We may be a small country, but we have the tallest building in the world and the largest book. This is a nation that constantly tries to outdo not only itself, but the entire planet — breaking a disproportionately high number of Guinness World Records every year, as demonstrated in the latest edition, published last week.
The UAE holds 147 records, compared with 380 for the rest of the Middle East, which is perhaps why Dubai is home to the Middle East’s only Guinness World Records office.
Anyone can submit a world record attempt, as long as it is measurable – based on a single variable – verifiable and breakable. While Guinness receives more than a thousand submissions every week, less than 5 per cent of these become world records.
The UAE is 13th in the world for record submissions, which, considering its small population, means many record attempts are either rejected or unsuccessful — such as last year’s attempt to build the most sandcastles in one hour.
Alex Brown, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi-based branding company All About Brands, says setting world records has proven to be good for tourism – and business.
“In the region, Dubai was the first to break out as somewhere that was forward looking and Abu Dhabi followed suit,” he says.
“Now the World Cup is coming to Qatar – but the UAE put the region on the map and we’re starting to see the benefits – investment and tourism.
“Some world records, the ones that aren’t linked to economic diversification or infrastructural development, can seem somewhat ostentatious and detract from people’s perspectives of a place. But those more tongue-in-cheek records show a place doesn’t take itself as seriously as one might think and make it seem more accessible.”
One example is the record set for most people waving chequered flags simultaneously, which was an obscure but endearing way to kick off Abu Dhabi’s Formula One Grand Prix.
Alternatively, the Shams 1 concentrated solar plant, developed by Abu Dhabi energy company, Masdar, is the largest solar power station in the world. It is profoundly significant and symbolic of the UAE’s pioneering role in developing renewable energy.
Mr Brown says Abu Dhabi being chosen as the city to host the headquarters for the United Nations’ International Renewable Energy Agency was the direct result of Masdar’s initiatives and its record-breaking and pioneering research in renewable energy technology.
“Branding reinforces the efforts being pressed by countries in the region,” he says. “Masdar is world-leading and the foremost investor in renewable technologies and its Shams 1 CSP plant is the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world.
“Saudi Arabia and other countries with huge energy consumption have seen the benefit of investing in renewable energy.“
This year, the country killed three birds with one stone when more than 1,350 people gathered at Dubai’s Marina Mall to eat breakfast together at a 301-metre long table. The event, organised by Kelloggs, set records for the largest cereal breakfast attendance, the longest table and the biggest cereal box, all on the same day. The cereal box was 2.84 metres long, 1.11 metres deep and four metres high.
Fastest roller coaster in the world's largest indoor theme park
According to the Ferrari World website, the theme park is Ferrari’s first, it is the largest indoor theme park in the world and its Thrill of Rosso ride is the fastest roller coaster on the planet. The ride, which is modelled after a Ferrari Formula One Rosso Scuderia car, goes from 0kph to 240kph in five seconds. The theme park is on Yas Island, also home to the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix.
World's largest gold ring
Kanz Jewels proudly displays its Guinness Book of World Records certificate on the wall of its shop in the Deira Gold Souq. The company, which opened in the UAE in 1991, last year revealed the world’s largest gold ring – it weighs 63 kilograms and is worth about Dh9.7 million. The Najmat Taiba ring, which was made in Saudi Arabia, reportedly took 55 workers – working 10-hour shifts – a month and a half to make.
Most hanging baskets
The country’s world records are not confined to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In 2011, the Al Ain Paradise Gardens became the first holder of the Guinness World Record for the most hanging baskets. The garden opened in 2010 in a 7,000 square-metre area on Nahyan Al Awal Street at the Zakhar roundabout and contained 2,426 plants imported from around the world. The garden has been extended since and more plants added so that it now covers 21,000 square metres. At the time of the Guinness award, the adjudicator said the category of most hanging baskets was created especially for the garden.
Record property sale by e-auction
Last month the Dubai Courts set the record for the “most expensive property sold via an electronic auction conducted through smart applications”, according to the state news agency Wam. The Dubai Courts Execution Department put up a piece of land in the emirate for auction on the Emirates Auction website. It sold for about Dh94 million and “as a result the Dubai Courts is now the first court to ever have an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records”, a Wam statement said.
World's tallest hotel
The 72-storey JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai stands tall as the proud holder of the Guinness World Record for the world’s tallest hotel. The tower, formerly known as Emirates Park Towers Hotel and Spa, is 355.35 metres from ground level to the top of its mast. In February this year the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat named it the world’s tallest hotel. Incidentally the second tallest is also on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road. The Rose Tower, also known as the Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, is 72 floors and measures 333 metres from top to bottom.
World's largest automated parking facility
With space for 1,191 cars, the car park at the Emirates Financial Towers in Dubai is the holder of one of the lesser known records listed by Guinness – the largest automated parking facility. The 27,800 square-metre facility has an “automated vehicle stacker”, which works over nine floors using mechanical platforms to raise and move up to 360 cars an hour. The maximum speed is 1.25 metres per second and each car platform can hold up to 2,500 kilograms. The building is 35.5 metres by 98 metres and 22.5 metres high. Each space can hold a vehicle up to 5.79 metres long and 2.13 metres wide.
Another of the less well-known records was presented to the Dubai Exhibition Organisers for the UAE Logos project, which featured the most brands advertising on one billboard. The billboard, which was unveiled at Festival City in December 2010, measured 100 metres by 10 metres and was created to raise money for the Dubai Autism Centre. It took four hours to count the 1,233 logos and disqualify any duplicates, before the DEO was presented with the award.
In October 2012, citizens of 72 nations gathered to wash their hands simultaneously. After the event, an adjudicator from Guinness World Records presented the organiser, Lifebuoy, with the award for most nationalities washing their hands simultaneously. Included in the nationalities were people from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Syria, Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Washing hands, it seems, is a popular record-breaking pastime. Nigeria holds the record for most people washing their hands at one time, while China holds the record for the most participants in a hand washing relay.
World's most environmentally friendly city
Abu Dhabi’s sustainability project, Masdar City, holds what some might consider one of the more serious awards — the world’s most environmentally friendly city. According to the GWR, it is the world’s first city designed to be zero-carbon and zero-waste. All of the power is generated from renewable resources and all waste material is recycled.
Highest sword throw
A young Fujairah swordsman set the world record for the highest sword throw in November 2010 when he reached a height of 21.2598 metres.Hazza Sulaiman Al Shehhi, then 18, achieved a personal best on the day of the adjudication, which was organised by the Al Saif traditional sword competition. The distance was taken using a laser and measured from the highest point of the sword to the ground.
In October last year more than 700 sand castles were build on the Abu Dhabi corniche in an attempt to snatch the title of the Most Sandcastles Built in an Hour. The 537 castles approved by the Guinness World Records adjudicator were not enough to beat the record of 1,939 achieved on Killahoey Beach, in Dufanaghy, Ireland on September that year.