There is no doubt that the UAE is a popular destination for the rich and famous.
Whether they jet in for work or play, barely a day goes past without a star spotted in the Emirates – and they love to speak out about their appreciation for the country, too.
Here, to celebrate the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, we have rounded up 50 things A-listers from Nancy Ajram to Elissa, Will Smith to Shah Rukh Khan have said about the country:
1. Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan
The Bollywood actor is a frequent visitor to Dubai, to the point where he became the face of the Dubai Tourism campaign “Be My Guest ».
In 2013, he told The National: “I just love the way the city breathes – you have something for everyone here.”
2. American actress Lindsay Lohan
“I first came here in 2008 when they just finished building the Atlantis [The Palm] hotel, and there was none of this here that there is now. There was no DIFC, Downtown, Dubai Mall … anything that there is now,” Lindsay Lohan told actor David Spade during an interview in April 2020.
“I live here, yep,” she said. “I have been here for about six years. But I go to New York a lot to see my family … and I was in London before this,” she said, later adding that she “hadn’t been to LA in over 10 years ».
3. Swiss tennis pro Roger Federer
Swiss tennis star Roger Federer owns an apartment in Le Reve tower in Dubai Marina.
Speaking of buying a property in the emirate, he told Tennis World in 2018: “I’m happy I chose Dubai as a base, a practice base or as a going-through place for me to the rest of world. It’s a good location.
“I came on vacation, I think back in 2004 … then when I came on the way back from Bangkok when I beat [Andy] Roddick, I think, in the finals there, I came through Dubai.
“I remember it was brutally hot, I think like 39°C every day. [I] had a good time practicing. It was peace and quiet and I kind of enjoyed it here. I think I came back one more time for vacation and practised some more.
“I was like, I think this works well for practice and leisure. The next thing I knew, I had an apartment. It all happened quite quickly, to be honest. It was funny how it all worked out.”
4. British boxer Amir Khan
Amir Khan recently bought his ‘dream holiday home’ in Dubai, and launched a boxing academy in the emirate.
“I’ve tried to keep it a secret, but I thought it would be a good change. I’ll still be going back and forth between Bolton and Dubai, but I want to do a lot more in Dubai,” the English professional boxer said in September 2020.
“Maybe one day we could have a boxing arena in the Coca-Cola Arena! Moving here is definitely a challenge, but also an opportunity to open more doors for boxing in Dubai.”
5. Egyptian rapper Mohamed Ramadan
In 2020, Egyptian rapper Mohamed Ramadan received a UAE golden visa. Speaking of the honour, he said: “This was honestly something that I did not plan or expect.
“I am very grateful for this. I think the powers that be saw that I have the potential with my company to bring a lot of initiatives here to the UAE and they gave me that opportunity. With [hit song] Ya Habibi, the whole crew was about 150 people. Imagine [the employment opportunities] if I do 100 or more music videos here.”
6. K-pop super stars BTS
When BTS first visited the UAE in 2016, they documented their trip through a video diary. In the documentary video, they describe Dubai as “magical”.
“Everyone seems excited to be here,” the commentary says as they pull up to their hotel and point out all of the “luxury cars” that are lined up outside upon their arrival to the Palazzo Versace Dubai.
7. Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan has posed for photos with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, and worked on several movies in the UAE, most famously the 2020 action flick Vanguard.
“After Kung Fu Yoga, I go back, I tell all my friends – no matter Hong Kong, Taiwan, all the directors there – you should film in Dubai … When you film here, you’re comfortable,” he said in 2020.
“Dubai is a good place to film, so this is why we’re coming back. I believe, for the future, we’ll come back again and again. But I need all the police cars.”
8. American actor Will Smith
Will Smith is a very frequent traveller to Dubai and even filmed much of his new YouTube Originals docuseries, Best Shape of My Life, in the UAE.
Shots from the two-minute trailer show Smith cycling with the Downtown Dubai skyline in the background, as well as him practising yoga on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab. He is also seen training in the gym at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex, which is owned by his close friend, Sheikh Hamdan.
“Dubai fits my personality. It just speaks to how I see the world, how I see life,” the Men in Black star says in one episode. “If you’re going to build a building, are you really not going to try to build the Burj Khalifa?”
He then climbs the 160 floors of Burj Khalifa in 61 minutes before being strapped into safety gear and climbing up a ladder to enter the spire to reach the top.
“This is the individual highest point that a human being can be in a man-made structure on Earth,” he says.
9. MMA fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov
MMA fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov says he considers Abu Dhabi not only a hub for MMA but as one of the safest places on Earth.
