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Is Dubai a country or a city? Improve your knowledge of UAE!

by Danni B

Despite all of Dubai’s fame this is still an extremely common question! Is Dubai a country? Another very common question is, is Dubai a country or a capital city? The answer is neither! It is a city but it is not a capital city. The capital of the country is actually Abu Dhabi and the country is United Arab Emirates. Though don’t go just yet, learn some more about Dubai & the UAE below!

As someone who has lived in the UAE for many years and now classed as an “old timer” in Dubai years. When travelling I still get asked these same questions many times! It makes it even more confusing since I’m British but live out here and my husband is from Saudi Arabia. So you can imagine the conversations when I’m visiting other parts of the world!

Over the years, I’ve seen reactions go from “Dubai, where is that?” to “Oh wow, you live in Dubai!” But despite this, there’s still some common misconceptions which I’ll address below!

Make sure to check out some of my other helpful articles about Dubai here:

Visiting the Burj Khalifa, an insider’s guide & At The Top alternatives
The Dubai dress code: how to dress when visiting Dubai
17 amazing hotels with views of the Burj Khalifa
Where is Dubai? Answering all your questions about Dubai

Is Dubai a capital city?

Dubai is not a capital city but it is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates. As mentioned, the capital city of the UAE is actually Abu Dhabi not Dubai but since Dubai is more famous. Often people think it’s the capital!

So Dubai is a city within the emirate of Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a city within the very large emirate of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is larger as an Emirate but since they aren’t separate countries, they aren’t both classed as capital cities. Though before the unification of the UAE, you would have classed Dubai city as the capital of Dubai.

If you want to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, check out my guide here!

In what country is Dubai?

Dubai is part of a country called United Arab Emirates or UAE for short. You can see the UAE flag featured above. The UAE was founded on the 2nd December 1971, so as you can tell is quite a relatively new country! Before that it was under the rule of the British Empire.

For more about the history of the UAE, learn more here!

What is an Emirate?

An Emirate is a piece of land ruled by an Emir, however in the UAE they don’t use the title Emir. They use the word Sheikh or Ruler. The word Emir is defined as a male Islamic leader. Emir in Arabic comes from the word commander or prince.

Does Dubai have a capital city?

So Dubai is the main city of the Emirate of Dubai, another town which is part of Dubai as an Emirate is Hatta. Another is Jebel Ali, which is also where one of largest ports in the Middle East is located. Since Dubai is not a country, that is why Dubai doesn’t have a capital city.

Hatta is a stunning town full of natural beauty, located close to the border of Oman. It has a beautiful lake and mountain range. So it’s definitely somewhere you should check out to see the other side to Dubai! (We’re not only 5 star hotels you know!)

For my guide to the beautiful lakes of Dubai, check out this article!

Is Dubai a capitalist country?

Another common one along with this is, is Dubai a communist country? So Dubai is pretty unique in that is still has a ruling monarchy. The country isn’t communist and definitely is capitalist. Anyone can go to Dubai and set up a business. Previously you needed a local partner to operate in the mainland but these laws have changed.

However the country does have great social programs for it citizens (not residents, sorry!), such as giving land and housing to those who get married. Along with financial aid for the wedding. Education in state schools is also free for citizens or “locals” as they’re called in Dubai. They also get discounted utility bills and other reduced costs for being Emirati.

The vast majority of Emirati citizens are employed by the government however with the Emiratisation of the private sector, the UAE is looking to change that.

Dubai is which continent?

The continent it comes under is Asia. Since Asia is a very diverse continent, it often classed in it’s sub-continent as the Middle East. The Middle East is divided into two keys areas, called the “Sham” or Levant in English and Arabian Peninsula. Dubai is located on the Arabian Gulf

Outside of the Gulf this is often referred to as the Persian Gulf due to the historical Ottoman Empire. However if you are in Dubai or anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula they call it the Arabian Gulf. The Arabian Gulf consists of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain & Kuwait.

The Middle East also includes, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Iran. Commonly North Africa is included as part of the region, Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia. Often shortened to MENA, Middle East and North Africa.

Is Dubai in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is a completely separate country with a different ruling family and different laws. Saudi Arabia is located next door to the United Arab Emirates. There is a border in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi that connects to Saudi Arabia. It would take 4 and a half hours to drive from Dubai to the Saudi Border.

I’m not sure why Dubai gets confused with Saudi Arabia all the time! They’re pretty different countries but I guess to the West they’re both very rich Arab countries with similar cultures.

Where is Dubai?

Dubai is located in the centre of the country of the United Arab Emirates, in the Arabian Peninsula. The main city of Dubai has the Gulf Sea running along it. Making it a lovely beach destination. It borders both Oman and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. It’s desert climate means sunny weather the majority of time around the year.

For more commonly asked questions about Dubai and the UAE, check out my previous article all about Dubai here

How big is Dubai?

Another common question, is Dubai a large country? So of course you now know Dubai is a city not a country. The answer is no, in terms of land mass the UAE is quite a small country. Dubai as a city is however large in terms of km² compared with other cities.

The City of Dubai is 4,114 km², compared to the UAE which is 83,600 km². Dubai’s population has decreased in the last couple of years, with it’s 2021 estimate currently being 2.9 million. The overall population of the UAE is 9.89 million.

Compared to London which is 1,572 km² and has a population of nearly 9.5 million.

Learn more about Dubai here!

Can you visit Dubai?

Yes!! Dubai is one of the most tourist friendly countries in the world since they offer a free visa on entry for lots of different countries. You can check if your country is one of those here!

Dubai’s airport is also one of the busiest as the world, since it’s ideal connection to the rest of Asia and places like Australia. So even if you’re planning to visit another city, Dubai is the perfect place for a layover. So make the most of it and take a tour of the city.

This awesome tour from GetYourGuide takes you to see all the main tourist attractions across Dubai in 8 hours! Perfect for those who are only here for one weekend but still want to see as much as possible of Dubai!

What is the Dubai country code?

The country code for Dubai, Abu Dhabi and all the other emirates that are part of the United Arab Emirates is +971. So if you get a call from this country or need to call a UAE number, make sure to add 00971 or +971.


I hope this answers some of the basic questions you have about Dubai! For more questions and more information on Dubai, make sure to check out our Dubai Guides page and if you’d like to know more about UAE, check out our UAE article here!

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