In Photos: Surprising Things That Can Only Be Found In Dubai
Dubai is now known as a bustling cosmopolitan center in the Persian Gulf, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. With a metropolitan area of almost six million people, most of Dubai’s population is made of foreigners. That along with its reputation as a top travel destination, there is bound to be a lot of diversity and cultural contrasts found in the emirate. Things that go on in Dubai are sure to astound you. While there is a lot of misinformation about the Middle East these days, Dubai is just one of those places that doesn’t fit the stereotype. Here’s a look at Dubai as you’ve likely never seen it before, and it might just make you want to pack your bags and check it out for yourself.
1. A Fashion Capital
Move over Paris and Milan, Dubai is quickly becoming a world player in the fashion world. Already serving as an oasis of fashion in the Middle East, Dubai has recently taken that one step further, making itself known on the world stage.
Dubai’s fashion scene is propelled by its numerous fashion shows, creative local designers and an entire district of the UAE city devoted to fashion. Garments from Dubai designers can frequently be seen traipsing the cat walks in Paris and New York City. Some of the designs are certainly more conservative than those found in the West, but hey, even conservative people like to look nice.
2. Elite Female Forces
The city of Dubai also surprisingly has an elite all-female police force squad. The squad was put together to combat theft and fraud in and around Dubai. The all-female squad also deals with gender sensitive issues that according to the emirate’s culture is not appropriate for a male officer to address.
The elite team was chosen out of “policewomen appointed at various police stations, with experience in protecting VIPs and guarding the convicts.” They are also required to be fluent in Arabic and English. The appointment of female officers has been praised as a huge step forward for women in the Muslim world.
3. Big-Name Celebrities
Dubai has made a huge name for itself in the past few years, even to the point of attracting big A-list celebrities. That’s pretty amazing for a place that was one big desert not so long ago — it’s first skyscraper was only built in 1979. One celebrity who has made a high-profile visit to Dubai is Kim Kardashian. Here she can be seen in traditional garb getting ready for a camel ride.
The reality TV star was in the UAE, along with several family members and fellow cast members of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, to give a makeup masterclass. While in Dubai she, of course, went shopping at Dubai’s amazing malls. In addition, she went on a desert adventure and visited a center for children with special needs.
4. Patrols With Swag
Dubai loves to keep things luxurious, and that includes their police vehicles. It’s not uncommon to find top-of-the line patrol cars such as Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Ashton Martins. Hey, if you’re going to be arrested it might as well be in style.
Each police car in Dubai costs about as much as college tuition for one person in the United States, just to give you some context. But fortunately, they don’t have to be used very often seeing as Dubai has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Mostly due to their strict laws, violating any law can easily result in imprisonment and/or deportation. Dubai hails as the 9th safest city in the world currently, according to the Numbeo website’s Crime Index Rate list.
5. Diversity In The Desert
There are few places in the world that you will see such a diverse population and culture like you will in Dubai. The contrasts that you’re able to find in Dubai is perfectly demonstrated in this photo, featuring two women relaxing on a beach in Dubai — one fully covered in traditional Islamic garb and the other sunbathing in a green bikini.
Bikinis are acceptable attire at certain non-family beaches around Dubai, however, outside of a beach or pool area, covering up is appreciated. That being said, while its always smart to be respectful of other people’s culture, Dubai is surprisingly tolerant and open to foreigners.
6. Dress Codes
It might surprise you to hear, but A Dubai, in comparison to the rest of the Islamic countries, has a very loose dress code. Western clothing is acceptable for foreigners to wear in public and women are not required to cover their head unless they choose to do so out of religious belief.
It is, however, recommended not to show too much skin in Dubai, otherwise, you might attract some raised brows from locals. Should they complain to the police, you could be forced to change at worst. That being said, however, there are different rules when visiting mosques, where conservative dress and headscarves are required.
7. The World’s Fastest-Growing City
This picture really explains itself. The top photo was taken in 2005 and it shows a barren desert with only a few tall towers seemingly looming out of place. In all honesty is probably originally seemed like a wasted effort to try to build a city in such an are, but boy would that assumption prove wrong.
The bottom picture shows downtown Dubai as seen today, and the view is spectacular. With monstrous skyscrapers, ornate water fountains and lush gardens, they certainly turned this barren wasteland into a bustling cosmopolitan city in only a few short years! Now that is impressive by all standards.
8. Cool Waiting Conditions
One perk of living in such a city as wealthy as Dubai is that its quite well-equip to deal with the heat. Here, we have a standard bus stop in Dubai. However, by most standards it’s anything but ordinary, seeing as it has an enclosed area that is, get this: air-conditioned! These nifty little pods are guaranteed to keep you cool even in the most blistering Middle Eastern heat.
