One of my favourite things about living in Dubai is the social aspect. This is not by any means a complete list of all of the things you can do. These are just a few of my favourite things.
1. Head to the Beach
Head to Kite Beach, kite surfers and spectators gather at the white sand beach on the Arabian Gulf. Equipment is available for rent, and you get a great view of Burj Al Arab.
Public beaches are free to enter throughout the UAE. You can also go to one of the many private beaches, usually at hotels. These cost between 180 – 400 AED ($60-130 CAD) for an afternoon. Some like Nasimi Beach at Atlantis Hotel on the Jumeirah Palm, offer shopping boutiques and volleyball nets.
2. Get Under Water
You can learn to scuba dive at the Atlantis Dive Centre. They offer dives for certified and non-certified divers. I recommend the Ambassador Lagoon dive experience; you get to see thousands of marine species all in one place.
You can also snorkel, go for a dive with the dolphins or dive with predators.
- Atlantis The Palm – Crescent Road, The Palm, Dubai, U.A.E.
- +971 4 426 2000
2. The Desert
Safari tours are popular with tourists. A typical tour includes pick up and drop off at your hotel, a very turbulent ride in an SUV for a dune bashing experience, a BBQ meal, a very short camel ride, a belly dancing performance and temporary henna tattoos. Blue Banana is one of the many companies in Dubai that offer safari tours; they also offer hot air balloon rides in the desert!
If being surrounded by tourists isn’t your thing, you can check out Bab Al Shams resort where you can relax and watch the sunset while having a cocktail. It can be a pricey experience but a memorable one.
Or, you can head into the desert with your friends, have a fire, a BBQ and enjoy the scenery. In the winter months, there are designated campsites where you can camp out for free, all you have to do is bring your equipment.
- Blue Banana – Business Central Towers, Dubai, U.A.E.
- +971 4 436 8100
- Bab Al Shams – Dubai, U.A.E.
- +971 4 809 6100
3. Swing Away
Golf is popular in Dubai. If you want to rub elbows with the rich and famous, check out Emirates Golf Club, the club has several courses. The Majlis course hosts the European PGA Tour Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and the Ladies’ European Tour sanctioned Omega Dubai Ladies Masters annually. The Majlis Golf Course has been officially ranked amongst the ‘World’s Top100 Golf Courses’ by Golf World Magazine.
Alternatively, you can check out the newly developed Trump International Golf Club. It has a golf academy, a pool and a fitness center with daily exercise classes.
- Emirates Golf Club – PO Box 24040, Dubai, U.A.E.
- +971 4 417 9999
- Trump International Golf Club – DAMAC Hills, Al Hebiah Third District, Dubai
- +971 4 245 3939
4. Champagne Brunch
While The UAE is a Muslim country, it has a strange relationship with alcohol. On Fridays (traditionally the holiest day of the week in Islam and the first day of the weekend), many of the city’s restaurants offer “Champagne Brunch.” This brunch is not the sedate culinary experience it is elsewhere; in Dubai, it is an exercise in excess, with free-flowing booze and heaping buffets.
Yalumba at Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre offers unlimited champagne and tables straining under mountains of prime steak, oysters and prawns the size of my head. This place can get a little wild, with people dancing on the tables by the end of brunch!
Another popular brunch spot is Saffron at Atlantis, The Palm. Saffron’s brunch buffet offers more than 220 dishes; stations feature dim sum, burgers, fresh seafood, pizza and steak. However, this brunch is really all about day drinking. You can hear the music before you even open the door to the restaurant. Don’t be surprised to walk up and hear Nelly’s infamous line “It’s getting hot in here” blasting through the speakers before you walk in the door.
If you want to splurge or have a special occasion, I recommend Pierchic. The unrivalled view and quality of the seafood swept me off my feet. On arrival, you are greeted with oysters and champagne. The menu is seasonal (expect anything from Canadian Lobster, Scottish Rope Grown Mussels, Dressed Crab, Razor Clams to Yellow Tail Carpaccio), the ambiance is romantic and like the name implies, chic.
If you want a more authentic Emirati experience, check out Zaman Awal Restaurant at Al Boom Tourist Village. Zaman Awal, an ode to the good old days, combines traditional eats with eclectic yet historical décor. Everything from the windows to the serving tables to the light fixtures is sourced locally or is an antique. Zaman Awal offers a dry, family friendly brunch.
Tip: Make reservations early, and expect to pay at least $30 per person without alcohol, or up to a whopping $825 per person for the Dom Pérignon Package brunch at Pierchic. The most popular brunches usually cost between $100 (without alcohol) and $200 (with unlimited alcohol).
- Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Center Airport Road PO Box 10001, Dubai, U.A.E.
- Ground Level, West Tower, Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai – U.A.E.
- Al Sufouh Rd, Al Qasr at Madinat Jumeirah – Dubai – U.A.E.
