Ask UAE resident Nicola Spessato and he will tell you that there will always be someone out there who can beat you at your own skill – going higher and faster or attempting whatever it takes to test the limits of what is possible. Flush with excitement after having just received an ‘Officially Amazing’ title from Guinness World Records – his seventh to date – the 38-year-old Italian national who works at an interior design company in Dubai just broke his own record of 6.79 seconds set the previous week for the ‘fastest time to complete a buzz wire course’. His new record, achieved as part of the Guinness World Records event at Wafi in Dubai, is 6.67 seconds – an earnest reminder as to why those milliseconds do matter.
It is not just Spessato who is attempting to push boundaries here at Wafi at the interactive championship arena at the main atrium on its ground floor. There is a large gathering of youngsters and adults who are going ahead with dogged determination to set a new record in five different challenges. Many of them have been coming to Wafi to practise every week on their own. There is an electric buzz in the atmosphere as loud cheers, claps and shouts of encouragement ring the air every hour from 3pm to 9pm on the weekends as participants make official attempts to break records in the presence of an Official Guinness World Records adjudicator.
The live stage events unfolding before us are part of the ‘Guinness World Records in Pictures’, a 10-week extravaganza lasting until November 23, and the first event of its kind to be held in the region. ‘Each week, two of our interactive activities rotate based on a weekly theme, keeping the event new and engaging for our returning visitors. This will give visitors the chance to break new records each time they return,’ says Katherine Revett, head of central marketing at Wafi. ‘Shoppers and visitors can train throughout the week where coaches will assist them with the rules of the game, and also keep tab on their timings. Those with highest scores make it to the top of the leader board and get the chance to be crowned a new record holder on the weekends.’
We watch a mother-son duo attempt to break the ‘highest matching score on Fruit Ninja in one minute’. The target is 130 and the action comes alive on a large screen as they slice virtual fruits thrown in the air in combos by rapidly swiping the touch screen of their tablet.
Then there is the challenge for the ‘most fidget spinner behind the back passes’ in one minute. The adjudicator announces the rules stating that the fidget spinner should be in spinning mode each time it is passed behind.
Elsewhere, a two-member team of young boys, no more than 10 years old, walk up to compete on the ‘most coins collected with a matching total’ in a one-minute game of coin runners on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. They attempt to break the winning score of 28 set in September at the same venue and although they put a good fight, fall a tad bit below the required score.
‘Till date, we have had 34 official records broken here at Wafi,’ reveals Katherine. ‘Every challenge has its own specific set of rules and requirements and everyone who attempts the record will be tested under the same conditions.’
As host of the event, Wafi too is stepping in with its own official record attempt, she adds.
Breaking records in real time is not the only activity associated with this ‘officially amazing’ event at Wafi. ‘Visitors also have the chance to view 11 galleries set up across the mall where each gallery features unique stories of record-breaking moments,’ says Katherine, as we make our way to the trio of galleries located on the ground floor.
It is here that we pay homage to six of the most breath-taking natural wonders of our planet Earth. We plunge into the Pacific Ocean to explore the record-setting Great Barrier Reef chugging Australia’s north-eastern coast that features around 2,900 colonies, spanning an area five times the size of Switzerland. We learn that this reef is ‘one of the world’s most biodiverse habitats, harbouring more than 1,500 species of fish, 30-plus marine mammals and six of the seven types of sea turtle’. Some parts of the Great Barrier Reef date 20 million years but its future lies in jeopardy as the effects of climate change is wreaking havoc on the 2,027 kilometres long reef.
We take in scenic views from the Highest Mountain, the 8,848 metre cloud-piercing Mount Everest that reaches the equivalent of 10.5 Burj Khalifa towers in height, and feel the intense heat from the edge of the largest live lake of molten lava that simmers atop Nyiragongo, a 3,470-metre-tall peak in the Virunga Mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We then step into the fabulous world of the animal kingdom featuring superlative creatures whose habitats range from the African savannah and tropical islands of Indonesia to the open ocean. We are pleasantly surprised to discover that even with a 400-million global population, the common pigeon does not classify as the Most Abundant Wild Bird. At two million individuals in a flock, and 1.5 billion in total population, that record goes to the red-billed quelea, a sparrow-sized finch from sub-Saharan Africa, also known as "feathered locusts" for the devastating impact they have on food crops such as rice and wheat.
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws may have made sharks infamous, but we discover that ‘sharks kill fewer than 10 people worldwide, which is substantially fewer people than are killed taking selfies!’
There are no prizes for guessing the Heaviest Land Mammal for, with its weight equalling that of 100 adult men, this spot is reserved for the African Elephant, weighing up to 7 tonnes.
The Space & the Universe gallery unveils the breathtaking splendour of unique phenomena scattered through our galaxy and beyond, and pays tribute to some of the pioneering men, women and robots who have set records including that of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who took humanity’s first steps on another celestial body on 20th July 1969.
The chief attraction on the first level deservedly goes to ‘Local Heroes’, a gallery that turns the spotlight on the UAE, a country that is inching towards a staggering 200 record-breaking feats as it raises the bar in breaking world records. So, what six record-breaking events from the UAE can we discover here? Of course, the numero uno spot goes to Burj Khalifa which, at 828 metres, is the world’s tallest building. But did you also know that this title was once held – for a staggeringly long period of 3,800 years – by the Great Pyramid of Giza which soars to 139 metres?
