Middle East Map with a pin pointing to Dubai

Where is Dubai? Facts about Dubai and the UAE

by Dubai Travel Planner

So you keep hearing the name Dubai but no idea where to actually located it on a map – don’t worry, you wouldn’t be the first to ask!!

The confusion can largely reign from the fact that Dubai is not only a city but an Emirate (or state) – and it’s surprisingly not a capital city!!!  So let’s take a more detailed look at exactly what is Dubai – then we’ll help you place it on a map!!

Dubai is the largest city in a country called the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is a Gulf country in the Middle East which has coasts facing both the Arabain Gulf (Persian Gulf – but don’t call it that in front of an Emirati!) and the Gulf of Oman to the east.   The UAE neighbours Saudi Arabia to the south and west and Oman to the south-east (and a tiny bit in the north – we’ll get on to that!).

Dubai is a coastal city in the United Arab Emirates

Is Dubai a country?

Nope! This is the biggest misconception.  Bid bold and brassy but a city and an Emirate, NOT an entire country. The country is called the United Arab Emirates.

Is Dubai the capital of the UAE?

No, often mistaken as Dubai is the largest city in the UAE, Dubai is not the capital of the United Arab Emirates.  That crown goes to Abu Dhabi which sits approximately 130kms to the west, about an hour away by road.

You can see exactly how to get between Dubai and Abu Dhabi here.

What’s an Emirate?

Emirates are sort of like states, they are ruled over by a Sheikh, also called a Sheikdom.  In 1971, the United Arab Emirates was formed with the union of 6 of these Sheikdoms. A further Emirate joined in 1972 bringing us the 7 Emirates of the UAE we know today.  The countries birthday is celebrated in a massive event ever 2 December.

You can learn more about all 7 Emirates of the UAE here.

How big is Dubai?

The whole  Emirate of Dubai, including the city and desert areas is 3,885 km2

What is the population of Dubai?

There is no census carried out in Dubai, however, reports seem to vary between 2.4 million and 3.3 million!

The biggest surprise might be that only around 11% of the city’s population are considered native Emirati’s. The vast majority of Dubai’s population is expatriate workers from nearly 200 different nations!  It is one of the most diverse city populations in the world!

Dubai has a large and diverse multicultural population

Why are there so many men in Dubai?!

The male to female ratio in Dubai is believed to be 75%:25%.

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This is driven by the largely male Asian workforce in the construction and services sectors, predominantly Indian who are believed to make up as much as 50% of the city’s population.

This does not mean it is an unsafe place for female tourists to visit. Quite the opposite, we will share more soon on women’s safety in Dubai.

Who rules Dubai?

Dubai is ruled by the Al Maktoum family.  The current leader of Dubai and the Vice President of the United Arab Emirates is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

What continent is Dubai on?

The Middle East and the Arabian Peninsular sit within the continent of Asia.

What is the Dubai Flag?

Whilst there is a flag for each of the Emirates that make up the UAE, the individual flags are very infrequently displayed. You are most likely to see only the unified flag of the United Arab Emirates. This flag is red on the left and has hortizonal black, white and green stripes.

An Emirati in traditional dress holding the UAE flag

Is Dubai Expensive to visit?

It can be in you don’t watch where you are spending your money; there is certainly an emphasis on luxury experiences, but there is plenty to see and do on a budget too, you can see our guide to Dubai on a Budget here.

Do I need a Visa to visit Dubai?

Yes, all visitors require a visa, but many nationalities are entitled to a Visa on Arrival when visiting as tourist – we talk much more about Dubai Visit Visas Here

What’s the time zone in Dubai?

Dubai’s time zone is called GST – Gulf Standard Time and it sits at UTC+4.  There are no daylight savings changes implemented in the summer months.

What is the currency in Dubai?

The United Arab Emirates uses the UAE Dirham – expressed as AED or dhs.

We have a complete guide to UAE currency and Dubai money matters here.

Is Dubai Muslim?

The majority of Dubai’s native population are Sunni Muslim. Sharia Law is followed in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

You can find out more about customs, culture and religion in Dubai here.

What language do they speak in Dubai?

Arabic is the country’s legal first language. However, English is widely spoken as a common language between all workers and locals. Signposts and any official documents will come in both Arabic and English.

As a tourist to Dubai, you would not have to learn any Arabic to enjoy visiting the city, however, a few small words such as “Shukran” (thank you) never go astray. You could well go an entire trip to the city and NOT speak to an actual Emirati.

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There are literally dozens of languages spoken in Dubai at home and amongst workers, reflective of such a diverse population.

Local Emirati men in traditional dress

What do they wear in Dubai?

Traditional dress is worn in public by native Emiratis. Men wear white dishdashas while women wear a black Abaya and Shayla love their heads (NOT a full face Burqa).

Tourists and expatriate residents are not expected to dress in traditional clothing, but modesty in public places IS expected. The rules can get complicated though and many have differing opinions on what is acceptable or not in Dubai in the 21st Century.

We discuss what to wear in Dubai in much more detail here.


So are you thinking about visiting Dubai?

We are a Dubai-based Travel Blog dedicated to helping tourists self-plan a visit to Dubai.

As long term expatriates in the UAE, we have spent many years unearthing the city’s secrets and most incredibly spots – from those insta-perfect locations to cultural gems and family-fun attractions.

It is a constantly growing and evolving city that perfectly intertwines traditional and modern.

If this article has you interested in learning more about Dubai, we suggest you jump over to our Essential Travel Planning Information page next as your starting point to get more acquainted with the city, learn more about the best times to visit, the legal matters you’ll want to know and how exactly to plan your trip to the modern and exciting city of Dubai!

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Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE and transit passengers self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our recommendation links.

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