UAE Real Estate

Discover Dubai City


Kata Hahn


13 March 2023


Uncover all you need to know about Dubai from its rich history to its rise to global prominence and present-day allure.

Dubai location

Where is Dubai located? 

Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), located on the Arabian Peninsula. The UAE is comprised of seven Emirates: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah. Dubai is the largest city in the UAE and is located within the emirate of Dubai, the second-largest emirate by size and the largest by population. Dubai is situated right off the Persian Gulf in the northeast of the country, between the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.  

The city is divided into two regions by Dubai Creek, an inlet of the Persian Gulf. Deira is the region north of the creek and Bur Dubai is south of the creek. There are multiple sandy beaches in the west, a mangrove on the eastern side of Dubai Creek, and deserts within the city and to the west. 

Dubai weather

Dubai has an arid desert climate and tends to be hot and sunny. Especially in the summer, it can get very humid in the city, but it rains very infrequently (only 5 days a year on average). The average temperature is usually above 20°C (68°F) even in the winter. The weather stays warm throughout the Spring and Autumn with average temperatures reaching 42°C (107°F) and higher in the summer. Luckily, the city is set up to accommodate the high temperatures, with air conditioning in most indoor places, as well as many public and private beaches and pools. In general, the warmest month is August and the coldest month is January. 

Dubai time zone

Dubai is in Gulf Standard Time (GST) which is 4 hours ahead of GMT or UTC. It is written as GMT or UTC+04:00. The UAE doesn’t change clocks for daylight saving time, instead observing Standard Time year-round. The neighboring country of Oman is in the same time zone, however, countries to the west are one time zone later (ie. UTC+3).

Dubai population and culture: How big is Dubai?

How big is Dubai?

Dubai is the capital of the emirate of Dubai and the most populous city in the UAE with a current population of over 3.5 million. Citizens of the UAE are known as Emiratis; however, Dubai is an overwhelmingly international city with over 90% of the population being expats. A large number of expats are from India, Pakistan, Iran, and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The UAE is a member of the GCC along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain, established due to proximity, a similar political system based on Islamic beliefs, and common objectives. As of 2021, nearly 70% of the Dubai population is male. The emirate of Dubai covers an area of 4,114 square kilometers, of which the city of Dubai only takes up about 35 square kilometers. Dubai has 14 districts as of 2016, and all have a separate municipality or town council. The map of Dubai’s districts is below.
A map of Dubai's 14 districts.

Dubai currency

The currency of the UAE is the Arab Emirates Dirham (AED). The AED is pegged to the US dollar and has a fixed exchange rate of AED 3.67 = USD 1. There are dirham notes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000. It may be difficult to get change in Dubai for a dirham note greater than 100. 1 dirham is divided into 100 fils, with the 25 fils coin being the most commonly used. 

Dubai language

The official language in the UAE is Arabic. Road signs and public notices are written in Arabic but typically have the English equivalent as well. English is widely used across the city by expat residents and is heavily relied on in both the business and tourism sectors. It’s also common to hear other languages around Dubai such as Hindi, Urdu, and Farsi. 

Dubai history: How old is Dubai?

It is believed that nomadic cattle herders were among the first settlers in Dubai as early as 3000 BCE during the Bronze Age. During the 5th and 7th centuries AD, the present-day neighborhood of Jumeirah became a stop along a trade route stretching from Oman to Iraq. Dubai became established as a fishing, boat-building, and pearl-farming village. 

The Bani Yas tribe took power and settled in Abu Dhabi in 1793, with Dubai under their control. In 1819, the British launched a naval attack and established the Trucial States, which Dubai joined in 1835 after maritime truces between Britain and the local ruling party. The Trucial States originally consisted of 6 sheikhdoms: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Ras al-Khaima, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Due to its favorable location, Dubai was becoming an increasingly important port during the 1800s. 

The Al Maktoum dynasty, which currently still rules Dubai, was established after Maktoum Bin Butti took power and settled in Dubai in 1833. Pearl farming was still at its peak during this time, helping to solidify Dubai as the main port on the Gulf Coast in the 1870s. Local and international trade flourished and created some of the largest souks (traditional Arabic markets) in the region by the early 1900s. Around this time, Dubai became a free port with no taxation on imports or exports. The economy continued to rely on fishing, pearl diving, and trading.

