Dubai can be a lot of fun and can be enjoyed even on a budget. Social networking sites like Couchsurfing is pretty active in Dubai and due to its huge expat base, lots of hosts of different nationalities and background are available. Other fun communities like Dubai Street Photography, Adventure Sports, Jazz Music Lovers etc clubs also have a healthy number of enthusiastic members and weekends are always filled with various exciting events. After substantial number of visits to the Emirates and exploring them, I finally managed to list down my favourite things to do in Dubai and beyond.
1. Old Dubai City and Grand Mosque Walk by SMCCU – Both are 2 different events organized by SMCCU (Sheikh Mohammed Center of Cultural Understanding) and are equally enjoyable. Apart from presenting the rare opportunity of experiencing Emirati hospitality, it also gives a brilliant insight into the city’s history, culture and an understanding of Islamic traditions. It also offers various other tours and traditional Emirati meals.
2. Bur Dubai and Bastakiya – SMCCU is housed in the picturesque heritage colony of Bastakiya and complete with wind towers, old houses and narrow alleys, it is the highlight of Bur Dubai after the Dubai Museum. Bur Dubai is itself pretty atmospheric and its narrow lanes open into hidden courtyards, shops, restaurants and cafes. A busy commercial hub of trading and working communities from India, Pakistan and sub continental countries, Bur Dubai also offers various cuisines at shockingly cheap prices as well loads of shops selling souvenirs to present as gifts. Bur Dubai’s lanes and unique residents also make a great photo walk.
3. Dubai Museum – The tiny but jewel of a Dubai Museum is worth a visit. Housed in a wonderfully old fort, this museum showcases the Emirati essence and Dubai’s incredible rags to riches story. The museum offers an incredible walk down history and the meteoric rise of Dubai from a small fishing and pearling village to the financial giant of today is fascinating to learn. It also exhibits items from traditional Emirati life like costumes, weapons, musical instruments etc. A short walk from there leads to the Creek from where an abra/dhow will take you the equally photogenic other side, Deira.
4. Cruise along the Creek – The Creek is the lifeline of Dubai and has one of most charming waterfront promenades in the world. Just a walk along the date palm lined promenade with joyful expat workers and excited tourists with dhows bobbing up and down the salty swathe is enough to create long lasting Dubai memories. Sunsets are most photogenic when the iconic highrises glint off the fading rays with dhows crowding busily in front of them. The sight of the banks and their mish mash of old squat buildings, mosque minarets and wind towers against a setting sun, from the Creek is breathtaking and brings back glimpses of Dubai’s forgotten past. Plenty of dinner cruises are offered along the Creek and they make great entertaining options for Dubai evening out.
5. Deira – Teeming with souks, dhow wharfage and character, Deira is hands down the most photogenic part of Dubai. A dhow ride, preferably at sunset is simply magical and to make it more impressionable precede it with a day at Deira. Gold souk, textile souk, spice souk, perfume souk, fish souk, fruit and vegetable souk make great photo stops and are definitely treat for senses. Follow the evening by a lovely dinner at one of Deira’s waterfront restaurant for a perfect Old Dubai day.
6. Dubai mall hopping – Dubai malls are simply not for shopaholics but are also great places for escaping the desert afternoons, gawking at opulence and people watching. Crammed with dinosaur skeletons, moats, replicas of Persian/Chinese/Indian etc architectural heritage, skiing zones, zoos and aquariums, apart from world’s most premium brands Dubai malls take retail experience to a whole new level. Jumeirah Madinat, Dubai Mall and Ibn Batuta are the most opulent ones while Al Fahidi Street, Meena Bazaar, Karama Shopping Center, Wafi Mall etc offer pocket friendly shopping.
7. Nightlife – Dubai throbs with an astounding nightlife especially along the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Road. Soaring skyscrapers, dazzling lights and endless bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants make Dubai’s futuristic road “the” place to be after nightfall and 24/7 convenient stores offer cheap drinks on the go. For a more real Dubai life in the fast lane experience bars with views like 360 Degrees Jumeirah Beach Hotel, At.mosphere Lounge Burj Khalifa, Neos The Address Downtown Dubai, Uptown Bar Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Al Sarab Rooftop Lounge Bab Al Shams Resort are the most popular ones.
8. Wildlife and Nature – Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary and Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) are 2 of Dubai’s best kept secrets and are absolutely must visits for nature lovers and those looking for more than dune bashing. Tanura dance performance, falconry show, traditional Arabian meal and date pit crushed coffee are also clubbed with DDCR trips along with optional sleeping under the stars. Masandam Coast tour, Hatta Pools trip, Al Ain oasis visit, Hajar Mountains off terrain adventure, day trip to Dibba and night crab hunting at Umm Al Quwain mangroves are also worth trying.
9. Splurge and save – Trips to Burj Al Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, the Palms, shark diving and swimming with sea lion and dolphins at Atlantis Aquaventure Park, Ferrari World (Abu Dhabi) and Wild Wadi visits, deep sea fishing, off coast diving with Al Boom, chartered yachts, helicopter, and seaplane rides are definitely the most exhilarating things to if money is not restrained. For the ultimate taste of power of money, opt for a tour of the stables offered by Meydan Racecourse and also experience a camel race. Camel racing is UAE’s national sport and its highlight is the introduction of mechanized camel jockeys. Earlier small boys owing to their light weight were used as camel jockeys, when fierce worldwide protests by child labour activists nearly extinguished this sport. To save the national sport from extinction, Emiratis introduced small remote controlled robots which are strapped on the camels’ backs and maneuvered by trainers who circle outside the tracks in jeeps. It is a spectacle to behold as unbelievable amounts of money is awarded as cash price and the winning camels are worth their weights in gold.
For those disdainful of everything ostentatious and/or on a budget, alternative pocket friendly but equally enjoyable options are food walks with Frying Pan Adventures, visits to the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Mosque (Abu Dhabi) and Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, beach bumming at night, community cook outs and festivals (check Dubai Timeout and Dubizzle for best of city news). The Falcon Heritage and Sports Center, weekly camel markets held in the outskirts of Dubai and weekly bazaars also make great pocket friendly options.
10. Dine out – Dubai offers an incredible variety of cuisines and these are served at restaurants suitable for all budgets. While world class dining options like Nobu and boutiquey Michelin Star restaurants can burn holes in many pockets, Deira and Bur Dubai offer complete meals for sometimes as less as 2 USD. There are tons of Nepali, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, African, Middle Eastern and Japanese restaurants, along with cheap shawarma stands, sandwich and salad grills, broasters and juice bars.
A higgledy-piggledy mix of traditional souks, old quarters, dhow wharfages, wildlife sanctuaries and stunning mosques blend seamlessly with spectacular and futuristic urban cityscape. Jaw-dropping, confusing, exciting and tiring, Dubai is indeed truly a world city.
Some photos have been taken from internet.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE