1. Dubai is one of seven states that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country formed in 1971 from individual sheikdoms.
2. Foreigners make up most of Dubai’s population! The local people, called Emiratis, are just 15% of the total!
3. Emiratis are provided with free education, free medical and free housing. However, lately their subsidies have been cut back and they have been encouraged to get jobs (mainly government and tourist positions).
4. Dubai is apparently the fastest growing city in the world! In 1991, Dubai had just one tall building and it was at the edge of the edge of the desert. Now they have over 400 high rises!
5. The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, is in Dubai. It has 164 floors!
6. There is no standard address system in Dubai, making delivery services a challenge. Instead of a line for address, there is a space to draw a map or leave instructions such as this: “I live on the street after the airport road, but before the roundabout, Go past the mosque and make a U-turn. It’s the second house on the left.”
7. Oil was discovered in Dubai in 1963, but today oil accounts for just a small portion, about 11%, of Dubai’s revenues. Tourism and trading are much bigger components of their economy.
8. The Dubai Mall (where we spotted Lionel Richie a few days ago) is the largest shopping center in the world with over 1.200 stores. Many major American stores were among them, including Gymboree, Pottery Barn, Harley Davidson and a bunch of designers.
9. The above ground metro station opened in Dubai 2009. It consists of 42 stations and was built in just 18 months. Yes, folks, they built an entire system is less than two years!
10. Dubai asked Disneyland to consider building a resort here and Disneyland turned them down, saying Dubai was too small. So Dubai decided to construct its own theme park called Dubailand.
11. When it opens, Dubailand will be twice the size of Disneyworld in Florida and is expected to be the largest tourist draw in the world, with 200,000 people daily. They have signed deals with Marvel Comics, Universal Studios and others.
12. The most luxurious hotel in the world is in Dubai and it’s called the Burj Al Arab. It bills itself at a 7-star hotel and is build on a man-island just off the coast. You can not enter the island without a reservation, so we only glimpsed the outside of the hotel.
13. Dubai has many man-made islands. They have one in the shape of a large palm tree and it is home to Atlantis, the Palm, a resort with hotels, restaurants and private residences. We visited a water park, Aquaventure, at the top of the Palm. They have another set of islands in the shape of a map of the world! Crazy!
14. During the summer, the temperatures reach 120 and don’t fall below 100 even at night! Even the bus stops are usually air-conditioned.
15. There are hundreds of mosques in Dubai and the call to prayer can be heard throughout the city. Hotel rooms have arrows pointing in the direction of Mecca just in case.
16. Even though Dubai is in the middle of a desert and it is very flat, you can ski indoors at the Mall of the Emirates!
17. Modesty standards are encouraged, but a wide range of dress is tolerated.There is such a thing as a “burq-kini” for those who wish to be covered up – in lycra – on the beach.
18. There are no personal taxes in Dubai.
19. Arabic is the official language, but most of the locals speak English (as their first choice). Our tour guide said that when he speaks to the Emiratis in Arabic, they answer in English.
20. All sorts of American fast food restaurants have branches here including KFC, Burger King, Subway and Dunkin Donuts. There are casual eateries as well, including TGI Fridays, Tony Romas, Chicago Deep Dish, etc.