
Camel racing is a thing
This is one of my favourite Dubai facts. At the Al Marmoom Camel Race Track, you can catch up with the traditional Middle Eastern pastime of camel racing. These days, robots have replaced jockeys in many situations but the crowd loves the event just the same.
And so is a 7 Star Hotel
Rumoured to be the only 7 star hotel in the world, the Burj al Arab rises into the sky like a ship's sail in chrome and glass. It's taller than the Eiffel Tower, stands on a manmade island and offers 17 different types of pillow on its pillow menu.
Dubai has no personal income tax
And no sales tax, either. But that doesn't make the emirate completely tax free. But it does make it very attractive to certain overseas workers.
Dubai has the second largest shopping mall
By land area, the Dubai Mall is the second largest in the world, beaten only by one in Iran. Shopping - and material possessions - are a big feature of Dubai's character and if they're going to do something, they're going to do it on a grand scale.
Dubai has a completely automated metro
Yes, that's right. 46 miles of metro with not a single driver. The Red Line, which runs through the heart of the city, is the longest driverless single route in the world. Overall, though, the network is beaten by size now by Singapore and Vancouver.
Some Mind Blowing Facts About Dubai
By now, perhaps it's easy to think we've covered all the interesting facts about Dubai.
But there are more!
When looking to the future, Dubai shows no sign of slowing down. I wondered about calling these "facts about Dubai for kids." Because, not only will they be amazed by them. But they may also see them come true...
Dubai plans to print 3d buildings
Plans are well underway to build the next round of world class buildings using 3D printers. Can't quite imagine it? Nor can I. But I'll bet we'll see them before too long.
Dubai has the world's tallest hotel
China has come close, with the J Hotel in Shanghai, but the Gevora Hotel in Dubai still ranks as the world's highest hotel in the Guinness Book of Records. The four star hotel has 75 floors and, I'd imagine, a pretty incredible view.
ANd the world's largest choreographed fountain
While it's an unusual fact about Dubai, it's a beautiful one. By any measure so far, Dubai claims the crown for the world's largest choreographed fountain with the aptly named Dubai Fountain. Over 1335 square metres of seawater pulse into the air at The Pointe on Palm Jumeirah with over 1000 different dance combinations.
Dubai is the 4th most visited city in the world
But can kids guess the top three? Somewhat surprisingly, they are Paris, London and Bangkok. And there was me thinking that New York, Hong Kong, Rio and Cape Town might make it onto the list.
Dubai has the world's most expensive numberplate
In a city where luxury talks, it's no surprise that status matters. Allegedly, the world's most expensive numberplate lives here with only two symbols: D5.
At over 7 million pounds, that's a high price for a lucky number.
Travel Tips for the U.A.E
Did you enjoy these interesting facts about Dubai? Why not check out our other articles about the United Arab Emirates.
More Travel in the Middle East
Wondering where to begin? Start with this guide on the best places to visit in the Middle East.
And explore Israel, starting with this guide to two days in Tel Aviv.