Dubai can be described as a melting pot of cultures and is home to people of many different nationalities from all across the globe. Located on the Arabian Peninsula in the Persian Gulf, this emirate is one of the fastest emerging leaders in the world economy, has one of the fastest growing real estate markets in the world and offers tourists and residents an incomparable experience. With its impressive architecture and cosmopolitan culture that blends tradition with modern conveniences, Dubai is one of the most beautiful and sought after tourist destinations in the world.
Below are eight unique facts about this amazing emirate that tourists and even most residents might be unaware of:
Dubai is a city of extremes. Although oil was discovered here in 1963, today revenue from oil accounts for only 11%, with tourism and trading being much bigger components of the economy’s revenue. Therefore, the government has made every effort to enhance tourist attractions: about 50 years ago, Dubai had just one high rise building situated at the edge of the desert. Today, it is home to over 400 high rise buildings and houses some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, standing at a staggering 2,717 feet with 164 floors. This architectural marvel boasts of the highest mosque, highest observation deck, highest restaurant and highest nightclub in the world. The Dubai Mall, a part of the Burj Khalifa, is the seventh largest mall in the world and the largest mall by total area. The tallest residential building, the Princess Building, stands at 1,358 feet and is located here in Dubai as is the world’s tallest hotel tower, the Rose Rayhaan, which stands at 1,092 feet! The Burj al Arab, a seven star hotel sporting a sail shaped façade is one of the most luxurious hotels in the world and is built on an artificial island in the center of the sea. It is therefore, not surprising that the Dubai International Airport is the 5th busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic!
2) Postal Addresses
Interestingly this sophisticated city lacks a standard postal address system making it challenging for delivery services. There are no house or street numbers and deliveries are done by descriptions or references to nearby landmarks. Instead of a line for an address, most delivery slips will include space for a map or instructions on how to get to the address. Many people also rent lockers with P.O.Box numbers that are used in lieu of a physical address. This is one of the main reasons why online shopping is not very common in Dubai.
3) Number Plates
Cars are a passion in Dubai and locals and foreigners both love to drive fancy cars. It is very common to see a luxurious car on the roads in Dubai, especially in certain areas such as the Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), The Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, the Madinat Jumeirah and the Burj al Arab. A man in Dubai is often judged by his number or rather his number plate. The number plate business in this part of the world is huge and there are many businesses and agents who just specialize in procuring sought after number plates. In general, the fewer the digits on your number plate, the more important you are. Five digit number plates are significantly cheaper than four digit plates while 3 digit and anything lower can easily run into six digit figures in UAE Dirhams. Sequenced or repetitive plates such as 123 or 1313 can also significantly increase the price of a number plate. The UAE currently holds the record for the world’s five most expensive number plates ever auctioned – In 2008, Plate No. 1 was auctioned for an unbelievable US$ 14.5 million catapulting the country as the top region where private car registrations command staggering sums of money followed by Hong Kong and the UK.
4) Camel Burgers
While camels might be automatically associated with Dubai, they are quite uncommon and most people who live here have probably never even ridden a camel. Another not-so-common find is the camel burger, which is served up by only a few restaurants in the city. Providing a traditional twist on the typical beef burger, a camel patty is high in protein but with less than half the fat contained in a traditional beef burger. With research being conducted into how to tenderize this tough meat, camel burgers are gaining popularity in other parts of the world such as Australia, which is home to more than a million feral camels.
Dubai is famous for its gold souk, which has over 250 gold shops and is also the Middle East hub for the supply of jewelry. It is estimated that one in every five people buys at least five gold items annually. In Dubai, unlike in the West, jewelry is sold on gold price and jewelers levy a making charge on the buyer depending on the piece of jewelry; hence unlike in the West, jewelry is not priced per piece. 95% of all gold jewelry sold here is above 21 karat and the rest is 18 karat gold. For the 1999 Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai made the longest 22 karat gold chain, which measured 4.2 kilometers and was sold to 9,600 assorted buyers who bought it in necklace wear and bracelet size pieces.
In certain parts of Dubai such as Deira and Bur Dubai, including rural parts of the city, it is common to see a mosque every few kilometers. Muslims pray five times a day and on Friday, special prayers are offered by many mosques. It is therefore, common to see a throng of people at every mosque on Friday; many of these mosques have been designed to cater to up to a 1000 devotees. No matter where you are in Dubai, including in shopping malls, you will hear the call to prayer five times a day reminding Muslims that it is time to pray. Between 2008 and 2012, 400 mosques were built in Dubai, which as of mid 2012, is home to over 1400 mosques!
7) Dubai Citizenship
In the UAE, a foreigner cannot become a citizen and UAE passport holder unless born to Emirati parents. In Dubai it is common to hear of people who have lived here for 30 years and owned houses and property having to leave the country once they reach retirement age. There is no long term visa – the longest visa term is three years and this can be renewed as many times as required before retirement age.
8) Dubai Metro
The Dubai Metro opened its doors on the 9th of September 2009 (09/09/09) and is the world’s largest automated driverless system with over 70 kms of magnetic tracks. Over 150 companies, employing 30,000 people contracted with the Dubai government to get this system up and running in under 4 years. The metro ran 55,000 trips per day in the first two months of its operations and accommodated three million passengers during these opening months. There is a fine of up to USD 30 if you are caught eating or drinking on the metro.