The United Arab Emirates is one of the leading nations in the world for their comprehensive UAE metaverse strategy and subsequent success stories. This article covers why and what the UAE’s metaverse strategy entails. We will also shine a spotlight on the eight metaverse projects paving the way for its metaverse path, helping other nations to drive the same road.
This article, focusing on the Metaverse in UAE, is the first in a series covering the Middle Eastern nations that expand and advance the Metaverse Nexus through investments and governmental motivation to realize its immense potential.
The modern and more accurate definition of the metaverse is what Metaverse Insider calls the ‘Metaverse Nexus.’ Two aims were considered when conceptualizing this framework: practicality, to illustrate the actual value achieved by people, enterprises, and industries while leaving space for the ever-changing nature of the metaverse.
The result became three metaverse areas: social, enterprise, and industrial, each independent and interdependent in overlapping sections, forming intricate interactions.
In short, the Metaverse Nexus provides a snapshot of what it is today, enabling it to centralize its concentric circles into one master Metaverse circle.
If you are intrigued by what we mean by the Metaverse Nexus and want to discover more, check out our keystone article below.
UAE’s Metaverse Strategy
“The metaverse represents a rich source of opportunity for Dubai, placing us at the cutting edge of important, fast-changing digital technologies, and creating business prospects far beyond our physical borders. We embrace this new reality with an open mind, in the spirit of curiosity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.”
– His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Teleworking Applications and Chairman of The Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy
UAE as the Global Leader in Metaverse Nexus
Through a macroeconomic lens, according to a report developed by Deloitte and commissioned by Meta, Metaverse Nexus areas will add between $9-17bn to its yearly GDP by 2035. Even now, the UAE metaverse strategy comprises direct attention to being a global leader in the Metaverse Nexus, planning to future-proof its economy for a virtual tomorrow.
From a general perspective, the UAE has announced a national vision dubbed “We the UAE 2031” of four pillars: Forward Society, Forward Economy, Forward Diplomacy, and Forward Ecosystem. Throughout all four areas, innovation and emerging technology run throughout, showing a clear indicator that the UAE is a global leader in virtualizing its public services, infrastructure, and economy.
In particular, the UAE metaverse strategy will maintain its motivation toward ten industries, transforming them through the Metaverse Nexus:
- Aviation to use immersive technologies and digital twins for Design & Development.
- Gaming to deliver AppAR and VR games while offering social engagement through virtual worlds.
- Government services to virtualize civil services in a digital twin for convenience and efficiency, connecting with Forward Ecosystem, aiming for the UAE government to be “[t]he world’s smartest, most dynamic and agile government.”
- Logistics will be more iterative, optimizing, and evaluative from the capabilities of industrial digital twins, increasing efficiency and decreasing costs.
- Tourism will increase its usage of virtual transportation and augmented tourism through virtual worlds, digital twins, and virtual reality, led by a dedicated metaverse tourism task force.
- Education will be reinvented to teach its young population emerging digital skills while taking advantage of immersive learning opportunities in the Metaverse Nexus.
- Retail is to be transformed by immersive commerce, using augmented reality and virtual worlds to complement the retail shopping experience.
- Remote work will similarly undergo extensive transformation with the advent of mixed reality and spatial computing in virtual collaboration and digital twin offices.
- Healthcare to realize the potential of decentralized surgeries through virtual reality, AR as patient information in the operational theater, and the rapidly growing segment of VR Mental Care such as in exposure therapy and pain management.
- The legal sector will provide the necessary legislative and policing infrastructure for the Metaverse Nexus. Namely, the UAE aims to be a beacon of leadership in Metaverse legislation through the Forward Ecosystem: “Preserving human rights and dignity through an advanced judicial and legislative system supported by the latest technology, serving society and meeting the needs of the future.”
Discover in our free and detailed whitepaper the full potential of industrial digital twins and what enterprises are achieving in the most advanced area of the Metaverse Nexus.
What is the Dubai Metaverse Strategy?
The United Arab Emirates’ metaverse vision is to “turn Dubai into one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies as well as a global hub for the metaverse community.” 
The idea is to utilize the Metaverse Nexus in Dubai as a hub for technological innovation through R&D collaborations and ecosystems, such as teaching crucial skills like real-time 3D development.
By realizing this digital infrastructure and economic strategy, PwC and Dubai Future Foundation, from the “Dubai 2022 Metaverse Assembly Outcome Report”, predict more than 1,000 blockchain and metaverse companies will be attracted to the UAE, generating over 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030.
Find out more: Decoding the Dubai Metaverse Strategy: An Analysis
The UAE is the most Metaverse-ready economy in the Middle East
Distinctive digital and complementary infrastructure pillars define an economy’s metaverse readiness. There are five that, according to Boston Consulting Group, define the UAE as the most metaverse-ready economy in the Middle East.
- Digital Infrastructure: 5G connectivity, broadband speeds, low latency, bandwidth, interoperability, data storage, and cybersecurity.
- Technology: Device capabilities and ease of use, the population’s IT skills and knowledge economy level, sensor networks such as the Internet of Things, and the identity management involved.
- User Adoption: Population sentiment toward emerging technology, digital literacy, and general device usage.
- Content: Current and in-development virtual worlds, experiences, and assets, existing Metaverse Nexus applications.
- Economy: Investment landscape and funding amount, security and use of payment systems, and ease of doing business.
Several factors make The United Arab Emirates the most metaverse-ready economy in the Middle East.
The central digital infrastructure is advanced and developed in the UAE. For example, in 2020, 91% of the UAE population had access to 5G connectivity. Comparably, the United States had 94%, and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) had 75%. Further, BCG found from assessing 130 countries that the UAE has the region’s highest household and school internet access.
Partly the reason for the broader 5G coverage is the geography of the UAE being a smaller and denser nation, struggling less with vast desert dunes. A geographic advantage that, in part, translates to a higher population density and thus produces a lucrative business environment. In fact, according to the World Bank, the UAE ranks 16 in ease of doing business, with the KSA ranked 63. Particularly the UAE has a thriving start-up scene with a vast network of investors, funds, accelerators, and incubators. Yet, as found by an IPSOS survey, 44 percent of small and medium enterprises have no digital presence; more than 90 percent of small businesses in the UAE have reported being interested in using VR and AR as part of their activities.
Narrowing in on AppAR, Deloitte reports that 81 percent of consumers in the UAE expect to use augmented reality for practical purposes, with BCG adding that the UAE has the highest smartphone subscription rate in the region, with 1.5 smartphones per person. This is partly due to the UAE being a young nation, with over half of its population being between 24-39 years old. For example, the UAE is ranked number one globally in social media usage.
Finally, the United Arab Emirates has the highest consumer adoption of AR/VR headsets in the region, expected to nearly double from 2020 to 2025, which is naturally a significant driver of the Metaverse Nexus in the country.
These factors of national infrastructure, demography, and economics spur the UAE metaverse strategy to spearhead keystone Metaverse Nexus projects that light the way for other countries to follow.
UAE Metaverse Projects
1. e& Universe
The first notable metaverse project is a first of its kind in the UAE and the region. It is a virtual world called ‘e& Universe' from the international telecommunications company in Abu Dhabi Etisalat by e& and developed in collaboration with HTC Viveverse. Under the guiding principles of connectivity, togetherness, and infinite possibilities, the e& Universe is in a virtual rendition of the Red Planet’s most habitable zone called Arcadia Planitia, offering stellar views of Olympus Mons, the tallest volcano in our Solar System.
The e& Universe was unveiled during GITEX GLOBAL 2022 and premiered at Samsung’s Unpacked event in late July 2023. The latter is the first case study for additional immersive conferences available to enterprises. In collaboration with Gitex, a virtual experience center was set up to showcase emerging technologies such as autonomous infrastructure and AI while users could socialize and trade digital items converted into NFTs featured in their Virtual Homes.
Khaled Elkhouly, Chief Consumer Officer at Etisalat by e&, said: “We are thrilled to bring our revolutionary metaverse, a virtual realm that transcends imagination and brings together various zones of boundless possibilities.”