Dubai is located in a desert and temperatures can easily soar over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. With those type of temperatures, you can’t stay outside long before you start to melt. And who wants to get to work all hot and sticky. This seems like the perfect solution.
9. Gold Everything
The city of Dubai hosts the largest gold market in the world and those in the emirate aren’t shy about flaunting their gold, given the opportunity. There is so much gold in the city that gold-plating any number of personal belongings has become second nature almost.
The locals have learned how to craft with gold to an extreme level. If you have an item you want to be plated in gold, then Dubai is definitely the place for you. But be warned, just because there is an abundance of gold doesn’t mean that the prices are any lower. In fact, Dubai is one of the most expensive cities in the region.
10. Sky-High Sports
This tennis court is certainly not for the faint of heart. This wonder of modern engineering stands about 1,000 feet off the ground and is attached to Dubai’s Burj al Arab hotel. We imagine that quite a few balls would be lost trying to play a match way up there. Of course, that would be the only concern all the way up there. You definitely wouldn’t want to fall off that perch.
But not to worry. People don’t really play tennis here, anymore. The court was opened as a publicity stunt just ahead of the Dubai Duty-Free Men’s Open tournament in 2005. Although the court was only temporary, it certainly offered for a great photo op of this match between tennis legends Andre Agassi and Roger Federer. Afterward, the court was reverted back to its original purpose as a helipad.
11. Robot Camel Jockeys
The ancient tradition of camel racing got a new upgrade in Dubai back in 2004. Robots of all things were used to replace human jockeys. The reasoning behind this modern move had to do with accusations of human rights violations, as many gulf countries used children as camel jockeys
Both Qatar and the UAE, of which Dubai is a member, have banned the use of human jockeys in favor of the robots. The UAE was the first country to implement the ban in an effort to thwart child slavery and abuse aimed at keeping child jockeys as light as possible. These days, camel racing is a multi-million dollar industry.
12. Everything Is Bigger In Dubai
We’ve all heard the saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” but what about Dubai? Well, they are certainly giving Texas for a run for its money. The city of Dubai holds no stops when it comes to building enormous structures just for the sake of displaying their sheer size.
Not only does the city boast the tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, standing at a massive 2,722 ft tall, it is also home to one of the largest malls in the world along with the largest indoor ski facility in the world. The Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq was used as inspiration for the design of Burj Khalifa.
13. Family Beaches
While this phenomenon doesn’t only exist in Dubai, many tourists might find it surprising to learn that there are specific beaches for women and families only. That means no single men are allowed in those areas. Beach-goers at those sites are also required to wear “respectful” beach attire at all times.
Women, in particular, are required to be fully covered. According to locals, it’s nice for them to have a few beaches where they don’t have to worry about being disturbed or disturbing others. They also feel that the dress code at these special beaches is more respectful to their cultural and religious beliefs. “It ensures there are areas of the beach where everyone can feel more comfortable and avoid large groups with loud music and smoking, especially when you have children,” one local woman said.
14. PDA Prohibited
Laws in Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates are particularly strict when compared to western countries. Even seemingly harmless acts can result in trouble with the authorities, so it’s better to be in the know about what is and isn’t acceptable. One thing that might surprise you is that public displays of affection are generally not tolerated.
Married couples are permitted to hold hands in public, but apart from that, any physical contact between two people of the opposite sex can become problematic. Kissing in public is a big no-no. It’s also not recommended to shake a woman’s hand unless she extends her hand first.
15. Exotic Pets
With a GDP of more than $105 billion in 2015, it’s undeniable that Dubai is a very rich city and its residents are known to love to flaunt their wealth and status. As the saying goes, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it.” That has gone for pets as well. There was a popular trend in the Middle Eastern city/Emirate of having exotic pets such as chimps, baboons, lions and cheetahs.
Exotic animals have been considered a status symbol in the UAE. I has been understood that the more expensive and exotic the animal, the more wealth and power its owner has. The trend proliferate so much, in fact, that the government outlawed the practice in 2017. Nowadays owning an exotic animal can get you either a $136,000 fine or a six-month stay in jail.
16. Massive Construction
Construction in Dubai is booming like never before. And all that construction require lots of money, man-power and of course, infrastructure. Dubai is home to more construction cranes than any other city in the world. Estimates show that the city is home to around 25% of all construction cranes in the world. Now that’s impressive.
The city with the second most construction cranes in the world is a surprising one — it’s actually Sydney, Australia. The city with the highest number of cranes in the Unites States is also a surprising one. No, it’s not New York City or Los Angeles, it’s actually Seattle, Washington.
