100+ Fun & Interesting Facts about Dubai

Dubai is a city like no other. Think air-conditioned luxury oasis in the desert. So what exactly is Dubai known for?

In this article, you’ll find over 100 up-to-date surprising, educational, interesting, and fun facts about Dubai and its many oversized attractions. These facts are organized into sections, starting with general facts, then facts about Dubai landmarks, some random interesting facts, and finally some historical Dubai facts.  

General Dubai Facts

  • Dubai is the largest city in a country called United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is located on the eastern Arabian Peninsula.
  • Dubai is the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, one of the seven emirates (states ruled by an Arabic emir) that make up the UAE.
  • The Emirate of Dubai is surrounded by the Persian (Arabian) Gulf to the north, Emirate of Sharjah to the east, and Emirate of Abu Dhabi to the south and west.
  • Dubai city is in the northeastern corner of the Emirate of Dubai, facing the Persian Gulf and adjacent to the city of Sharjah. It is located in the Arabian Desert.
  • The Emirate of Dubai is the second largest in the country (4114 km2 / 1588 mi2), after the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which is 16 times larger than it (67,340 km2 / 26,000 mi2).
  • The Emirate of Dubai was originally 3885 km2 / 1500 mi2, but it has grown in size by over 200 km2 due to land reclamation from the sea.
Some rows of islands with houses on the sea, with buildings of downtown Dubai in the background
Land reclaimed from the sea in Dubai
  • Around 3.42 million people live in the Emirate of Dubai, with over 90% of them living in Dubai City, and the rest in small villages across the emirate.
  • By population, the city of Dubai is similar in size to Lisbon (Portugal) or Chicago (USA).
  • Dubai is considered the top business hub of the Middle Eastern and African (or Western Asian) region, and a major global transportation hub.
  • Dubai has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but was hit hard by the COVID pandemic.
  • Dubai is often called the “shopping capital of the Middle East.” It has more than 70 malls and shopping centers.
Inside of a shopping mall in Dubai.
Dubai is a shopper’s mecca.
  • Because of its more liberal attitude and relaxed restrictions compared to other cities in the region, Dubai is home popular among tourists and expats.
  • An additional 1 million or so visitors or non-residents are in Dubai at any given time.
  • Only 15% of Dubai’s population are Arabic (UAE nationals), while 85% are expats.
  • Of those expats, 85% are Asian (mostly South Asian) and 5% of Western, including around 100,000 British.
  • Arabic is the national language of UAE, but in Dubai English and various Asian languages are widely spoken.
Some business people in Dubai, including an Arabic man and woman and some people of other cultural backgrounds.
Dubai is a multi-cultural society
  • The current ruler of Dubai is Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He has a net-worth of $4 billion, making him the 7th richest member of royalty in the world. He is also the Prime Minister of UAE.
  • Dubai sits at 25°N, a similar latitude to Miami, Florida.

Facts about Dubai Landmarks

  • In 1999, the Burj Al Arab opened on an artificial island off the coast of Dubai. It has been dubbed “the world’s only 7-star hotel” (not an official designation).
Aerial view of Burj Al Arab hotel and the beach around it
Burj Al Arab in Jumeirah is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.
  • Burj Khalifa became the tallest building in the world (829.8 m / 2722ft) when its construction was completed in 2009. It is expected to be surpassed by Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, which will be over 1 km tall.
  • Dubai Mall is the second largest mall in the world by total area and one of the most visited buildings in the world, with 84 million visitors in 2019. It is right next to Burj Khalifa.
  • The Dubai Fountain, next to Dubai Mall, covers 12 hectares and was build by the same company that built the fountain at Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
  • Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, and Dubai Fountain are part of an enormous, $20 billion dollar multi-use complex called Downtown Dubai.
Water shooting up from Dubai fountain, with Burj Khalifa skyscraper in the background
Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, and Dubai Fountain
  • Dubai has plans to build the largest mall in the world, aptly called Mall of the World. If built, it will be 4.5 million m2 and be able to accommodate 180 million visitors per year. It would include the world’s largest indoor theme park and 20,000+ hotel rooms.
  • IMG Worlds of Adventure in Dubai is the world’s second largest indoor theme park (140,000 m2), surpassed only by Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi (150,000 m2).
  • Ain Dubai is the world’s largest Ferris wheel, at 250 m (820 ft). It is located on Bluewaters Island, an artificial island 500 meters off Jumeirah Beach, and opened in 2021.
  • Dubai Frame is the largest frame in the world, at 150 m (492 ft). It has also been dubbed the “largest stolen building,” with architect Fernando Donis claiming he received no compensation for his design.
Air Dubai Ferris wheel on the coast
Ain Dubai is the world’s largest Ferris wheel
  • Dubai Internet City, an IT/business park and free economic zone, houses over 1400 companies and 100,000+ workers.
  • Another 400 or so companies and academic institutions are based on Dubai Knowledge Park, and educational free trade zone.
  • Dubai has the second highest number of 5-star hotels around the world, with more than 60 of them. It is surpassed only by London (around 75), and followed by New York City (around 60).
  • The Palm Islands are 3 artificial islands (Palm Jumeirah, Deira Island and Palm Jebel Ali) off the coast of Dubai that look like palm trees from above. Palm Jumeirah has over 10,000 inhabitants and can be seen from space.
From from above of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai
Palm Jumeirah
  • Aquaventure Water Park at Atlantis Dubai resort on Palm Jumeirah is one of the largest waterparks in the world.
  • Several other artificial islands are being constructed, including The World Islands, a group of islands in the shape of a world map.
  • Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3 is one of the largest buildings in the world (second largest by usable floor area), and 1,713,000 m2 (18,440,000 ft2).
  • There is a floating bridge across Dubai Creek, built to relieve traffic on nearby bridges.
  • Dubai Museum is housed inside an 18th century fort, Al Fahidi Fort. It is considered the oldest building in Dubai, dating to 1787.
Ship in front of Dubai Museum
Al Fahidi Fort houses the Dubai Museum
  • The Dubai Museum of the Future is almost complete. It is shaped like a torus and has windows that spell a poem written by Dubai’s ruler. It is considered a masterpiece of architecture.
  • Dubai has entire traditional souqs (markets) dedicated to gold, spices, perfume, and textiles.
  • There are no UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Dubai, but Khor Dubai (Dubai Creek), a natural seawater inlet, is on the tentative list.

