The Emirate of Dubai has slowly but surely consolidated its place as a global city and an international business hub in the past decades. Sparked by the oil money that flooded the region at the end of the past century, Dubai’s astronomic growth seems unreal if we compare it to western cities that took tens or hundreds of years to achieve metropolis status. But gone are the days when Dubai was dependent on oil, as the city has become probably the biggest center of business and trade in the Middle East, and one of the premier tourist attractions in the world. Today, only 5% of Dubai’s revenue comes from oil and its leaders are continuing to push forward, embracing new technologies and setting the example for many other cities in the region.
When you walk between the skyscrapers along the wide streets that are home to some of the world’s craziest and most exclusive cars, you can easily forget that not so long ago it was all just desert dunes and fishing boats. Today, Dubai is the world capital of wealth and all around incredible stuff. From artificial islands to the new tallest building in the world, the astonishing Burj Khalifa, the emirate is home to some of the most extravagant and amazing things. Some of these facts might make you want to pack your bags and spend a couple days in the Middle Eastern paradise, while others might get you to think twice before buying your plane tickets.
15. They Use Robot Jockeys In Camel Races
Yes, robot jockeys! Camel racing has been around for thousands of years in the Middle East and is also regarded as “The Sport of Sheiks.” Apparently, in the past, they used small children as jockeys and they would even starve them to be as light as possible, but these practices were banned in the UAE in response to international condemnation of child abuse. Around that time, the use of robot jockeys slowly emerged. And today, it is the standard not only in Dubai, but in all the Middle East, as other countries followed UAE’s example and regulated camel racing. It might seem like a weird turn of events, but fortunately it was all to the good.
14. There Is No Address System In Dubai
Dubai has no street names and the buildings don’t have numbers. Basically, if you want to mail someone who lives in Dubai, all you have to write is their P.O. box number and it will be delivered to one of the two dozen postal agencies in Dubai, where the person you’re mailing is registered. Another trick that many people resort to is having their mail delivered at work, as it saves them the trip to the post office. Lately, there’s been some efforts to establish a sustainable address system in Dubai, as 10-digit numbers started to be assigned to each building and location. With the use of an app called Makani, accurate directions should be given now to any address if you input the number that is assigned to it.
13. Burj Khalifa Can Be Seen From 50 Miles Away
The 2,700-feet tower became the tallest building in the world in July 2007, but was finished at the end of 2009, adding more than 1000 feet to the previous record held by the Taipei 101 Tower. It was supposed to be named Burj Dubai (“Dubai Tower”) but the name was changed before the inauguration to honor the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa, who financially supported Dubai during the 2008 recession when the real estate market crashed. Approximately 12,000 workers were engaged every day during the six years it took to complete this magnificent achievement. The tower can be seen from over 50 miles away, which is almost the distance to neighboring Abu Dhabi. One amazing fact is that Burj Khalifa is so big that you can watch the sunset from the base of the building and then take the elevator to the top and watch it all over again.
12. They Have An Indoor Ski Resort
The 240,000-square-foot attraction is part of the Mall of The Emirates, the second-largest shopping mall in Dubai. Yeah, that’s right! The one that has an indoor ski resort is not the biggest, there’s another one even bigger than that. Ski Dubai was opened in 2005 and it has 5 slopes of varying steepness and difficulty, as well as other various features. It’s also home to a number of penguins that can be seen several times a day, when they are let out of their enclosures in what is called “The March Of The Penguins.” About 30 tons of snow is produced every day for the slopes of Ski Dubai, as the resort is almost always fully booked.
11. Almost Everyone You’ll Meet In Dubai Is A Foreigner
When you’re traveling to Dubai, there’s a very good chance that the only Emirati you’ll interact with will be the man checking your passport at the airport, as border control is staffed almost entirely by locals. Most locals are pretty private and you will have a hard time finding one to chat with on the beach or working in the tourism industry. Actually, there aren’t even that many locals, as it’s estimated that Emiratis amount for less than 20% of Dubai’s population. Most of the expatriate population are Asians, particularly from India and Pakistan, and about 3% were categorized as “Western.” There are also far more men than women living in Dubai (1.7 million to be precise), from a total population of 2.5 million.
10. It’s So Hot That The Bus Stops Are Air-Conditioned
One thing you have to keep in mind about Dubai is that it is surrounded by desert, and while winters can be described as pleasant, with an average of 73 °F, summers are extremely hot and humid, as the lowest temperature you can expect to have during a summer night is about 86 °F. That’s why you don’t really see many people on the streets of Dubai and you don’t really want to be there either. For the most part, living there is all about getting in and out of enclosed air-conditioned spaces, occasionally getting a taste of the excruciating heat. I guess that’s why they have so many shopping malls and also why they’ve built these apparently ridiculous yet very effective air-conditioned bus stops. If there’s any place in the world that needs them, that’s Dubai.
9. They Are Building Enormous Artificial Islands
Real Estate is very expensive in Dubai, as the city’s economy is expanding into more areas and more people are tempted to try living in the Middle Eastern paradise. Of course, the prices go higher as you get closer to the Gulf, but there is after all a limited amount of land that you can use, compared to the seemingly unlimited demand. Or is it? When the ultra-rich property developers of Dubai ran out of spaces to build 5-star hotels and ridiculously expensive residential areas, they decided to try and redeem some more land from Mother Nature. That is, in short, how the Palm Islands project was born. The ambitious plan is to build three artificial islands on the coast of Dubai—Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali, and Deira Island. Of the three, only Palm Jumeirah has been completed so far, with the other two being put on hold after the 2008 financial crisis. Today, Palm Jumeirah is home to more than 20,000 (very wealthy) people and over 30 hotels.
