Ski down snowy mountains in the desert, skydive above a manmade island or swim with sharks in a shopping mall. Dubai is where you can marvel at sparkling gold at old-world souks, taste the sea breeze on a traditional dhow cruise and whoosh down a 27-metre-high water slide, all in a single day.
Simply put, some of the world’s supreme cultural, adventure and shopping experiences await, as do great meals, great entertainment and great fun. Discover the city that makes it all possible.
In it'ts way to become The World’s Most Visited City – but not just a city to be seen but a city ‘to be experienced’.Learn More »
The pace of progress has been phenomenal. Just 50 years ago Dubai was little more than a fishing village beside the Dubai Creek.Learn More »
The spectacular man-made islands that make up Palm Jumeirah extend city life out into the aquamarine waters of the Arabian Gulf.Learn More »
Dubai offers a range of leisure and adventure activities including art, dancing, music, Pilates, reiki, tai chi, yoga; scuba diving, deep sea fishing, mountain climbing, shotgun shooting, go-karting, bowling, ice skating, indoor skiing and sand boarding among others. With so many different nationalities and cultures at play in Dubai, most sports, activities and interests are covered.
Very good rock climbing can be found in a number of locations close to Dubai, from easy routes for beginners right through to very severe and extreme grades. There is a climbing wall at the Pharaoh’s Club, with climbs of varying degrees of difficulty. It comprises a set of walls for climbing routes and bouldering, as well as crash mats for safety during low-level climbs, with ropes in place on all routes.
Cycling tours round the mountain enclave of Hatta offer a different sort of excursion. A series of interesting routes take the cyclist through dry river beds (wadis), remote villages and small farms.
With rich marine life, fishing was once the mainstay of the local economy in the region. Kingfish, red snapper, rock cod (the popular Hammour) barracuda, sail fish and other species are often caught commercially and for sport. Fully equipped deep sea fishing boats with crew are available for hire. The best fishing period is from October to April.
Aircraft may be hired from the Emirates Flying School and Dubai Flying Association at Dubai International Airport. However, visitors who wish to fly are first required to have a valid UAE PPL, to be tested by an instructor and to become a club member.
Dubai boasts of some of the finest golf courses in the world and was in fact voted as the leading golf destination by the International Golf Tour Operators Association. The courses have been designed by leading golf professionals and offer teaching and practice facilities. The Emirates Golf club, the venue of the Dubai Desert Classic is one of the oldest golfing venues. The Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, The Montgomerie, and The Four Seasons Golf Club are some of the leading golf clubs in the city.
Horses and riding are an integral part of local tradition upheld today by several active riding centers, including the Dubai Equestrian Centre, the Jebel Ali Equestrian Club and Club Joumana, the riding stables at Jebel Ali Hotel. Rides through the desert are organized regularly. Dubai also has a riding association for the disabled. The future looks bright for horse lovers visiting Dubai, as the Arabian Ranches will offer a state-of-the-art equestrian center for the serious competitor, as well as carefully tended tracks and trails around the Ranches for those who enjoy a more relaxed approach to horse riding. The horses at Arabian Ranches will nearly be as pampered as its residents. Every four horses will have their own groom, and there will be resident trainers, farriers and a vet with access to a fully equipped treatment room.
The Plantation Equestrian & Polo Club is also on the drawing board, another Dubailand component project. It is planned to become one of the world's largest equestrian facilities, with capacity for 800 horses, with two luxurious clubhouses and extensive show-jumping, dressage, cross-country, endurance and polo amenities in 14.5 million square feet of landscaped grounds.
Dubai has quite a few ice rinks; the oldest of them are located at Al Nasr Leisureland and the Hyatt Regency Galleria. The newest and most modern ice rink is located in the Dubai Mall. Dubailand will have a huge ice rink at its proposed Snowdome. Skates and instructors are available at most of the locations. The rinks are closed to the public during instruction periods and timetables should be consulted before going.
Ski Dubai located within the Mall Of the Emirates is the world's third-largest indoor ski slope, measuring 400 meters and using 6,000 tons of snow. The feature a revolving ski slope, an artificial mountain range, an ice bridge, a cable lift, a snow maze, an ice slide, polar bears, cold-water aquaria and special sound and light effects.
This is a very popular pastime for residents and tourists alike because of the speed and thrill it holds out. Jet skis can be hired typically from the water sports centers of most of the hotels along Dubai’s coast and there are clearly designated areas for jet skiing for safety reasons.
Motor Racing & Go Karting
The new Dubai Autodrome & Business park within Dubailand is one of the first fully integrated automotive and motor sports facilities in the Middle East, incorporating a world-class FIA-sanctioned 5.39-kilometre motor racing track, international standard pit-lane complex with a state-of-the-art grandstand accommodating more than 7,000 spectators as well as providing hospitality suites for corporate customers. On a smaller scale, but no less exciting, Dubai has two outdoor go-kart tracks: Formula One at Nad Al Sheba and the Dubai Kart Club beside the Jebel Ali Hotel, open daily. In addition, the new Autodrome will house a 1.2 kilometer indoor and outdoor go-karting track.
You can get a breathtaking view of Dubai from high over the coastline of Dubai! Take off from behind a high powered boat that glides up and down the coastline of Dubai. You can go parasailing from some of the water sports facilities of the luxurious hotels along the coast.
This sport is gaining rapid popularity in Dubai and you can choose from any of the sailing boats, dinghies or even traditional dhows. It is a very relaxing sport as you listen only to the rhythmic sounds of the waves. There are also regular sail boat races in Dubai.
For a novel sporting experience, visitors may like to try their hand at sand-skiing/sand boarding. Trips to the desert dunes for this activity can be organized by leading tour operators.
The waters around Dubai offer a considerable range of attractions and variety for scuba divers, both novices and experts. With a minimal tidal flow, the Gulf waters are safe for beginners. The visibility is good, marine life rich and interesting wrecks to explore. Divers wishing to use the facilities in the emirates must possess valid and recognized documents such as a dive card or log book.
If you do not have a license for scuba diving, then you can go snorkeling! The coral reefs and rich marine life are a treat to see and experience.
You can go on an exciting adventure by renting some of the fastest speed boats in the region. A great way to get away from it all, as you bump over the waves of the Arabian Gulf.
This is the aquatic equivalent of snowboarding and can be a heart-pounding experience as you use the momentum and wake of the high-speed boat pulling you to do stunts.
