Dubai is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world and it is best known for luxury shopping, ultramodern skyscrapers, and glitzy nightlife. These, however, don’t completely describe the city, as Dubai has other interesting aspects that are rarely seen by the public. To learn more about United Arab Emirates’ largest city, here is our list of 30 surprising things you will only see in Dubai:
‘Expensive’ food banks
Like other cities in the world, Dubai also has food banks where poor or unemployed people can take basic provisions and nonperishable items for free. But as you can see in the photo above, Dubai food banks don’t only contain cheap cans of tuna, there are also expensive yogurts and cappuccino mixes, so even the less unfortunate can treat themselves.
‘No Fish Zone’ sign
Dubai is probably the only city in the world that has “No Fish Zone” signs at its metro stations. While fish can smell really bad at times, the existence of these signs in Dubai makes us wonder how many people did actually bring fish to the subway to prompt the city to put signs up and ban them.
Some wealthy people in Dubai have so much money that they spend some of them on amphibious cars. The one in the photo is called The Panther, which is manufactured by California-based company WaterCar. According to Business Insider, even Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, had gotten involved in the craze, reportedly ordering six units of The Panther for a total price of $800,000.
Big cats as pets
If you’re from a place where dogs and cats are the most common house pets, then Emiratis showing off their big cat pets in public is one of the bizarre things you will only see in Dubai. Cheetahs, tigers, and lions are illegal pets in the United Arab Emirates, but since big cats serve as a status symbol for wealthy young men in Dubai, some of them have seemingly found a way to keep them.
Camel racing with robot jockeys
Camel racing is one of the most popular sports in Dubai today. But unlike in other countries, camel racing in the city uses robot jockeys ― probably one of the most bizarre things you will only see in Dubai. Camel racing in Dubai previously employed small children who reportedly suffered repeated systemic human rights abuses. In response to the condemnation of such abuses, Dubai banned the use of human jockeys in favor of robots.
Dubai motorists love to perform stunts. Like in other parts of the world, the city has motorcycle drivers who fearlessly do wheelies on the road. But you’d probably be surprised to know that drivers performing wheelies with an SUV is a common sight in Dubai.
Mercedes-Benz cars are common in Dubai, but this diamond-encrusted Mercedes-Benz will surely make your head turn. Spotted in what seems to be a car show in the city, the shiny shimmering vehicle is owned by Al Waleed bin Talal Al Saud, a Saudi Arabian billionaire businessman, investor, philanthropist and royal. The car, which features over 300,000 diamonds, reportedly cost Al Waleed a whopping $4.8 million dollars.
Diamond-encrusted Nokia phones
People in Dubai love putting diamonds on their devices. A case in point is these three Nokia phones adorned with expensive gemstones. While the numbers seen in front of each device look like phone numbers, they, in fact, are the prices of the phones displayed.
Falcons on commercial flights
As the national bird of the United Arab Emirates, falcons are given special treatment and privileges in Dubai, and those include flying on commercial airplanes where they can have their very own seats. According to people who have already experienced traveling with falcons first-hand, the falcons were not noisy and barely caused a fuss while on the flight except for when the plane came into landing. The falcons’ eyes were covered with hoods to keep them calm throughout the travel.
Fancy police cars
The Dubai Police Force has been using luxury vehicles as patrol cars for years. So don’t be surprised if you see a fancy McLaren, Jaguar, or an Audi car coming after some lawbreakers. Other automobile brands that have been part of the police’s vehicle fleet include Aston Martin, Lykan, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche.
Gold vending machines
Some restaurants and stores in Dubai only accept payment in gold. And since it’s inconvenient to carry gold in your wallet and pocket, there are gold vending machines scattered around the city that can instantly turn your money into gold. Gold vending machines, which work like an ATM, are used heavily by many that the machines have to be restocked two times every week.
Golden Phoenix Cupcake
This $1,000 cupcake is surely one of the most outrageous things you will only see in Dubai. Called the Golden Phoenix Cupcake, the luxurious dessert is the world’s most expensive cupcake. Presented on a 24-carat gold stand, the cupcake is created from a recipe that includes Italian chocolate, 23-carat edible gold sheets, organic strawberries, and lots of edible gold dusting. Available in Bloomsbury’s, a boutique café at the Dubai Mall, the menu item must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance.
Helipad tennis court
Situated 211 meters high and covers a surface area of 415 square meters, this tennis court was set up on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab, the seventh-tallest hotel in the world. In February 2005, the luxury hotel hosted Andre Agassi and Roger Federer to play a match on the helipad tennis court before the pair headed to the $1 million Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open.
Huge bar bill
If we saw a bill like this in the U.S., we’d surely pass out at the sight of all those digits. But in Dubai, bills like this are pretty ordinary. Since the city is the home to some of the richest people in the world, leaving Dubai restaurants, clubs, and bars with such a huge bill is a common occurrence.
In case you’re wondering, the 387,988 AED seen on the receipt is equivalent to approximately $105,000 USD. The Cavalli Bar, meanwhile, is part of Dubai’s high-end Cavalli Club, Restaurant & Lounge, which is composed of different bars and an Italian restaurant.