8. Looking For A $30,000-a-night Hotel Room?
Look no more. The Royal Bridge Suite at Atlantis The Palm is exactly what you need. The exquisite 10,000 sq. ft. “room” has seen the faces of monarchs, presidents, and even Kim Kardashian. The three-bedroom suite has its own pool table, jacuzzis in every bathroom, and a fully-staffed private bar and dining area, with your own personal butler and chef. If you’re in the mood for a little reading before bed, you can check your own private library, or maybe better go for a massage in the massage room, where your personal masseuse is waiting for you. All in all, if you’re lucky enough to be able to stay in this very special suite, chances are you won’t really feel like going out. After all, you’re not paying the average guy’s yearly income for nothing.
7. Any Kind Of Adult Content Is Strictly Illegal
P*rnography is outlawed by most Muslim-majority countries and the UAE is no exception. Over 600,000 websites displaying adult content have been blocked from access and the list is expanding as we speak. Gambling and dating websites are also illegal, but the stigma associated with those things is not as big. Possession and use of any p*rnographic content is a punishable offense, so you’re better off taking a break from the naughty websites while you’re staying in Dubai. There’s plenty of fun stuff to do and places to check out, and while many people might not understand some of the cultural differences, they should at least try and respect them. Also, you don’t want to be the guy who appears in court for downloading “Wet Latex Dreams 2.”
6. Dubai Is One Of The Safest Cities In The World
It may come as a surprise to many people that Dubai has one of the lowest crime rates of all major cities in the world, but the UAE has been ranked by the World Economic Forum as the third safest country in the world, behind Finland and Qatar. Compared to the US, it is 11 times less likely for people to be robbed in the Emirates, 5 times less likely to be murdered, and 18 times less likely to be the victim of r*pe. The Dubai Public Transportation System has consistently reported a zero crime rate for the past 8 years, which is not something you can expect to find in any other part of the world.
5. The Dubai Mall Is Larger Than Vatican City
The multi-billion-dollar shopping center is actually the biggest one in the world, with a total area of over 5 million sq. ft., a little larger that the world’s smallest sovereign state, Vatican City. It has over 1,200 stores and has been consistently named the world’s most visited building since 2011 when it attracted over 54 million tourists, more than all of New York City or Los Angeles. The gigantic shopping mall has countless attractions, including a 22-screen cinema, an aquarium with more than 300 species of marine animals, 120 restaurants and cafes, and even a 250-room luxury hotel to accommodate the most dedicated shoppers. As if that wasn’t enough, 2017 is going to bring an additional 1 million sq. ft. to the already humongous building, as the first phase of its expansion is set for completion.
4. Kissing Your Loved One In Public Might Land You In Jail
In the Muslim tradition, any kind of display of affection between two people is strictly forbidden, and the law in Dubai follows this tradition. There are many instances of people who spent some good time in jail for kissing on the street or in other public places. It’s also illegal for people of the opposite s*x who are not married to be together alone, like in a hotel room. However, this is not really enforced, as the tourism industry is very powerful and many tourists are unmarried couples. However, if you’re travelling with your boyfriend/girlfriend, it is better to refer to each other as “husband” and “wife”, as this could help prevent any potential trouble.
3. The Police Has A Fleet Of Supercars
Everyone knows that Dubai is the unofficial world capital of super-cars. As more and more wealthy people were attracted to the city, the police force believed that their regular cars wouldn’t be able keep up if they found themselves chasing a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. So, in typical Dubai manner, they went and bought themselves some vehicles that could keep up with anything and anyone. Their fleet, which looks like it’s straight out of a Fast and Furious movie, includes Lamborghinis, Ferraris, McLarens, and even a $2 million Bugatti Veyron. Basically, the job of a police officer in Dubai would be every car nut’s dream, as you get to drive a different super-car every day (and you can’t ever get a ticket).
2. They Have Vending Machines For Everything
Did you leave in a hurry this morning and forgot your lucky gold bar? No problem. The Gold To Go ATM in Dubai Mall solves your problem, as it offers a wide range of gold bars at the click of a button. From a 2.5-gram little coin to a one-ounce bar, the rich of Dubai know that gold is always a good investment, so the unusual ATM has had quite a lot of success. If gold is not really your thing, then you shouldn’t worry as there are also vending machines that sell laptops, tablets, and mobile phones because in the fast life of Dubai, the last thing you want is to stand in line at the counter.
1. Some People Are So Rich That They Just Forget About Their Cars
There’s a car “graveyard” in Dubai that is filled with exotic cars and luxury limousines. Apparently, some people just forget them in parking lots so they sit there and collect dust until someone notifies the authorities and they take it to the “graveyard.” The car in the picture for example is a Ferrari Enzo, worth over $1 million, that was simply left by someone in the airport parking lot. On a similar note, in 2015, a passenger left $40,000 in cash in a toilet cubicle at the Dubai Airport. Another unreal story is that of a taxi driver who found a bag with 8 gold bars worth $900,000 on the back seat of his car. The man reported this finding and the small fortune eventually found its way to the owner. It seems like the richer you get, the more forgetful you tend to become.
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