I’ve just returned home from 10 days in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), starting off in Dubai and working my way across to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi with my family.
I was a little bit apprehensive on my flight from London Gatwick to Dubai as it’s not my normal kind of holiday…I’m more of a hostel sleeping, backpack wearing, street food eating type of traveller, rather than the usual UAE visitor. But, I can happily say that I had a great time.
What did we do in Dubai?
Spending seven days in Dubai meant that we had lots of time to fully explore the city.
We stayed in an apartment a few minutes walk from Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), a 1.7km stretch of sand punctuated by the odd hotel, beach club and group of camels passing by for the tourists.
At one end of the beach you’ll find restaurants, play parks and lots of families. The opposite end you’ll find zero gravity bar and a more adult/ couples vibe. In between, you’ll find a mix of everybody else.
Looking out across the ocean, you’ll see a giant ferris wheel – a 210m high observation wheel – also known as the Dubai eye, still in development on Bluewaters island.
It’s an odd-looking piece of machinery at present but it’s set to include 48 passenger capsules in the near future, each with enough space to fit up to 40 passengers, so will make a great viewpoint for the city.
On the street behind the beach you’ll find coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and the odd art installation. Make sure you check out the stairs.
Kite beach is the place to go if you want to test out your watersports skills or just watch in awe as other athletes take to the waves. You’ll have 14km of coastline to explore with the famous Burj Al Arab on the horizon.
You’ll also find one of Dubai’s most popular quick eateries along the promenade – SALT – the pop up stand sells its famous burgers throughout the day.
Dubai Marina is a short walk away from Jumeirah beach and it’s a nice place to walk when you’re not feeling the sand.
The marina includes four bridges which link the east and west side of the promenade, the north and south sides include the marina at one end and restaurants at the other. There’s also a handy shopping centre right in the middle for when you need to escape the heat or fancy some retail therapy.
Jumeirah’s mosque is located in Dubai city and is the most photographed mosques in Dubai.
It’s also one of the only mosques in Dubai which allows non Muslim visitors to enter and join tours organised by Sheikh Mohammed’s Centre for Cultural Understanding as part of their ‘Open Doors. Open Minds’ policy. Tours run six days a week, starting at 10am (try to get there for 9.45am) and last for around 75 minutes.
The tour begins in the cultural centre adjacent to the mosque with dates, arabic coffee and other tasty treats, before walking across the courtyard to the mosque itself.
Before entering the mosque, all visitors are required to remove their shoes and are provided with appropriate islamic dress – women are provided with abayas and head scarfs, and men are provided with white thobes.
The mosque is beautiful to walk around and the tours cover all aspects of life in Dubai, Islamic worship and other Emirati rituals and traditions.
The mosque is large enough for 1,200 worshippers but when I visited there was only 30 visitors on the tour so we were able to move around the mosque as we pleased.
Dubai museum, Bastakia Quarter and Abra’s across the creek
The Dubai museum is housed in Dubai’s oldest building, Al Fahidi Fort, and showcases Dubai’s history and original heritage. This includes life before the discovery of oil in the Middle East.
Entry is 3 AED per person and covers around an hours’ worth of activities.
In the courtyard, outer walls and underground tunnels of the fort you’ll find numerous exhibits covering all different periods in history and aspects of Emirati life.
A short walk away you’ll find the Bastakia Quarter, one of the city’s most picturesque heritage sites built in the 19th century.
This area is also known as Bur Dubai and is close to the Dubai creek.
Crossing the creek by boat (Abra) is a great activity to take part in. Although it’s an Emirati version of a London bus, it’s something just as iconic to ride.
Jump on a public Abra for 3 AED for a quick ride across the creek to one of the local ports, or hire a private Abra for 60 AED (30 minutes) or 120 AED (60 minutes) and take a private tour.
- Metro stations – Al Fahidi or Al Ras
- Abra stations – Old Souk, Bur Dubai or Sabkha
Ethiad musuem provides a different side of Emirati culture compared to the Dubai museum, and is one of Dubai’s latest cultural offerings.
The museum showcases photos, films and other exhibits which show how the country has developed throughout time, especially between 1968 and 1974.
The Dubai mall
The Dubai mall is one of the largest shopping malls in the UAE and is the second largest shopping mall in the world (by total land area). It’s huge.
Here you’ll find shops ranging from Rolex and Armani to H&M and GAP, as well as restaurants, ice cream parlours, ice rinks and a cinema.
The Burj Khalifa/ Dubai mall metro stop is one of the busiest transit stations in Dubai. It takes around 20 minutes to walk from the metro stop to the mall itself so prepare yourself for the walk before you go.
Completed in 2008, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure/ building in the world. Each evening the park surrounding the structure, and the structure itself, put on a show for its visitors.
This includes an LED light and water fountain show tailored to musical soundtracks.
Think water and lights pulsating to the beat of the music. It’s a fun activity for children and adults alike.
You can either watch the show from the park, the water’s edge or on an abra which sails on the water itself. Show times:
Sunday – Wednesday: every hour from 7.45pm to 10.45pm
Thursday – Saturday: every half hour from 7.45pm to 10.45pm.
Zabeel park and Dubai Frame
Zabeel park is one of the largest parks in Dubai and it’s also one of the first technology driven parks in the Gulf. It’s also home to one of Dubai’s newest attraction – the Dubai frame – where you have the opportunity to climb the 150m tall structure and walk out onto the 25msq bridge connecting the structure’s cross frame.
Tickets cost 50 AED for adults and 30 AED for children.
Trips to the desert and jumping out of planes
There are a few iconic activities that I missed off of my trip this time around:
- touring the desert in a 4by4 or quad bike
- eating dinner under the stars in the desert
- riding the elevator up to the top of the Burj Khalifa
- sky-diving over the Palm
It just means that i’ll have to go back soon.