In the 50 years since the UAE has existed as a federation, the country has risen from humble beginnings to the greatest heights (quite literally, in the case of the world’s tallest tower, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa).
In fact the word "impossible" is not even a part of the UAE lexicon, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has famously said: “The word impossible does not exist in our dictionary. It is not part of our vision and will never be part of our future.”
There are countless examples of times that the UAE made the seemingly impossible happen – from its mission to Mars, to breaking manifold world records. Here are just 50 examples…
THE UAE HAS A MINISTRY OF POSSIBILITIES
In April 2019, the UAE Government launched the Ministry of Possibilities - the world’s first virtual ministry designed to develop proactive solutions to tackle critical issues, while bringing together federal and local government teams and the private sector. This pioneering, think-tank style government agency is just one way in which the UAE seeks to disrupt usual processes and create a positive force for change. If there was ever proof of a country committed to achieving the impossible, this is it.
DUBAI IS HOSTING THE WORLD AT EXPO 2020:
In 1970 Abu Dhabi appeared at Expo Japan, the first World Fair the UAE was ever represented at, a year before the UAE was even officially set up. The country has now gone from this first participation in Expo Japan 50 years ago, to being elected as the host country of World Expo 2020 during the 154th General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in November 2013. This remarkable achievement will see Expo 2020 Dubai host almost 200 countries from around the world, in a show that will go a step further in inspiring the next generation to spark innovations that will underline the next 50 years of human progress.
THE UAE WAS THE FIRST ARAB COUNTRY TO REACH MARS
The Hope orbiter was launched as part of the Emirates Mars Mission by the UAE Space Agency on 19 July 2020, and reached Mars on 9 February 2021. This made it the first Arab country, and the fifth country in the world, to reach Mars and the second country to successfully enter Mars’ orbit on its first try – something that would have seemed utterly inconceivable 50 years ago when the UAE largely resembled a small fishing town. The Hope Probe will provide the first ever complete picture of the Martian atmosphere, adding to humankind’s knowledge about Mars’ atmosphere and climate change.
FROM ARID DESERT INTO PRODUCTIVE FARMLAND
While many people might assume you cannot grow anything in the hot desert, there are said to be around 30,000 farms in the UAE, many of which use innovative techniques such as aquaponics, hydroponics and vertical farming, as well as constantly evolving new, sustainable technologies to help crops to flourish. It has even recently cultivated notoriously water-thirsty rice at a farm in Sharjah.
FROM NO CARS, TO HOSTING FORMULA ONE
While we all know that the UAE has developed a lot in a short timeframe, how’s this for perspective? In 1968, there were only 13 cars registered in Dubai. In 2020, this had risen to 1.83 million. Plus, since 2009 the eyes of the world’s petrol heads are fixed firmly on the UAE’s capital at least once a year, when it hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a Formula One motor racing event.
UAE IS HOME TO THE WORLD’S FIRST CARBON-NEUTRAL CITY
Abu Dhabi might be a haven of car enthusiasts annually, but the emirate is also the home of Masdar city, the world's first carbon-neutral, waste-free, car-free city. This initiative is part of the UAE’s commitment to controlling climate change, and also includes an innovation centre to support the demonstration, commercialisation and adoption of sustainable energy technologies; a development company focused on the commercialisation of emissions reduction; and a special economic zone to host institutions investing in renewable energy technology.
FIRST ARAB COUNTRY TO GRANT PAID PATERNITY LEAVE
In August 2020, the UAE introduced a five-day period of paid Parental Leave, valid for both fathers and mothers, making it reportedly the first Arab country to grant paid paternity leave for dads in the private sector. While there is still a long way to go in terms of parents’ rights all over the world, the UAE has consistently been a pioneer in the area, ranging from the work of its Gender Balance Council, to the ‘Parent Friendly Label’ for workplaces recently introduced by the Early Childhood Authority in Abu Dhabi.
DUBAI CREATED ‘THE WORLD’
Dubai built an artificial archipelago of islands known as ‘The World’, alongside its several other man-made islands, which include The Palm Jumeirah, The Palm Jebel Ali and Deira Islands. Created using a process known as land reclamation, these ambitious projects have captured the imagination of residents and tourists alike, and are now home to some of the most exclusive residences and iconic sightseeing attractions in the emirate.