“I have travelled around the world everywhere and in my opinion this is most safe place, besides being a combat sport hub,” he said in November 2020.
“I really love the UAE, its people and the hospitality. For me, it’s a big honour to always come back here.”
10. British rapper Stormzy
On December 10, British rapper Stormzy is returning to the UAE to perform at the Yasalam After Race Concert in Abu Dhabi on December 10.
No stranger to the Emirates, the rapper performed in February 2020, and returned for a holiday with fellow grime rapper Dave in August last year.
Stormzy is such a big fan of Dubai, he has rapped about the emirate.
In Vossi Bob, he raps: “Gyal say I’m bougie, way too exclusive / Chillin’ in Dubai, know I get it all inclusive.”
11. Singer Yusuf Islam
Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, now calls Dubai home and in May 2020 spoke to Rolling Stone about celebrating Ramadan in the emirate.
“Normally in Ramadan, you like to go to the mosque for the last prayer of the day. That wasn’t possible since all the mosques are shut,” he told the magazine from his home in Dubai.
“We had to do everything at home, but that was good for me because it made it more intense and more concentrated. It’s a spiritual month and you don’t have to be going out and gallivanting everywhere.
“It kind of suited the month. I became more reflective. I read more during this Ramadan than I have during previous ones.”
12. Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram
Nancy Ajram has performed in Dubai a number of times throughout her 20-plus year career and in 2011 she spoke about how passionate her fans in the emirate are.
“I love playing to all my wonderful fans in the UAE, but it’s very difficult in Dubai,” she says.
“I do not know why, but people go crazy when they see me. When I see people following me or waiting to touch me after my parties and concerts, it can be hard. You lose your privacy, your life.”
13. American actress Gwyneth Paltrow
In 2019, Goop founder Paltrow starred in one of Khan’s #BeMyGuest Dubai Tourism videos. Speaking about her time in Dubai, she said: “One of my favourite parts of travelling is to truly connect with a city, its people and the local culture. Dubai is special because it’s a melting pot.
“Both the ones born here, who are so proud of their heritage, and those who are recent transplants, bringing with them their own values and traditions, contribute to writing the future story of the city. My time in Dubai was beyond anything I expected and there’s still so much more to see.”
14. American actress Kate Hudson
Paltrow was joined by fellow Hollywood star Kate Hudson for one of her Dubai tourism campaign videos.
Speaking of the UAE, Hudson said: “Honestly, I was so grateful for the hospitality I received. I spent a lot of time exploring the winding streets of Old Dubai.
« It’s incredible to find such a vibrant art and music community in the heart of such a modern, futuristic city – which is what most people think Dubai is. But really, the friendliness of the people is what made my visit amazing and it’s why I’ll come back.”
15. American actress Zoe Saldana
Another actress to star in a Dubai Tourism campaign is Zoe Saldana, who commented on the city, saying: “The variety Dubai gave me was perfect. I went from riding horses at sunrise to watching the sunset from 150 metres in the sky. I can’t wait to bring my boys here to continue the adventure.”
16. British comedian Jack Whitehall
In January, Jack Whitehall returned to Dubai 12 years after his first comedy gig in the emirate.
Speaking before the show’s announcement in December 2020, Whitehall recalled performing his first international gig in Dubai “a long time ago”, which he says he brought his mum and dad along for.
“I am trying to keep that part of the Dubai Shopping Festival on the down-low, because if my mum gets wind of that, she’ll be on the flight again,” he joked.
17. American actress Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith is also no stranger to the UAE.
In April this year, Pinkett Smith posted a photo of herself on a sun-drenched balcony, wearing a light pink hijab. She captioned the photo: “I really think the colour peach in the Middle East … suits me.”
The actress did not confirm where she was staying, but based on the terrace she posted from, it looks like she was at the Bulgari Resort Dubai.
In February 2019, Pinkett Smith and husband Will went skydiving together at Skydive Dubai.
“My wife made the mistake of telling me she would do whatever I wanted for my birthday,” the actor said in 22-minute YouTube video about the experience. “And then I told her what I wanted [was] for her to skydive with me.”
18. Canadian rapper Drake
Drake has a long-standing love for Dubai. Not only has the rapper spent plenty of his downtime enjoying many of the city’s delights, pictured above with Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he has also let his fondness for the emirate seep into his lyrics.
On track Lemon Pepper Freestyle, which features Rick Ross, Drake refers to his close relationship with the royal family.
“And that’s facts, [Sheikh] Hamdan [bin] Mohammed like my third cousin (facts) / [Sheikh] Mansoor [bin] Mohammed like my real brother (facts) / Dubai embrace me like an Emirati (facts),” he raps.