2. DAMAC’s D-Labs
The DAMAC Group is the UAE’s premier luxury real estate developer, building iconic properties from skyscrapers to branded residences. DAMAC has positioned itself as an innovation and metaverse leader within real estate and virtual spaces, fostering the means to deliver breathtaking virtual landscapes and utilize immersive property sales. Through virtual reality, real estate investors can explore digital twins of undergoing construction projects, irrespective of geographical location, illustrating what new developments will look like before being built.
Further, by combining immersive commerce, potential buyers can virtually personalize and decorate their prospective homes, increasing the sense of ‘home’ before moving in. Something IKEA Place pioneered with AppAR paving the way for the potential of AR Immersive Commerce and virtual personalization.
Read our free Whitepaper: On IKEA Place’s success story and other metaverse marketing cases.
DAMAC will use the metaverse to decrease costs involved in real estate, such as staging, open houses, and photography. Last but not least, the DAMAC Group has plans to build entire virtual cities as part of their property sales and development.
These use cases and more will be managed and developed by D-Labs, headed by the DAMAC General Manager, Ali Sajwani, and enabled by a planned investment of up to $100 million.
“Over the past two years, we have been aggressively driving our digitization efforts, and this new initiative into the metaverse will only further leverage our digital footprint.” Said Ali Sajwani.
3. Metaverse skyscraper Skylum
While still under development and falling behind its targeted milestones, the impressive Skylum metaverse skyscraper by Crypto House Capital draws sizable attention in virtual real estate. Crypto House Capital, as the name implies, is a virtual real estate investor and developer utilizing blockchain and NFTs as pivotal enabling technologies in their virtual real estate investing.
The Skylum project enables investors and virtual dwellers to design their digital space with limitless possibilities while accessing a central location in both Sandbox and Decentraland virtual worlds. This means Skylum’s virtual apartments are close to the action for metaverse events and experiences, throwing social gatherings and not worrying about neighborly complaints or geographical limitations.
As the DAMAC success story indicates, real estate is a significant driver of the UAE’s economy, comprising 6 percent of GDP. So whether it is The UAE’s Ministry of Economy opening a virtual office in the social metaverse or virtual land as investments, almost $2bn has been spent globally on virtual land, signaling its profound potential.
4. The First Metaverse City SharjahVerse for Tourism
Achieved from a partnership between the official Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority and Multiverse Labs, the ‘Sharjahverse’ is a 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) virtual city, attracting a global audience for UAE’s tourism and hospitality industry. The Sharjahverse uniquely acts as its own economic entity with an immersive commerce platform and local virtual jobs around Sharjah’s cultural and historical attractions. “Transforming the mass market tourism industry towards next-generation,” says Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, “Virtual tourism in Sharjahverse will provide unprecedented access to almost any location, personalized guest experiences and enhanced entertainment.”
As highlighted in the beginning sections of this article, virtual transportation, and in-person augmented tourism are central industries in the UAE. In fact, the Middle Eastern region is rich in cultural, historical, and natural heritage attracting 90 million tourists a year. However, virtualizing tourism will provide benefits of lower costs of entry, transcending physical disabilities, and opportunities for personalized experiences, estimated to increase tourism attraction.
5. Immersive Commerce from Magnati-MetaV
Shifting our focus to the rapidly growing segment of immersive commerce. The first metaverse B2B marketplace in the Middle East comes from the payment solutions company Magnati and is called ‘Magnati-MetaV.’ The MetaV is an immersive commerce platform that allows retail brands to co-create and virtually set up shop, enabling shoppers to virtually try on products and receive assistance from decentralized assistants. As of a year ago, Magnati partnered with over 30,000 brands to populate its immersive commerce world, positioning the UAE as a global leader in this emergent category of the Enterprise Metaverse.
Because retail is transforming from brick-and-mortar to online to experiential, early adopters of this new form of multi-dimensional shopping, have reduced sales cancellations, returns, and exchanges while improving the training and onboarding of new sales personnel.
