For a country that’s only 52 years old, the United Arab Emirates has accomplished more than many other nations do in a century. From a population of just over half a million in 1975 to 9.5 million in 2023, the growth of the UAE has been unprecedented. But did you know the UAE is home to a tower that leans more than Italy‘s famed Leaning Tower of Pisa, or that the national animal, the Arabian Oryx, was brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to a monumental project? Here are 10 incredible facts about the UAE.
1. The UAE population is made up of over 200 nationalities
In a population of around 9.5 million, more than 80% of UAE residents are ex-pats, originating from more than 200 countries around the world. Citizens from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines make up the largest portion of expats in the UAE. Emiratis only make up around 11% of the UAE’s population.
2. There are no rivers in the UAE
The UAE is one of the few countries in the world to have no permanent rivers, a trait shared with other GCC nations Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. However, the country is home to plenty of wadis, which are filled with water during the rainier months.
3. The UAE was the first country in the world to appoint a minister for artificial intelligence
The UAE has many unique positions in its government, such as the much-loved Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing, the Minister of Possibilities and the Minister of Tolerance. It was also the first in the world to appoint a Minister of Artificial Intelligence, a position Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama has held since it was created in 2017.
4. Abu Dhabi’s Capital Gate building leans more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Most people are familiar with the precariously fixed Leaning Tower of Pisa, but few know that the UAE is home to its own leaning building. Abu Dhabi‘s Capital Gate actually leans more than the Leaning Tower, and was certified as the World’s Furthest Leaning Manmade Tower by Guinness World Records in 2010. The mixed-use building – home to the Andaz Capital Gate hotel – leans at 18 degrees – over four times that of Italy’s famous tower.
5. The UAE is only 52 years old
It’s hard to imagine a country with such a thriving economy and developed landscape, not to mention rich culture and heritage, is only 52 years old. On 2 December 1971, the UAE was officially formed through the combining of six Sheikhdoms (emirates); Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. However, it wasn’t until 10 February 1972 that Ras Al Khaimah, the seventh emirate, joined the federation. The formation of the country is celebrated every year with a multi-day long public holiday, a favourite with residents and locals and filled with festivities.
6. The national animal was brought back from the brink of extinction
Identified by its striking horns, beautiful markings and friendly and inquisitive nature, the Arabian oryx is a species of antelope native to the Arabian desert. The graceful creature if the national animal of the UAE, but also the national animal of Oman, Bahrain and Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Sadly in 1972, there were no Arabian oryx left in the wild, but thanks to conservation and breeding efforts, by 1980 a number of those in captivity were released back into the wild and in 2011 the species went from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’. It’s the first species in the world to have done so, having previously been regarded as extinct in the wild.
7. Six of the world’s tallest hotels are in the UAE
… and all of them are in Dubai. The tallest is one Dubai residents will be familiar with, thanks to the brilliantly illuminated facade visible across the city – the 356 metres four-star Gevora Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, which is one metre taller than the 355 metres tall JW Marriott Marquis. Also on the list is trendy five-star SLS Dubai, Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, the iconic Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Emirates Towers. All are also in the top 10 tallest hotels in the world.
8. There are 10 airports across the UAE for commercial services
The biggest is Dubai International Airport, ranked as the world’s busiest airport for international passenger traffic. It’s held the title for six consecutive years.
9. The UAE holds some unusual and intriguing world records
Of the many, many Guinness World Records the UAE holds, there are well-known feats such as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower and largest picture frame for Dubai Frame and the world’s tallest infinity pool with Address Beach Resort, but there are also some more obscure ones. For example, the UAE holds the record for the most dominoes toppled in a circle field (it was 89,995 in case you were curious), the heaviest vehicle pulled by hair and the fastest 10 metres completed by a horse on its hind legs
10. It’s home to the safest cities in the world
The UAE is home to the safest cities in the world, with four ranked in the top 10. The capital Abu Dhabi has been ranked as the safest city in the world six years running by crowd-sourced global data website Numbeo, followed by Ajman in fourth place, Sharjah in fifth and Dubai in seventh. The region as a whole ranks well and is revered for its safety, with Qatar’s capital Doha coming in second place.