The world’s largest flag Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Records, as they say, are made to be broken. However, some records stand too high and others just stare at them in awe, let alone break them. Dubai — the city of superlatives — appears to be a place that takes its records very high — longest, largest or farthest — and also very seriously. That's why most of its records still stand.

A world record is usually the best global performance recorded and verified in a specific skill or sport.

While taking account of Dubai's world record feats, one loses count. It took a while to gather the information, even for the Guinness World Records — the entity that keeps track of all records, to fathom the depth of the matter.

The book, Guinness World Records, collates and publishes significant records of all types, from first and best to worst human achievements, to extremes in the natural world and beyond. It has listed one million world records so far. Last year it listed 65,000 record claims and added 4,000 new updated classic records.

Dubai has achieved a reputation for having the world's tallest man-made structure, tallest tower, tallest all-hotel tower, tallest all-residential tower, biggest shopping mall, longest driverless urban metro rail system, home to the world's largest travel retailer Dubai Duty Free, as well as the hub of the largest international passenger carrier — Emirates.

Few would doubt these feats, which collectively raise the international profile of the city.

But lots of people, including many of this thriving metropolis' residents, do not realise that the city has also achieved one of the largest numbers of other world records including the world's biggest shopping trolley, largest human flag, the longestMercedes convoy, making the world's largest bed, largest buffet, largest pillow fight, largest wallet, biggest handmade local head dress; largest collection box and largest biryani — among many others.

Most of these were created during the 16 editions of the annual Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) — the largest retail and entertainment event in the Middle East — and endorsed by Guinness World Records.

Ideal platform

"Approximately 70 per cent of the record attempts in the UAE are held in Dubai. We only have statistics per country, not per city, so we cannot compare Dubai to other major cities," Anne-Lise Rouse, UK and International Press Officer of Guinness World Records, told Gulf News, when asked how Dubai fares among other cities.

The three countries holding the most Guinness World Records are the United Kingdom, United States and Germany, she said.

DSF has become an engine of growth and diversification for Dubai's retail sector, adding an average Dh10 billion in revenue annually.

With promotional offers and discounts of up to 75 per cent in 70 malls and 6,000 shops, more than Dh100 million worth of raffles and prizes including luxury cars, gold and cash, and more than 150 indoor and outdoor events during the 32-day festival, the DSF has broken more than 50 Guinness World Records. Another record — the biggest makeover — will be set during Dubai Fashion 2012 on February 4 at the Dubai Mall.

"Regarding DSF, we can definitely say that they are one of the most active record holders in the UAE as they have organised record attempts regularly over the years, and still do," Rouse said.

A recent survey by YouGov found that retail, travel and hospitality spending during DSF 2011 contributed Dh15.1 billion to Dubai's economy, including Dh5.9 billion spent by regional and international visitors, and Dh6.6 billion spent by residents of other emirates. "The Dubai Shopping Festival has always been an ideal platform for creative and innovative ideas and events. The colourful and flexible nature of the DSF makes it a great opportunity for all shoppers and visitors to interact with the festival on so many levels. Breaking world records was and always is a great feature of every edition. It was inspired by the spirit of the City of Dubai in achieving the impossible, and testing the limits of human capabilities whilst pushing it to its boundaries of creativity and imagination," says Laila Suhail, CEO of Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, DSF organisers.

"In addition, most of the world's record-breaking events are social activities in which families and individuals of all nationalities and ages meet and enjoy the festive ambience during each attempt, and that is the core value of DSF. We are very happy and proud to contribute to positioning Dubai as the city of the most world records breaking successful attempts at the famous world records which also highlights the drive for excellence in our city on a global scale."

Throughout the month-long festival in 2011, more than 3.98 million people participated in DSF-related activities — including 884,660 regional and international visitors and 3.1 million UAE residents. Guinness World Record's adjudicator Talal Omar, who is in charge of the UAE, says, "Dubai and the UAE are definitely the largest host of world records in the Middle East and one of the largest in the world.

Simple question

"That's why, to support these world record attempts, we had launched a pavilion at the Global Village and we are planning to open our first Middle East office in Dubai in April this year."

Guinness World Records is the world's best-selling record book, selling 3.5 million copies a year and its website receives 11 million visitors per year.

The 56-year history of Guinness World Records began with a single question.

During a hunting party in County Wexford, Ireland, in 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver — then managing director of the Guinness Brewery — asked a simple question: "What was Europe's fastest game bird?"

Despite a heated argument and an exhaustive search within the host's reference library the answer could not be found.

Sir Hugh realised that similar questions were going unanswered all around the world, and that a definitive book containing superlative facts and answers would be of great use to the general public. With the help of the London-based fact-finding twins Norris and Ross McWhirter, he set about bringing this definitive collection of superlative facts to reality. On August 27, 1955, the first edition of The Guinness Book of Records was bound and, by Christmas that year, became Britain's number one bestseller.