In the dry summer months you can drive a 4x4 vehicle along the wadis (dry river beds) and enjoy the dramatic and natural scenery of greenery, rocks and pools. It is advisable to go with an experienced driver as it can be quite dangerous.
This popular sport can be experienced in Dubai by choosing a surf board from any of the water sports facilities at the hotels and going out into the beautiful aquamarine waters of the gulf.
During Dubai’s annual art fair the city hosts over 90 galleries showcasing the work of more than 500 artists. During the annual film festival some 55 world and international premieres are screened. At the annual literature festival some of the best-selling novelists and writers come to town and throughout the year A-list musicians, theatre companies, dancers, comedians and entertainers perform on Dubai’s stages.
Thanks to its modern infrastructure and strategic location between East and West, this emirate has become the regional – and increasingly the global – stage for many a talent.
Art is a perfect example of this. Historically the art of this region was based upon the twirling strokes and intricate – sometimes almost lace-like – patterns of calligraphy, the script upon which the holy Qu’ran was written. Few can deny the beauty and mystique behind these graceful motifs and even today contemporary Arabic artists still draw upon calligraphy as a way of displaying their heritage. But over the past few years, the scene has also been influenced by the 200 nationalities that live in the city and has undergone an artistic revolution.
A plethora of galleries have opened across town, all promoting, encouraging and nurturing artistic talent. Alongside local Emirati painters, you’ll discover work by Iranian artists on display beside Indian, beside Pakistani, beside Italian beside Filipino artists.
Warehouses in the gritty industrial area of Al Quoz have been converted into cutting-edge exhibition spaces and these join the courtyard galleries in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood and those crispy white spaces within the Dubai International Financial Centre. Throughout the year these galleries showcase the region’s talent across every genre, working together to promote and grow Dubai’s art community. This conglomeration is particularly seen during the city’s art fairs.
World Art Dubai fair joined the city’s cultural scene in 2015; its premise being to offer affordable and accessible art. This joined the long-running Art Dubai fair, the region’s leading art fair. Welcoming over 25,000 visitors, in 2015 Art Dubai hosted more than 90 galleries from 40 countries and over 500 artists.
Art Dubai is just one of the artistic events that fall under the umbrella of Dubai Arts Season – a month-long arts initiative taking place each March and incorporating SIKKA Art Fair, Design Days Dubai and Art Dubai, plus the exciting Middle East Film and Comic Con event.
From canvas to screen, the nine-day Dubai International Film Festival sees some of the world’s top producers, directors, script writers and actors converge on Dubai each December. With numerous cinemas across town joining in the festival, the Dubai Film Festival in 2015 featured 55 world and international premieres with the likes of Emily Blunt, Lee Daniels and Nour El-Sherif walking the red carpets.
From the stars of the big screen to the stars of the written word – Dubai attracts some of the best-selling authors, commentators and critics to its annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature each March.
Launched in 2009, this event is getting bigger each year, with 170 authors from 35 countries attending the 2014 edition of the festival. Over the five days more than 30,000 people attended the 200-plus sessions, workshops, master classes and special event with work covering every literary genre from fiction and travel to journalism and poetry. And, following the opening of the Dubai International Writers’ Centre in Al Shindigha beside the Dubai Creek, book lovers and budding writers can practise their passion and meet authors throughout the year.
And for music buffs, Dubai is increasingly becoming the world stage for chart-toppers and classical supremos. Just to demonstrate the diversity of acts, soprano Sarah Brightman, legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, rockers The Killers, pop sensations Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli have all performed here. Plus, April 2015 saw the world’s biggest boy band, One Direction, come to town.
With venues such as Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, where the skyscrapers of Media City and Dubai Marina overlook a purpose-built, 15,000 person arena; Dubai Festival City, which stages world-class concerts on the shores of Dubai Creek; and the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre which holds tens of thousands of fans, the combination of acts and environments make for memorable experiences.
For local talent – and in a city that draws on a vast multi-cultured pool, there’s certainly enough of that – head to many a nightspot to catch the latest from their resident bands. The Irish Village is a renowned hotspot where local bands draw in the crowds; while the Lebanese Music Hall, located in the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, sees the spotlight land on up to 10 acts in the same night, whether that be a Bob Marley tribute band or Romanian Gypsy singers. And for a great laugh, check out Dubai’s growing comedy scene.
Variety is certainly the spice of life in Dubai, making for a theatrical mix that constantly sees the billboards around town changing. Past shows have included Cavalia – an equestrian extravaganza where the stars of the show are 50 magnificent horses; Stomp, the music and dance production that never fails to make a bang; the Broadway/West End musical Mamma Mia; or the live improvisational comedy Whose Line is it Anyway? on the stage of the city’s beautiful Madinat Theatre.
This Arabian-style theatre, tucked within the labyrinth of lanes inside the Madinat Souq, has a schedule that spans the genres from musicals, ballets, operas, classical concerts, pantomimes, Shakespearean performances and even shows direct from the West End.
Likewise the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre also offers a packed programme of theatre productions alongside gallery exhibitions, dance demonstrations and wonderful workshops from pottery and dance to creative writing and of course, back to where it all began, Arabic calligraphy.So if it’s the arts you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right city. The schedule may be packed but the experience is remarkable.
Some might say that the whole of Dubai is a veritable playground (and they’d be true) – but it’s along its coast that a huge amount of the fun and games occur. Dubai’s glorious sandy beaches, the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf and the year-round sunshine are the perfect ingredients for all watersport lovers and beach babes.
It’s on Dubai’s beaches that the world meets – its more than 11.6 million visitors a year combined with its residents of over 200 nationalities. It’s here that beach games are won, the sand castles are built, the bodies are tanned, the picnics are eaten and the watersports are played.
Families flock here and it’s always reassuring for parents to learn that, on the whole, the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf tend to enjoy gentle currents and, thanks to a slowly graduating sea bed, the waters alongside the shore tend to be relatively shallow – at low-tide you can easily walk out up to 100m and still only be ankle deep (perfect for paddling, collecting shells and hunting for crabs).
Many of the beaches are attached to the beachside resorts – allowing guests to enjoy the sands while lazing on the hotel cushioned loungers, tapping into the waiter service and using the hotel’s fluffy beach towels. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, treating yourself to a day’s membership is the ideal solution.
But there are also long stretches of sand that are open to all, stretching along the Dubai coast from Jebel Ali to the outskirts of neighbouring Sharjah. For a beach spot that’s at the heart of the action, head to The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence. This beach has the benefit of being fringed by a promenade of restaurants, boutiques, markets, The Beach mall and even an outdoor cinema. Changing and shower facilities are all on tap too.
