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10 Ways Dubai Has Changed: Then and Now

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Evolution is inevitable. Look back ten years or even fifteen years from now, we have seen ourselves lay the foundation of evolution in all aspects whether technological, architectural, environmental, biological etc. One cannot expect to stand on top of the hierarchy by working the same hours or on the same level of expertise for decades. It`s all about progressing and keeping up with the rest of the world but in the case of Dubai, leaving the world far behind! The comparison of Dubai then and now is truly commendable because you don’t just see a metropolis being built out of sand dunes in a matter of a few decades every day, do you?

Let’s talk about the 10 ways this gorgeous city we call home has evolved in a few years.


All of the above are what come to mind when someone says Dubai. You google ‘the largest something in the world…. The tallest something in the world…. The highest something in the world….’ And the chances are that at least one of each would be in Dubai. You may as well call Dubai the ambassador of world records because this place doesn’t do anything short of that. The city literally believes in the phrase “the bigger the better”. You couldn’t have said that about Dubai a decade ago could you? So let us all get a pen and check the boxes of records Dubai has in its name.

Dubai has a plethora of world records including the world’s tallest building
  • World`s Tallest Hotel – JW Marriot Hotel Marquis Hotel standing at 355.35 m.
  • Longest Handmade Gold Chain (the City of Gold for nothing!) – 22k gold 5 Km long chain hosted by Deira Gold Souk.
  • Tallest Building in the world (The most obvious….) – Burj Khalifa stand at a proud 828 m from the ground.
  • World`s Highest Base Jump From A Building (That’s what tall buildings are for!)– Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet jumped off the tallest building in the world to achieve the record back in 2014.
  • Largest water screen projection in the world – The Dubai Festival City features an 893 m2 light projection with a 360-degree
  • World`s tallest chocolate sculpture – It is in the shape of the world`s tallest building and stands at 13.52 m


Dubai and tourism are the two words that go together very well. One of the main ways Dubai has changed over the past two decades is through the gigantic boost in its tourism. From a barren desert with a low population to welcoming over 15 million visitors in 2018, Dubai has outdone itself. Vivid thinking and far-fetched vision is the reason behind this city’s extraordinary recreational and leisure destinations.

The famous traditional Bedouin camp in Dubai Desert Safari

Let’s talk about a few more of Dubai’s world records!

An indoor skiing resort inside a mall in a city that’s technically in the middle of the desert, Dubai Opera, Dubai Aquarium, Palm Jumeirah, IMG World of Adventures and Aquaventure WaterPark – there is nothing ordinary about this city that ranks in the world`s top 10 best places to visit. If you are travelling to Dubai anytime soon then don’t forget to check out the following most popular tourist attractions in Dubai:

  • Dubai Desert Safari
  • Dubai Safari Park
  • Wild Wadi Water Park
  • Ferrari World
  • Dubai Marina
  • The Palm Islands
  • Dubai Miracle Garden
  • Atlantis Palm Hotel
  • Bollywood Parks Dubai


Some make buildings, others make monuments but Dubai makes islands. That’s right if you don’t have one, just make one! If we talk about Dubai then and now then there were many things defining this city but now its man-made islands are signature world-class projects. Built in the shape of a palm tree, the largest artificial man-made islands in the world are this city`s most ambitious development ventures. The Palm Islands are three so far; Palm Jumeirah, Palm Deira and Palm Jebel Ali. They feature exotic beaches, world-class hotels, luxury residential communities, marinas and entertainment centres.

Palm Islands are the largest artificial islands in the entire world

Apart from artificial islands, Dubai has also built an artificial canal city. Dubai Marina is the largest man-made marina in the world which was conceptualized by bringing in seawater from the Persian Gulf. It features world-renowned beaches, tourist spots, restaurants, cafes, yacht docks, and numerous residential and commercial towers. Over 120,000 residents happily enjoy living the Dubai life here. To experience the marina living up close or secure a great opportunity for investment, apartments in Dubai Marina are one of the most desired areas of Dubai.

Aerial view of the famous Eye of Dubai on Bluewaters Island

Other mention-worthy developments in Dubai include:

  • Bluewaters Island
  • Jumeirah Bay Island
  • Dubai Maritime City
  • Pearl Jumeirah
  • The World Islands


Are you one of those who instantly think “Wall Street” when you hear ‘financial centre’ anywhere? Well, in your defence, a decade ago nobody would have thought about a Middle Eastern city to be an investment hub. However, the tables have turned and again, Dubai is the front-runner in this race as well. The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has proven to be a game-changer in this sector and today, there are over 2,000 companies registered at DIFC. The DIFC opened back in 2002 as a free zone just off Sheikh Zayed Road and acts as a financial district for Dubai.