Over the years, copies of The Guinness Book of Records — later renamed Guinness World Records — have continued to fly off bookshop shelves.

It is one of the world's best-known brands with 98 per cent prompted recall in the English speaking world.

1. The longest cake: The massive cake, stretching 2.53 kilometre weighed 74,000 kilogrammes, was baked as a tribute to the late UAE President H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The cake cost $82,000, was baked by 507 chef’s from 23 of Dubai’s premier hotels and formed the main highlight of the UAE’s National Day celebrations in 1996.

The longest and heaviest gold chain: Measuring 4,382 metres, this mammoth gold chain weighed 238 kilogrammes. Sponsored by AngloGold, this was made by Siroya Jewellers.

3. The largest mattress: Measuring 10 metres long and eight metres wide with a thickness of 60 centimetres, the world’s longest mattress weighed 2.5 tonnes. About 45 people made this over a 10 days period. It took over 700 man hours to make and four hours to move the crane.

4. The world’s longest sofa: The 100-feet-long sofa beat the previous world record of a 24-feet sofa, made in England.

5. The largest stationery bicycle: The bicycle was 7.5 metres high with a six-metre diameter front wheel and 1.7 metre diametre back wheel. Six persons took six months to complete the bicycle.

6. The largest chair: The wrought-iron chair was 7.56 metres high and 3.2 metres wide.

. The largest Shawarma: Consisted of 1,850 kilogrammes of boneless chicken; cooked in a specially fabricated grill of six metres on March 24, 2000.

8. The biggest raffle of Rolls Royce cars: During DSF 2000, Dubai raffled off 31 Rolls Royce silver seraph cars, in addition to 31 Nissan Patrol 4-wheel-drive vehicles and 57 kilos of gold. This was the biggest single order the UK-headquartered company has received in its 98-year-history.

9. The largest greeting card/message board: Measuring 157.5 metres in length and 2.5 metres in width, it was spread out in an area of 393 square metres.

10. The longest taxi parade: Dubai Transport Corporation assembled 1,100 taxis from its fleet to create the new world record, on March 24, 2000. The taxis drove in a parade through Sheikh Zayed Road to Al Seef Street.

11. The biggest cradle: Measuring 24 feet in length, 18 feet in height and 12 feet in width, enough to accommodate up to 50 babies.

12. The biggest spaghetti bowl: As much as 703 kilogrammes of spaghetti was cooked with 500 kilogrammes of sauce and was consumed in an hour’s time by 5,000 people at Al Shindagha.

. The world’s largest incense burner (Madkhan): Weighing about 1,000 kilogrammes, this was created by Ajmal Perfumes.

14. The highest number of candles lit on a cake: A total of 2,100 candles, each measuring 18 cm in height, were lit. The 2,100 number represented the number of rooms then available with the Rotana group of hotels in the UAE.

15. The biggest bowl of biryani: Breaking the previous world record of 1,500 kilogrammes, the world’s biggest bowl of biryani weighed 1,885.4 kilogrammes. More than 8,000 bowls of biryani were distributed at the Shindagha heritage site.

16. The tallest Croquembouche: It took 2,600 hours of labour and was made from 140,000 choux buns, 10,800 eggs, 360 kilogrammes of flour and 240 kilogrammes of butter.

17. The largest shopping bag: Measuring 71 inches in height, 47 inches in width and 9 inches in circumference, it was made by Paris Gallery, as part of the DSF.

18. The largest collection of photographs based on a single concept: Was organised by Kodak with its collection of 10,610 photographs.

19. The largest collection of miniature models: Was made by Suhail Al Zarooni - the then 31-year-old UAE businessman who beat his own record, with a collection of 2,000 miniature model cars dating back to 1886.

. The biggest entry visa: Issued by The Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD), measuring 0.7 m x 1 m it was issued to Kholoud Younis, a Palestinian from Dammam, Saudi Arabia. She was on a 10-day visit to Dubai with her two sons Luai and Mohammed. The visa, a giant version of the regular A4-size document.

21. The biggest box of chocolates: A massive version of the Galaxy Jewel box, weighed 856.55 kilogrammes, was manufactured by Master Foods ME. It beat the previous record of 85 kilogrammes more than 10 times. The previous record was set in New York City on Valentines Day in 2000.

22. The biggest Oud: Manufactured by Mohammed Fadel Music Establishment, a family-run business in Sharjah, it measures 3.8 metres long and two metres wide. Its neck alone measured one metre (compared with 20 cm for a regular oud). Like the original Arabic musical instrument, the giant version has five double strings and 12 keys.

23. The biggest magazine: The Dubai-based cosmetics chain Paris Gallery unveiled the world’s biggest magazines at the Union House. The 100-page colour magazines, measuring 67 cm x 98 cm, was printed on glossy paper and contained regular articles and ads from “Paris Gallery” magazine.

