While once defined as an arid landscape with little prospects, today, Dubai is a city that is truly larger than life. As the exotic and mysterious destination that has intrigued travelers and explorers for millennia; the city’s goal on the world stage appears to be relegated to inspiring awe and admiration. A feat that it achieves with astounding consistency.
Dubai is formally an Emirate (or principality ruled by an Emir or prince), and is part of a larger union of 7 Emirates. Dubai is the largest and most prominent of the 7 brothers. Today, the city’s diversification from the dwindling oil wealth which made it so rich in the first place, continues.
This is essentially taking the form of cutting-edge technology implemented at the human scale for daily use by general citizens; meaning futuristic daily life and perks that are unavailable even in the most famed futuristic economies of the Far East. Here we have collected 10 surprising facts you might not have known about this uniquely mysterious and enchanting destination. Read on below!
1. No Address, No Problem
Until recently Dubai had no formal addresses, area codes, zip codes, or even a postal system. Instead, people simply found their way around by simple directions— “take the next right, and then left, then you’ll see a gas station, pass that, then count 10 towers and you’ll get to the tallest building in the world.”
Individuals sending parcels from international destinations often faced the unusual contradiction of a city that revels in proclaiming itself as one of the most advanced centers of commerce and trade. In order to receive mail, residents were forced to open a PO box, and often had to drive to a post office several times a week.
In 2001, an attempt began to correct the problem, although this was a task that was easier said than done, since the city and country lacked a coherent numbering system, road names, or even building names. This proves even stranger when considering our current number system originated in Arabia.
The lack of addresses also proved to be a headache for tourists trying to take a cab or attempting to direct an Arabic-speaking taxi driver. The latter problem has been addressed through Uber’s handy pinpointing system. In an ironic way, some developments in correct the inadequacy have also faced challenges.
By looking at postal systems of the UK, USA, Australia and Middle Eastern countries that have had to develop postal services, the government has undertaken the task of naming thousands of backstreets, buildings and individual homes. Even so, the system is different for each Emirate and no formal system exists between them!
2. Dubai Disney is a No Go, Enter Dubailand
Since the Walt Disney Company rejected a plan to open a Dubai Disneyland, the government of Dubai has gone ahead with a plan to build the world’s largest amusement park, aptly named Dubailand. When initially proposed in 2003, Dubailand was set to become the costliest amusement and entertainment complex ever undertaken, coming in at a cool 64.3 billion dollars.
Today, 55 billion in loans have been secured for the project that was originally put on hold in 2008. So, what kind of amusement park does 55 billion dollars get you? Scheduled to be twice the size of the Walt Disney World Resort, today’s largest amusement park, Dubailand, is set to feature distinct ‘worlds’ filled with rides, attractions and experiences.
The park will be dedicated to six zones each with an individual focus, including: Sport and Outdoor World, Eco-Tourism World, Vacation and Leisure World, Attractions and Future World, Retail and Entertainment World, and a Downtown core.
While these broad themes make it hard to picture just how large Dubailand will be, a single section in Attractions World (out of nine), will feature Bawadi Boulevard, a 10 km amusement corridor with room for thirty-one hotels, and over 29,000 rooms. This includes the Asia-Asia Hotel which would be among the world’s largest with over 6,500 stately rooms. For scale and reference, this is just one hotel in one of the worlds of Dubailand.
3. Its Actually Read ‘Dubay’
Although the English pronunciation is commonly known as ‘Dubai’, as in ‘doo-bye’, the native Arabic pronunciation is in fact ‘dubay’, as in ‘doo-bayy’. As for the meaning and origin of the word, there exist several competing theories. Although the origins are hard to pinpoint and up for debate.
One refers to the Arab proverb, ‘adadubai’, which translates to ‘they came with a lot of money’. Although this is a modern translation that was likely uncommon at the time of the city’s naming.
Another theory suggests that the word Dubai comes from the Arab word ‘dabai’, the past tense of the verb ‘yadub’ meaning ‘to creep’, in reference to the slow-flowing Dubai Creek that once nurtured the possibility of a simple settlement. Finally, poet and scholar Ahmad Mohammad Obaid, asserts that the original meaning of the city’s current name comes from the Arabic word for ‘baby locust’ or ‘jarad’, although the certainty of the etymologic (naming) research has not been definitive in any case.
4. Camel Robot Racing
The people of Dubai have many past times including world-class shopping, gold collecting, indoor snowboarding and skiing, etc. But one of the country’s most unique past times is camel racing. This old-time tradition has been integral to Emirati life for hundreds of centuries. The city even has a designated camel race track located deep in the Dubai desert. With Dubai’s forward-thinking technological development, the sport has also taken a futuristic spin.
Today, it is not camel jockeys that sit atop the camels anymore; instead, a miniature jockey robot sits atop the camel’s back in order to alleviate stress and allow the camels to run faster. The robot jockey is controlled remotely by the racer from the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle running on their own track alongside the speeding camels.
A race will normally be comprised of 60 camels, legs flying in every direction, all vying for top spot. Races start early between 7am and 9am at Al Marmoom Heritage Village as well as the Al Lisaili area (in order to beat the desert heat). Get there early and don’t miss the opportunity to pet and take photos with the strange and comical desert creatures. If you’re seeking a unique adventure, you can also hop on and take a stroll in the desert on a camel’s back.
5. Drone Taxis
If getting around on a camel seems like a thing of the past, and Dubai’s infamous traffic jams are making it hard for you to get from luxury point A to luxury point B, then Dubai’s planned drone taxi cabs might just become your favorite mode of transportation.
