Intro: How can a modern marvel be built in extreme conditions and become an extraordinary place to live and work? Stay tuned and find out Dubai’s secret.
What is it?
Dubai is the capital of the emirate of the same name, one of the seven United Arab Emirates. It is located on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf and has a common history with that of the United Arab Emirates.
History of Dubai
The first human settlement in the city was in 3000 BC. It used to be a mangrove swamp that dried up attracting Bedouin cattle herders who started living there.
Their palm plantation in one of the fertile areas of the desert was the beginning of agriculture in Dubai and was the first step in transforming the nomadic nature of emiratis.
In the 18th century, Dubai is thought to have been established as a fishing village. By 1822 it was a town of about 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe and was ruled by an Abu Dhabi Sheikh.
Before oil was discovered, the emiratis economy relied on trading, pearling and fishing. The pearls were an exclusive commodity so Dubai used them to build a strong reputation that paved the way towards prosperity.
Dubai got independence from Abu Dhabi in 1833 and continued to develop. But in the 1950s, after the artificial pearls were invented in Japan, Dubai suffered great financial losses.
Expansion of Dubai
Sheikh Saeed, the then-ruler of Dubai started looking for other alternative sources of income to ensure multiple financing streams. This was necessary to develop the country in such a disadvantageous place as the desert.
The discovery of oil, in the Fateh Oil Field in 1966, was a major milestone in the history of Dubai. The economic landscape improved and Dubai even created a new currency shared with Qatar, the Riyal.
In 1969 Dubai made the first shipment of oil starting the expansion to what it is today.
Dubai’s oil production peaked in 1991 at over 400.000 barrels per day, but has been steadily declining ever since.
Of the Emirates, Abu Dhabi has most oil resources – 92 billion barrels, while Dubai has only 4 billion barrels.
Dubai’s oil reserves have reduced over the past decade and are now expected to be completely exhausted within 20 years.
The government recognized that its oil resource will not last forever so they adopted projects to help maintain Dubai’s economy and growth.
Therefore Dubai reinvested the profits in trade, financial companies and infrastructure.
Today, oil accounts for very little of Dubai’s revenue, yet the emirate’s gross domestic product has continuously grown. The oil and gas industry only makes up about 7% of the total revenue of the emirate of Dubai.
Trade is a core component of their economy so the city established its first free zone in 1985. The Jebel Ali Free Zone has 52 square kilometers and it is the largest in the world.
Dubai became attractive for global businesses which today take advantage of the emirate’s 30 free zones that offer tax breaks, custom duty benefits and lack of restrictions for foreign owners.
The industry of real estate and structure construction is one of the largest revenue-producing industries, contributing more than 22% of total revenue.
Dubai has had an extraordinary growth and it is hard to imagine that it took only a generation to transform the pearl divers and fisherman’s village into the modern world marvel it is today.
The city is divided into two main areas, one characterized by tall buildings and impressive landscapes and one by traditional arab buildings.
Dubai Creek is separating the old city Deira and the new modern area, Bur Dubai. The creek was created by dredging an ancient streamlet to allow cargo transportation using vessels larger then the traditional Dhows.
The emirate was built in the desert and is fascinating by tall and unique buildings, luxury hotels and opulent shops.
In 2006 Dubai owned 30,000 cranes, or 24 % of the world’s cranes.
In 2017 Dubai has broken the Guinness World Record for the largest ever continuous concrete pour with almost 20.000 cubic meters over a 42-hour period.
As of 2015 all of the new buildings in Dubai are using green alternatives for cement in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Dubai has an extraordinary landscape but nothing is as amazing as the Burj Khalifa. The building lights up the city from wherever you look and it holds the record for the tallest building in the world since 2009.
The Burj Khalifa is amazing even in the context of the most impressive skyline in the world. The 163 stories building can be seen from 95 km away as it raises to a height of 828 meters.
The construction effort was incredible as Burj Khalifa required 330.000 cubic meters of concrete, or about the weight of 100.000 elephants, and over 31.000 tons of steel rebar. The huge building sits on 192 concrete piles, which are each buried 50 meters in sand.
It was very hot in Dubai when Burj Khalifa’s concrete was poured, so it had to be done only at night and ice was added in the mix to cool it.
It’s construction meant the highest vertical concrete pumping ever done, at 606 meters.
It includes about 350 kilometers of pipes used for water supply, fire emergency system and air conditioning system. Because the Burj Khalifa can move with heavy winds, pipes can freely move at various building levels.
Since the incoming water can reach 40 degrees Celsius in the summer, “cold water” needs to be pre-cooled before being used.
Even if the air conditioning system draws air from the upper floors, where the air is cooler, it still needs the equivalent of 12 million kilograms of melting ice each day.
Condensation inside the building creates about half a million tons of water every year.
Burj Khalifa has 57 lifts and the main elevators speed is 10 meters per second, reaching the 124th floor in about a minute. The elevator is holding the record for the longest travel distance in the world.
It also holds records for the highest residential space and highest restaurant, Atmosphere.
The extreme temperatures in the desert implied the use of 174.000 square meters of glass that provides solar and thermal protection.
The exterior temperature at the top of the building is at least 6 degrees Celsius cooler than at its base.
It’s so high that even on Ramadan, when Muslims need to wait for the sun to set for the celebration to end, people in the upper part need to wait up to 2 minutes more until the sun set.
The Burj Khalifa has the highest mosque in the world, on the 158th floor, the highest swimming pool, at the 76th floor, and the highest viewing platform, on the 124th floor.
The Dubai Fountain is a choreographed fountain system located on the man-made Burj Khalifa Lake. The 275 m long fountain costed 218 million USD and it can shoot water up to 150 meters into the air. It is dispersing up to 83,000 liters of water at any moment.
Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 50 colored projectors, The Dubai Fountain plays a range of classical to contemporary Arabic and worldwide known music.
Burj al Arab
One of the landmarks in Dubai is renowned in the entire world as being the most impressive and luxurious hotel: The Burj al Arab.
The 321 meters high building stands on an artificial island made of sand. There are 230 concrete piles that hold the island, each of them being 40 meters buried in the sand beneath.
The protection of the island is done by breaking up the waves using concrete cubes with a hexagonal-shaped hole in all 6 faces. Their defense is so good that the island could be built at just 7.5 meters above sea level. This allowed engineers to create the illusion of a boat on the water as the entire structure resembles the sail of a ship.
Inside the building, it holds the largest atrium in the world, up to 180 meters tall.
The outside temperature can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius while the interior is kept at about 23 degrees. The temperature difference creates a pressure difference between the inside and the outside. This would cause a collapse of the cold air column inside when the main ground door would be opened, so Burj Al Arab has a special revolving door that acts as an airlock.
The extremely high temperatures can expand and contract the exterior trusses which provide stiffness by up to 5 cm in a day.
Overcoming that many challenges makes this 70,000 cubic meters of concrete and 9.000 tons of steel building, a notable piece of engineering.
The impressive SkyView Restaurant at 200 meters above sea level is projected 27 meters outside of the main exoskeleton but it can still withstand winds of up to 160 kilometers an hour.
Real 24-carat gold leaf covers over 2.000 square meters of the interior surface. No wonder each guest receives a gold plated Ipad that acts as a remote control for the room as gold is everywhere in Burj Al Arab. Even in its Element 79 cocktail. 79 is the atomic number of gold and the name perfectly describes this sparkling grape drink with gold dust in it. But this is not the only gold edible at Burj Al Arab as restaurants also have the recipe for the gold flakes decorated cappuccino.
Almost 25,000 square meters of walls and flooring are covered with the rarest marble, Statuario. It is the kind used by Michelangelo to create his masterpieces.
The hotel has a shuttle service providing Rolls-Royces and a helicopter for pick-ups at the local airports.
The cheapest room will require about $2,700 per night while The Royal Suite is billed at US$24,000 per night.
Dubai Mall is the second-largest mall in the world by land area and it is for sure the dream place for anyone passionate about shopping. It’s not just a place to go and shop but it’s an entire city that provides extraordinary means for entertainment.
It’s store surface of over 1.2 million square meters is equivalent to more than 50 football fields. Dubai Mall includes over 1300 shops that attracted over 84 million visitors in 2019.
It features The Waterfall – a 24 meters high structure that allows water to cascade through all four levels passing art sculptures of human divers.
The 4 story structure of the mall near Burj Khalifa used more than 13,000 tons of structural steel, or around twice the amount utilized in the Eiffel Tower.
A 155-million-year-old fossil of Diplodocus Longus – famously known as the ‘Dubai Dino’ is permanently on display in the Dubai Mall.
The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo found within the mall area showcases more than 300 species of marine animals, including sharks and rays.
The aquarium is a 51-meter long, 11-meter high, 20-meter wide, and 10-million liter tank that includes a 270-degree walkthrough tunnel for the ultimate marine life experience.
The aquarium holds the World’s record for the largest acrylic panel, weighing 245 tons.
Dubai’s beachfront was not enough for the city, so the government owned companies built 4 artificial islands: Palm Jumeirah, Deira Island, Palm Jebel Ali and The World.
Currently, only Palm Jumeirah has been completed and inhabited. The islands have increased the shoreline length with 520 kilometers, creating space for 1,500 beachfront mansions and 6,000 apartments.
This is the world’s largest man-made island being visible from the space and the artificial archipelago is considered to be the eighth wonder of the world.
Constructing Dubai’s Palm Island required 94 million cubic meters of sand, therefore it used enough sand to fill 2.5 Empire State Buildings.
Local quarries provided about 5.5 million cubic meters of rock which creates the islands breakwaters. No Concrete or steel was used for this mega-structure.
The amount of rock and sand used here could form a 2 meter wide wall that would circle the globe three times! Safety comes first so the breakwater can withstand a 4 meters tidal wave.
The Atlantis Hotel was built at one of the islands ends and it is connected with the mainland via an impressive monorail system stretching on 5.4 kilometers. An alternative 6-lane underground tunnel was built to reach Palm Jumeirah.
Palm Jebel Ali island is 50% larger than Palm Jumeirah and will house more than 250.000 people on it. It will even feature homes built on stilts above the water and boardwalks that seen from the outer space will spell out an Arabic poem.
The project has been stalling since the 2008 financial crisis but the developer remains committed to building it. Deira Island is another ongoing development which was initially designed to be eight times larger than Palm Jumeriah. It will host the biggest night market in the world, Deira Night souk.
Close to the Palm Jumeirah island, another engineering marvel is being built. A collection of 300 man-made islands called the World Islands are created from dredged and reclaimed sand. The islands design resembles a 6 by 9 km world map representation, the entire archipelago being visible from space and from the top of the Burj Khalifa.
Atlantis The Palm
Atlantis The Palm is a five-star ocean-themed resort on the apex of the man-made Palm Island’s crescent.
The main building has two central towers, referred to as East and West, joined together by the Royal Bridge Suite, a 924 square meters penthouse.
The Grand Lobby unveils the priceless Dale Chihuly sculpture created using 3000 hand blown pieces of glass that were individually placed to create a 10 meter high piece.
Atlantis has an 11 million liter marine habitat called The Ambassador Lagoon, with a viewing pane made of 70cm thick glass.
Dubai Marina is a district built as an artificial canal city along a 3km stretch of the shoreline. It is designed to accommodate a population of 120.000 people in residential towers and villas.
Dubai Marina is an urban master-planned community inspired by the Concord Pacific Place from Vancouver, Canada.
It is the largest man-made marina created by bringing the waters of the Persian Gulf into the desert and its shoreline is the location of some of the world’s tallest high-rise residential skyscrapers.
The Dubai Marina represents the city of the future—where technology and natural beauty meet.
Some of the amazing sights of the Dubai Marina include The Princess Tower – with 101 floors, Al Fattan – 245 m high, Ocean Heights – 83 floors, Dubai Marina Mall.
Dubai Marina also hosts the Dubai Torch which in 2011 was the tallest residential building – at 336 meters – and Marina 101 which at 425 meters high is the second tallest building in the United Arab Emirates behind the Burj Khalifa.
The most impressive sky-scraper is Cayan tower, a 306-meter tall building which was the tallest high rise structure that has a 90 degrees twist from top to bottom.
Dubai is constantly pushing the limits of architecture. Therefore The Frame is not only the biggest picture frame on the planet but an impressive high building that allows people positioned on one side to view the representative landmarks of Dubai through the frame.
Its structure is made of a 93 meters bridge connecting the two 150 meters towers. The top Sky-deck is built as an opaque glass bridge crafted as a liquid crystal film, making the glass clear when visitors walk on it.