Thanks to its rich history, Dubai has been referred to as the “Pearl of the Gulf” and the “Jewel of the World”.  
A man squatting by the ocean partaking in the pearl diving industry.

Dubai economy and oil: When was Dubai built?

Oil was first discovered in Dubai in the 1950s. The discovery of the Fateh oil field in 1966, just 60 miles from the city, significantly accelerated the development of Dubai. The UAE accumulated significant wealth from oil from the 1960s through the 1990s. This can be seen as the beginning of Dubai’s transformation into the commercial hub that it is today. 

After the announcement to recall British troops in 1968, the Trucial States were dissolved and the UAE was formed in 1971. Rapid economic growth continued, with the opening of Jebel Ali port and the Dubai World Trade Centre in 1979, and the beginning of high-rise construction projects. 

The early 2000s saw a real-estate boom, significant business growth with economic zones for foreign investors, and the start of Dubai’s man-made island projects. The Palm Jumeirah was the first of the artificial islands completed in 2006. Soon after, the 2008 global financial crisis brought many large construction projects to a halt and significantly decreased real estate values. Luckily, thanks to state-directed economic growth among other factors, Dubai was able to recover relatively quickly. 

The economy is now much more diversified with less than 1% of Dubai’s GDP coming from oil. Some of the major sectors today include hospitality, trade, tourism, real estate, finance, business, information technology (IT), and logistics.

Visit Dubai: What is Dubai known for?

Dubai visa

Foreigners need to get a UAE entry visa to enter Dubai. Depending on your citizenship, you will be required to take different steps to get an entry permit. All GCC citizens can apply online for a UAE entry visa. Other foreigners can get an on-arrival visa, for 14, 30, 90, or 180 days depending on their nationality. Find out if you are eligible for a UAE on-arrival visa. If you are eligible, you simply receive a stamp on your passport at the airport. If you aren’t eligible for an on-arrival visa, you must get an entry permit in advance which may require sponsorship and have other conditions. A tourist visa is available to all other nationalities but requires a specific bank balance, a valid health insurance policy, and proof of stay. There are plenty of other visitor visas for specific purposes that you can look into as well. 

To stay in the UAE for a longer time than is permitted with an entry visa, foreigners must apply for a residency visa

The main types of residency visas are:  
  • Employment visa
  • Student visa
  • Investor visa
  • Property owner visa
  • Dependent visa
  • Retirement visa
  • Remote work visa 

Best time to visit Dubai

Since temperatures can get extraordinarily high from June to August, coupled with summer humidity, it’s best to avoid visiting during the summer if you want to comfortably do activities outdoors. The most pleasant weather is from November to March, but this also coincides with the peak tourist season from December through February. Consider visiting the city during November or March to avoid the crowds and higher peak season prices. 

You should also keep in mind the dates of Ramadan when planning a trip to Dubai. Ramadan is an Islamic ritual held during the 9th month of their calendar. The dates of Ramadan change every year based on moon cycles but it is consistently 29-30 days of the year. This is a special time full of culture and tradition but it’s important to remember that it could affect your plans if you’re visiting Dubai during this time. To pay respect to Muslims who fast during Ramadan, there is no eating, drinking, or smoking allowed in public during daylight. Some businesses may close during the day, but many restaurants remain open for expats and tourists. In 2023, Ramadan is from March 22nd until April 21st. Don’t forget to check the dates of Ramadan when you are planning a visit to Dubai. 

Dubai attractions

Dubai continues to demonstrate its innovation and prominence through a multitude of architectural feats. Many attractions draw tourists and expats to the city. 

Some of the most popular attractions in Dubai include: 
  • Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world featuring an observation deck (At the Top), completed in 2010.
  • Dubai Frame - a photo op spot in Zabeel Park with galleries inside, completed in 2018. 
  • Dubai Fountain - a series of fountains on Burj Khalifa Lake, including music, lights, and projections, opened in 2009. 
  • Dubai Miracle Garden - the world’s largest natural flower garden, opened in 2013. 
  • Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark - the world’s largest water park, located at the edge of Palm Jumeirah. 
  • Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo - located in Dubai Mall, includes hand-feeding exhibits. 
  • Dubai Creek - views of the city from the water via a dhow, cruise boat, or Abra. The Al Seef district on the creek has a promenade, markets, and restaurants. 
  • Al Fahidi Quarter - a preserved neighborhood with Arabic architecture and galleries like the Majlis Gallery and Al Serkal Cultural Foundation. 
  • Global Village - an entertainment park open October-April, including international dining, carnival rides, and shopping. 
  • Jumeirah Beach - the most popular Dubai beach with sun loungers, swimming areas, water sports, and restaurants. 
  • Dubai Opera - concert venue hosting musicians, opera, ballet, classical music, and other productions, completed in 2016.

Additional man-made island projects, like The World and The Universe, are set to be future attractions, as well as further expand Dubai’s urban area. 
The "LOVE ME" heart sculpture in front of the Burj Khalifa.

Dubai hotels

Some of the top luxury hotels include:
  • Burj Al Arab - a hotel resembling the sail of a ship, and one of the tallest hotels in the world.
  • Armani Hotel - a contemporary hotel inside the Burj Khalifa. 
  • Palace Downtown Dubai - a hotel combining Arabic and contemporary designs in Downtown Dubai.
  • Waldorf Astoria - a hotel resort on Palm Jumeirah.
  • Park Hyatt Dubai - features an Arabesque spa and a golf course, and overlooks the Dubai Creek marina.
  • One&Only The Palm - a secluded beachfront hotel with villas on Palm Jumeirah. 
  • Palazzo Versace Dubai - Italian-inspired hotel on Dubai Creek. 
  • Four Seasons Resort Dubai - a hotel with penthouses, villas, and multiple restaurants on Jumeirah Beach.   
  • Anantara The Palm - a Thai-inspired hotel with a spa on Palm Jumeirah. 

There are plenty of other world-class hotels in Dubai, as well as more affordable options for visitors that aren’t looking to break the budget. You can choose from a multitude of hotels, hotel apartments, resorts, hostels, Airbnbs, and more. 

Dubai restaurants

The influx of expats in Dubai has also brought a variety of cuisines, including Asian, Chinese, European, Indian, Lebanese, Thai, Greek, and more. No matter what type of food you like, you’re sure to find it in Dubai. 

Multiple restaurants were recognized in 2022, receiving at least one Michelin star. The best restaurants in Dubai include:  
  • STAY by Yannick Alléno - French cuisine in One&Only The Palm. 
  • II Ristorante - Niko Romito - modern Italian cuisine in Jumeirah.
  • 11 Woodfire - international cuisine in Jumeirah. 
  • Al Muntaha - French and Mediterranean cuisine atop Burj al Arab.
  • Armani Ristorante - Italian cuisine in the Burj Khalifa.
  • Hakkasan - Chinese cuisine at Atlantis on The Palm. 
  • Höseki - Japanese cuisine in Bulgari Hotel. 
  • Ossiano - European cuisine in Atlantis Hotel. 
  • Tasca by José Avillez - Portuguese cuisine in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. 
  • Torno Subito - Italian cuisine in W Hotel on The Palm.
  • Trèsind Studio - Indian cuisine on the Nakheel Mall rooftop. 
Michelin star restaurant, STAY by Yannick Alleno.

For award-winning Middle Eastern cooking, you should consider Bait Maryam and Al Khayma. These restaurants both received a Bib Gourmand, meaning they provide good value for less money (on average AED 250 for a 3-course meal). 

Dubai malls

Dubai is one of the best shopping locations in the world, boasting luxury malls that carry high-end designer brands and have endless entertainment options. The fact that most shopping in Dubai is tax-free is just an additional incentive. 

Here are some of the top malls in Dubai
  • Dubai Mall - Dubai’s premier mall with an ice-skating rink, gaming zone, and cinema, hosts a famous annual Dubai Shopping Festival.
  • Nakheel Mall - a new mall on Palm Jumeirah. 
  • Mall of the Emirates - has an indoor ski slope, cinema, and world cuisine. 
  • Mercato Mall - an Italian-inspired mall. 
  • City Walk - a street shopping mall with open squares. 
  • Ibn Battuta Mall - boasts elaborate interior design. 
  • Dubai Outlet Mall - has year-round sales and bargains on designer labels. 
  • Dubai Festival Plaza - a new mall in Jebel Ali. 

For a more traditional experience, you can visit some of the traditional Arabic markets in Dubai, known as souks or souqs. These are typically open-air markets full of small vendors selling souvenirs, gold jewelry, spices, fabric, perfume, and more. 

Some of the top souks in Dubai include: 
  • Deira Gold Souk - the largest gold bazaar in the world.
  • Deira Spice Souk - spices, herbs, rice, and fruits. 
  • Deira Perfume Souk - incense, oils, perfumes.
  • Bur Dubai Textile Souk - silk, cotton, weaves, sari fabric. 
  • Souk Madinat Jumeirah - boutique souk without haggling. 
  • Souk Al Bahar - modern souk near the Burj Khalifa with a variety of items. 
  • Souk Al Marfa - indoor and air-conditioned wholesale souk in Deira. 
Fine fabrics for sale at the Bur Dubai Textile Souk.

Dubai transportation and public transport

Dubai has a comprehensive road network connecting the main populated areas. Like any large city, you can expect substantial traffic on the highways during peak hours. You’ll probably want to have a car if you live in a suburban area or outside of the city. 

Although Dubai is sprawled along the coast, it’s still very possible to get around without a car thanks to their modern public transport system. This includes buses, metro, trams, and marine services. The bus service network covers 87% of the urban area of Dubai and has over 100 lines across the city with dozens of links to the metro stations. The metro is very modern and has two main lines, the Red line and the Green line. The Red line runs along the length of the city while the Green line operates near Dubai Creek. The Dubai tram connects the metro with the Palm Monorail, which runs along Palm Jumeirah island. There are various options for marine transport such as water taxis, water buses, Abras (traditional Arabic boats), and the Dubai Ferry. These are great options for tourists looking to explore the city from the water. Dubai has an easy-to-use nol card with which you can pay for all of these public transport services. 

Moving to Dubai

Dubai has not only become a top tourist destination but continues to attract expats through various business, labor, investment, and tax incentives. Foreigners from all over the world are taking the leap to buy a property and make Dubai their new home. Learn all about how to settle down in Dubai as a foreigner

Dubai schools

Dubai has hundreds of high-quality schools with state-of-the-art facilities. 90% of students in Dubai attend private institutions that offer a wide range of curricula such as British, American, Indian, International Baccalaureate (IB), and many more. All private schools receive a quality rating from the regulating Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). Check out a complete guide to Dubai’s schools to view school information, such as grades, annual fees, number of students, gender, curriculum, KHDA rating, and more. This guide includes an interactive map to search for schools by location and curriculum. 

Dubai real estate market

As of 2002, foreigners can invest in properties in Dubai’s designated freehold areas. While there was a downturn following the 2014-15 oil price crash and the coronavirus pandemic, the real estate market was able to recover quickly. There was a record-breaking number of property transactions in 2022, including an increase in off-plan property sales. 

More than 75% of real estate buyers in Dubai are foreigners. Buyers are drawn to Dubai’s low acquisition cost for property, as many developers offer beneficial post-handover payment plans for off-plan properties. Dubai also has no property taxes or income taxes and offers options for residency through investment with the Dubai Golden Visa. The growing economy and population have been reliably increasing property values and rental demand. 

Some of the best areas to buy real estate in Dubai include:
Waterfront high-rise developments in Dubai Marina.

Many buyers seek the help of real estate and mortgage brokers, like Kredium, to find a property and the best mortgage loan offer. Buyers can search among thousands of property listings in Dubai, contact us for more information, or register on our website. At Kredium, we can help you finalize a property purchase from start to finish.
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Dubai location

Dubai Creek

Dubai weather

Dubai time zone

UAE time zone

Dubai statistics

Expat population

Dubai population

Dubai currency

Dubai money

Dubai language

Dubai culture

Dubai history

Oil industry in Dubai

Dubai economy

Dubai architecture

Dubai man-made islands

Dubai tourism

Visit Dubai

Dubai attractions

Dubai hotels

Dubai restaurants

Dubai malls

Live in Dubai

Dubai schools

Dubai real estate

Dubai property