In front of The Beach mall, look out to onto the waters of the Arabian Gulf and you’ll see (you can’t miss it) an enormous inflatable waterpark. Trampolines, slides, climbing frames, swings and various obstacles that inevitably end up with a slip and a splash make up the Arabian Water Park some 20m from the shore. It’s a family favourite as much for the kids as the adults too.
For the perfect picture of the iconic Burj Al Arab, head for Sunset Beach at Umm Suqeim. Many a tourist has clicked their camera here, capturing their photos of this famous “world’s most luxurious” hotel. From here it’s also the best launch pad for some stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking around the hotel’s island. Go early in the morning and you’ll get so close that you’ll even be able to smell the seven-star aromas of breakfast being eaten on the restaurant terrace.
And then there’s Black Palace Beach nicknamed as such because it sits beside a string of Royal Palaces; 4x4 Beach so called because cars can park on the sand; and Kite Beach – obviously named because it is here that kite-surfers collide. This beach, along with the quieter Sunset Mall beach, is watersport central. Many surf schools are based here; kayaks can be hired and banana boats whizz daring passengers around the bay – but don’t worry, falling in is pure pleasure when it’s the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf that envelops you.
On the outskirts of town, head for Al Mamzar Park with its five separate beaches, swimming pools, lawns and playgrounds. This spot is a haven for jet skiiers.
Many of the hotel resorts also have watersport centres within their grounds. ‘Watercooled’ at JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort offers a plethora of activities including surfing, sailing, kayaking and high-adrenaline rides on its Zapcats. Similarly the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi offers a wide range of activities from water skiing to wakeboarding and even sailing lessons.
If you really want to get out on the water, then chartering a yacht is an easy option; join a catamaran cruise around the islands of The World; or why not try your hand at some deep-sea fishing. The warm and shallow waters off Dubai are teeming with life – big life. We’re talking barracuda, snapper, kingfish, grouper, long tail tuna, giant mackerel, trevally and so much more. This really is a case of ‘catch your fish and eat it too’.
But of course there is some sea life that can only be caught on camera and that happens to be the adorable dolphins that live in Atlantis, The Palm’s Dolphin Bay. Meet them nose to nose in the shallow waters of the bay – an experience open to all ages and even non swimmers – or swim or dive with them in the depths of the lagoon.
But of course, the wet and wild action also happens within Dubai’s awesome waterparks. Attached to Atlantis is Aquaventure. Here you’ll face the Leap of Faith and the slides that are entangled around the Tower of Poseidon pyramid. Alternatively head to Jumeirah’s Wild Wadi. Are you brave enough to face the 120m fall of Jumeirah Sceirah or the Tunnel of Doom?
Be prepared for some mega drops and gravity-defying twists in these parks, all within a city that really knows how to make a splash.
In a city that’s home to over 200 nationalities, Dubai has developed a culture that’s one of a kind. A culture in which global traditions, attitudes, customs, religions and lifestyles have merged harmoniously. In what other city is Christmas celebrated as much as Diwali, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, Australia Day and, of course, Eid?
Yet, despite being a uniquely tolerant and multi-cultured society, Dubai prides itself on its Arabian roots. At its core, Dubai will always be a city where the mystique of Arabia ultimately prevails; where the sound of the Iman’s call to pray floats throughout the air; where the skyline of twisting and billowing towers intermingles with the domes and minarets of majestic mosques; and where the air is filled with the aroma of exotic spices. Emiratis are justifiably proud of their heritage – it wasn’t too long ago that this city was little more than a village beside The Creek and where much of its population lived in its glorious desert.
Life has progressed here much faster than in any other city in the world and, as such, traditional survival techniques are now revered and have become heritage sports that proudly pay tribute to a bygone era.
Falconry is a prime example. Relied upon for their hunting prowess, without the eagle eyes and agility of these birds, Bedouins would surely have starved. Today, falconry is a local sport that shows off the skill of both the falcon and his handler. Head to desert resorts of Bab al Shams or Al Maha to see these falcons in flight or join a desert safari where a falconry display is usually part of the programme.
Similarly camels are an intrinsic part of Dubai’s history. Once the region’s ‘ships of the desert’ taking Bedouin from oasis to oasis, camels have now been superseded by transport of a modern four-by-four variety. Yet, these humped-backed creatures remain as revered today as always. Head to the racecourses in the desert and watch the proud Emiratis cheer on their beloved camels as they thunder along the sandy tracks. Camel racing is a raucous and colourful affair.
From the sand to the sea, the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf also tell their own cultural story. Long ago Dubai’s economic mainstay was that of pearls. For the divers who would scour the sea bed for oysters, it was a dangerous and tough life spending months at sea living aboard Arabia’s iconic wooden dhows. Many of these original, graceful vessels can still be seen today along the shores of the Creek. The cargo may be different, yet the hustle and bustle creekside remains the same.
To appreciate the workmanship that went into building these vessels, visit the Dhow Museum, or if in Dubai during May you’ll see a spectacular display of hundreds of dhows plying the waters along the coast as they take part in the annual Al Gaffal Dhow Race – a tribute to Dubai’s pearl-diving heritage.
More about Dubai’s past is on display at the fascinating Dubai Museum – housed in the oldest building in Dubai built around 1799 - where dioramas of potters, weavers and fishermen tell the story of life long before Dubai’s discovery of ‘black gold’ in 1966.
The museum itself is located in Dubai’s oldest part of the city – the historic Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Dating back to the end of the 19th century, this is where Dubai’s first wealthy traders settled and built their grand coral-clad houses. These homes have been painstakingly restored and are still alive today in the form of art galleries, boutiques, museums and cafes. Take a moment to explore the labyrinth of winding pedestrianised lanes in this peaceful district; pop into a gallery or cafe and be sure to admire what many bill as the real architectural jewels of the city – the wind towers. This district sees the biggest display of wind towers on the Arabian side of the Gulf. In days gone by, these ingenious towers created a cooling breeze for the occupants of the courtyard houses.
Probably the most famous of all the wind-tower houses – albeit further along the Creek at Al Shindagha - is the former home of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai from 1912 to 1958, and the grandfather of Dubai’s current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It was here that our current ruler played in the yard as a young boy. Pop in to this humble dwelling, walk through the rooms where the family lived and the vision for Dubai was dreamed.