17. Indoor Ski Resort
Yes, Dubai is located in a desert but when you have enough money, anything is possible. Even going for a brisk ski in the snow. Conveniently located in the Mall of the Emirates is Ski Dubai, an indoor mountain-themed attraction, replete with snow and all.
The park boasts of multiple slopes with varying degrees of difficulty, as well as a snow park and a penguin exhibit. Seems like a great way to escape the simmering Dubai heat for a few hours, or even an entire day. A two-hour ski pass costs around $55, while a day pass costs about $83. Multiple visitor packages are also available including lessons, snow gear, and even meals.
18. Gold Machines
These days you can get just about anything in a vending machine. While the Japanese may have perfected the art of vending everything you need (and lots you don’t need) there are a few machines that Dubai has that Japan doesn’t. And one of them is the gold-dispensing machine!
Using either cash or a credit card, you can purchase pure 24 carat gold from this machine. You can also buy in different sizes, anything from a 2.5 gram piece to an entire bar of gold. A computer inside the machine updates the prices every 10 minutes to ensure that it is up to date on current gold prices.
19. VIP Camels
It wouldn’t be the Middle East without a few camels. And these iconic animals are an integral part of life in Dubai, whether that be for a good relaxing camel race, or foods made from camel milk and/or meat. While you won’t find many restaurants serving camel meat, they do indeed exist.
You can also buy some great camel milk chocolate as a souvenir for friends back home. For true adventurers, you can go for a camel desert safari just outside of the city and experience how the Bedouins live life out in the desert. Most of the camel desert safaris also offer enriching cultural experiences such as henna, sheesha and bread making.
20. Artificial Islands
One of the unique and mesmerizing parts of Dubai are its artificial islands. Two of the artificial islands, the Palm Jebel Ali and the Palm Jumeirah, were built in the shape of palm trees. Meanwhile another more ambitious project still in the works is the illustrious World Islands Project.
The World Islands are a series of 300 of small islands formed to make a map of the world with each island representing a country, landmark or region. Overall cost estimates for the project were projected at $13 billion back in 2005. Construction of the project was halted due to the 2008 financial crisis. And to date, only a few of the islands have been developed.
21. Traffic Jams
If you were wondering what a traffic jam in Dubai looks like, here you go. This many luxury cars all piled up and honking their horns at each other look more like a luxury car show than a traffic jam. OK, so not everyone in the city owns a Ferrari, but this is certainly a sight to be seen.
Traffic congestion is a big problem in the rapidly growing city and the government spends billions of dollars each year to develop transportation infrastructure. One example of such efforts was the Dubai Metro, which, became operative in 2009 after a mere 18 months of construction. Traffic congestion costs the city’s economy an estimated $790 million each year.
22. Gold-Plated Everything
Is your multi-million dollar house, yacht, Ferrari and pet lion making you feel poor? Well, not to worry, because now you can also have your car dipped in gold. Just in case anyone was wondering whether you had money or not, they won’t now.
And not to worry, gold-plated cars aren’t tacky or gaudy at all. People are sure to be impressed by your wealth, or perhaps they will just run themselves off the road when the sun reflects off your car and into their faces. Hopefully the other drivers are all wearing sunglasses or else they might not live to tell the tale of this golden car.
23. People of Dubai
Dubai is a very diverse city and amazingly most of its residents are foreigners. Only 17% of the population of Dubai are citizens of the United Arab Emirates. In case you were wondering how all of those skyscrapers get built, well, they are built by foreign workers.
The city’s population is currently made of about 83% immigrants, mostly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, with such an array of people comes large economic divides between them. Most of the immigrant workers live and work under terrible conditions, while Emirati citizens enjoy free rent, education and medical bills. So, if you’re looking to move to the gulf coast city, you had better have a good job.
24. Free Food
Giving charity is a staple of Dubai’s culture, this is especially true during the holy month of Ramadan. Its not unusual to see sights like these placed in malls around the city providing free food to the poor and unemployed people of the city. That’s just something you won’t find in many places around the world.
“We keep everything from Laban Up to fresh yogurt. Then there are juices and water besides Arabic breads and ready-to-eat tuna meat or pre-cooked macaroni for anyone to come and take it for free,” one mall manager told reporters. Read on to find out what other surprises the amazing city of Dubai has to offer.
25. Mall Of The World
Slated to be the largest mall in the world, Dubai has plans for the justly-named Mall of the World. This won’t be any old shopping complex as the complex will house a massive indoor temperature-controlled city in Dubai and span around 8 million square feet. The mall will include over 100 hotel facilities to accommodate around 80 million visitors a year. The complex is also due to include a massive park larger than London’s Hyde Park.
The plans for the Mall of the World were announced in July of 2014 and it is reportedly due to take at least ten years to complete. But when it gets built, it will be just one more reason to visit Dubai.
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