19. Reality star Kim Kardashian West
Kim Kardashian West credits a 2011 trip to Dubai with making her realise how famous she was even in the Middle East.
Speaking to The Cut, she said: “So, I’d say 2010, 2011 was like, ‘I’ll do anything’. Cupcakes, milkshakes. So, I go to a milkshake place in Dubai, thinking, ‘Oh, it’s just, you know, some little milkshake store’. Maybe like 250,000 people showed up to The Dubai Mall.
“I had never seen anything like it before. We had to sneak out the back. I mean, I took videos of the thousands, hundreds of thousands of people at the mall in Dubai. My mum and I looked at each other – because I made her come with me – and we were like … ‘What is going on? A milkshake place?’”
20. Lebanese singer Elissa
Singer Elissa is no stranger to the UAE. She has been honoured with a golden visa and is scheduled to perform in Abu Dhabi on New Year’s Eve.
“Can’t get enough of beautiful Dubai,” she tweeted in 2018. She regularly shares views from her Dubai hotel rooms and from nights out with friends in the emirate.
In March, her portrait lit up the Burj Khalifa.
21. Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt
Actor Sanjay Dutt received his golden visa in May.
“Honoured to have received a golden visa for the UAE,” he wrote, announcing the news in a Twitter post. The actor is a frequent visitor to the UAE and spent most of Ramadan this year in the Emirates with his wife and children.
22. American actor John Cena
Actor and wrestler John Cena is the face of a recent Visit Abu Dhabi tourism campaign.
The popular star features in the movie-like campaign, which shows him stuck in a private jet on a long-haul flight.
“Let’s go to Abu Dhabi instead,” Cena says. “Drop me off!”
“Sir, I have already flown past, I would have to change the flight path,” the captain replies.
Taking matters in his own hands, Cena opens the plane’s door and skydives down to the city.
While descending, he surveys Abu Dhabi’s diverse offerings — from the majestic sand dunes to the eye-catching facade of Yas Island’s Ferrari World — before landing on the shimmering roof of Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island.
The video ends with Cena removing his shades and uttering the campaign’s key message: “I wish you could see this.”
23. British comedian Michael McIntyre
Speaking to Time Out Dubai in 2015, McIntyre said: “My family and I love Dubai. The weather is almost strangely perfect. I’ve never seen a cloud, it’s a novelty.
“The only thing that frightens me is the driving … Literally, people can’t drive, they seem to think there is a lane where there isn’t one. The braking distances in Dubai are the smallest in the world … in a city famed for having the biggest things in the world.”
24. Socialite Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton has a number of handbag boutiques in the UAE and back in 2018, she told local media personality Kris Fade about making a return trip to the country: “I want to plan an epic trip to Dubai right now. I’m just looking at my calendar.
“It’s so beautiful there and it’s so much fun. I want to go skydiving. I want to go to The Dubai Mall, I want to go everywhere.”
25. Model Bella Hadid
Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid described Abu Dhabi as one of her “favourite places in the world” in an Instagram post from November 2018. Hadid was supporting her boyfriend at the time, The Weeknd, who was headlining at the Yasalam After Race Concert.
On the same trip, the model captioned an image of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, saying: “Nothing in the world more beautiful to me”.
26. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli
The Italian opera singer performed at the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai. Speaking of the honour, he said: “Going back to opening another universal exhibition, passing the baton from Italy to the United Arab Emirates, fills me with joy.
“Now, even more so, after these troubled two years, that smile remains the most potent message I want to convey through my presence in Dubai, which is such a dynamic locale where you can breathe the future.
“And for many years now, I have had the joy of verifying how the bel canto singing style, my homeland’s sensitivity and creativity are appreciated in Dubai.”
27. Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor
“Wow! Dubai does everything bigger, and this time twice,” Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor tweeted in 2017, with a photo of the Dubai skyline.
28. Talk show host Trevor Noah
South African talk show host Trevor Noah was in Abu Dhabi to perform in 2019. Before his back-to-back gigs, he told The National: “Every city has a slightly different show.
“Whenever I come out to the UAE, there is always new material. I am always discovering new parts of the UAE that I enjoy, whether it’s going to a different souq or Ferrari World. For me, it’s an adventure. I know that if I spend one day at brunch, I will have at least five minutes of new jokes.”
29. Bollywood star Tusshar Kapoor
Kapoor said of Dubai in a 2018 interview with High On Persona: “Dubai [is] one of my favourite places.