95% of the population in UAE are ex-pats and the vast majority of them live in Dubai. There are 3.35 million people in the city and about 4 million in the metro area.
The incredibly high number of ex-pats and immigrants makes it one of the most diverse cities in the world.
More than half of the population of Dubai is aged between 25-34, so it’s a youthful city that is geared very much towards those in this age bracket.
Foreigners can receive citizenship in Dubai if an investment of 1 million dirhams (or 270.000 USD) is made.
The local Emiratis make up for only 8% of the entire population of Dubai and the class division is big: many of the immigrant workers struggling for a living, Emiratis have their rent, education and medical bills paid for and upper-class foreigners being well paid.
The average monthly wage in Dubai is around $4500 USD per month.
Dubai International Airport project started in 1960 as a small size runway made of compacted sand. But by the 1970s the airport was already handling the Boeing 747 and Concorde planes and by 1980 it became the stopping and refueling point for airlines, connecting Asia and Europe.
It is now the world’s busiest airport by international passenger traffic and it’s Terminal 3 is the largest airport terminal in the world.
The new airport, Dubai World Central – which is operational and will be completed in 2027, will be the second-largest airport in the world by physical size. The two airports will be connected with a dedicated 52 kilometres metro line.
Dubai’s tourism is all about the futuristic charm of modern skyscrapers, legendary nightlife, exotic landscapes, and desert safaris.
Tourism in Dubai is a part of the government’s strategy to maintain the flow of foreign cash into the emirates as, on average, a visitor spends $553 a day in Dubai.
Data shows that Dubai attracted 17 millions tourists in 2019 with a year to year increase of 5%. Most tourists are from India, followed by Saudi Arabia.
The Dubai 2020 plan of having 20 million tourists a year has been postponed due to the current conditions and drop in the traveling sector worldwide.
Even if Dubai is one of the most modern cities in the world, one of the top attractions among tourists is the desert itself. It provides a thrilling and electrifying experience on the dunes that are changing position and shape every day creating a new landscape.
Living in the city
Historically, Deira has been the commercial center of Dubai and the place renowned for its conventional markets called souks. The Gold souk is acclaimed as the biggest gold bazaar on the planet. Deira Spice souk best explains the influence of various nationalities that have come to call Dubai home.
Old-style buildings that reflect rich Arabian hospitality and traditional style wooden dhows make Dubai Deira and the Creek a must-visit landmark of the city.
Driving is the most convenient way of getting around Dubai but the government has vastly improved the public transport system by creating the metro lines.
Being a new city built from the ground during the last decades, the city transportation system was created with progress in mind.
From The Dubai Metro which is a state-of-the-art, driver-less, fully automated 75 kilometre rail system, to the Abras – wooden water taxis that cruise along the Creek, and to the new fleet of water taxis that navigate the Arabian Gulf at speeds up to 25 knots.
The Emirates now host 2 million cars while in 1968 the city only had 13 cars registered.
The Sheikh Zayed Road is the main road in Dubai City & has become a tourist spot as well as the most architecturally marvelous buildings are located on this road
Part of the government futuristic approach, Dubai’s transport authority began testing autonomous pods that travel short distances on dedicated lanes, along pre-programmed routes.
They are also planning the Hyperloop, a tube vacuum-based transportation mean which will significantly cut down travel time between emirates. With this technology, residents can travel between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in just 12 minutes.
Dubai’s urban mobility landscape will also get an upgrade with the world’s first self-flying taxi service which they plan to make publicly accessible in the next years.
The sun is shining here for about the entire year and during a particularly hot summer in July 2002, the temperature in Dubai was recorded at a toasty 52.1 degrees Celsius. That is why 99.9% of the buildings are incorporating air conditioning systems.
Much of Dubai’s water is obtained by desalinization from the sea, making fuel and water roughly the same price
You can go skiing in Dubai on the manmade slopes inside the mall even if this Emirate is in the middle of the Arabian desert and there are no mountains.
The facility is an indoor ski space maintaining a temperature of -1 to 2 degrees Celsius throughout the year.
There is a 85 meters high indoor mountain (like a 25 story building) and has 5 slopes accessible by lift and tow lift that can carry skiers and snowboarders up the mountain. It also features a Snow Park that houses penguins.
