One of the most rewarding aspects of traveling is that you get to learn new cultures and habits. It never seizes to amaze me that in this age when the world has become a global village with the same shops and restaurants everywhere you go, similarity also stops at this visible surface. Deep inside we are not all the same, we each have our own manners, traditions, views, and perception of the world.
It’s not because Arabs drink Starbucks coffee in Dubai and share their experience on Facebook or Instagram using newest iPhones that they lose their Middle Eastern identity or identify themselves with the way we think and live in the West. Not at all! Even such a global city like Dubai is not that open-minded and modern when you look beneath the surface. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it’s simply different. There are quite some things you should be aware of, even if you are only visiting as a tourist.
So here are some interesting facts about Dubai and The United Arab Emirates that I thought were worth sharing.
Serious and Fun Dubai Facts – from local laws and habits to unbelievable statistics
1. When is it weekend in Dubai?
Weekend in Dubai is no longer Thursday and Friday as it used to be in most Muslim countries in the past (and still is in some countries), but Friday and Saturday. Many Persian Gulf countries changed it recently in order to adapt better to international financial markets.
2. There are 7 times more foreigners than locals in the United Arab Emirates
Most recent statistics show that the percentage of foreigners in the UAE is close to 87%, and is probably even higher in Dubai city. Only after 20 years do expatriates qualify for an application for the citizenship. Most foreigners are construction workers from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
3. UAE population growth is one of the highest in the world
In 1965 total population of the Emirates was 150.000, in 2015 – 9.15 million people.
The population of Dubai is currently 2.25 million and it’s expected to increase by at least another 50% between now and 2020 when it will host the World Expo.
4. Dubai has no standard street address system
I’m not sure how their postal system works, but from what I understand they use Post Office Boxes a lot, and in the instructions on the mail often include explanation on how to find the place. Something in lines of ‘second street to the right behind the big mosque, the third house with a white door on your left’.
This probably explains why none of the post cards we sent from Dubai has reached their destination in Europe or the US… It’s only been 3 weeks so there is still hope that our New Years wishes will reach our family and friends. In the worst case it will be in time for New Year 2017.
Here is some advice for the travellers (apart from not wasting your money on cards and stamps): if you book a less known hotel in Dubai, you better make sure to print a map to show to your taxi driver at the airport. That’s also the case for all the recently built hotels – they are popping up like mushrooms after a rain, and no taxi driver can keep up with that.
5. Dubai was mostly a desert 20 years ago
If you see how far the city has gone, you cannot help admiring the vision of the Dubai rulers. It started with Sheikh Rashid who was concerned about the future of Dubai when the oil runs out. Current ruller Sheikh Mohammed is the man who turned Dubai into a global city.
6. There are no personal or income taxes in Dubai
Here is your explanation for all the expats and the growth! My husband (who is a fiscalist) is already considering moving to Dubai. Were it not for the extreme temperatures in summer, we would be probably applying for a visum as we speak.
7. Premarital sex is illegal in the Emirates
In theory, you are not allowed to share the same hotel room with a man or a woman (except close family) you are not married to. Doesn’t matter what your relationship is and whether you live together with your partner at home. If you travel to Dubai, you better make sure that everyone thinks you are married. As long as nothing happens, nobody will make a big deal of it, just be aware of it and keep it to yourselves.
Hugs and kisses in public are a big no-no, and it may even be illegal. Holding hands with your husband or your wife is ok, but that’s as far as it goes. I have read some troubling messages about an unmarried couple being convicted for public display of affection, or girls getting into trouble because they were raped. In case the unthinkable happens, contact your embassy before you contact the police.
8. Alcohol consumption is strictly controlled in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi and is illegal in some other Emirates
Alcoholic drinks are served in licensed hotels and clubs, but you are not allowed to drink (or be under the influence of alcohol) in public. Residents (also foreign nationals) must have a permit to be able to drink alcohol at home (!) or in licensed venues. Legal age for drinking is 21 in Dubai.
9. Dancing in public is considered provocative and is a big no-noWho would do that, right? Seriously. A mom of 3 waltzing her 5 year old son under the arm with the music playing at a nearby restaurant at New Year’s Eve. Guilty as charged. One person passed and his eyes said it all. I just had to google it afterwards. Don’t tell me you were not warned!
10. Trivia: Dubai Interesting Facts and Statistics
In the Emirates they like to be the best in everything, the biggest, the tallest, the richest… World’s tallest buildings, biggest shopping malls, most expensive hotel rooms, man-made islands… You name it – they have it.
- Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (828 m (2,717 ft)163 floors) stands in Dubai. For comparison, the height of the Eiffel Tower is 300m.
- Every year at least 10 skyscrapers are built in Dubai. 2007 was a top year with 41 buildings taller than 100 m completed in that year.
- Dubai police drive cars like the Ferrari FF, Lamborghini Aventador, each of them cost 400-500,000 USD. They even have one Aston Martin One-77 (1.79 million USD)
- Cars are a passion and the number plate shows how important (=rich) you are. The less digits on the number plate, the more it’s sought after. In 2008, Plate No. 1 was auctioned for 14.5 million USD.
- Dubai has some ATM’s that dispense gold rather than money.
- Camel racing is a very popular sport in the Middle East. Because of the size, only children can participate in racing the camels. Thousands of children have been trafficked and abused in the past forcing some countries to put an end to the sport. Qatar came up with a solution instead and now remote-controlled child-sized robots are used in camel racing, which remains a multimillion dollar sport in the region.
- You can get a fine for eating or drinking in the metro.
- By the end of 2016 Dubai will have 64,000 hotel rooms and suites; that number should increase to 91,000 by 2020.
- 40% of world’s physical gold trade goes through Dubai
- Dubai is building the world’s highest residential tower (771m – 2,333 feet) – Dubai One tower – which will have 885 apartments. The whole Meydan One complex will house almost 80,000 residents, include world’s largest indoor ski resort, a marina with a dancing fountain, a shopping centre, and a 350-room hotel.
- Dubai male-female ratio is 7 to 3. This is mostly because of foreign workers who do not relocate with their families.
- With 550 litres per person a day UAE’s water consumption is the highest in the world. It’s about 80% higher than the global average.
- Dubai is a city in the middle of a desert with sand storms and temperatures above 50°C (120°F), and the cooling of buildings is a big challenge to the engineers. Vertical cooling systems often exceeding 100 stories high use water pumped from very deep in the ground to cool the buildings.
- Every Dubai toilet is supplied with a water hose and 98% of the foreign expats living in the city have no idea what it is for. Sometimes you enter a toilet and the water is running down the walls and dripping of the ceiling while the person who just left is completely dry. You stand and wonder what in the world they have been doing in there and decide to look for another toilet instead… Most muslim countries use a toilet hose, but you don’t really need to get familiar with the system as a tourist in Dubai since all tourist facilities provide toilet paper. You’ll quickly learn to appreciate the water hose if you end up in a less modern toilet in the Middle East.
- The third largest yacht in the world is owned by Sheikh Mohammend, the ruler of Dubai. The yacht named Dubai is 162m (531 ft) long and costs 400 million USD.
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