“It has incredibly emerged into this beautiful paradise … it has really managed to become a world landmark in development … and wherein the smartness and the creativity of the city is concerned. It is so multicultural, diverse and liberal. So, I love Dubai for all these things.”
30. Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Towards the beginning of her career, Priyanka Chopra Jonas would regularly jet in and out of Dubai for press events, premieres and holidays in the emirate.
“Always enjoyed the energy and love I get in abundance in Dubai,” she tweeted in July 2015.
31. Entrepreneur Huda Kattan
One of Dubai’s most famous residents is beauty entrepreneur Huda Kattan, who lives in the city along with her sisters, Mona and Alya. In 2020, she listed the things she loves about living in Dubai to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in an interview for the model’s Quibi series, About Face.
“We are lucky because we are in Dubai and Dubai is super progressive, especially compared to other parts of the Middle East. And they love beauty here, [so] that is great,” Kattan said.
Kattan has been married to Christopher Goncalo since 2008. The couple met at high school. They have a daughter, Nour, 10.
32. Spanish footballer Michel Salgado
Salgado lives in Dubai with his family. The former Real Madrid and Blackburn Rovers player is now director at Football Academy Dubai.
“I came to Dubai for the first time in 2003 and fell in love with the city and the opportunities it offers,” he told Sharp in 2017.
“I have seen some first-class youth footballers in the Arab world who are hungry for the chance to play professionally. We know these kids need professional training to help realise their dreams of becoming professional football players and this reflects my commitment to developing the future of sports in the UAE.”
33. Lebanese singer Najwa Karam
Singer Najwa Karam posted her joy at receiving her golden visa on her 55th birthday in February.
“May God cherish the UAE’s leadership and people,” she said. “This happened on my birthday, so the joy has doubled.”
34. Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor
Irish mixed martial artist Conor McGregor is a regular in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
This year, he was in the country for the holy month and tweeted: « Ramadan Mubarak to all my Muslim friends and fans. Honoured to be spending Ramadan in the UAE this year”.
35. The Script’s Glen Power
Irish band The Script played at the Dubai Airshow Gala Dinner in November, giving the crowd a taste of their coming tour.
Reluctant to confirm a Dubai date for the tour, the band’s drummer, Glen Power, said only that it was a possibility.
“There have been conversations about Dubai being part of the tour,” he told The National before the show. “We first came here in 2011 and we’ve came back twice since. The crowds are great and we love the energy, so we hope we can make it happen.”
36. Lebanese actress Nadine Nassib Njeim
The Lebanese actress received the UAE golden visa in May. Njeim, lauded for her roles in series such as Five Thirty and Al Hayba, also announced the news on Instagram.
“I am happy to be in the country of safety and security,” she wrote.
37. Laboum’s Jung So-yeon
K-Pop girl group Laboum were in Dubai to perform at Expo 2020 Dubai in November
“I had always thought Dubai was a very far away country, but now it feels nearer and I feel so honoured to be taking part like this,” said member Jung So-yeon during the performance.
38. The Original Wailers’ Al Anderson
Al Anderson, the American singer who fronts The Original Wailers, was in Dubai to perform at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on November 19.
Speaking of the emirate, he told The National: “We always love coming to Dubai because it has everything I love: food, culture, the souqs and so many cultural things you can get lost in.”
39. South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha
Coming 2 America actress Nomzamo Mbatha was in Dubai in October representing her country at its Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion.
“[To] see our pavilion here in Dubai was great because it’s about knowing that we have an equal footing and that we earned our place to be in the international market. I came here to meet my international peers and it is through those conversations that our industry will grow,” she told The National.
“The fact that I managed to make something out of myself from a small part of the world speaks to the power of possibilities in South Africa and what can be cultivated by South Africans.”
40. Italian designer Giorgio Armani
In October, Giorgio Armani selected Dubai to host Armani’s One Night Only show in.
Speaking of the city, he said: “In many ways, Dubai is the opposite of what is normally associated with Armani, a kind of reverse image of the things I hold dear: it is highly visible, ostentatious and frenetic.
“But there is also an aspect that is very Armani and resembles my character, a quality we have in common: it is without doubt a place focused on the future, fast moving, where the imagination knows no bounds.
“Nothing and nowhere can be compared with the wonder of Dubai, conceived and raised with the sole purpose of astonishing the world.
“I’m happy and proud to be here today: the Middle East is the cradle of a new concept of luxury, synonymous with continuous evolution and experimentation that still draw on the roots and the magic of a rich, deep culture to give life to a new creative energy.”
41. Lebanese pop star Myriam Fares
Singer Myriam Fares was given a golden visa in July and said of the honour: “I am very proud of having received the honour of golden residency from my second country, the United Arab Emirates.