6. The First Metaverse Customer Happiness Service in the World
Announced during the Arab Health 2022 conference, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) has opened the first Customer Happiness Service center in the metaverse. This virtual 3D health center is named the MetaHealth platform and is a digital space where Emirates can submit sensitive documents securely, digitally speak with a health advisor, and more. Even advanced biometrics are used to uphold the safety and integrity of patient information while also acting as a platform for MoHAP to train new health personnel.
7. A New Virtual Headquarters for Digital Nomads
In 2021, Dubai was named one of the world’s fastest-expanding remote destinations for digital nomads. One of the reasons for this ranking is Virtuzone’s simplistically named ‘V’: A metaverse office designed for digital nomads and developed from a partnership with pax.world.
V provides virtual reality teleconferencing and plenty of space optimized for productivity and Deep Work. The V office tower takes the virtual headquarters to the next level, creating a microcosm ideal for global digital nomads offering international banking, accounting, and auditing services, a visa office, and HR assistance.
Even legally, if a digital nomad establishes their offering from the V tower, they can designate themselves as a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) enjoying unique tax benefits.
Virtuzone’s virtual headquarters aligns with the United Arab Emirates’ continued focus to attract digital nomads to its economy. Further taking advantage of the growth in remote workers as we have moved into a post-pandemic era.
8. UAE Ministry of Health to Build Virtual Hospital
Speaking of the pandemic, an area that saw unprecedented development was the Enterprise Metaverse categories of telemedicine, smart hospitals, and online pharmacies due to social distance regulations. Following this, the UAE plans to build a metaverse hospital complex where patients can receive medical advice despite being in a rural setting. Even on a longer-term vision, the UAE’s Ministry of Health’s Virtual Hospital enables future metaverse possibilities such as remote surgeries and mental health treatment using virtual reality.
But virtualizing healthcare isn’t only for the public system; the UAE’s private healthcare sector is also investing in digital twin hospitals to prepare its services for the future. A prominent example is the Metaverse hospital, medical university, and virtual wellness center from Thumbay Group. A metaverse healthcare complex that promotes efficient and convenient patient processing using artificial intelligence and VR mental care for therapeutic effects and stress relief.
Metaverse Applications in the UAE
Out of the numerous use cases in the three Metaverse Nexus clusters, the United Arab Emirates has adopted a leading position in virtualization. The UAE has recognized the benefits of making processes and platforms virtual, enjoying benefits such as more efficient training and onboarding, removing geographical constraints, and decreasing operating costs.
Globally, the UAE metaverse strategy makes it a leader in the metaverse, acting as one of the few nations in the world that prioritize this transforming technology set to virtualize the internet.
The Future of Metaverse in UAE
In the same context, the UAE metaverse strategy is on track to not only spur keystone metaverse projects which act as success stories for the wider world to follow but the expansion of existing virtual case studies are being conducted, such as in the areas of tourism and hospitality.
Not only that, the UAE is one of the few nation-states that are preparing its economy and labor force for a metaverse future, developing its digital infrastructure, and training its populace in crucial skills like real-time 3D development.
The UAE metaverse strategy recognizes the current and future potential of the Metaverse Nexus and its contribution to its economic performance. Thus, is investing intelligently in the Metaverse Nexus, signaling to other nations in the Middle East and globally how the metaverse can bring value today and in the future.
 Deloitte. The Metaverse and its potential for MENA – Final Report. 2023.
 Prime Minister’s Office at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs. We the UAE 2023: Towards New Peaks. 2023.
 PwC, Dubai Future Foundation. Dubai Metaverse Assembly 2022 – Assembly Outcomes Report. 2022.
 Boston Consulting Group. Creating a New Reality: The Metaverse in MENAT. 2022.
 World Bank. Ease of doing business rank. World Bank 2019:18. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IC.BUS.EASE.XQ.
 Frankel W, Gardner S. Almost half of small and medium-sized businesses globally plan to extend their online reach. Ipsos 2022:8. https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/small-medium-sized-businesses-leveraging-social-media-digital-tools.
 E& Etisalat and. Together we drive the digital future. Introducing e& universe, our first metaverse landing on Mars. E& Etisalat 2023:6. https://www.eand.com/en/e-and-universe.html.