Dubai International Financial Centre is the city’s main financial hub

This international financial zone has put Dubai on the 15th spot from 110 centres that were analyzed by The Global Financial Centres Index. The China Development Institute and Z/Yen Partners produced the list. Dubai was also placed 9th for professional services, 8th for banking and 15th for insurance and investment management.


According to Daniel Brook`s A History of Future Cities, in comparison to New York`s number of 37% of its total population being immigrants, Dubai has a stunning 96% of its population as expats. From a population of 2,446,675 permanent residents in Dubai, the number has significantly increased up to 3.137 million in 2018. Dubai`s cultural diversity is globally known with another world record of having the most nationalities singing the national anthem together. The record featured people from over 117 different nationalities. There is an open-mindedness in this city for giving every person the freedom to practice their lives the way they prefer.


Dubai`s skyline is best explained in the same book describing the city as “The instant global metropolis with a ‘skyline on crack’”. That’s right, if it’s a building in Dubai then the sky is the limit, nothing less than that. The biggest change the world has seen in this cosmopolitan is its breathtaking skyline dancing in the clouds and showing off its creative architecture. The talk of the town is not just the Burj Khalifa; If there is anything Dubai knows how to do best, it is to not remain monotonous. This is why this city’s skyline defines the difference between Dubai then and now.

When we talk about Dubai’s skyline then the sky is the limit

Currently, there are about 22 incredible skyscrapers, over 300 meters tall, adding to the beauty of the city`s skyline. They are a mixture of hotels, residential towers, and offices. The first 150+ m building (Burj Al Arab) was constructed back in 1999 while there are a total of 190 completed 150+ m buildings in Dubai today.

In case your curiosity is getting the best of you, here are the most popular skyscrapers lining the city of gold.

  • Infinity Tower (Dubai`s 21st tallest tower)
  • Gevora Hotel ( Tallest hotel in the world)
  • Emirates Towers ( 41st tallest building in Dubai)
  • Princess Towers (414 m)
  • Pentominium (471 m)
  • Marina 101 (371 m)
  • Elite Residence (381 m)


Dubai is super well-known for its ‘luxury’, ‘entertainment’ and ‘relaxation’ as well. It seems as if this city never runs out of creative juices because there is nothing mainstream about the concept of entertainment facilities in Dubai. From multi-award winning waterparks to large indoor theme parks, the city knows exactly how to stir your inner adventurer. These aren’t your ordinary theme parks because the entertainment facilities in Dubai rank among the world`s best. How about ziplining through the world’s largest man-made marina or fly over it with XDubai!

Wild Wadi is a must-to-do attraction in Dubai’s long list of entertainment destinations – Credits


When you imagine visiting the UAE, an Arabian night setting and travelling through cities draped with sand, riding a camel, must come to mind. Well, Dubai offers that as well but as desert safaris for entertainment and cultural purposes. The city doesn’t offer these as modes of transport anymore. The fully-automated and driverless trains are part of a rail network in Dubai launched back in 2009 by the Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The metro covers a route length of about 75 kilometres which was until 2016 recognized by the Guinness World Records as the longest driverless metro network in the world. Currently, the Green and the Red Line are operational while the third one is under construction. Dubai Metro has undoubtedly made public transportation easy for residents and tourists alike. It is affordable, fast and comfortable.

Dubai Metro has transformed the mode of transportation in the city as being cheap and easy


That’s right, if you`ve seen the movie Shopaholic then you know how hard it is for shopaholics to avoid shopping and when we’re talking about shopping in Dubai, you literally have the world at your feet. From international brands to luxury designer boutiques, you will most certainly never have to say, “I couldn’t find what I was looking for in Dubai!” For buyers looking for a local and authentic UAE taste, there are numerous souks and local markets while the best souks in Dubai are Spice Souk and Gold Souk.

Dubai Mall is one of the biggest malls in the region

Here’s a list of some of the best malls in Dubai:

  • The Dubai Mall
  • Ibn Battuta Mall
  • Mall of the Emirates (MOE)
  • Dubai Festival City Mall
  • Global Village
  • City Centre Mirdif (MCC)
  • Souk Madinat Jumeirah
  • Gold and Diamond Park
  • Deira City Centre Shopping Mall (DCC)


Did you know that over 1,000 movies were filmed in Dubai over the past year? Gone are the days when production teams and directors headed to snow-clad mountains. Now they want actors jumping off Burj Khalifa and making their way through the endless sand dunes. Many Hollywood and Bollywood movies have used Dubai in their movies and utilized its natural deserts, luxury destinations and futuristic infrastructure.

Here’s a list of popular movies filmed in Dubai:

  • Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol
  • Furious 7
  • Star Trek – Beyond
  • Happy New Year
  • Partner
  • Dabangg



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