Dubai

Short history

Dubai’s transformation from a modest fishing village into an ultra-modern metropolis is a tale of ambition and vision. Situated on the coast of the Persian Gulf, the city has roots dating back to the 18th century, initially thriving on pearl diving and fishing. The real turning point in Dubai’s history, however, came with the discovery of oil in 1966. 

This discovery started a construction and development boom that attracted a global workforce and catalyzed the city’s rapid growth. The ruling Al Maktoum family has played a crucial role in Dubai’s recent history, guiding the city-state’s policy directions and developmental strategies with a strong vision for the future.

Despite its oil reserves, Dubai diversified its economy, focusing on trade, tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services, reducing its reliance on oil revenue.

Dubai is now home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and has one of the globe’s highest concentrations of five-star hotels, underscoring its status as a luxury destination.

Geography

Dubai, situated on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf, is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates. This city is famously known for its flat sandy desert giving way to the modern skyscraper-filled skyline, especially in districts like Sheikh Zayed Road. The urban layout is meticulously planned, with distinct zones for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. Dubai’s climate is classified as a hot desert climate, characterized by extremely hot summers with high temperatures averaging above 40°C (104°F) and mild winters with an average temperature of around 24°C (75°F). Rainfall in Dubai is scarce and irregular, mostly occurring during the winter months. 

Population

The city’s population has experienced exponential growth over recent decades, largely due to its economic prosperity and appeal as a global business and tourism hub. As of recent estimates, Dubai’s population size exceeds 3.3 million people. This population is characterized by its multicultural makeup, with expatriates from across the globe constituting approximately 85% of the city’s residents

While Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken due to the international demographic, along with languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tagalog, Persian, and Chinese, reflecting the city’s cosmopolitan nature. The dominant religion is Islam, which is practiced by the majority of Emiratis and many expatriates, while other religions are also freely practiced, embodying the city’s tolerant and inclusive ethos. 

Main sights

  • Burj Khalifa: Standing as the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa is a marvel of modern engineering and architecture. It provides breathtaking views from its observation decks.
  • The Dubai Mall: One of the largest shopping centers in the world, The Dubai Mall has an indoor ice rink, an aquarium, and a VR Park.
  • Palm Jumeirah: A man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, notable for its luxurious hotels, beaches, and attractions like Atlantis, The Palm.
  • Dubai Marina: A spectacular waterfront development, Dubai Marina is known for its skyscrapers, upscale dining, and leisure facilities.
  • Dubai Creek: This historic saltwater creek is the original site of the city’s commerce. Visitors can take a traditional abra (water taxi) to enjoy the city’s history and modernity.
  • Dubai Miracle Garden: The world’s largest natural flower garden, with around 50 million flowers and 250 million plants: it’s a colorful oasis in the desert city.
  • The Museum of the Future: An architectural wonder offers a glimpse into the future through interactive exhibitions and installations.

Food

  • Shawarma: This Middle Eastern staple consists of thinly sliced meat, such as chicken, beef, or lamb, seasoned and stacked in a cone-like shape on a vertical rotisserie. It’s served wrapped in a pita or flatbread, often accompanied by tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and a variety of sauces.
  • Al Harees: A simple dish made with just wheat, meat (usually chicken or lamb), and a pinch of salt. The ingredients are combined and cooked in a clay pot for several hours, resulting in a smooth, porridge-like consistency. It’s especially popular during Ramadan and Eid.
  • Stuffed Camel: Known as one of the most lavish dishes in the world, stuffed camel is traditionally served at Bedouin wedding feasts. It involves stuffing a whole camel with chickens, fish, and eggs.
  • Falafel: These deep-fried balls or patties made from ground chickpeas or fava beans are a popular vegetarian snack. Seasoned with herbs and spices, falafel is typically served in a pita with vegetables and tahini sauce.
  • Knafeh: A sweet cheese pastry that’s a favorite across the Middle East. It combines a layer of stretchy, melted cheese beneath a crunchy, golden top of shredded filo pastry, all drenched in sweet sugar syrup.

Fun facts

  • Tallest Building: Dubai is home to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, standing at an awe-inspiring height of 828 meters (2,717 feet).
  • Island Creation: The Palm Islands are the world’s largest artificial islands, visible from space.
  • Gold Dispensing ATM: One of the most unique attractions in Dubai is the presence of ATMs that dispense gold bars, emphasizing the city’s luxury and opulence.
  • Robot Camel Racing: In a modern twist to a traditional sport, Dubai has introduced robot jockeys for camel racing, combining cultural heritage with high-tech innovation.
  • Cultural Melting Pot: Despite its location in the Middle East, over 85% of Dubai’s population is made up of international residents, making it a true global crossroads of cultures.