Random Interesting Facts

  • Dubai has its own font, which was commissioned by the government of Dubai. It supports 23 languages and is available as a custom font for Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows 365.
  • Dubai has 20 twin and sister cities around the world, including Busan (South Korea), Istanbul (Turkey), Detroit (USA), and Moscow (Russia).
Three Muslim woman carrying shopping bags on a walkway by the sea in Dubai
Dubai is considered incredibly safe.
  • Dubai is considered one of the world’s safest cities, and along with Abu Dhabi, the safest city in the Middle East.
  • According to Mastercard, visitors spend more money in Dubai than in any other city in the world.
  • The annual month-long Dubai Shopping Festival brings in over $2 billion worth of business and has set multiple records, including world’s largest shopping cart, longest gold chain, longest line of Mercedes cards, largest pillow fight, largest wallet, and largest buffet.
  • Dubai was the 4th most visited city in the world in 2019, after Bangkok, Paris, and London, with 15.93 million visitors.
A road, mountains, and lake in Hatta, Dubai
The small, mountainous region of Hatta also belongs to Dubai.
  • A small exclave (part of a state surrounded by other states) called Hatta also belongs to the Emirate of Dubai. It is 134 km (83 mi) east of the rest of Dubai and 140 km2 (50 mi2) in size.
  • Dubai World Cup is considered the “world’s richest horse race.” It has an annual purse (total amount paid out to winners) of $12 million.
  • Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan and couple David and Victoria Beckham own a villa on Palm Jumeirah, while Lindsay Lohan has one on The World Islands.
  • While oil helped Dubai to grow rapidly and used to account for 50% of the GDP, today it contributes less than 1%, while tourism and real estate drive the economy.
  • Dubai has pink taxis which are for women and families only.
A Bugatti Dubai police car parked on the street at night
Dubai Police Car by tornakya is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
  • The Dubai Police Force uses a number of luxury vehicles to patrol tourist areas. These include Rolls-Royce Wraith, Lamborghini Aventador, Porsche 918, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, and several more.
  • Dubai has its own government-owned budget airline, called Flydubai.
  • Most of Dubai sits just above sea level, around 16 m (52 ft).
  • The highest point in Dubai being around 1300 meters (4265 ft).
  • While Dubai is almost totally desert, some plants grow there including date palms, Christ’s thorn, Athle Tree, desert squash, and a number of shrubs.
An Arabian oryx running in Dubai
An Arabian oryx in Dubai
  • Wildlife in Dubai includes Arabian oryx (the national animal of UAE), sand gazelle, Arabian wolf, Arabian leopard, sand cat, spiny tailed lizard, flamingo, and desert eagle owl.
  • Camel racing is popular in Dubai. In the past, children were used in races for their light weight, but today they have been replaced with robots.
  • Falcons can be sold for over US$250,000 in Dubai. They are a cultural symbol and trained for a variety of performances. They are also used to chase away nesting pigeons around landmarks and skyscrapers in Dubai.
  • Dubai has one of the highest per capita water consumption levels in the world. 99% of its water comes from desalination plants, which remove the salt from sea water.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Dubai was 49.0°C (120°F), in July 2019.
An Arabic man holding a falcon in the desert in Dubai
A falconer in the desert in Dubai
  • There are no zip codes or official address system or Dubai. Everyone has a PO box, and in the past, people have also developed the habit or writing out directions when mailing letters or parcels.
  • Alcohol is permitted in Dubai but tightly regulated. The legal drinking age is 21.
  • Friday brunch is a big deal in Dubai, with many restaurants and 5-star hotels offer lavish buffet brunches.
A cocktail, with the Dubai skyline in the background
Alcohol is permitted in Dubai
  • There is no income tax in Dubai.
  • Freedom of speech is limited in Dubai, with stiff penalties for criticizing Islam, the royal family, or local culture. The Internet is also regulated, with many sites related to dating, LGBT issues, and adult films blocked.
  • Non-Muslims are allowed to practice their religion freely in Dubai.
  • It is against the law to wear “indecent” clothing in Dubai, unless at a water park, beach, or night club.
Some women sunbathing on the beach in Dubai with Burj Al Arab in the background
Revealing clothing is only allowed on beaches, swimming pools, and night clubs.
  • There are over 80 schools in Dubai offering a British curriculum or slight variation of it.
  • From 2004 to 2009, Dubai had an annual rock festival in the desert, with headliners such as Megadeth, Iron Maider, Korn, and Motorhead.