In 2017, Dubai’s Transportation Authority announced that it had tested autonomous drones able to carry passengers. The drones are electrically powered and small enough to fit inside a parking space, yet have enough room for luggage. The ‘IE Hang 184’ as they are called, can operate within a range of 40-50 km.
The city is aiming for 25% of all transportation to be conducted by autonomous flying drones by 2030, and excepts to have operational self-flying, passenger drones in the air by 2021.
6. 30% of the World’s Tallest Building is Unusable Space
The Burj Khalifa, or Burj Dubai, may be the world’s tallest building as well as the tallest man-made structure ever built. It rises to an impressive height of 829.9 meters, though nearly 30% of the tower is unusable space.
It was designed by world’s leading skyscraper firm, SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merril) who also designed One World Trade Center; and specifically engineered to reach its unprecedented height through a buttressed core structural system that lends the tower its stepladder appearance.
Since the core maintains the structure’s height, in order to achieve the world record, only the core structure was needed. No need for cumbersome elevators stopping at every floor. The stable design also lends the structure earthquake resistance, since Dubai essentially sits on an active fault line on the Arabian Peninsula.
Recently, this has been the source of controversy among skyscraper enthusiasts since The Council on Tall Buildings made the assessment that the world’s top 20 buildings also have close to, or sometimes more than 30% of unusable space (labeling it the “vanity spire”). In fact, without the so-called vanity spire, the Burj Khalifa would lose more than 700 feet, or nearly 200 meters from the top.
Even so, without its decadent spire, the Burj Khalifa would still be the tallest building in the world, considering Shanghai Tower also has a considerable spire of unusable space. On the other hand, the Burj (or simply, the tower, as it’s affectionally called) would not be the tallest structure in the world. That honor would go to Tokyo’s Sky Tree by just a mere 6 meters.
7. World Mecca for Exotic Pets
Dubai has become the mecca of exotic pet ownership. Don’t be surprised if you find a Dubaian walking their 300 lbs. albino tiger. As a perk of the super-rich, cheetahs, lions, tigers, bobcats, crocodiles and monkeys are especially popular.
Even so, a new law passed in 2016 banning the illegal trading of exotic pets in an attempt to clamp down on some of these exotic pet owners. Owners are by law required to donate their pets to zoos, shelters, and habitats or face a $100k fine. While the UAE ban has been put in place, there are still instances of wild animals spotted in public areas.
By law, an exotic animal can only be kept in one of two instances; in a public zoo, or in a private collection/private zoo. In this case, animals are imported through all the legal channels and are provided with the appropriate habitat and environment. As such, the ownership of exotic pets has become a past time for the super-rich in Dubai. Even so, a large underground market for exotic animals still exists today.
8. Lamborghini Cop Cars
High-speed police car chases take on a whole new meaning in Dubai. Sporting spiffy Lamborghinis as well as some of the world’s most coveted sports cars, Dubai’s police force knows how to ride in style. Not just Lamborghinis, the city also counts the world’s fastest road-legal supercar, the Bugatti Veyron, in its fleet of cop cars.
The Veyron can go from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds with a top speed of 253 miles per hours. So, don’t be surprised if you spot one flexing its muscle down Dubai’s busiest thoroughfare (namely Sheikh Zayed Road).
While it may seem superfluous, this is all for a good reason; as the world’s capital for sports car ownership, even would-be criminals sport designer wheels, thus Dubai’s police force requires adequate cop cars to be able to track them down. For the city of Dubai, sports cars seem to be a good deterrent; if one breaks the law in the streets of Dubai, there is little point in trying to escape.
9. 0% Crime Rate
In Dubai, a bit like in Singapore, crime is nearly nonexistent. In actual terms, Dubai’s crime rate comes in at 0.04% (even as 90% of Dubai’s population are immigrants). Perhaps it is these high-speed, luxury cop cars which serve as the anti-crime deterrent which allows Dubai to have a nearly 0% crime rate. Perhaps it is the high moral fabric of its citizens, as well as traditional extended family units that promotes a healthy social order.
10. World’s Largest Solar Park
Dubai is perhaps one of the world’s most prolific oil producing countries. Even so, today the city is investing in renewable technology; efforts which are promoting Dubai as an innovation center for future energy tech. Since oil revenues have begun to dwindle, Dubai has bet big on its most abundant energy source –solar power.
Set to generate 1,000 megawatts when it goes online in 2020, and a staggering 5,000 megawatts in 2030, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will far surpass the world’s second largest solar power plant. In comparison, today’s largest solar power plant, Ivanpah CSP in California, produces only 392 megawatts of power.
The city of Dubai has invested into such a large project that the overall solar price of energy has depreciated by nearly 30%, making solar technology more readily available. Dubai is also tackling the technological hurdles of solar energy, namely the storing of energy in next generation battery systems.
As such, the government has developed the Solar Decathlon, an international competition of the world’s top science universities. Their aim is to build the world’s most advanced solar house as a storing unit of solar energy. In 2018, innovative solar coding technology for air-conditioning systems allows 70% of energy savings and transforms the house into a sort of battery; making houses run like efficient machines.
Dubai is a world filled with secrets and intrigue, some of which we have revealed to you on this list; others which remain hidden to even the most intrepid travelers. As such, Dubai is an endlessly captivating destination that charms visitors by inspiring the senses through feats of human achievement. For visitors and residents alike, Dubai is a place that strives for the future with a bold sense of identity, and an intoxicating optimism that continues to make the rest of the world take note.
Did you enjoy these Dubai Facts? Let us know in the comment below! 🙂
And to plan your trip in the fabulous city, make sure you also read our blog post about the 10 best things to do in Dubai.