12 things to know about Dubai that will inspire your next trip

From robots replacing jockeys to a cool story behind the shape of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, there may be a few facts about Dubai that you didn’t know. Learn more about the UAE’s largest city with these 12 interesting Dubai facts that will inspire your next trip.

From a food tour to taste the city’s diverse cuisine to a visit to the architectural masterpiece that is the Dubai Frame, there are plenty of ways to experience what makes Dubai a unique and special destination too.

1. It’s a very young city, but it’s growing fast

In the early 1700s, Dubai was just a small fishing and pearl-diving village. By the end of the 18th century, about 1,200 people were living there. Fast-forward to today, Dubai has a growing population of 3.6 million. With the beach and desert within easy reach and almost year-round sunshine, Dubai’s popularity is no surprise. Despite Dubai’s growth and innovation, there are various opportunities to get a taste of Dubai’s traditional side, like a walking tour around the traditional souks and streets of Old Dubai.

2. The city is a birder’s paradise

Bird-watchers will be thrilled to hear that hundreds of bird species migrate via Dubai between Europe, Asia, and Africa. During the spring and fall, birds such as spotted eagles, broad-billed sandpipers, and great herons pass through the city. Search for birds in the colorful Miracle Garden or join a tour to visit Dubai’s Falcon Museum and see falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls.

3. Its tallest building is based on a flower

The world’s tallest building at 282 meters (2,717 feet), the Burj Khalifa needs no introduction. However, a lesser-known fact about the building is that the design is based on a local desert flower called a spider lily. The three feet or lobes that form the architectural base of the Burj Khalifa echo this flower’s shape. An icon in the Dubai skyline, this building should be on your Dubai bucket list. Zip to the 148th floor to see the city from the world’s highest observation deck, or chill in the lounge with cocktails on the 123rd floor.

Discover the Burj Khalifa

4. The cuisine is truly cosmopolitan

Dubai’s cuisine has had years to absorb influences from all over the world due to the city being a trading center for centuries. Along with traditional Arabic food, you’ll find spices from India, ingredients from Persia, and Eastern Mediterranean influences. Whether you’re an aspiring at-home chef looking for new ingredients or a food-lover on a quest to taste all of the world’s best foods, a food tour is a great way to taste Dubai’s different cuisines and learn insider foodie facts about the city. To start your day like the locals, try a traditional Emirati breakfast. If dinner and a show is more your style, a safari with dinner at a Bedouin camp is the real deal.

5. Its art scene is flourishing

The annual international art fair, Art Dubai, features artists from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Australasia. This cutting-edge event focuses on contemporary artworks that relate to cultural heritage. Explore galleries, shops, and other trendy spots on a customized tour of Dubai’s Design District, or take a personal gallery tour along Alserkal Avenue to see what’s happening with the local art scene. When you’re ready for something hands-on, roll up your sleeves and call out your inner Picasso during a private art workshop with an Emirati artist.

6. Robots work as jockeys

Along with rich culture, colorful streets, and diverse cuisine, you can find robots racing to the finish line in Dubai. One of the city’s most popular sports is camel racing, and small robots work as jockeys in place of human riders. While you might not be racing on a camel, you can opt for a fun camel-riding activity.

7. There’s a whole museum dedicated to coffee

Coffee lovers need their cup of the good stuff to start the day, and the Arabic culture certainly delivers. Visit the Coffee Museum to learn about the history of this beloved beverage and see coffee artifacts from around the world. For a taste of tradition, try Arabic tea and coffee during an Emirati culture and coffee walking tour.

8. It has a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site

After experiencing Dubai’s bling and glamor, enjoy a change of scenery in the historic Dubai Creek area. Traditional markets, old neighborhoods, and other remnants of Dubai’s past surround the creek, which is currently a contender on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Walk through the small alleyways of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, cruise on a traditional abra boat, and learn facts about Dubai on a tour with a local guide.

9. There’s a set of islands shaped like a palm tree

The Palm is the world’s largest artificial archipelago. These artificial islands were created out of only sand and rocks. In fact, it took over 3 billion cubic feet of sand from the seabed and 7 million tons of rock from the Hajar Mountains. Creating this paradise certainly took some heavy lifting. Zoom around the islands on a jet ski tour, or take to the skies and see The Palm in all its glory during a thrilling tandem skydiving experience.

10. It has the world’s longest driverless metro line

Ride on the Dubai Metro and boast that you’ve traveled on the longest single driverless metro line in the world. Combine the red line 51 kilometers (32 miles) and the green line 22.5 kilometers (14 miles) and you have over 46 miles to explore. In 2020, the route became even longer with a 19-mile extension route for the Dubai Expo. With over 40 stops, there’s no telling where the day will take you.

11. Only 15 percent of the population is Emirati

Currently, 85 percent of Dubai’s population are expatriates, meaning only 15 percent of the people living in Dubai originate from the UAE. That number was even smaller at around 8 percent a couple of years ago. People commonly move to Dubai because of its business and economic opportunities, thanks to its record-breaking innovation and growth. More than half of Dubai’s residents are of Indian origin, and there are also large Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Iranian, Filipino, and Western communities. This makes Dubai a fantastic place to experience a variety of cultures, traditions, and cuisines all in one place. A creative way to experience the city's diversity in its must-visit locations is with a hop-on hop-off bus.

12. The city’s got a ton of cranes

At one point, Dubai was known as the crane capital of the world because the city had nearly 25 percent of the world’s construction cranes blending in with its skyline. Admire some of the amazing buildings and iconic architecture that make up Dubai today on a tour that includes some of the city’s most famous sights. For an awe-inspiring structure that combines art and architecture, visit the Dubai Frame, a 150-meter-tall (490 feet) structure shaped like a picture frame with stunning views of old and new Dubai from its glass bridge.