On exiting this museum go next door to the Dubai Heritage Village or take some time out to sit in a Creek-side café and watch the hustle and bustle on the water. It was around this very harbour that Dubai’s story first began when 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe settled. Dubai’s Creek is of such historical significance that UNESCO is considering adding it to its list as a World Heritage Site.
And of course the Site will incorporate Dubai’s renowned souqs. These supermarkets of yesteryear are still very much alive today. Shop (and barter) for silks, throws and cushion covers in every colour and shade imaginable in the Textile Souq before heading across the Creek in a wooden abra (boat) to reach the aromatic Spice Souq where baskets burst at the seams with all manner of spices, dried fruits and frankincense. Close by on the Deira side of the Creek you’ll discover the dazzling Gold Souq with over 300 shops crammed into this glittering covered market.
Of course these bazaars bear little resemblance to the vast shopping malls that Dubai has today. Yet, we are equally proud of both. We’re proud of our past and we’re proud of our present and we are particularly proud of how we’ve progressed from one to the other. This sense of national pride comes to the fore each year on 2 December when we celebrate National Day – the day back in 1971 when Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and five other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates (later to be joined by Ras al-Khaimah). Fireworks, street parties and car parades take over the country when the residents show their true colours.
To really understand how the Emirati people tick, be sure to visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU). This centre, with its headquarters based in the Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood, was set up to help visitors really understand the local culture, its history and its people. This is every visitor’s opportunity to ask questions – no matter how sensitive - to the local Emirati guide; to tour Dubai’s exquisite Jumeirah Mosque and to join them in a typical Emirati meal. Much like its culture, the local cuisine is rich, varied and full of flavour with recipes telling a tale of the country’s fascinating journey – an unforgettable and remarkable journey on which Dubai invites the world to share and experience for themselves.
Feel the sand between your toes on Nasimi Beach as some of the world’s chart-topping acts perform under the stars at Sandance; join the party at the Dubai Rugby Sevens; don your best hat for the lavish Dubai World Cup horse race; meet your favorite author at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature; and cheer on the camels as they thunder down the track through the desert. This is just a snapshot of the many varied, world-class events that make up Dubai’s annual events calendar. The only problem is fitting it all in.
Almost every weekend Dubai hosts at least one remarkable event, with a calendar encompassing arts and sport, food and books, music and lights, heritage and fashion. Thanks to its strategic location between east and west, coupled with its infrastructural support and amenities, and the requirement to entertain a population drawn from 200 nationalities, the city has become THE events’ capital of the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia region, meaning that no visit to Dubai is ever the same.
For anyone looking to meet their idol they’ve come to the right place. Dubai’s events are of such a calibre that they attract the world’s best. In part this is because the city’s facilities are themselves world-class and because the venues have been purpose built for these events. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy regularly appear on the first tee at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic each year at the Emirates Golf Club; Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and the Williams sisters are no strangers on the courts at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships; and the city’s polo fields attract the kings of this regal sport at the annual Dubai Gold Cup. And each year the world’s leading jockeys and horses bid to be in the winner’s circle at the showpiece Dubai World Cup.
It’s not just sport: Dubai is increasingly a top stop for A-list musicians and performers on their world tours. Bruno Mars, Eric Clapton, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Deep Purple and Alicia Keys are just a handful of acts to have played on Dubai’s stages in recent times, not to mention the dozens of Bollywood and Arabic superstars for whom the emirate is a second home. April 2015 sees the world’s biggest boys’ band come to ‘town’ when One Direction performs at Dubai Rugby Sevens.
And, as a city that attracts, nurtures and encourages talent, Dubai has become the regional hub for art, gastronomy, literature and film. Each of these genres is honoured with festivals to which the whole world is invited. For example, each year the annual literary festival draws top-selling regional and international authors and commentators and under the umbrella of The Dubai Art Season numerous events showcase home-grown Emirati and Dubai-based artistic talent, turning the whole city into an eclectic gallery and providing a perfect platform for international designers to meet. And, each December the red carpet is rolled out to welcome some of the world’s biggest actors and filmmakers when they attend the annual Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF). The 11th edition of the festival took place in 2014 when actress Emily Blunt, Oscar-nominated producer, writer and director Lee Daniels and acclaimed Egyptian actor Nour El-Sherif walked the DIFF carpet along with hundreds of movie buffs when they attended the nine-day festival, which saw a total of 118 features, film shorts and documentaries including 55 world and international premieres played out in cinemas across the city.
And as Dubai sets its sights on becoming the global events destination, the programme is being added to each year. In 2014 the Dubai Food Festival was launched. This month-long gastronomic extravaganza sees restaurants set up on the beach; welcomes celebrity chefs who fly in to give master classes; invites the public to taste signature dishes from the city’s top restaurants; and serves up cooking contests and family entertainment all in the name of food.
Also new to the calendar in 2014 was the Dubai Tour, a three-day event when the streets were cleared to make way for the world’s top cycling professionals. Several weekend music festivals were launched too, including Classics, Blended and Redfest. All these events are now regulars in the city’s social calendar, joining old favourites, such as the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival, which has been held each February since 2003. And with venues such as Nasimi Beach, where thousands gather on the beach at Atlantis, The Palm; Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, where the skyscrapers of Media City and Dubai Marina overlook a purpose-built, 15,000 person arena; and Dubai Festival City, which stages world-class concerts on the shores of Dubai Creek; the combination of acts and environments make for memorable experiences.
But of course, Dubai’s events don’t require you just to be a spectator. Several events throughout the year depend on public participation, not least the Dubai Marathon when over 22,000 runners pound the streets from Burj Khalifa all along the Beach Road; or the Spinney’s Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge when 2,000 amateur cyclists peddle around Dubai’s iconic landmarks for 92 kilometres. Participants from across the globe unite at the start and meet again at the finish lines in these fun and lively events.
These events may be relatively new, but there are copious festivals that have been going for so long that they are now ingrained in Dubai’s diary. The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is a prime example. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015, DSF is not only a shopping extravaganza, but also a huge family entertainment extravaganza when all visitors and residents in Dubai enjoy non-stop competitions – which come with jaw-dropping prizes – and a packed schedule of theatrical shows and entertainment.
Also long established are those events that capture the true spirit and culture of the Emirates. Each May you’ll see the spectacular sight of hundreds of traditional Arabian dhows with their billowing white sails grace the Arabian Gulf as they race along the Dubai coast in the Al Gaffal Traditional Dhow Sailing Race paying tribute to Dubai’s pearl-trading past. And of course, Ramadan is a time when the whole city comes together to celebrate, contemplate and rejoice. This is an awakening experience for everyone - including non-Muslims - and all are welcome to join in the celebratory feasts each evening and enjoy the Holy Month.