IT CAN MAKE IT RAIN
For thousands of years cultures across the world have sought to control the weather without reliable results, but the UAE has become adept at a type of Rain Enhancement science known as ‘cloud seeding’. This is a type of weather modification that aims to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances into the air that alter the microphysical processes within the cloud. This means that when the right circumstances arise, the country can deliberately make it rain on the desert to provide much-needed water and enhance the country’s water security. The UAE now has more than 60 networked weather stations in the UAE, a weather radar network, and six aircraft for cloud seeding operations. Rain enhancement operations have focused on the mountainous areas in the north-east of the country, where cumulus clouds gather in the summer. Importantly, no harmful chemicals are used in UAE cloud seeding operations; the country’s specialized aircraft only use natural salts, and no harmful chemicals.
LIMITING THE SPREAD OF COVID-19
There’s been very little else top-of-mind over the past year and a half apart from the pandemic, and the UAE once again tackled its challenges head-on, succeeding in limiting the spread of COVID-19 through a range of preventive and curative measures. It developed a laser-based DPI (Diffractive Phase Interferometry) technology to detect COVID-19 cases, used stem cell therapy for patients and helped invent a vaccine. It has consistently been ahead of the curve, including most recently approving the vaccines for children aged 12 and upwards, as well as approving ground-breaking antibody treatment for COVID patients. It’s had one of the world’s fastest vaccine roll-outs, administering 10 million vaccine doses against COVID-19 in just a few months.
THE UAE APPOINTED A MINISTER FOR HAPPINESS
Perhaps most governments want their people to be happy, but few take it as seriously as the UAE. In February 2016, the UAE Government created the post of Minister of State for Happiness and appointed Her Excellency Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi as the Minister. Following the Cabinet reshuffle in 2017, another portfolio was added to the Minster of State for Happiness to become the Minster of State for Happiness and Wellbeing. In the cabinet reshuffle in July 2020, the "Quality of Life and Happiness" portfolio was transferred to Ministry of Community Development, but community happiness is still a key objective: The United Arab Emirates maintained its place as the happiest Arab country in the world for the sixth consecutive year, according to World Happiness Report 2020
THE UAE HOLDS THE MOST WORLD RECORDS IN THE MENA REGION
If there’s one thing the UAE is known for, it’s smashing seemingly impossible world records. From the tallest towers, to the longest ziplines, the UAE holds more than 400 world records according to Guinness, which range from the remarkable to the sublime, the weird and the wonderful. Here’s a run-down of some of the best…
WORLD’S LARGEST RECYCLED MOSAIC
Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s flagship innovative and sustainable urban development, has officially broken the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest mosaic made from recycled materials. The mosaic, which measures 1,015 square metres – around the size of two basketball courts – took one month to assemble and contains almost 90,500 recycled items, including plastic bottles, cans and cardboard. The local community participated in the project, including Masdar City employees, tenants and local residents, along with members of the wider Abu Dhabi community and schoolchildren.
Dubai Miracle Garden conceived and designed the spectacular 18-metre high Mickey Mouse floral structure — Disney’s first character floral display in the Middle East — earning the Guinness World Records title for the Tallest Topiary Sculpture (supported). The sculpture features almost 100,000 plants and flowers (including white petunia, red petunia, white geranium, yellow viola, zinnia marigold and green alternanthera), weighs almost 35 tonnes, and is supported by a 7-tonne steel structure with a concrete foundation of 50 tonnes of reinforced concrete.
MOST USERS TO TAKE AN ONLINE INFECTION CONTROL CLASS
Not about to let COVID-19 impede the country’s record-breaking ability, this pandemic-themed record saw the most users to take an online infection control lesson in 24 hours (1011 users), which was achieved by education technology company Alef Education (UAE) in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on 19 August 2020.
LARGEST BUILDING IN THE SHAPE OF A PICTURE FRAME
The iconic Dubai Frame is the world’s largest building in a shape of a picture frame, measuring 150.23 m (492 ft 10 in) tall and 95.53 m (313 ft 5 in) wide. This world record was achieved by Dubai Municipality (UAE) in Dubai, UAE, verified on 9 May 2019.
Of course, the world’s tallest building is the Burj Khalifa, which measures a whopping 828 m (2,716 ft 6 in) tall. Construction began on 21 September 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on 1 October 2009. The elegant building officially opened on 4 January 2010, and it’s become an integral part of the Dubai skyline, and an inescapable icon of Dubai in the minds of visitors, ever since. Fun fact: The Burj Khalifa was known as 'Burj Dubai' prior to its inauguration.