The Dubai landmark, we learn, is a phenomenal feat of engineering that is about six times the height of Egypt’s iconic pyramid, and more than double that of New York’s Empire State Building. From the 110,000-tonne concrete and steel foundations to the 103,000sqm of glass used in its façade, all of the stats of this super-tall skyscraper are mind-boggling to say the least. Consisting of 163 storeys (the Most Floors in a Building), this landmark structure also boasts the Highest Restaurant from Ground Level (441.4m).
A record-breaking event of 2018 was the Largest Jigsaw Puzzle featuring a portrait of the UAE’s first President, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Consisting of 12,320 pieces and covering an area the size of six tennis courts, this giant wooden puzzle was the brainchild of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.
Yet another 2018 record to mark the National Day last year took three years of planning and was executed by American adrenaline junkie David ‘Junior’ Ludvik for Skydive Dubai. The task saw Ludvik jump from a helicopter three kilometres above the desert and unfurl the largest flag flown while skydiving which, at 95 kilos, could cover most of an American football field.
Where sheer display of strength is concerned, nothing beats the record set by 56 Dubai Police officers who hauled an Emirates A380 plane in 2017 to a distance of 100 metres. This passenger aircraft weighing 302.68 tonnes, was three times the weight of the aeroplane used by the previous record holders in 2011, earning them the record for heaviest aircraft pulled 100m by a team (male). They achieved a similar feat the following year when a group of 100 officers moved a 355-tonne vessel at Festival City to achieve the heaviest boat pulled by a team.
Other record-breaking moments from the UAE include the largest flower arrangement structure using half a million plants and cut flowers including geraniums, violas, snapdragons and marigolds to recreate a life-size version of the double-decker Airbus Emirates A380.
It is at the Mechanical Masterpieces gallery that we get to marvel at some incredible engineering feats such as the 4.7m tall largest monster truck also known as the BigFoot 5; the tallest rideable motorcycle tipping the scales at more than 5.5 tonnes and standing tall at 5.10m height; and the 98.464km/hour fastest Monowheel motorcycle.
Aussie engineering duo Gary and Shirley Duval spent some 166 days to build the tallest limousine (3.33m) by placing the chassis atop eight monster-truck tyres. On the other hand, the 26-wheeled, 30.5 metre American Dream is the longest car and features a king-size bed and even a swimming pool with a diving board!
Elaborating on the selection of images in each of the galleries, Katherine says, ‘We wanted to ensure we had a little bit of everything and that the themes in these galleries are appealing to individuals in the region. ‘Mechanical Masterpieces’, for instance, is something that is attractive to both small children and their parents whereas ‘Local Heroes’ is fascinating to everyone because there is so much more to know about the records broken here in the UAE.’
The Sporting Super Heroes gallery honours some extraordinary athletes for their amazing feats whether it is Usain Bolt’s fastest 100m in a lightning flash of 9.58 seconds or Serena Williams’ most Grand Slam singles titles won (female). Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, who with 419 goals to date is by far the most prolific scorer, has been featured for also enjoying the highest annual earnings for a footballer (Current Year) which stands at a whopping $127 million.
Equally fascinating is the Human Achievement gallery featuring the trailblazers who embarked on epic journeys and saw them through to the end. Here we meet Samantha Larson who, bitten by the mountain-climbing at age 12, became the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits - the crowning glory of a lifetime for most mountaineers - at 18 years of age.
Braving tropical thunderstorms and quicksand, Mark de Rond of Netherlands and UK’s Anton Wright are the first people to row the navigable length of the Amazon River while UK’s Simon Chalk holds the distinction of most ocean rowers captained (48). Simon is also "one of only four people to have singlehandedly traversed the Indian Ocean - a perilous route which is notorious for tempestuous weather, busy shipping lanes and shark-infested waters."
The bizarre realities in the Human Body gallery are a must-watch for anyone. From physical anomalies leading to records such as the shortest woman - Jyoti Amge, India, 62.8 cms, and tallest person - Sultan Kösen, Turkey, 251 cms, to some wacky records holders such as longest moustache ever and longest fingernails on both hands (female), this is a gallery that appears to draw a lot of attention.
Ayanna Williams, whose 576.4 cm long fingernails requires 20 hours to paint and needs to be rested on a special pillow every night when she sleeps, says "it takes me longer to do anything than it would take other people". As for India’s Ram Singh Chauhan, his 4.29 metres long moustache is nurtured with various herbal oils to maintain its health. ‘I only wash it once every two weeks,’ says the record holder whose mega-moustache also earned him a cameo in the James Bond movie, Octopussy.
‘I wonder why people do these crazy things just to get in the record books,’ says a bemused Alicia, a mother-of-two. ‘Some of these are really strange and weird; but it is also great to see the chronicling of both achievements and extremes that exist in the world.’
While there are many looking to achieve a bit of fame with quirky record titles, for Nicola Spessato, a sporting enthusiast, ‘all that mattered to me was the thrill of going out there and doing something I had never done before. Opportunities like the Guinness World Records event may not come very often and I urge everyone therefore to head to Wafi and have fun while testing their limits. Winning the title or breaking a record is just a bonus!’
Know before you go
Every Friday and Saturday, fun activities in the interactive challenge area are held hourly from 3pm – 9pm.
The live challenge area is open for practice during the weekdays.
The Guinness World Records event at Wafi will conclude on November 23.
Look out for the Beautiful Bling gallery, located at the entrance of Carrefour. The showstopper here is the most valuable handbag that has been crafted from 18-carat gold and smothered with 381-plus carats of diamonds including 4,356 colourless, 105 yellow and 56 pink stones.