To round off the year with a bang, the whole world is invited to view the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks. To welcome in 2015, Dubai broke another record when the world’s largest LED facade lit up Dubai’s Burj Khalifa on New Year’s Eve. It was a spectacle watched across the globe by millions, once again showing the world just what a truly remarkable city Dubai is.
For the average family, Dubai gets everyone’s vote, appealing to old and young, no matter what their taste, interest or nationality. But then again, there’s nothing average about Dubai. It’s a destination that not only meets expectations, it beats them hands down and provides once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will create family memories that last for generations.
Where else can you play on the beach in the morning, go snow skiing at lunchtime, explore the desert in the afternoon and then watch dancing fountains reach to the skies underneath the world’s tallest tower? It’s a packed timetable with one memorable event after the other. How can you possibly forget rubbing noses with a dolphin; meeting a colony of penguins; or simply helping your son and daughter build their first sandcastle?
And when it’s time for a well-earned break, kids’ clubs in hotels and malls can ensure parents are guaranteed some precious ‘me time’ knowing that their little ones are in good hands having the time of their lives.
With the Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, stating an ambition that the UAE should be the world’s premiere family destination, it’s no surprise that Dubai’s already remarkable family tourism offer continues to be added to.
Dubai is all about having the most remarkable time of your life. It’s where families can make a splash, defying gravity in two of the most world-renowned waterparks; it’s where they can dash from the ice-skating rinks to the multi-screen cinemas, from the climbing walls to the bowling alleys, from the aquariums to the ski dome and from the ice-cream parlours to all-you-can-eat buffets that cater to even the fussiest of eaters.
And it’s not just the entertainment that ensures a hassle-free, smile-filled holiday. In Dubai, family life is the backbone of society. Emiratis are renowned for their hospitality shown towards visitors, and children in particular. They feel honoured when receiving guests and children are showered with care and affection. What’s more, much of Dubai’s large expat population is made up of young families all of whom enjoy living in a city that boasts one of the world’s lowest crime rates.
Most hotel resorts offer accommodation in family or interconnecting rooms, alongside dedicated kids’ pools and extensive kids’ clubs offering schedules of age-appropriate activities and a host of facilities including Xbox, Playstation and Apple technology.
Along Dubai’s sandy, clean and safe beaches no end of fun watersport activities can be enjoyed by all ages, from family tube rides and kayaking to water skiing and paragliding. What’s more, the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf enjoy gentle currents and, thanks to a slowly graduating sea bed, the waters alongside the shore tend to be relatively shallow – at low-tide you can easily walk out up to 100m and still only be ankle deep.
But of course, real water babes will want to visit Dubai’s exhilarating waterparks. Both Aquaventure at Atlantis, The Palm and Jumeirah’s Wild Wadi have thrills and spills for all ages from tiny tots to adrenaline junkies. You only have to be over 1.1m high to experience that awesome drop from the Jumeirah Sceirah or take the ultimate Leap of Faith. For tiny tots both waterparks have dedicated areas just for them, both complete with obligatory dumping buckets, slides and climbing frames.
More thrills and spills are to be had for families who venture into the desert, which lies just minutes away from the city centre. Relying on their tour operator to take care of all the logistics, families will enjoy bumping and sliding up and down the golden waves in a four-by-four. They’ll get the chance to go sandboarding, ride a camel, hold a falcon and enjoy authentic Emirati hospitality when they dig into a sumptuous buffet.
Kids can run wild too in the vast parks dotted within this skyscraper city itself. Families will love Creek Park, Al Mamzar Park and Zabeel Park. All offer the usual children’s play areas, in addition to attractions such as boating lakes, swimming pools and cycle paths.
And when it’s time for a break from the great outdoors, check out Dubai’s great indoors where there’s a vast choice of remarkable family activities to be experienced from skiing (or tumbling) down snowy mountains at Ski Dubai – the Middle East’s first indoor snow park complete with resident penguins and a 150m-long zip wire - to skydiving in the iFly wind tower at Mirdif City Centre mall, an experience on offer even to three-year-olds and ideal for those who aren’t old enough (or brave enough) to do the real thing above Palm Jumeirah with Skydive Dubai.
More airborne fun is to be had in Dubai’s vast trampoline parks – Bounce and Jump Boxx – where flips, tucks and giant leaps bring the kid out in everyone.
Meanwhile, adrenaline-fuelled rides await at SEGA Republic at The Dubai Mall – the biggest indoor theme park in the region - while next door at KidZania, children from four to 16 years old can explore a child-size city in which they try their hand at over 80 professions. Families should also not miss exploring the underwater world at either of the city’s fascinating aquariums – the Lost Chambers at Atlantis, The Palm and the Dubai Aquarium at The Dubai Mall, home also to the Dubai Underwater Zoo.
Throughout the year, Dubai’s social calendar is heaving with world-class events in which families and children are invited. For example, at the annual Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament, children under 12 go free (as they do at many of Dubai’s signature events) and can enjoy a host of fun activities in the Rugby Village just for kids. Families even have a whole stand dedicated to them alongside the central pitch and their own family entrance to the stadium.
During the city’s annual Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), a packed schedule of family entertainment is laid on featuring stage shows, street performances and competitions. And during the summer, Dubai’s life-size yellow mascot, Modhesh, appears about town and even provides a whole ‘world’ of fun dedicated to kids at Modhesh World – an indoor fun fair at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
And plans are afoot to add more family attractions in the coming years, with numerous theme parks on the agenda. All this is part of Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2020, a vision that puts families at the top of the agenda.
Come early evening, after another remarkable day in Dubai, it’s just the sun that settles down for the night. Closing time doesn’t exist in this city. After dark, when the skyscrapers are all lit up with a myriad of colours, Dubai goes into full-on party mode and the night owls emerge fully intent on socialising, dining and dancing. With hundreds of world-class restaurants and stylish bars and clubs to choose from, Dubai is a city where gastronomy and nightlife thrive. And the great thing is: everyone’s invited to join the party.
Catering to over 200 nationalities that call Dubai home, let alone the millions of worldwide tourists that flock here each year, this city can say that it’s truly cosmopolitan. This is seen no less than on the dance floor and around the dinner table where nationalities mix to sample dishes from across the world and music from every corner of the globe.