24. The longest continuous watercolour painting: Involving one-the-spot work by more than 1,000 students, faculty and staff of Zayed University, the university broke the record previously held by students and staff of G. Marconi School in Italy which painted 280 by 1.7 metres. Zayed University produced a continuous watercolour painting 340 metres long and two metres wide on a roll of recycled paper, with a total painting area of 680 square metres.

. The largest flower carpet: Cultivated by Dubai Municipality was displayed at Safa Park. The largest flower carpet measured 2,040 metres long and had 65,210 flowers of varied colours. The current record in this category was in Belgium, which was 300 square metres, and displayed in August 2002.

26. The biggest Abaya: Ghareem Shaila and Abaya sponsored the largest Abaya at 8.37 metres long and 3.66 metres wide.

27. The biggest Ghutra and Ogal: Head gear was 58 metres long with 15 centimetres thickness and a diameter of 70 metres

28. The biggest prayer rug: Created by Al Salem Group, was 10 metres long and 4 metres wide.

29. The biggest photo album: About 240 centimetres long and 120 centimetres wide contained pictures of DSF 2002.

. The largest calendar: Created by Qassim Al Hammadi features pictures of the rulers of Dubai. The calendar measures 1.5 x 2.1 metres and has 14 pages.

31. The largest shopping trolley: Stood 10.5 m (34.4 ft) high from ground to handle, with a basket 6.88 m (22.57 feet) long (top edge) and 4.46 m (14.63 feet) wide. The wheels measured 0.79 m (2.59 feet) in diameter. It was made by the Al Safeer Group and Century Shopping Mall in an attempt sponsored by Dubai Duty Free and was unveiled at the DSF, UAE on 6 February 2004.

32. The largest photo panel: Features a mosaic of pictures of babies of the UAE. Residents from at least 50 countries in the emirate sent photos of their babies below the age of five for this display. The event set a new record of accumulating 18,907 pictures. The world record in this category was 16,609 photographs of smiling Greeks welcoming the Olympics back to Athens.

33. The largest paper clip: Weighs 480 kilogrammes and is made out of a 9.7 metres steel bar, 5.7 centimetres thick, three metres high, and in a 1:60 ratio to an actual clip. Twenty-five workers worked to created this marvel.

34. The longest food buffet: Set in the Zabeel Park, more than 150 staff from five hotels chosen by the DSF committee served 515 dishes at the buffet. The world record was previously held by Las Vegas Hilton, which served a 510-item buffet in celebration of Alka Seltzer’s 75th anniversary.

. The largest collection box: Produced as part of the DSF 2005, the largest collection box has a total volume of 13 cubic metres (459 cubic feet) and measured 6.87 metres (22 feet 6 inches) high and 3.60 metres (11 feet 9 inches) wide in Creek Park, Dubai, UAE, on 10 February 2005.

36. The largest gathering of people with the same first name: As many as 1,096 Mohammeds gathered at the event, as part of the DSF at Creek Park, Dubai, on 10 February 2005.

37. The world’s largest human flag: Featuring some 16,200 students who gathered wearing the appropriate coloured caps and T-shirts, to form the national flag of UAE. The previous record for the world’s largest human flag comprises of 10,371 spectators who formed the German flag in the south grandstand at the Scotland vs Germany European Championships qualifying football match in the Westfalenstadion, Dortmund, Germany on September 10, 2003.

38. The world’s largest mosaic out of cans: Depicts a huge DSF shopping bag logo, this mosaic, made from about 45,000 soft drink cans, was conceived and supplied by Pepsi and constructed by Happening. This record is based on the number of cans used and not the dimensions of the mosaic.

. The largest inflatable: Stood 25 metres tall and 14 metres wide, measured 2,079 cubic metres Designed and manufactured by a UK-based company, the giant Vitaene C bottle floated above Safa Park.

40. The longest game of Chinese Whispers
41. The longest line of footprints
42. The largest wallet
43. Largest bed and mattress by Intercoil

. The longest wooden chopsticks: Created by Dubai’s Marco Polo Hotel, the chopsticks are 22 feet long and made of wood. Six craftsmen worked for one week to create the chopsticks. China’s Shenyang province held the world record measuring 20ftx7.83 inches.

45. The largest traditional dancing gathering: Featured scores of Youla performers at Creek Park.
46. Longest Coin Spinning Duration
47. The Longest duration of football control
48. Hula Hooping: The most hoops being used on oneself simultaneously or the most number of hoops during hula hoping event.

49. The largest traditional dress: kandoora.

. The most varied desserts on display: More than 2,232 types of desserts was achieved by DSF in conjunction with the Emirates Culinary Guild (both UAE) at Uptown Mirdiff, Dubai, UAE, on 13 February 2009.

51. The world’s largest Gold ring – a 64 kilogram gold ring crafted by Kanz Jewels and valued at Dh11 million. Najmat Taiba, manufactured by Taiba, Saudi Arabia, is studded with 5.1 kilograms of Swarovski stones from Signity Middle East and was supported by the World Gold Council. Fifty-five workers worked 45 days for 10 hours a day to make this piece.