x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Guinness World Record-bids soaring in UAE

Longest sandwich and largest gathering of chefs in one place are just two of 110 Guinness World Records titles held in the Emirates.

Omar Al Hegelan broke the record for the world's highest base jump after free falling from the Burj Khalifa. Reuters / Stringer
Omar Al Hegelan broke the record for the world's highest base jump after free falling from the Burj Khalifa. Reuters / Stringer

DUBAI // The UAE is home to some record-breaking feats of engineering, such as the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Metro. But it also holds a few less well-known world records, such as the longest unbroken line of sandwiches, and the “most fecund virgin shark”.

The Emirates currently holds 110 world records – the most in the region – and that number is constantly growing.

Guinness World Records, the authority on such pieces of information as the world’s tallest man and the world’s fastest sheep, has opened an office in Dubai to meet that growing demand.

Talal Omar, the company’s office manager in Dubai, has only been here for three weeks and has already adjudicated on about 10 record attempts.

“The number of applications we get from the Middle East increases every year,” he said. “Last year, we used to send someone to the region once a week. Sometimes we’d have three events in one week, so three people would fly from the UK to
attend records here.

“With that exceptional growth, we decided to open an office here in order to give the right support to applicants.”

The record attempts have been nothing if not varied.

In January, Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse played host to 2,847 chefs, the world’s largest gathering of professional cooks.

That record was claimed from South Korea, which had set it in May last year with 2,011 people.

Next month looks equally busy for Mr Omar, who will travel to Egypt to oversee the world’s largest manmade lagoon, to Jordan to watch the largest number of people to sign up as an organ donor at one time, and to Kuwait to see the world’s largest handprint painting.

Later this month, Dubai will host the world’s largest number of cars in one unbroken convoy. There will be about 220 cars for the desert event, breaking the previous record of 150.

The vehicles will need to drive with a gap of no more than 70-100 metres, and have to drive for 50km. “It’s not an easy record, it’s very challenging,” said Mr Omar.

Mr Omar said that despite how disparate the records attempts may seem, there were often similar motivating factors behind the applicants.

“For some people it’s their life dream,” he said. “They’ve always wanted this and they’ll work hard until they achieve it.

“Others just want to be the best. Whether it’s companies, charities or individuals, they always want to be the best in their particular field, and of course to enjoy the fame that comes with that.”

Sometimes, however, requests have to be turned down. On one occasion Mr Omar received a record application from someone hoping to build the largest underwater library, which was rejected because it was too niche as to generate further competition.

“We don’t want someone to break a record and that’s it, no one is interested,” he said.

Guinness World Records started life in the 1950s as a marketing giveaway book from the Guinness brewery in Ireland and grew from there.

It now logs 45,000 records every year, but it has space to publish only 4,000 in its annual compendium.

Mr Omar said that while some records were more impressive than others, it wasn’t his place to judge.

“It’s not up to me to decide,” he said. “People are passionate about different things. When you work with them, you start to appreciate why they like certain things.

“You have to have no boundaries when you think about records. People will come up with the most
bizarre, the most incredible ideas.

“You can’t limit yourself to what you think is possible or not possible, you have to be open.

“No matter how extreme or how bizarre it is, we go all the way with them until they achieve it.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae