The state of crypto adoption in Dubai

The city of Dubai has been very welcoming to the crypto space, providing the much-needed regulatory clarity to help the industry thrive. While this attracts native Web3 and crypto businesses to the emirate, even non-crypto businesses started integrating technologies like crypto, nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and even the metaverse into their operations. 

Cointelegraph went to explore various parts of Dubai to find out how crypto and Web3 technologies have been integrated within some businesses in the emirate.

Ordering groceries with cryptocurrencies

Day To Day, one of the popular and most affordable grocery chains in Dubai, announced that it started to accept crypto payments last year. On Aug 8, local media outlet Khaleej Times reported that the hypermarket has started to accept crypto as payment in their online store and several of their branches throughout Dubai. 

Cointelegraph recently visited the store’s Al Quoz Branch to use crypto to buy groceries within the popular shopping brand. However, despite the advertisements of accepting crypto being displayed all over the store, the staff told Cointelegraph that in-store crypto purchases are unavailable and directed to use the online store instead.

Day to Day Hypermarket advertising that they accept cryptocurrencies.

Despite the lack of support in one branch, the good news is that crypto users can still shop using crypto within the online store. The branch accepts Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Tether (USDT) and various other coins as payment for online orders. 

Screenshot of the checkout system in Day To Day’s online store. Source: Day to Day

Cointelegraph also reached out to the official Day To Day Hypermarket team to get their comments but did not get a response. 

Luxury cars in the real world and in the metaverse

Dubai appeals to many who want a taste of luxury, and one of the most popular ways to experience luxury is to drive expensive cars. Cointelegraph spoke with a luxury car club based in Dubai that found a way to utilize NFTs and various Web3 technologies in their business. 

Some of Elchai Group’s luxury cars. Photo by: Joanna Alhambra

A luxury project called Elchai Group is bringing luxury cars to the decentralized community through NFTs. Maria Xenofontos, the chief marketing officer, told Cointelegraph that their NFT holders who are also automatically members of their car club will be able to rent physical exotic cars within their Elchai car collection. Xenofontos also explained that: 

“Our team is bringing a luxury car club to the metaverse. We’re already developing The Universe Eye, a metaverse project that will first replicate the city of Dubai. […] The metaverse will facilitate private events, celebrity concerts, and a luxury supercars showroom.”

According to Xenofontos, the project is also bringing their luxury car club to the metaverse and gave Cointelegraph a sneak peek at their metaverse project that replicated one of Dubai’s most popular attractions called the Dubai Eye.

Cointelegraph’s Ezra Reguerra interviewing Elchai Group’s Maria Xenofontos. Photo by: Joanna Alhambra

When asked about NFTs, the executive said that the space needs more exploration at the moment. “NFT as a form of ownership is something to explore more, and I am sure we will see their actual use case more in the coming years,” she said. 

Cointelegraph’s Ezra Reguerra with the Elchai Group’s team members.

Flavio Elia, the CEO and founder of the Elchai Group, told Cointelegraph the inspiration behind the project. “It’s simple really, after 20 years in the luxury car trading business, I wanted pursue my dream to form a car club a reality. It’s my love for car and the endless possibilities in the metaverse that has driven me to pursue this project,” he said. 

Some crypto payment integrations just don’t last

Apart from Day To Day, other businesses within Dubai have also announced various crypto payment integrations in the last year but did not find any traction. On Mar. 3, the Indian restaurant Bhukkad cafe announced that it started to accept BTC payments. Almost a year later, Cointelegraph visited the store to check if they still accepted Bitcoin. However, according to the store clerks, they only accept cash or card.

Related: How the UAE became the Middle East’s digital asset champion

On Feb. 16, 2022, the media outlet Time Out Dubai reported about a new online restaurant called Doge Burger, taking inspiration from dog tokens like Dogecoin (DOGE) and Shiba Inu (SHIB). But when Cointelegraph tried to order one of the burgers, the order did not arrive. Exactly one year later, the project’s website cannot be accessed anymore.

Apart from food businesses, a popular school in Dubai also dipped its toes into crypto payments but backtracked almost immediately. On Feb 9, Binance announced a partnership with the Canadian University Dubai (CUD) to enable crypto payments within the university. However, less than a day after the announcement, the university backtracked on accepting crypto, citing technical roadblocks.

Despite some projects struggling with their crypto integrations, the crypto industry is still very much alive in Dubai. In a recent Cointelegraph interview, Crypto Oasis co-founder Saqr Ereiqat said that many talents from around the world are coming into the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to work in the crypto space. 

“We are witnessing an unprecedented migration of talent and capital from around the world into the UAE,” he said. In addition, the executive pointed out that at the moment, there are more than 8,300 professionals working in the space in the Crypto Oasis alone.