In Dubai ATM’s can dispense gold aside from the Dirhams, the official currency.
Dubai had no address system, no zip codes, no area codes, and no postal system. To deliver a package safely, one had to list detailed instructions to the desired destination. However, in 2015, a unique 10-digit code called Makani number were assigned to all buildings.
Due to the heat and surrounding desert, Dubai managed to build an extraordinary delivery system for almost anything, and goods are a click or phone call distance.
Everything is extreme in Dubai: Supercars are used by police so it’s not uncommon to see brand new Ferrari, Bugatti, Lamborghini or some other luxury cars with the police emblem on them. Dubai police holds a world record for the fastest police car; a Bugatti Veyron which they purchased for US$ 1.6 million!
Islam is the official religion but unlike surrounding countries, Dubai is a more relaxed space, especially towards foreigners. 76% of Dubai’s residents are Muslim.
Non-Muslims are allowed to consume alcohol, eat pork, and they don’t have to wear a hijab.
Weekend starts on Friday in Dubai and it ends on Saturday because Friday is a unique religious day for afternoon prayers in Islam.
Gender equality progress is assigned to the UAE Gender Balance Control which ensures that the future will be brighter on this matter as more and more women are becoming part of the government, public sector, universities, and businesses in Dubai.
As many countries still have much to work on this matter, Dubai is an unique spot in the region due to the local Emirati woman, their education and workforce inclusion.
The array of cultures and religions perfectly blend in this international city that provides a huge number of religious spaces and cultural events.
Despite being one of the most developed and modern cities in the world, Dubai has kept its identity.
They are wearing the kufiya, a traditional Arabian headdress that originated in the Arabian Peninsula and is now worn throughout the Middle-East region, providing protection from sunburn, dust, and sand.
As Dubai is led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who keeps a close and down-to-earth relationship with the people, Dubai has preserved it’s traditions.
For example locals will always serve coffee as a way of welcoming and refusing may be seen as offensive.
The custom is to enjoy local dances and music as it comes from the time of the bedouins and has great heritage value for the emiratis.
Emirati men use fairly long greetings, with praises to God, in addition to hugs and kisses. When meeting an Emirati woman one should not try to shake their hand unless she puts out her hand first.
Under no circumstances should one take pictures of Emirati woman. Additionally, it’s considered extremely offensive to stare at a woman in a national dress.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset every day during the month, and being obviously intoxicated or affected by alcohol can mean jail time or deportation.
Visitors are expected to dress modestly and retain from public affection such as kissing or holding hands.
Nice to know
- Each Emirate has its own king, otherwise known as a Sheikh
- Dubai is referred to as a “free zone,” meaning its workers’ paychecks are spared from being taxed.
- They have a Minister for Happiness.
- The UAE has a literacy rate of 93% and Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world and Its crime rate is next to nothing.
- Israeli passport holders are not allowed to entry Dubai, but this will change starting with the Dubai Expo world fair.
- Dubai has the ultimate incentive to lose weight. For every kilogram lost, the government awards a family 2 grams of gold
- The falcon is the UAE’s national symbol while the Arabian oryx, a medium-sized antelope, is the country’s national animal.
- Camel racing is very popular in Dubai and given the camel size only children were allowed to ride. Since this raised an issue with children allegedly illegally trafficked into the country to race camels, Dubai put a stop on this by building child-sized robots that are racing the camels.
- The lower the number on a resident’s license plate, the higher the social status.
Dubai has been awarded more than 190 Guinness World Records including:
– IMG Worlds of Adventure, is the largest indoor themed entertainment destination in the world!
-The Miracle Garden is the largest flower garden in the world topping 50 million flowers and 250 million plants that cover an area of 72000 square meters
– The world’s first minister of state for Artificial Intelligence in 2017.
– The tallest chocolate structure in the world at 13m representing a replica of the Burj Khalifa
It is thought that the name “Dubai” comes from an Arabic proverb that says “Daba Dubai” meaning “They came with a lot of money”, which would make sense as the transformation of Dubai started when resources have been discovered.
But what happens in Dubai can’t stay there for another reason: the Emiratis themselves.
The lesson we learn from them is that “Impossible” should not be a word in our vocabulary!
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