5 things you didn’t know about Dubai

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Dubai is one of the world’s fastest-growing and richest cities in the world, and the emirate attracts swathes of workers looking to take advantage of job opportunities, tycoons planning to take advantage of the luxurious lifestyle on offer, and plenty of tourists who want to experience this thriving, vibrant part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

You probably know that Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifia, and most people have heard about the incredible Burj Al Arab, which is often described as the only seven-star hotel on the planet. However, there are plenty of other interesting facts about the emirate that probably haven’t come to your attention.

It’s a goldmine

Dubai is dubbed the City of Gold, and it’s easy to see why when you visit. Stroll through souks – open-air markets – and you’ll see stalls upon stalls selling gold jewellery and other items crafted from the precious metal.  Don’t be afraid to haggle, and you’re likely to beat the gold rates.

Ensure you’re getting a good price by checking the gold prices worldwide.  Travelex International Payments UK are worth checking out and will be able to help with transferring money abroad and/or getting the best deal on converting your currency to the Emirati dirham (AED).

English is the most widely-spoken language

Arabic is the official language of the UAE, yet English is actually the most widely-spoken language in Dubai. This is down the large proportion of expatriates – research suggests that almost 90 per cent of the population is non-native, as this article in The National discusses.

As a result, most of the information signs and tourist attractions in Dubai tend to have an English translation, so you should able to communicate with most of the locals you meet. However, don’t use this as an excuse to avoid learning the local lingo. In order to be a traveller rather than a tourist, make the effort to learn at least a few basic Arabic words. Check out our mingling advice post for other tips on getting an authentic travel experience.

Falcons help keep skyscrapers clean                                                     

Falcons are highly regarded and often seen as a status symbol in the UAE, as falconry is a heritage sport in the nation. However, the majestic birds are now being used for another purpose – to keep the UAE’s towering skyscrapers clean!

The birds of prey achieve this by scaring off pigeons, which can nest on the buildings and leave unsightly and damaging droppings on the structures. Many Emiratis believe that this is a demeaning role for the beloved creatures, however.

There are no street addresses                  

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Dubai is that it has no street addresses. Mail is delivered to post office boxes, and those wishing to communicate information about locations are often forced to draw a map.

As a visitor, you must therefore ensure you have a satellite navigation system when renting a car. Luckily, getting around the major tourist destinations is relatively straightforward because of the efficient public transport system, and you can refer to landmarks to help you get around.

It has little in the way of history                                                              

People settled in Dubai thousands of years ago, but the city has little evidence of human history. That’s because the emirate has expanded vastly in the past 50 years, meaning that most of the architecture, infrastructure and landmarks are relatively modern.

If you would like to inject a little historical education into your trip, consider visiting the Dubai Museum, which has records of the region’s vast growth as well as artefacts and information predating this period. The attraction was even a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice 2013 winner.

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