DUBAI // Biggest, fastest, longest, tallest … the UAE collects superlatives, and world records, like some other nations collect Olympic medals.
The number of such achievements has grown to a level that has prompted Guinness World Records has decided to open a Dubai office to keep tabs on them all.
“The UAE currently holds 102 records,” said Talal Omar, the Middle East representative for Guinness World Records.
“So establishing an official presence in the Middle East has been a direct response to the demand for record-breaking in the region.”
The office will open next year and, if recent history is any guide, its staff will have their hands full.
Record-holders say there is much about the UAE that makes it an appealing place to take on a challenge.
Alain Robert, the French “Spider-Man” who last year climbed the world’s tallest tower – the 828-metre Burj Khalifa in Dubai – in a record time of six hours, 13 minutes and 55 seconds using his bare hands and rubber shoes, says his decision to do was simple.
“I climbed the Taipei 101 in Taiwan back in 2004,” Mr Robert said. “So when that was dethroned [as the tallest building], I decided to take on the next challenge because I was in the habit of climbing skyscrapers every year.”
The 300 extra metres of the Burj Khalifa made a big difference.
“The difference of 300 metres was huge. It’s like adding the Eiffel Tower to a building,” said Mr Robert, who has been climbing towers for 20 years. “It was hard and extremely long, but I was happy and satisfied once I completed it.”
Fujairah also has its place in the record books, having hosted the world’s largest yola dance, a traditional Emirati dance with camel sticks, in November 2010.
“It was achieved by 285 participants from three different tribes within Fujairah as part of the Fujairah Crown Prince Award and Al Saif traditional sword competition,” said Mr Omar.
The record for the highest sword toss was set at the same event.
There are feats of endurance, such as that by Haidar Talib, an Emirati who in November 2010 set the record for the greatest distance covered in 24 hours in a motorised wheelchair.
Mr Talib covered the 141 kilometres from Masdar City to Al Thiqa Club for Handicapped in Sharjah in 14hr 28sec on a solar-powered wheelchair.
There are also food records: the world’s biggest kebab, weighing a whopping 468kg, was made by Doner Restaurant on Jumeirah Beach Road last year; and the longest line of sandwiches, measuring 2,667.13 metres, was achieved by Kraft Foods Middle East and Africa in September 2010.
Then, of course, there is bling. Before the world’s most expensively dressed Christmas tree came the world’s heaviest gold ring, the Najmat Taiba (“star of Taiba”), created by Taiba for Gold and Jewellery of Saudi Arabia at the Old Gold Souq in Deira in April 2009.
The ring, weighing 63.856 kilograms, consisted of 5.17kg of precious jewels set in a 58.686kg, 21-carat gold ring.
The largest coin was made here, a one-metre-wide monster that was 2.3 centimetres thick and weighed 185kg.
The gold-plated coin with a silver core was made by Damas jewellery in 2008 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences, and valued at Dh1 million.
And Dubai is the place for the world’s most expensive cocktail. The “27.321”, named for its Dh27,321 price tag, features on the menu of the Skyview Bar at Burj Al Arab.
But it is probably the feats of architecture that dazzle most. The Burj Khalifa’s 122nd-floor restaurant, At.mosphere, is the highest in the world at 441.3 metres.
Dubai’s Princess Tower, completed this year, is the world’s tallest residential tower at 413.4 metres and with 100 above-ground floors.
Abu Dhabi holds its own with the building that leans the most – the Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel, which at an inclination of 18° is more than four times the slant of the Tower of Pisa in northern Italy.
Not all applications to Guinness World Records succeed.
“We receive over 1,000 applications from around the world every week but 80 per cent of these are rejected at the first stage,” said Mr Omar.
In the past two years the company has received about 600 claims from the UAE, only 7 per cent of which – 42 in total – were accepted.
“Often, the records being suggested cannot be measured; they do not exceed current world records or they are just too crazy,” Mr Omar said.
“Some of the applications from the UAE that we’ve not been able to accept include the smallest underwater library, someone who claimed to be able to sleep for three continuous days, or the person who wanted to immerse their hand in iced water for the longest time.”