Everyone knows that Dubai is a prime shopping destination, home to the world’s largest mall and a gleaming monument to consumerism, but what if you don’t fancy spending your time ogling at stuff? What if the expression ‘retail therapy’ is something of an oxymoron in your eyes? Thankfully there’s plenty of unique activities to enjoy in this Emirati playground that don’t involve shops, malls, barcodes or changing rooms. To prove it, here is our choice of the top things to do in Dubai (other than shopping).
Join a desert safari
Lying in the Arabian Desert and surrounded by dunes, it’s little wonder that Dubai offers plenty of opportunities to get out amongst the undulating sands. Join a morning dune drive to experience the desert at its most riveting with dune bashing, sand-boarding and camel trekking or spend the night under the stars at a glamorous camp with a BBQ dinner. It’s the perfect antidote to the man-made environment of the city, which is all glass, steel and concrete. Out in the desert you can find peace and quiet as well as adventure in the vast wilderness where you may even spot local wildlife. Check out the host of desert activities offered by Arabian Adventures.
Explore the Creek
Dividing the city’s commercial heart of Deira and the historical district of Bur Dubai, the saltwater Dubai Creek is where you’ll find a fascinating legacy of Emirati tradition. The area is home to exotic souks, old buidlings and the Dubai Museum, housed in a beautifully restored 18th century fort. A walk around the atmospheric Bastakiya area is to take a step back in time to Dubai’s humble beginnings as a fishing village and trading port. The most evocative way to cross the creek is aboard a traditional abra, small motorised water taxis that are cheap and cheerful. It takes just five minutes to get from one side to the other. If you prefer to make more of an event out of it, opt for a dinner cruise instead. Sailing aboard a traditional wooden dhow you’ll be able to enjoy the radiance of Dubai’s skyline at night.
Watch the Dubai fountains
Think Las Vegas tops the charts of world’s most impressive fountains? Think again! The world-famous Bellagio fountains may shoot up 24 stories in the air but the Dubai Fountain blows this out the water, reaching heights of almost double this. Set on a 30 acre man-made lake, the Dubai Fountain boasts over 6,600 lights with choreographed displays accompanying a soundtrack of classical and contemporary tunes. The unique design of circles and arcs in varying sizes allows for a mesmerising display of dancing water with over 22,000 gallons of water airborne during each performance. Best of all, watching these performances is totally free.
Indulge in a weekend brunch
Friday brunch in Dubai is something of an institute among the expat communities (side note – weekends across the Middle East fall on Friday and Saturday). Hotels, restaurants and golf clubs put on an indulgent buffet of food that ranges from seafood to cheese boards, salads to roast dinners. We may equate brunch to lighter meals inspired by the best of breakfast and lunch but in Dubai it takes on a whole new level of extravagance with all manner of dishes that cover starters, mains and desserts. Costs are usually around USD $50 per person, which includes bottomless drinks during the specified time so you can enjoy a fine glass of wine or cold beer with your all-you-can-eat meal. There are dozens of locations to choose from when it comes to brunch – check out Gulf News’ regularly updated guide to the best to help you select your perfect dining establishment.
Skydive over the Palm
For the thrill seekers out there, what could be better than flinging yourself out of a plane over the remarkable Palm islands? Of course, you’d be attached to a parachute and a highly trained jump pilot while enjoying a bird’s eye view of one of Dubai’s most iconic sights. Free fall for a minute at an altitude of 4,000 metres before a leisurely five minute descent during which time you can soak up the vistas. The leading dive centre is Skydive Dubai. If you prefer to take to the skies without the need of a parachute, another option is an authentic seaplane ride over Dubai’s ever-expanding skyline with Seawings. Over the course of the 40 minute flight you’ll enjoy aerial views of the man-made archipelago as well as the marina and ports.
Interested in visiting Dubai? Check out our 4 day stopover package – the perfect addition to a long-haul holiday.