13 things you didn’t know about Dubai

La criminalité n’existe pas

Extravagant, eccentric, exceptional: here are the most incredible anecdotes about the city of Dubai.

Dubai barely existed fifty years ago. This metropolis on the Persian Gulf was a simple fishing village. The overweening ambition of local politicians turned it into a world city, and then some!

Dubai is the city where everything is possible, the megalopolis of all records. It is a first-rate tourist, economic and commercial center. This record-breaking city is brimming with anecdotes, each crazier than the last. Here are some of the most incredible fun facts about Dubai. You’ll be amazed…

1. The Palm Jumeirah is visible from space

Le Palm Jumeirah est visible depuis l’espace - Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Andrew Ring

Palm Jumeirah is an artificial archipelago built off the coast of Dubai. It is home to luxury hotels and residences for the very wealthy. Its palm-tree shape isn’t immediately obvious from a boat… but from the air, it’s quite distinctive. And it can be seen from afar, as sumptuous shots have been taken from the ISS (the International Space Station). Some of them were even taken by Thomas Pesquet, one of our legendary astronauts.

2. 90% of its inhabitants do not have Emirati nationality

90% de ses habitants n’ont pas la nationalité émirienne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Chintung Lee

Dubai is a metropolis populated by a huge number of foreigners, as is the whole of the United Arab Emirates. Whether they come to work in tourism, construction, finance or simply to enjoy a golden retirement, they make up the overwhelming majority of « locals ». Many of them are French, attracted by the lavish lifestyle and the many career opportunities.

3. The metropolis is only 40 years old

La métropole n’a que 40 ans - Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – shutterlk

Photographs taken in the 1980s speak for themselves! Dubai was built in just fifty years, right in the middle of the sand dunes. Before the towering towers, there were just a few fishermen’s shacks on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Over the years, the government decided to pursue an aggressive urban expansion policy to attract foreign capital. A rather successful gamble, given the current results, don’t you think?

4. Crime doesn’t exist

La criminalité n’existe pas

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Arcady

A strict set of laws and regulations, coupled with Islamic norms (still more or less in force), make Dubai an extremely safe metropolis. You can walk around here without fear of being mugged, robbed or swindled… because the penalties for the guilty are extremely severe. Today, the Emirati city is one of the safest in the world, despite its ostentatious wealth, which is likely to attract covetousness. Few tourist destinations can claim as much!

5. The world’s only seven-star

On y trouve le seul sept étoiles au monde - Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Creative Family

The Burj-al-Arab is not officially a seven-star hotel. That said, it is considered the most luxurious hotel on the planet. Its giant sail-like shape (321 meters!), which seems to float on the Indian Ocean, is instantly recognizable. A helipad and panoramic restaurant sit atop it. Prices for access to the suites are mind-boggling, but the level of service promised is one of the highest on the planet. To take advantage of this, you’d better have some savings…

6. The police drive around in supercars

Les policiers se déplacent en supercar

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Juliya_Ka

Dubai is the city of eccentricity. Even the police force has to live up to the city’s reputation. To this end, they are equipped with luxury vehicles far removed from our European minivans! Lamborghini, Mercedes AMG, Brabus, Audi R8 and even Bugatti are among the brands used by the police. As you can imagine, if you make any kind of driving error, they’ll be hard to escape…

7. No address or mailbox in Dubai

Il n’y a pas d’adresse ni de boite aux lettres à Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Wanannc

In the city of excess, almost everything exists. Well, except… postal services, which are completely absent in Dubai. There are no letter carriers or letterboxes here. If you want an envelope or parcel delivered easily, there’s only one solution: have it delivered direct to your home by courier. It is also possible to use the « poste restante » or « P.O Box » systems offered in certain shops.

8. At the ATM, you can withdraw… gold

Au distributeur, on peut retirer… de l’or

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Inspired By Maps

These original ATMs don’t exist in Europe, but are flourishing in Dubai. The « Gold to Go » ATMs, located in a few key locations, enable customers to buy small gold bars and coins. The price is revalued frequently, and these machines are a great success. In this world-city where money is king, gold is a safe bet and a popular means of payment. Let’s face it, who’s going to be surprised?

9. The world’s largest shopping mall is in Dubai

Le plus grand centre commercial du monde est à Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Philip Lange

The Dubai Mall? 1,124,000 m², 800,000 m² of retail space with… 1,200 stores. It’s easy to find: not only is it gigantic, it’s located at the foot of the Burj Khalifa. Window-shopping here is a veritable marathon. It would take days to discover everything! There’s also one of the world’s largest aquariums and… an Olympic skating rink. Children will be delighted to explore the 930 m² of the world’s largest candy store.

10. The Burj Khalifa is shaped like… a flower

Le Burj Khalifa a la forme… d’une fleur - Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Tomasz Czajkowski

The Burj Khalifa is the world’s most recognizable skyscraper. At 160 storeys, it is the tallest on the planet, and boasts the fastest elevator. Over 12,000 people were involved in its construction, which was completed in 2010. What’s less well known is that its shape was inspired by a desert flower called Hymenocallis. This 500,000-ton architectural masterpiece, made entirely of metal and concrete, has a touch of poetry about it.

11. No taxes in Dubai

On ne paye pas d’impôts à Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Skorzewiak

Dubai, metropolis of the money king? Yes, we can’t teach anyone that. What is less well known is that taxpayers in Dubai pay no income tax. What’s more, there is no corporate income tax. Which obviously explains the massive influx of foreign investment into this economic powerhouse of the Arabian Peninsula…

12. It’s raining… banknotes

Since we don’t pay taxes, some people just throw money out the window. Well, we’ll tell you right now, don’t book a flight just to take advantage of a rainy day. It only happened once, in February 2015. Nearly 680,000 euros in 500 dirham bills fell from the sky, causing a riot. The origin of the loot was never identified… Mystery!

13. Luxury cars found abandoned in the desert

On trouve des voitures de luxe à l’abandon en plein désert - Dubaï

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Eviart

Not only is money falling from the sky, but some of it is literally rotting away in the desert. Here’s how it works: entrepreneurs who have defaulted on their payments have fled the country, abandoning their luxury vehicles in the middle of the desert. The reason? The very strict laws that could send them to prison in the event of bankruptcy… It’s more comfortable to flee, even if it means losing your supercar.