Historical Facts

  • The area of Dubai was a swamp until around 3000 BCE, when it dried up.
  • Around that time, Bronze age cattle herders settled in the area and harvested date palms.
Date palms in a field in Dubai
Date palms were probably the first plant to be cultivated in Dubai.
  • By the 5th century CE, the area was a stopping point on trading routes from modern-day Oman to Iraq.
  • The first mention of Dubai was in 1095, in the Book of Geography by Andalusian-Arab geographer Abu Abdullah Al Bakri.
  • By 1500 CE, the are around Dubai was known for pearl diving.
  • Dubai grew as a fishing village in the early 1700s.
  • By the late 1700s, Dubai was a wall city, and Al Fahidi Fort was constructed in 1787.
Traditional fishing boats in Dubai
Modern Dubai started out as a fishing village.
  • In 1793, the Bani Yas tribe settled in Abu Dhabi, and Dubai became a dependency of it.
  • In 1833, Dubai became independent from Abu Dhabi, ruled by the House of Maktoum, which continues to rule it today.
  • A smallpox epidemic occurred in Dubai in 1841, while in 1896, half the city burned down in a fire.
  • Dubai became a British dependency in 1892. Dubai was one of several states with such agreements in the area, which was called the Trucial Coast.
  • In 1901, Dubai was established as the main free port of the Trucial Coast, with no taxes on imports and exports. Dubai grew to become the most important trading hub in the region.
Aerial view of Dubai Port.
Dubai’s port is the most important in the region.
  • In 1929, the development of cultured pearls contributed to the death of the pearling industry in Dubai and other nearby states. Dubai suffered under the Great Depression.
  • A lot of infrastructure was built in Dubai in the 1950s, including electricity, telephone system, the country’s first hotel in 1959, and first airport in 1960.
  • In the 1960s, Dubai became a trading center of gold, with huge amounts of it being smuggled in and out.
  • On April 7, 1961, 238 people died when a UK-operated ship exploded and sank off the coast of Dubai.
  • In 1963, Sheikh Rashid built the first bridge across Dubai Creek, Al Maktoum Bridge, with money borrowed from his brother-in-law, the ruler of nearby Qatar.
The interior of one of the terminals at Dubai International Airport
Dubai Airport today
  • In 1965, the Dubai Airport got asphalt runways, opening it up to long-haul flights, and in 1970 a new terminal was built with the emirate’s first duty-free shops.
  • An oil reserve was discovered off the coast of Dubai in 1966, contributing to make infrastructural development and a population influx.
  • Dubai Zoo became the first zoo in the Arabian Peninsula in 1967, and remained open until 2017.
  • In 1969, Dubai’s first television shows began airing.
  • In 1971, England could no longer afford to administer the area. Dubai united with 5 other Trucial States, and the United Arab Emirates was born. A 7th one, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the following year.
An Emirates airline on the runway
Emirates is Dubai’s own airline.
  • Dubai’s trade industry continued to grow in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
  • Reliance on oil revenue dropped, while tourism took off from the 1990s. Dubai came to be known as a shopping and luxury destination.
  • The Dubai Desert Classic (golf contest) and Dubai Airshow held their first events in 1989.
Exterior of Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai
Jumeirah Mosque
  • The Grand Mosque, largest in Dubai, was built in 1998, on the site of an older mosque dating to 1900 and rebuilt in 1960. Jumeirah Mosque is the most photographer mosque in Dubai.
  • In 1999, the Burj Al Arab hotel opened to the public.  
  • Around the year 2000, Dubai’s population surpassed 1 million.
  • Creation and development of the artificial Palm Islands began in 2001.
  • Construction began on the Burj Khalifa in 2004, and was completed in 2009.
  • Dubai Mall opened next to Burj Khalifa in 2008.
Dubai Mall and Fountain from above
Dubai Mall and Fountain
  • In 2009, the Dubai Metro began operating. It is one of the world’s longest driverless metro lines.
  • In 2010, a second airport was opened in Dubai, Al Maktoum International Airport.
  • In 2013, Dubai opened Dubai Canal, a 3 km (1.8 mi) human-made canal connecting Business Bay to the Persian Golf.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers were stranded in Dubai without employment.
Site of the Expo 2020 event in Dubai
Expo 2022 site in Dubai
  • Dubai hosted the World Expo 2020 (postponed to October 2021 to March 2022 due to COVID, but still called Expo 2020), with the motto “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.”
  • Etihad Railway is currently planning to build a High Speed Railway from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.