“All thanks to Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and gratitude and respect to this generous country, its rulers and people.”
42. Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty
The Bollywood actor, who reached the height of his fame in the 1990s, is another star to have been given a golden visa.
In August, he wrote on Instagram: “A big thank you to the visionary leaders and the government authorities of the UAE. Thank you so much for the honour.”
43. Indian actress Kubbra Sait
Last month, Indian actress Kubbra Sait spoke about the irony of how her time in Ireland has brought her back to the UAE.
Speaking to The National, she said: “For me, Dubai is an extended version of home. I love coming back, and to be honest, this time around, it’s extra special because the first time I ever moved out of home, it was to come and live in Dubai and the other time I left, it was to go to Ireland.
“To have these two really important places to me – personally more than professionally – intersect, and to be here talking about these places that were instrumental in changing me as a person, is great,” she says.
Sait worked in Dubai from 2005 to 2010 before she became famous.
44. K-Pop band Highlight’s Yoon Doo-joon and Son Dong-woon
In November, K-Pop fans in the UAE were treated to live performances by Korean boy group Highlight at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“Expo 2020 is a global festival and a global event, [so] it is such a great honour for me to be able to participate,” Highlight’s frontman Yoon Doo-joon said at a media conference earlier in the day.
“I have been to Dubai on transit and on my way to other cities, so it is actually my first time to be here.”
“On my way to the media conference, I have seen many pavilions. Most importantly, I am from Korea, so I am very interested in the Korea pavilion,” Son Dong-woon, the youngest of the group, said.
45. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt
Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt was in Dubai in November to make an appearance at Expo 2020 Dubai for a 1.45-kilometre family run.
At the event, he said: “It has been a pleasure visiting Expo 2020 Dubai and learning more about how Dubai has reimagined the future of mobility, including make it easy and accessible.
“The family run today was a great example of how sports can bring a community together for a good cause. I always tell the young athletes that their possibilities are endless, and in today’s run, joined by the students of determination from Al Noor and Hamda Hosani, I think we’ve proved that.
“A big thank you to everyone in Dubai that came down to join us today for the family run. I can’t wait to come back to Dubai in the future,” he added.
46. Comedian Russell Peters
Speaking to Time Out Dubai before his 2019 gig, comedian Russell Peters reflected on more than 20 years of gigs in the city.
“I’ve been coming to perform here for 21 years and that was long before I was a big deal. There used to be a gig inside the vault in one of the Hyatt hotels. There weren’t a huge number of venues like that open back then.
“Dubai was kind of desert with not much going on. Here we are 21 years later and it’s one of the most sought-after places in the world.
“I remember when I came here at first, I also did a gig in Sharjah and you had to drive through desert. I performed in a basement. Now I’m performing on a large stage for Emiratis, Indians, Brits, Arabs, Australians and all the other expats. It’s completely changed.”
47. Indian film composer AR Rahman
In March 2021, Indian film composer AR Rahman announced that he was leaving Chennai, India, and moving to Dubai for the duration of Expo 2020 Dubai.
“I give every single project my 100 per cent so I’m excited to move to the UAE and really start training the musicians [Firdaus Orchestra] soon so that they can really wow everybody,” he said.
48. US rapper Young Dolph
US rapper Young Dolph was tragically shot dead on November 17. The rapper visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2019, and was charmed by the UAE.
Taking to Instagram following a visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, he said: “This place is so beautiful over here. I remember I didn’t want to go nowhere far, nowhere where I can’t get my car and drive home. This has opened my eyes up.
“This is the most beautiful thing in the world – to look at the creation and keep travelling and looking at culture. My eyes are open now, for real.”
49. Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy
Comic Jo Koy performed at the Coca-Cola Arena in January 2020 – a gig, he confessed, that was booked because he wanted to holiday in the UAE.
“Listen, man, the whole point of the Dubai show started with me just wanting to vacation there,” he said.
“So, when the chance came to actually go up there and do a show, I was super excited. This is two birds with one stone. I can’t wait to see you all up there.”
50. Egyptian actress Nelly Karim
Nelly Karim received a UAE golden visa this year, something she has celebrated because it means she can stop getting passport stamps each time she visits the country.
Speaking to web show ET Bil Arabi in March, she said she was grateful and relieved she can come back and forth to the UAE for the next decade as she pleases.
“There is no space in my passport for any new visa stamp,” she said.
“This is due to my frequent visits to Dubai, whether for work or tourism.”
Updated: November 28th 2021, 7:09 AM