18 strange (and absolutely true!) facts about Dubai

Dubai is a fascinating destination, as are the facts that are part of its history. The transformation of a small fishing village surrounded by desert into a thriving and influential cultural melting pot is something many visitors are unaware of. For example, did you know that only 13 cars were registered in Dubai in 1968? Or that water and gasoline cost practically the same over there?

Check out 18 strange facts about Dubai:

1 – Dubai was founded in 1833
Dubai is much older than you might think! Established in June 1833 as an unassuming fishing village, it wasn’t until the 1970s that Dubai began to transform itself into the desert metropolis it is known today. Until 1930, there were about 20,000 inhabitants. In 2020, Dubai’s population exceeded 3 million.

Old photo of Dubai
Cement loaders in Dubai, 1967 (Photo: The Telegraph)

2 – Only 13 cars registered in 1968
It seems hard to believe when we see the six lanes of Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s main thoroughfare, today. But it’s true: just over fifty years ago, only 13 cars were registered in the emirate. Today, there are almost 3 million cars registered in the UAE.

3 – The artificial islands can be seen from space
In 2014, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) published a photo of the artificial archipelagos of Dubai, as seen directly from the orbiting spacecraft. The largest man-made island in the world, Palm Jumeirah is home to luxurious mansions, expansive stretches of white sand and five-star hotels. It took 10.5 million trucks full of sand to create the environment.

Dubai seen from space
Dubai’s artificial islands seen from space (Photo: Instagram/ISS)

4 – The largest driverless subway in the world
When it opened in 2009, the Dubai Metro was the largest automated rail network in the world, with no driver present. At 74.6 kilometers in length, the Dubai Metro is a popular and affordable way to see most of the city’s sights. In the decade following its opening, Dubai’s autonomous metro was relegated to third place, but is currently being extended to reach the Expo 2021 site.

5 – Gold-plated 7-star hotel
24-carat gold leaves cover approximately 1,790 square meters of the interior of the Burj Al Arab , considered the first seven-star hotel in the world. Shaped like a sail, the hotel is located on its own private island, accessed via a bridge.

Burj Al Arab, considered the first seven-star hotel in the world
Burj Al Arab, the world’s first seven-star hotel

6 – Two men for every woman
As per the latest data released in 2019, there are around 2.3 men for every woman in Dubai. In other words, it’s not the best place in the world to get a girlfriend.

7 – There is a “Ministry of Happiness”
Yep, the UAE has a dedicated happiness minister who is in charge (you guessed it) of promoting happiness among the residents of Dubai and its six other emirates.

dubai water park
You can be very happy at the best water parks in Dubai

8 – Dubai has more than 130 world records
Stamped in the Guinness Book, Dubai has already broken several world records. There were three for the Dubai Miracle Garden and no less than eleven for the Burj Khalifa , the tallest building in the world. Other record-breaking feats include the fastest police car in service, the most people skydiving simultaneously, and the longest underwater radio transmission.

9 – In 1991, there was only one skyscraper in the city
30 years ago, the Dubai World Trade Center was the only skyscraper in Dubai. Nearly three decades later, there are 148 jaw-dropping skyscrapers and 917 tall buildings in Dubai.

Dubai skyscrapers
Dubai skyscrapers

10 – Water and gasoline are almost the same price
In August 2020, the price of a liter of fuel in Dubai was 1.80 dirham (about BRL 2.60). A 1.5 liter bottle of water costs between 1.65 and 2 dirhams (R$ 2.40 to 2.90).

11 – Temperature above 50 degrees
During the summer of July 2002, the temperature in Dubai reached 52.1°C. It’s always hot this time of year, but this was the highest temperature ever recorded.

Sonara Camp in Dubai
Luxury campgrounds in Dubai are equipped with air conditioning

12 – The territory of Dubai has increased
Originally, Dubai covered an area of ​​3,900 square kilometers. However, due to the construction of artificial islands, the emirate has increased in size and today is around 4,114 square kilometers.

13 – Dubai was once home to 24% of the world’s cranes
At the height of the property boom in 2006, around 30,000 of the world’s 125,000 construction cranes were in Dubai.

14 – Camel racing with robots
One of the most traditional sporting activities in the emirates is camel racing, which has been around for hundreds of years. But since the early 2000s, human jockeys have been replaced by robots.

Camel racing with robots in Dubai
Camel racing in Dubai with robot jockeys (Photo: Stephanie McGehee/Reuters)

15 – Luxury police fleet
Dubai boasts the fastest police car in the world: a Bugatti Veyron, which reaches 404 km/h. The front still features a Mercedes AMG GT 63 S, Lamborghini Aventador with modified speed, Aston Martin One-77, a Bentley Continental GT, a Ferrari FF and a Mercedes-Benz Brabus G-Wagon.


16 – More than a third of the Burj Al Arab is uninhabitable
The iconic Burj Al Arab in Dubai, which imitates the shape of a boat’s sail, was considered the most “vanity” building in the world, with 123 meters of uninhabitable space at the top. This corresponds to 39% of its total height of 321 meters. Without this empty space, the building would fall far short of the “super tall” status accorded to buildings over 300 meters.

Burj Al Arab, in Dubai
Burj Al Arab: beautiful, but with uninhabitable areas

17 – There are no rivers in Dubai
Indeed, in all of the UAE there are no permanent rivers.

18 – The highest four and five star hotels in the world are in Dubai
The Gevora is the tallest four-star hotel in the world at 356 meters, while the JW Marriott Marquis is the tallest five-star hotel in the world at 355 meters. Both are in Dubai.