Toro Toro, at Grosvenor House Hotel, delivers two stories of South American beats and eats in its restaurant-cum-lounge, while Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s magnificently popular Mahiki (baby sister to the famous London branch) brings Hawaii direct to Dubai, and at Loca, in the Dubai Marine Beach Resort you’ll salsa straight into Mexico.
While clubs, such as the Cavalli Club and Movida are just some of the celebrity central hotspots in town, Dubai’s night scene is not all about stargazing. For karaoke you’ll find it at Harry Ghatto’s in Jumeirah Emirates Towers; for fashion sit beside the catwalk in Studio F; take your chances on a bucking bronco (advisably before dinner) at Claw BBQ in Souk Al Bahar; or if ping pong is your thing head to SPiN, Dubai’s ping pong lounge and nightclub owned by Academy Award-winning Susan Sarandon that features the only 18-carat-gold table tennis table in the world.
The latest trend to hit the city is that of the supper club, where diners are entertained by actors, performers and artists while they eat. When hearing the name Pacha, even for seasoned clubbers at the world-renowned Balearic-island hotspot, it’s probably not dinner that springs to mind. But in Dubai Pacha Ibiza Dubai, which opened to much fanfare in November 2014, has done just that. A menu that’s heaving with sharing dishes can be enjoyed while watching acrobats, shape throwers and dancers performing amazing tricks. It’s also Pacha that held an exclusive after party for the Dubai International Film Festival and hosted the legendary performer Prince when he performed in aid of Autism Rocks.
Hot on the heels of its sister clubs, The Box in New York and The Act Las Vegas, The Act swooped into Dubai in 2013 bringing an A-list clientele to its Vaudeville-themed venue within Dubai’s Shangri-La Hotel. Diners here can expect the unexpected with comedians, classical musicians, dancers and contortionists performing while guests tuck into a culinary menu that’s just as creative.
Similarly, the Lebanese Music Hall at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel sees the spotlight land on up to 10 acts in the same night - anything from a Bob Marley tribute band to a tango troupe, a Libyan saxophonist or a group of Romanian Gypsy singers.
But for many, the view counts as enough entertainment. Whether that’s of a ceiling of stars in the desert, the calm dark waters of the Gulf, or the city’s remarkable skyline, there’s an endless menu of views, all experienced from venues that are truly ‘Dubai’. The Mercury lounge at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach offers a dilemma – face east and you’ll be mesmerised by the city skyline or to the west and watch the sun settle below the horizon of the Arabia sea.
Try 360º, located on a pier stretching out into the Gulf offering picture perfect views of the iconic Burj Al Arab; At.mosphere, the restaurant on the 122th floor of the Burj Khalifa, where the world is laid out in front of you; or for a view of the tallest tower itself, the panorama from The Vault at the top of the JW Marriott Marquis, takes some beating. For sea views the Jetty Lounge is a hip and sophisticated beachside setting within the One&Only Royal Mirage where guests can feel the sand between their toes while enjoying pre-dinner drinks. From there, they’ll hop aboard a speed boat to be whisked away to the One&Only’s Palm property to dine at 101 Dining Lounge and Bar – serving delicious food and dazzling views of Dubai’s Marina skyline. For a view of a different kind, dine underwater. At both the Burj Al Arab’s Al Mahara restaurant, and Atlantis, The Palm’s Ossianio, diners will look straight into the venues’ huge aquariums – from where the sharks and rays will be looking straight back at them.
But if the focus is purely on the food, then Dubai’s restaurants guarantee equally memorable experiences.
Whatever your fancy, Dubai is ready to take your order. Set out on a culinary journey and taste the food of the 200 nationalities that reside here. Indeed, this city serves up cuisine from India and Peru to France and Vietnam and every flavour in between. And, with new restaurants adding to the menu every month – joining the spread of more than 5,400 eateries in the city – Dubai is constantly proving why it is the region’s culinary capital and of growing importance on the global gastronomy scene.
It’s a scene that particularly comes to the fore during the Dubai Food Festival – a city-wide month-long culinary extravaganza that takes place each February and sees restaurants set up on the beach; welcomes celebrity chefs to give master classes; invites the public to taste signature dishes from the city’s top restaurants; and serves up cooking contests and family entertainment all in the name of food.
And of course, throughout the year, every Friday is all about food. Across the city Friday brunches are a Dubai institution when family and friends spend all afternoon – and often into the evening - appreciating exquisite food and entertainment. And every night of the week, Dubai’s eateries are buzzing.
Endorsed by celebrity and Michelin-starred chefs who have chosen Dubai in which to cook up a storm – Jamie Oliver, Marco Pierre White, Gary Rhodes, Pierre Gagnaire, Atul Kochhar, Nobu Matsushisa and Sanjeev Kapoor to name but a few – the roster of restaurants makes for impressive reading. In fact, Dubai counts two restaurants that have officially been billed as among the ‘Best in the World’, with both Zuma and La Petite Maison making the well-respected San Pelligrino & Acqua Panna’s list of the World’s Best. Both reside in DIFC, an area which turns its focus from finance to fine dining upon nightfall.
Talk of the town since its opening in 2014 is Qbara – a restaurant focusing on Middle Eastern cuisine with a very modern twist. With the executive chef, Colin Clague, being the talent behind Zuma and The Ivy, Qbara is one of the first home-grown restaurants in Dubai that is being exported overseas (with London earmarked for Qbara number two). It’s quickly gaining a reputation among residents – and particularly Emiratis – as being a must-visit.
Coya – the Peruvian restaurant located on the same site as the Four Seasons – is also creating waves (and a long waiting list). Following on from London, Dubai is the location for the second Coya restaurant; soon to be joined by Miami.
Indeed, throughout the city, five-star dining is done with flair. Yet it’s vital to remember that Dubai’s culinary journey extends well beyond the world-renowned restaurants and lavish buffets.
Venture into ‘Old Dubai’, to the streets of Deira and Satwa, for some delicious freshly-cooked Indian curries; enjoy the enormous array of cafes and casual eateries along Jumeirah Beach Road; have your fill in the vast food courts of the malls; dine on the freshest fish at Dubai’s beach shacks and floating restaurants; and don’t miss out on the local cuisine.
Emirati food is much like its culture – rich, varied and full of remarkable flavours. Be sure to sample the many varieties of bread and mezze of delectable dips and salads, before moving onto traditional dishes such as Al Mochboos – a much-love national favourite made with rice and either meat, chicken or fish, and flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves; or Fraeeth, a dish consisting of meat and vegetables layered with thick slices of bread. There are many restaurants that proudly present the local fare, including Al Barza in Jumeirah, which opened in April 2015 serving contemporary Emirati cuisine; the Jumeirah beachfront restaurant Bait 1971 or the canal-side Al Fanar in Festival City (with its sister on Jumeirah Beach Road) or the locals’ favourite, Bikers Café (a favored breakfast hangout for locals).