TALLEST CHOCOLATE SCULPTURE
A delicious fact for you: As well as the tallest tower, the UAE holds the record for the tallest chocolate sculpture - a 13.52-m-tall (44-ft 4.28-in) replica of the Burj Khalifa building created by Andrew Farrugia from Malta, and unveiled at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, UAE, on 27 November 2014. The model was originally planned to be 17-m (55-ft 9.29-in) tall. A total of 5,200 kg (11,464 lb 0.64 oz) of Belgian chocolate were delivered to the master chocolatier's laboratory in Malta, where an estimated 10,000 pieces were hand-cut by Mr Farrugia and his collaborators to recreate the complex features of the world's tallest building. The pieces were then shipped in a refrigerated container to Dubai and the replica was assembled on Concourse A of Terminal 3 in Dubai Airport. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the model had to be erected with a reduced height of 13.52 m. The feat was attempted as part of the 43rd UAE National Day Celebrations.
MOST VIDEOS IN A MUSIC MEDLEY VIDEO
Global Village, Dubai’s outdoor destination for culture, shopping, and entertainment, broke the Guinness World Records title for the “most videos in a music medley video” during ‘Global Gig’, dubbed the biggest virtual rock concert in history.
LARGEST NUMBER OF SIGNATURES EXPRESSING LOYALTY
In 2015, Dubai Police broke a Guinness World Record for collecting the largest number of signatures that expressed loyalty to UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Emiratis and expats stepped up to pledge their allegiance with 13,288 signatures gathered by Dubai Police, breaking the world record that was previously held by China with 12,884 signatures. The signatures were collected across four different pieces of cloth, representing the four colours of the UAE flag. These pieces of cloth were stitched together to create a 10-metre long and 5.6-metre wide flag.
LARGEST GLOW-IN-THE-DARK PAINTING
To celebrate Innovation Week in the UAE, the Public Works and Services Department of Government of Ras al Khaimah held a big celebration for the local public in 2016, during which they revealed a record-breaking artwork. A story of the region's historical events was depicted in the world’s largest glow in the dark painting. Official Guinness World Records adjudicator Samer Khallouf verified that the fluorescent picture measured an impressive 416.26 m² (4,480.58 ft²).
LARGEST FIREWORKS DISPLAY
Dubai welcomed 2014 with a world record and fireworks the likes of which the world has never seen, across 400 locations, 100km shoreline and 400,000 fireworks. The city lit up 2014 with a new Guinness World Record that saw a glittering fireworks display that lasted around six minutes spanning The Palm Jumeirah and streaking up the Burj Khalifa. As Dubai’s 360-degree extravaganza unfolded, the unbelievable display was even visible from space. However, a tiny Norwegian town of Søgne of just 10,000 inhabitants, smashed the record in 2015, setting off 540,382 fireworks in a 20-minute show.
LARGEST HUMAN SENTENCE
To pay tribute to the UAE on the 44th National Day on December 2, 6,958 Gems students from 35 schools across the country came together to wish everyone a Happy National Day by forming the world’s largest human sentence. Validated by Guinness World Records officials, the students gathered on the sports field of Gems Modern Academy in Dubai, to form the human sentence as teachers guided them to their positions. The previous record of 6,262 people was set by the Tiens Group of China on May 8, 2015.
LARGEST GREETING CARD MOSAIC
Ajman decided to set its own record in 2013 with the world’s largest greeting card mosaic. Measuring 117.71 m² (1,267.01 ft²), the mosaic, which formed the UAE’s spirit of the union motif, was made to mark the 42nd UAE National. Organised by the Ajman Tourism Development Department, around 4,000 people took part in creating the mosaic, with 4,085 postcards eventually making up the huge image.
In 2015, more than 20,000 students, teachers, parents and activists came together to create the world's longest painting, as part of a campaign to raise awareness about autism. Al Tayer Group and Dubai Autism Centre teamed up at the Dubai Autodrome to create the world’s longest painting, reaching 10.85kms.
LONGEST GOLD CHAIN
The longest gold chain measuring 5,522m and was achieved by Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group on January 2015. The gold chain, known as the ‘Dubai Celebration Chain’ weighed no less than 240kgs and packing over four million links. The chain took 100 craftsmen over 45 days to produce. The chain had a fineness of 22 carat gold.
SMALLEST PARACHUTE JUMP
Professional daredevil Ernesto Gainza flew down to Earth, landing in Dubai in a death-defying skydive, while simultaneously smashing a Guinness World Record for the smallest parachute jump at just 35 square feet. Gainza jumped 14,000 feet with the tiny parachute at the SkyDive Dubai Palm Drop Zone. The previous record was held by Luigi Cani when he jumped in February 2008 with a 37sqft canopy. A regular parachute measures 120 square feet.
LARGEST SOCK WORD
The largest sock word consisted of 1,447 socks and was achieved by Meera Al Hosani in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on 6 November 2020. The record was made in support of her daughter Latifa, who has an odd chromosome in a shape of a sock, Meera Al Hosani created the campaign "My name is Latifa" to spread awareness about Down Syndrome. The purpose of the campaign was to collect socks to create the word "Happiness" in Arabic.
LARGEST FLAG MOSAIC
In December 2020, largest UAE flag was created using black, green, red and white greeting cards to create the world’s largest mosaic flag. The UAE flag, measured an 490 square metres, was constructed outside Dubai Police, Al Wasl, behind City Walk. The occasion organised by nefsy has raised funds to buy food boxes to feed 49,000 families in need, after what has been an incredibly challenging year, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
FASTEST ROLLER COASTER
Located in Abu Dhabi, the fastest roller coaster is the Formula Rossa, which races up to 149.1 mph in just 4.9 seconds. As a part of the amusement park Ferrari World, this coaster shoots upwards 52m into the air. Since opening in 2010, it’s been a fun and popular ride for those who appreciate lightning velocity.
MOST NATIONALITIES HAVING A CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST
The record was set in April 2017 at the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar where the most nationalities sat down to break bread and have a continental breakfast together. They hit 101 nationalities on that day, which was a part of the Year of Giving.
LONGEST LINE OF HORSES
The UAE holds the record for the longest line of horses consists of 116 horses and was achieved by Dubai Police HQ and Meydan (both UAE), in Dubai UAE, on 3 December 2017. The event was part of UAE national day celebrations.
MOST NATIONALITIES IN A HUMAN CHAIN
The UAE is famously multicultural, and this was underlined by the RTA when it broke the record for the most nationalities in a human chain on public transport day on 1 November 2018. A gathering of 96 people from 96 different countries made this happen.
WORLD’S LARGEST SYNCHRONISED CAR DANCE
It’s no secret that the UAE loves its motors, but it loves the national bird the falcon too. The two came together with the largest synchronized car dance, which consisted of 180 cars and was achieved by Nissan Middle East in Dubai on 23 October 2018. The cars formation represented the Nissan Patrol Safari falcon.
LARGEST DISPLAY OF KNITTED HEARTS
The UAE places a lot of value on humanitarian efforts, one of which was beautifully exemplified by Kanika Kapur, who created the world’s largest display of knitted hearts on 13 September 2019. Consisting of 5,270 hearts, the knitted keepsakes were donated to underprivileged children in orphanage and refugee camps worldwide.
LARGEST CHRISTMAS BAUBLE
Dubai excels at celebrations, whatever the reason, and Christmas is no different. As part of its 2018 Christmas activations, the Dubai Mall unveiled the largest Christmas bauble ornament in the world, which was is 4.68 m in diameter and weighed 1,100 kg (2,425 lb).
LARGEST FLAG FLOWN IN FREEFALL
The UAE is not one to shy away from extreme challenges, and it combined two rather daring feats when skydivers attempted to not just fly the largest flag, but to do it while hurtling down from the sky in freefall. They succeeded of course: the largest flag flown while in freefall was 144.28 m² (1,553 ft² 2 in²) and was achieved by Skydive Dubai on 25th November 2019 for UAE national day. Naturally the UAE flag was flown for this attempt.
LARGEST HUMAN IMAGE OF A ROCKET
We know by now that the UAE consistently reaches for the stars, and this was neatly symbolized by it breaking the world record for the largest human image of a rocket. Consisting of 11,443 participants, this record was broken in Sharjah, UAE, on 28 November 2019. At all times during the attempt, the human image created was of a rocket. Post the attempt the human image later changed to create the UAE national flag. The image of UAE national astronaut, Hazza Al Mansoori was also added to the construction.
LONGEST LINE OF PLASTIC BOTTLES
The longest line of plastic bottles consists of 58,447 bottles, and was achieved by the Environment Department of Dubai Municipality (UAE), in Dubai, UAE, on 22 April 2018. The 3.8 km line was created to celebrate earth day.
MOST SKYDIVERS TO PARACHUTE FROM A BALLOON SIMULTANEOUSLY
The most skydivers to parachute from a balloon simultaneously is 25, achieved by Skydive Dubai (UAE), above Dubai, UAE, on 10 February 2013.
LARGEST INFINITY MIRROR
The largest infinity mirror measures 7 m2 (75.35 ft2) and was achieved by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (UAE), in Dubai, UAE, on 28 March 2015.The event was a celebration of Earth Hour 2015.
LARGEST LASER LIGHT SHOW
Dubai loves a good light show, so naturally it holds the record for the largest laser show in the world. Consisting of 824 laser emission sources, this was achieved by Dubai Racing Club on 27 March 2021. The record title was achieved during the closing ceremony for Dubai World Cup 2021.
You might not think an umbrella is all that necessary when living in the UAE, but it comes in mighty handy when it comes to warding off the hot desert sun. The record for the world’s largest umbrella / parasol was broken in Abu Dhabi in March 2018 with a 24.5 m (80 ft 4.56 in) in diameter creation made by Khalifa Empowerment Program. The height of the umbrella /parasol measures 15.22 m (49 ft 11.2 in) and was created to celebrate Emirates Happiness Events.
LARGEST FLOWER SCULPTURE
Dubai is famous as a buzzing travel hub, and what better way to celebrate its interconnectedness with the world than with a giant Airbus A380 created out of flowers? Breaking the record for the largest flower arrangement/structure, this major structure measures 72.95 m (233 ft 4 in) x 78.34 m (257 ft) x 21.98 m (72 ft 1 in) and was achieved by Dubai Miracle Garden (UAE), in Dubai, UAE, on 2 December 2016.
LONGEST FIREWORK WATERFALL
The whole of the UAE loves a celebration, and they do it in style. The longest firework waterfall measures 3788.86 m (12430 ft 7 in) and was achieved by Ras Al Khaimah, Marjan (both UAE) and Fireworks by Grucci, Inc. (US) in Ras al Khaimah, UAE, on 1 January 2020. The stunning firework waterfall served as the finale to the new years eve firework display in Ras Al Khaimah.
MOST FOOTBALL HOTSTEPPER BALL TRICKS
The most football 'hotstepper' ball control tricks in one minute is 86, and was achieved by Areej Al Hammadi (UAE) in Dubai, UAE on 10 July 2020. Areej Al Hammadi has achieved the most football 'hotstepper' ball control tricks in one minute, by completing 86 hotsteppers. The attempt took place in Dubai, UAE on the 10th of July 2020.
LARGEST SOUND LIGHT SHOW ON A SINGLE BUILDING
The largest light and sound show on a single building measures 109,252 m² (1,175,978 ft²), was staged on the Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai, and was achieved by Emaar Properties PJSC (UAE) in Dubai, UAE, on 1 January 2018. The light and sound show was displayed on the Burj Khalifa Tower as part of a New Year's Eve show that combined lighting, lasers, an LED screen, sound and fountains
The largest fountain measures 7,327 m² (78,867 ft² 25 in²) and was achieved by Nakheel (UAE), in Dubai, UAE on 22 October 2020. The water fountain is named “The Palm Fountain” and is designed to show the harmony between the universe and the earth. The change of color and brightness is combined with the dancing, jumping and bursting of the water combined with music.The circle of nozzles represents the planets in the universe while the LED lights scattered around represent the starry constellations of the universe.
LARGEST INDOOR THEME PARK
The largest indoor theme park is 150,835.19 m² (1,623,576 ft² 68 in²) and was achieved by Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi (UAE), in Abu Dhabi, UAE on 11 December 2019. Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi features characters from Warner Bros,'s franchises, such as Looney Tunes, DC Comics, Hanna-Barbera and others. The park is located on Yas Island, near Ferrari World and Yas Water park, and is the third Warner Bros.'s theme park.
LARGEST VERTICAL MAZE (PERMANENT)
The largest vertical maze is situated on the front facade of Al Rostamani Maze Tower and has a surface area of 3,947.22 m² (42,487.35 ft²). The building was completed in January 2012, in Dubai, UAE.
LONGEST ZIP LINE
The longest zip line is Jebel Jais Flight, measuring a single unbroken span of 2,831.88 m (9,290 ft 11 in), achieved by Toro Verde and Ras al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (both UAE), it is located at Jebel Jais, in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, and was opened on 31 January 2018.