- Zaman Awal
- Al Boom Tourist Village – P.O. Box 12650, Dubai – U.A.E.
5. Travel Back in Time
If you want to see a more humble side of Dubai, check out The Bastakia Quarter. Built in the 19th century by Persian merchants, it’s been declared a conservation area. The quaint streets and old buildings are a stark contrast to the glitz and glam often associated with Dubai. Here you can find The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, the Dubai Museum, and several art galleries. You can take the abra (the water taxi) for 1 AED (or 30 cents!) to get to the Old Souk where you’ll find silks, spices, souvenirs and an entirely different Dubai experience.
- Bastakia Quarter
- Bur Dubai, Dubai, U.A.E.
- Dubai Museum
- Old Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai, U.A.E.
6. Get in the Equestrian Spirit
Horseback riding is a traditional part of Arab culture. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, is an avid equestrian! His family owns Godolphin Stables. Named in honour of the Godolphin Arabian, one of the three founding stallions of the modern thoroughbred.
Ever wanted to ride an Arabian horse in the desert or on the beach? Well, here’s your chance!
For the casual rider, The Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club offers desert hacks, an excellent way to get out and experience the desert on horseback. If you want to make riding a more permanent part of your lifestyle in Dubai, the club specializes in training riders for show jumping, dressage and polo.
Dubai City Stables offer a unique overnight ride adventure. Ride out on camel or horseback and enjoy a night under a thousand stars in the desert. The stable provides additional services and experiences like beach riding, horse leasing, boarding services, veterinary services, Falcon rentals and much more.
Endurance racing (long distance racing in the desert – races are usually no more than 160km/day) is popular in the U.A.E. Al Jumooh Stables offer excellent coaching and training services for horse and rider alike.
- Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club
- Al Qudra Road, Opposite Arabian Ranches, next to Studio City – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
- +971 4 361 8111
- Al Jumooh Stables
- Unnamed Rd – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
- +971 50 107 7102
- Dubai City Stables
- 29B Street, Near Umm Suqeim Girls School، Al Safa 2 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
- +971 55 167 0188
7. Walk on Water!
Well, sort of…
Stand up paddle boarding is another one of my favourite ways to beat the heat. There are several locations to try it, here are the ones I like:
Surf House Dubai has all day rides for 200 AED and hourly rentals for 75 AED.
Ignite Surface is another place I like, they offer SUP girls classes, and their hourly rate is 85 AED.
Get SUP Fit is great if you want to make SUP a regular part of your fitness routine. They offer boot camp style classes and your first one is free!
- Surf House Dubai
- Sunset Beach, Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai
- +971 4 321 1309
- Ignite Surface
- Riva Beach Club, The Palm, Dubai
- +971 4 456 2482
- Get SUP Fit
- Eden Beach Club, Rixos The Palm, Dubai
- +971 55 277 1477
8. Get Active
For those into fitness, there are several ways to avoid the monotonous routine of the gym.
Desert Warrior Challenge, Ice Warrior Challenge, XYoga Dubai and several themed runs are just a few of your options. The Drop Zone, a free outdoor gym at Skydive Dubai offers calisthenics training equipment, aerial silks, monkey bars and a large grass area for whatever else you might dream up!
You can sign up for most of these activities online.
- Skydive Dubai
- Al Sufouh – Dubai – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
- +971 4 377 8888
9. Arabian Nights
A large part of the Dubai nightlife includes smoking shisha. There are a countless number of cafés in Dubai whose sole business is tobacco. You do not have to be a regular smoker to partake in what seems to be the national pastime in Dubai. Flavoured tobacco does not smell or taste like the kind you find in cigarettes. Some places even offer nicotine free tobacco.
The majority of hotels have a beautiful atmosphere, where you can eat, drink and smoke away. The Ritz-Carlton at DIFC, Al Manzil Hotel, and Karamna Al Khaleej are my favourite places to indulge. At any of these locations, shisha will cost you between 60 and 85 AED.
- Karmna Al Khaleej
- Downtown Dubai, Near The Address Dubai Mall – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
- +971 4 458 0899
- The Ritz-Carlton at DIFC
- Gate Village, Difc, off Sheikh Zayed Road – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
- +971 4 372 2222
- Al Manzil Hotel
- Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
- +971 4 428 5928
10. Dance Dance Dance
The alcohol flows freely, and the music beats until 3 AM. Some clubs, like White, don’t let in groups of males. So fellas, find a date before you head to the club!
There is a strict dress code at most places in Dubai: no jeans and no runners. You are very blatantly judged on your appearance at most nightclubs. Now now, don’t get turned off just yet, I find that if I get dressed the same as if I was going to a club in Toronto or Paris I never have trouble getting in anywhere. The only people I’ve seen get turned away are those who look like they didn’t bother to brush their hair when they got up in the morning.