Enjoy the party!
Dubai Municipality Museum
The construction date of this building goes back to the late 50s.It became the headquarters of Dubai Municipality offices until 1964, and then the Municipality offices were moved to another building. Due to the importance of this building in the Municipality's history as well as its location amidst the commercial market near the bay ( Dubai Creek) In 2006, this museum was opened it included halls, exhibits and documents telling the history of the period during which the Municipality was established.
Al Fahidi Fort, which houses the Dubai Museum, was built around 1787, and once guarded the landward approaches to the town. Renovated in 1971 for use as a museum, its colorful life size dioramas vividly depict everyday life in the days before the discovery of oil. Galleries recreate scenes from the Creek, traditional Arab houses, mosques, the souk, date farms and desert and marine life. One of the more spectacular exhibits portrays pearl diving, including sets of pearl merchants’ weights, scales and sieves. Also on display, are artifacts from several excavations in the emirate, recovered from graves that date back to the third millennium BC.
Naif Fort built in a strategic location in the main commercial district in Deira, was the first headquarters of Dubai Police. The fort was also used as a prison. It represented secure stronghold responsible for maintaining a security, the public office of the public prosecution and the civil courts. The fort was built of a clay material called al Madar, known for its cohesive qualities, and Al Chandal, a characteristic of Naïf Fort is its tower, the first part of the fort to be built. The tower was called Al Makbad because it was partly used as a jail for criminals. The construction of the fort was order by sheikh Rashid in 1939. The fort was used to accommodate the office of the Accommodate-in-chief of the Dubai police. There were also general, intelligence and investigation office and accommodation quarters for some officers. In addition, an area was used as stable for patrol horses. The fort has a historic gun which today is situated in the courtyard of Naif police station. It was the first training center for police personnel, with the first batch of officers stating their training in 1956.
Where else in the world can you swim with sharks just a few metres away from the world’s leading retail brands? Where else can you break off from your shopping spree to have a quick ski down a snowy mountain? In what other city can you spend the morning bartering for spices in an historical Arabian souq where traders have peddled their wares for hundreds of years – and then spend the afternoon sauntering down Fashion Avenue browsing for the latest designer handbag or luxury watch?
Shopping in Dubai is so much more than retail therapy – it’s a remarkable sightseeing, cultural, gastronomic and entertaining experience with a surprise at every turn.
With over 95 shopping malls, Dubai is the A to Z of retail. With anchor stores including Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdales, Fortnum and Mason and Marks and Spencer, virtually every global brand is on sale here, alongside a collection of homegrown boutiques and labels. In fact, Dubai ranks in second place – just behind London – as being the city with the highest number of retailers represented.
It’s here that you’ll find the world’s largest shopping mall, The Dubai Mall at over 12 million sqft. In 2014, this gigantic edifice to retail and entertainment, welcomed over 80 million visitors - that beats the number of visitors who went to New York’s Times Square!
With accolades such as this, it’s no surprise that shopping is one of the primary reasons that visitors flock to the emirate every year and forms the theme of two month-long shopping festivals – one of which, the Dubai Shopping Festival, celebrated its 20th anniversary in January 2015.
And new malls continue to fuel this obsession. In 2014 The Beach mall opened right on the shores of the Gulf at Jumeirah Beach Residence. Fringing the sands, this al fresco shopping, dining and entertainment precinct features high-end boutiques, such as local label s*uce-on-sea, lounges, such as the Cavalli Caffe, and restaurants that serve glorious sea views.
In 2015 BOXPARK opened, billing itself as an ‘urban district’. Based on urban renewal projects seen in other cosmopolitan cities, BOXPARK is a collection of industrial containers that serve as quirky boutiques and cafes set among town squares and parks.
But shopping is just a very small part of the picture here – what stands Dubai above other retail capitals are the remarkable experiences that happen to you and around you as you make your purchases. The malls themselves can best be described as family entertainment destinations offering multi-screen cinemas, ice skating rinks, indoor theme parks, vast food courts, bowling alleys and kids’ clubs. Here in Dubai, visiting a shopping mall means watching dancing fountains; skydiving in a simulated wind tunnel; skiing and snowboarding down a black run; walking through an aquarium; taking in a show and dining in restaurants serving cuisine from the over 200 nationalities that live in Dubai. As social hubs, the malls are where you come to meet friends – whether it’s for breakfast or pre or post dinner drinks.
What’s more, Dubai’s shopping malls are highlights on a sightseeing tour. Follow in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, one of the region’s most renowned explorers, as you walk through the various country-themed sections of Ibn Battuta Mall such as Andalucia, China and Egypt; explore the pyramids when you visit the Egyptian-themed Wafi Mall; wander through an Italian village at Mercarto Mall; visit the largest Chinese trading hub outside of China at DragonMart (which just happens to be in the shape of a dragon); visit a colony of Gentoo and King Penguins or fly on a zip wire above a snowy mountain within Mall of the Emirates’ Ski Dubai; and take photos of the stunning waterfall at The Dubai Mall.
For the quintessential Arabian shopping experience, head to the souqs. Both Souq Al Bahar and the Madinat Souq are modern recreations of these bazaars oozing charm and atmosphere steps away from five-star hotels and restaurants; or journey back in time and visit the historical covered markets that have flanked Dubai’s Creek for hundreds of years. Hunt out that precise shade of blue in the Textile Souq; breathe in the aromas of saffron and incense as you wander through the lanes of the Spice Souq; and be dazzled by displays of glittering gold and diamonds in the renowned Gold Souq.
Of course, haggling for the best price is all part of the fun of shopping in the souqs – likewise if you head to the eclectic areas of Satwa and Karama. It’s in these bustling areas where tailors can design you a bespoke outfit in a matter of days or where you can hunt out trinkets and gadgets of every kind for just a few dirhams. Even if shopping is not your thing, just take a seat in one of Satwa or Karama’s many pavement cafés, enjoy an authentic curry and watch the world go by.
Another very local experience is to be had at the weekly markets scattered about town, including in Zabeel Park every Friday morning or Al Barsha Pond Park on a Saturday evening (bar the peak summer months). Here you’ll find local artisans selling their homemade creations, arts and crafts, alongside farmers selling their organic produce just hours after it’s been picked.
From a very local experience to a truly global one, head to Global Village, where more than 65 countries come together in 37 lavish pavilions to showcase their indigenous products. Buy honey from the Yeman, carpets from Iran, wooden pots from Africa and dried fruits from Thailand. No two pavilions are the same, setting visitors on a truly global adventure. And that is what shopping is all about in Dubai – one ever-changing, unexpected and remarkable adventure.
Hurling oneself out of a plane at 13,000ft is par of the course in Dubai, as is skiing down a snowy mountain; boarding from the peak of a 300ft-high sand dune; speeding around a racetrack in an Audi’s R8 V10; galloping across the desert on a thoroughbred Arabian stallion; playing polo (on horseback or camel hump); and teeing off on a floodlit golf course at midnight. Whether an audacious, daring adrenaline junkie, an adventure seeker or simply someone looking to enjoy the great outdoors – Dubai is the perfect playground.
It’s a playground that incorporates a cloudless sky, an endless desert, rugged mountains, the glorious waters of the Arabian Gulf and remarkable championship sporting facilities.
The very courts on which Djokovic and Federer compete at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships are available for the public to play; the same pool in which the likes of Tom Daley competed in the Fina World Diving Championships is open for swimmers keen to pelt out a few Olympic laps; and the footsteps of many a professional golfer can be followed on the very fairways where world championships have been won.
Indeed, for golfers Dubai is paradise. Dubai has 11 outstanding courses, many designed by professionals such as Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Nick Faldo. The most famous is the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club, the annual host to the renowned Omega Desert Classic where the likes of Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson have lifted the Classic trophy. Or follow the fairways at Jumeirah Golf Estates that host the climax to the Race to Dubai where Rory Mcllroy currently reigns supreme. For a quick nine holes give The Track at Meydan a go. Of course, Meydan is more renowned as being the state-of-the-art venue in which the Dubai World Cup horserace is played out each year. This 60,000 capacity stadium is almost futuristic. As championship horseman and winning jockey of many a Dubai World Cup race Frankie Detorri says: “When they turn the lights on [at Meydan Racecourse] it looks like a spaceship from Star Wars has landed”.
For those wanting to mount a horse themselves, there are no end of possibilities in this horse-mad city. Simply head to any of the equestrian centres, such as Emirates Equestrian Centre or Club Joumana at the Jebel Ali Equestrian Club. For a truly Dubai equestrian experience make a beeline for the desert – a place so peaceful it’s just the sound of the soft sand under the horses hooves that can be heard. Canter between the waves of dunes and watch how the sand turns from red to gold with the setting sun. The Al Sahra Desert Resort Equestrian Centre or Al Jiyad Stables are just two liveries that offer this remarkable desert experience.
For horse-riding with a twist, there’s nothing like polo to get the adrenaline pumping. Even complete novice riders can try out this ‘sport of kings’ at any of the city’s polo clubs, including the Dubai Polo Club at Desert Palm Retreat – home to the Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge; and Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club at Arabian Ranches, host to the Dubai Polo Gold Cup. Sign up for a lesson and, with mallet in hand, let the chukka begin.
And of course there’s always camel polo for an Arabian twist on this regal sport. It tends to be a somewhat hysterical affair – these ‘ships of the desert’ can be stubborn beasts more used to traversing the ocean of sand that lies a stone’s throw away from the city centre.
See them for yourself on a desert safari – one of the most popular adventures for holidaymakers. Indeed, for anyone to say they’ve truly been to Dubai, they need to experience the desert in all its golden glory.
Leave the tarmac behind and, strapped into a four-by-four, be prepared for a roller coaster ride of a lifetime as a fleet of these modern ‘caravans’ career up and slide down the rolling dunes. Off-road driving in this sea of sand – whether in a four-by-four or dune buggy - takes skill, courage and speed.
As does sand boarding. Head to Dubai’s Big Red dune – the emirate’s ultimate ‘black run’. This monster of a mountain, just a 30-minute drive from Dubai towards Hatta, rises to 300ft and makes for a hell of a ride as the repurposed snowboard slices across its surface.
But the playground antics don’t settle with the sun. Camping under a ceiling of stars is a memory that lasts a lifetime. With just the embers of the campfire to light the way, the desert is at its most mysterious and silent at night. Camping is the perfect Bedouin experience but be sure to wake up for nature’s first show of the day – sun rise. This is when the desert is swathed in colours turning from yellow to orange and gold – a sight best experienced from the basket of a hot air balloon gliding on the morning breeze hundreds of feet high. Looking down on the desert provides a realisation of just how immense and magical this landscape is.
A high-rise experience above the desert – albeit of a slightly faster kind - is also offered by Skydive Dubai from its desert campus at Margham. After a minute of free-falling the chute is ‘popped’ leaving a long five minutes to take in the awesome views of the sandy ocean below. Alternatively, opt for another equally unique view – that of Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah. At Skydive Dubai’s marine drop zone the view looking down on the iconic palm-shaped archipelago is a resounding ‘only-in-Dubai’ experience.
For those who prefer sticking to terra firma, then increasingly one of the popular ways to explore the city is on two wheels.
Dubai’s cycling scene has gathered some serious momentum over the past few years, especially as more cycleways are built. In addition to a cycle path running alongside the new Dubai Tram, particularly popular are the The Nad Al Sheba Cycle Park, with its choice of eight, six and four km loops with the whole course lit by night, and the 68km desert ‘Lollipop’ track through the desert – with a strategic breakfast spot at the luxurious Bab al Shams desert resort.
For the professional cyclists, Dubai laid down the challenge in February 2014 in the form of the four-day Dubai Tour. Now an annual event, hundreds of the world’s top cyclists pelt around the city, in what professional Marcel Kittel described as “the fastest sightseeing tour ever”. As well as passing by Dubai’s major icons, the route also takes the competitors to the scenic Dubai enclave of Hatta to face some of the toughest mountain climbs in the UAE. Now, thanks to the opening in February 2015 of a picturesque 17km mountain bike trail in Hatta, the challenge is on all year round for amateur cycling enthusiasts.
This city escape is a perfect opportunity to breathe in the fresh air and the stunning views of the craggy Hajar Mountains – and better still, go hiking to explore the mountain passes and wadis and take a refreshing dip in the cooling rock pools. While only a two-hour drive from the city centre, this Dubai sheikhdom, completes the perfect picture that provides all visitors with one great big, remarkable adventure.