The decade that was: the greatest moments in the UAE from 2010 to 2019

Plenty of big achievements and momentous occasions have taken place across the country in the last 10 years

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The UAE has achieved some incredible milestones throughout this decade, from the moment the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, opened its doors in 2010, until the minute Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati astronaut, entered space in 2019.

Here, we review some of the most memorable moments in the past 10 years.


  • On Monday, January 4, Burj Khalifa opened to the public
  • Meydan Racecourse opened on Saturday, March 27, replacing Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in Dubai
  • Al Maktoum International Airport, also known as Dubai World Central, opened on Sunday, June 27, initially for cargo operations
  • Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi became Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday, October 27
  • Ferrari World Abu Dhabi opened on Thursday, November 4. It took is home to the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa
  • Sheikh Zayed Bridge, designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, opened in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, November 25

Population in 2010: 8.3 million


  • Al Ain Oasis became the UAE's first Unesco World Heritage Site on Monday, June 27
  • RAK Maritime City, a multimillion dirham industrial free zone and port, opened on Monday, May 16. It cost Dh520m to build and spans about 800 hectares
  • Palm Deira Dubai Metro station opened on the green line on Friday, September 9
  • Salsali Private Museum opened in Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai, on Friday, November 11. It was the first private museum in the region for contemporary Middle Eastern and international art
  • Capital Gate, also known as the Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi, opened on Wednesday, December 21. The year before, it was officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's farthest man-made leaning building


  • The Landmark opened in Abu Dhabi, becoming the tallest building in the capital at the time, standing at 324 metres
  • Princess Tower opened in Dubai Marina with 101 floors – it was the tallest residential building in the world until 2015, when it was overtaken by 432 Park Avenue in New York City
  • Work on both towers of JW Marriott Marquis Dubai was completed and the 355-metre hotel was the tallest in the world until Gevora Hotel opened in the city in 2018
  • Sunday, July 15 was the first day of operation for an oil pipeline that runs 403 kilometres from Habshan to the waters off Fujairah, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz
  • On Tuesday, January 17, the region's first official Sikh Gurudwara (temple), called Guru Nanak Darbar, was opened in Jebel Ali Village, Dubai, for more than 50,000 devotees in the UAE


  • On Wednesday, November 27, Dubai famously won the bid to host Expo 2020
  • The Emirates Literature Foundation was established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, with Magrudy's book shop cofounder Isobel Abulhoul named as one of the trustees on the board
  • The Galleria Al Maryah Island opened on Tuesday, August 27, becoming the first high-end shopping mall in the capital
  • On Sunday, March 17, Shams 1 power plant opened at Madinat Zayed. It was the largest solar energy project in the Mena region at the time
  • A new passenger terminal opened at Al Maktoum International Airport on Sunday, October 27, with capacity for up to seven million passengers per year
  • The first UAE Flag Day was celebrated on Sunday, November 3, marking the anniversary of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed's presidency of the UAE


  • Dubai Tram opened on Tuesday, November 11, offering residents a new type of public transport in the emirate, servicing various areas near Al Sufouh
  • World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi complex was completed, along with Burj Mohammed bin Rashid, now the tallest building in the capital, standing at 382 metres
  • Sharjah was named the Islamic Cultural Capital of the Arab World and, to mark the occasion, Al Majaz Amphitheatre was opened in the emirate
  • In February, the Drones for Good Award was launched to encourage useful and positive applications for drone technology
  • In July, the UAE announced its plans to send an unmanned probe to Mars in what would make it the first Arab country to do so
  • Four Seasons Resort Dubai opened its doors in November at Jumeirah Beach, making it the first Four Seasons property in the UAE
  • Yas Mall opened on Wednesday, November 19, just in time for that year's Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix


  • The UAE's Mars mission probe was given a new name: Hope, or Al Amal in Arabic, on Wednesday, May 6
  • Plans for the Museum of the Future in Dubai were announced on Wednesday, March 4
  • This became the Year of Innovation, in a bid to make the UAE a world innovation leader, as part of a strategy of 30 national initiatives
  • On Monday, March 9, Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi's Al Bateen Executive Airport for the first leg of its round-theworld flight – on its way to becoming the first solar-powered plane to circumnavigate the earth
  • The first Emirati Women's Day was celebrated on Friday, August 28
  • On Thursday, December 17, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' was released in UAE cinemas, featuring scenes shot in the capital's Liwa desert, as the Abu Dhabi dunes were the setting for the planet of Jakku


  • Dubai Opera opened on Wednesday, August 31, 2016
  • Dubai Water Canal was inaugurated on Wednesday, November 9
  • The Wahat Al Karama memorial was opened on Wednesday, November 30, 2016. It honours and records the names of those who died serving their country
  • Sergiu Toma won a bronze medal for the UAE at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics after he had competed in the Men's 81 kg judo category
  • It was declared that 2016 was the Year of Reading in the UAE, as a way to create a new generation of book lovers and cement the country's position as a hub for culture and knowledge
  • On Tuesday, July 26, Solar Impulse 2 landed at Abu Dhabi's Al Bateen Executive Airport as it became the first plane to circle the world using solar power and not a drop of fossil fuel, covering more than 40,000kms
  • Dubai Parks and Resorts opened its doors on Monday, October 31, 2016, bringing with it Legoland and Riverland on the same day, followed by the opening of Bollywood Parks on Thursday, November 17 and Motiongate on Friday, December 16
  • It was announced the world's first Hyperloop would come to the UAE, shortening the commute between Abu Dhabi and Dubai down to just 12 minutes


  • Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to the public on Saturday, November 11, making it the first Louvre to open outside of Paris
  • The Dubai Font, the city's own sans-serif typeface, was launched on Sunday, April 30
  • President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed declared this the Year of Giving, encouraging people to volunteer and show compassion towards others
  • UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, a major initiative within the UAE Centennial 2071 objectives, was launched on Monday, October 16
  • The first Dubai Fitness Challenge took place, as Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, challenged the city's residents to do 30 minutes of exercise every day for 30 days
  • La Mer opened in October to the public in Jumeirah 1
  • The UAE's plans to build the first city on Mars by 2117 were announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai


  • Dubai Frame opened on Monday, January 1
  • Gevora Hotel opened in February in Dubai, becoming the world's tallest hotel at 356 metres tall
  • Qasr Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi's oldest standing structure, reopened to the public on Friday, December 7, as a dedicated attraction, educating tourists on the culture and heritage of the UAE
  • In December, Reem Central Park, a one-million-square-foot recreational space, opened on Reem Island, Abu Dhabi. It includes a canal walk, skateboard park, basketball pitch and food outlets
  • On Monday, October 29, KhalifaSat, the first satellite designed, tested and manufactured entirely by Emirati engineers, was successfully launched from an island off the southern tip of Japan
  • The UAE passport became the world's most powerful on Saturday, December 1, as holders are now able to gain visa-free entry to 167 countries worldwide
  • A 2.83-kilometre-long zipline opened in Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah, in February, becoming the world's longest


  • Pope Francis became the first Pope to ever visit the Arabian Peninsula when he came to Abu Dhabi in February. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed commemorated the milestone visit by announcing the construction of an interfaith complex called Abrahamic Family House
  • Special Olympics World Games took place in Abu Dhabi between Thursday and Thursday, March 14 and 21
  • Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri was the first person from the UAE to go to space when he headed to the International Space Station on Wednesday, September 25
  • Sharjah was named the World Book Capital 2019
  • Etihad Airways completed the world's first ultra-longhaul flight without using any single-use plastics, touching down in Australia on Monday, April 22, or World Earth Day

Population in 2019: 9.8 million


Read more:

A world of difference - the UAE's emergence on the global stage

The Middle East 2010-19 - in pictures

From Banksy to the $120,000 banana: the 9 biggest art moments of the decade