Indoor ski resort
Because of the warm and sunny climate of Dubai, some people think that skiing in the city is impossible, but it’s really not. Obviously, skiing outdoors is not possible, but the city has an indoor ski resort that can replicate the authentic experience. Called Ski Dubai, the resort has 22,500 square meters of indoor ski area, which maintains a temperature of -1 degree to 2 degrees Celsius throughout the year. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world.
Limousine ambulances are probably one of the most glamorous things you will only see in Dubai. The service, which is called “Awnak,” launched seven years ago and is mainly used to transport those who are not in dire medical need, but only mild distress or going to or from a facility.
Mall with a massive aquarium
Though the Dubai Mall is only the second-largest mall in the world, the establishment features a massive aquarium inside. Called the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, the attraction showcases more than 300 species of marine animals, including sharks and manta rays.
Mosque-like Starbucks location
If you’re a huge Starbucks fan, then make sure to visit this Starbucks location the next time you fly to Dubai. Located in Ibn Battuta Mall, this Starbucks location boasts a decorative ceiling that resembles those of churches and mosques. The interior of the coffeehouse is said to be a combination of Andalusian, Chinese, Egyptian, Indian, Persian, and Tunisian designs.
Though Dubai initially found economic success from its abundant oil supply, a large portion of the city’s income now comes from foreign developers. Due to its lax tax laws, Dubai has become a hub for foreign developers who, in turn, have transformed the city into a construction mecca. Seemingly never-ending constructions are found in almost all corners of the city, which can easily be seen in photos of Dubai’s cityscape like the picture above.
People in Dubai are so rich they can afford exclusive artist performances. In 2011, it was widely reported that Jay-Z and Kanye West earned 6 million USD for performing at the 16th birthday celebration of the niece of Sheikh Mansour, the owner of Manchester Football Club.
A real-life Batmobile is probably one of the geekiest things you will only see in Dubai. Spotted just outside the Gevora Hotel, which is the world’s tallest hotel building, this replica of Batman’s iconic automobile looks authentic with its all-black exterior décor.
Rooftop boxing ring
As long as you have the money, rooftops in Dubai can be transformed into almost anything. In the photo above, we can see British professional boxer and two-time unified heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, practicing his jabs and uppercuts at the famous helipad of the Burj Al Arab, which was temporarily turned into the world’s highest boxing ring.
Siamese twin Jeep
Only seen in Dubai, this Siamese twin-like Jeep has a total of six wheels to maintain its balance. Unlike stretch limousines, cars that are modified to stretch widthwise are a rare sight. Is this Siamese twin Jeep supposed to take up two lanes at a time? We guess so.
Ultra-rich people living in Dubai literally have both their heads and feet in the clouds inside their sky-high penthouses, which are usually located on the 50th floor (or above) of the towering buildings in the city. Since Dubai has the biggest concentration of skyscrapers in the world, sky-high penthouses are all throughout the city.
Sports car ambulances
While turning sports cars into emergency response vehicles doesn’t seem to be a good idea, Dubai has already been using sports car ambulances for years. Sports car ambulances are said to reduce the regular response time to half with a speed of 300 kph and taking only 4 minutes to arrive at the emergency scene. However, focusing on getting to those in need at top speed can only make things worse. After all, more and more research shows that response time isn’t really a good measure of how patients will fare.
Traffic jam car shows
People in Dubai drive fancy cars. So if you find yourself stuck in the middle of a traffic jam, don’t be surprised to see fleets of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces, and Porsches on the road. Apparently, an ordinary traffic jam in Dubai can instantly turn the streets into a car show, where you can spot some of the flashiest luxury cars ever made.
Uber in Dubai offers a premium ride option called Uber Black. Riding with Uber Black means traveling in luxury and arriving in style. With the minimum fare starting at AED 23 (around 6 USD), passengers will experience ng top-rated, professional drivers as well as Dubai’s most high-end vehicles. The Black fleet is primarily made up of newer BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla vehicles.
World’s first seven-star hotel
The world’s first-ever seven-star hotel can be found in Dubai, and it’s none other than the Burj Al Arab. The luxury hotel holds 28 double-storey floors which accommodate 202 bedroom suites. Its Royal Suite is billed at 24,000 USD per night and is listed at number 12 on the world’s 15 most expensive hotel suites compiled by CNN Go back in 2012. The Burj Al Arab has a 24/7 butler service, shuttle service with Rolls-Royces, a helicopter, as well as a private beach.
World’s first temperature-controlled ‘city’
The world’s first temperature-controlled indoor “city” will soon rise in Dubai. Called Mall of the World, the 48 million-square-foot shopping center is expected to draw 180 million visitors to the city every year — even during the sweltering summer season.
The “city” will house the world’s largest indoor amusement park, which will come with a dome that can be opened during tamer winter months to allow fresh air to circulate. The “city” will also include 100 hotels and serviced apartment complexes, an entertainment center to host 15,000 people, and a 3 million-square-foot “wellness district” for medical tourism. Buildings in the city will be connected by promenades stretching 7 kilometers.
World’s largest natural flower garden
With little rain and scorching heat, Dubai isn’t the most conducive place to grow plants. Surprisingly, the city is home to the largest natural flower garden in the world. Called Dubai Miracle Garden, the popular tourist destination features over 50 million flowers and 250 million plants.