In some ways Dubai has lots of the glitz, glamor and ostentatious wealth of Las Vegas, without the gambling tables. It has the tallest building, the most luxurious Hotel, and Theme Parks but underneath that 'glitz' there are some real authentic Arabian experiences to enjoy too.
The Dubai Museum is located at Al Fahidi Street, where the Metro stops too (Al Fahidi Station). This is right at the entrance of the Dubai Creek where it enters the Arabian Gulf and is located in the old Al Fahidi Fort that was built here in 1787. It is an interesting insight into the past to the time when Dubai was a fishing and pearling port – so here you will see the old fort cannons, archaeological finds, a dhow boat, old pearl diving equipment, historic photos and other memorabilia that relates to the City of Dubai and its past. At night the Fort and Minuet Tower is lit by lights, its silhouette and Arabian Architecture creating a sharp contrast to the high rise buildings of Dubai.
Dubai Creek – is more interesting than it sounds, as it is more of a tidal sea water harbour or river than a creek, and here next to the Dubai Museum you will find the Grand Mosque. A small alleyway called Hindi Lane is where Sikh and Hindu traders have their small shops that lead to the side of the Dubai Creek where Dhows still can be seen on the water, along with water Taxis that can take you upstream. Walking upstream along next to Dubai Creek you will also find small Indian traders selling fabrics, sandals, incense, Saris and also Indian Snacks such as Samosas. There are lots of high rise buildings overlooking the Creek, including the Rolex Twin Towers and the Shindagha Tower and also Bur Dubai Abra Metro Station is here too. The Rolex Twin Towers has upmarket shops and also a large Terrace restaurant overlooking the Creek. Further along around the bend in the Creek you will also come to the Sheikh Saeed al Mahtoum House, built in 1896, also the Camel Museum and Horse Museum in the former stables and further along the Heritage and Diving Village – a re-creation of the traditional fishing and diving village in Dubai. It is best to come here later in the day when it is not so hot.
Dubai Creek is a hive of activity with the new city buildings on both sides and lots of dhows and other boats along the wharf areas. You can also catch a Dhow to see more of the River and city from the water and early evening this can be a good way to get a more interesting view of the city around you, rather than walking in the heat of the day.
Jumeirah Mosque located on Jumeirah Beach Road is also open to visitors on a strictly dress-code basis (covering body, legs and arms, and women heads too). To gain an understanding of the Moslem Religion, see www.cultures.ae and if you can, visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) located at Al Musalla Road. Tel: 971 4 353 6666.
Falcon Heritage and Sports Centre (Museum) is located on Muscat Street in Nad Al Sheba area, near the Plaza Hotel. Tel: 917 (4) 327 2854. The Peregrine Falcon birds have been a part of Arab culture for hundreds of years. This is a place where you can see these remarkable birds and learn about Falconry.
Other Cultural Experiences - There are many tour companies in Dubai, offering everything from sightseeing tours, diving on wrecks, deep sea fishing, to helicopter tours over the city, Desert Safari tours to seeing Bedouin tent life and Peregrine Falcons being trained, and of course if this is too much there are the water parks (Wadi Wadi next to the Burj Al Arab and Aquaventure at The Palm, Jumeirah) where you can cool down.
Just some of the Tours and companies you could contact are –
- www.platinum-heritage.com (safari tours via Land Rovers into the Desert)
- www.seawings.ae (sea plane tours)
Dubai can be expensive and often the emphasis is on luxury items which also come with a big price tag. Sometimes it is best to spend more on something really special, rather than try and see or buy everything on a budget.
Dubai is renowned for the number of big sporting events that happen throughout the year. The best way to find out what is on when you are here, or to plan your trip at a time when a big event is happening is to see www.dubaicalendar.ae/en/section/events
These are some of the sports that come to Dubai – Golf, Tennis, Badminton, Darts, Formula One racing, endurance car racing, Horse Racing, Camel Racing, Running, Rugby, Marathon races, Beach Polo.
The Autodrome is located at Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zahed Rd. See www.dubaiautodrome.com . This is where a number of car races are held each year. There is also a kartdrome for Go Carts here too, with both an indoor and outdoor circuit. Formula One racing is in Abu Dhabi – so about one and a half hours driving distance from Dubai.
The Meydan Horse Racetrack is located on Meydan Rd, off Sheikh Zahed Rd and Horse Races are held between November and March each year in the cooler months. The Dubai Cup is the highlight of the year with $30 million in Prize Money. For more information see www.dubairacingclub.com Track facilities here are quite extraordinary.
There are a number of Golf Clubs in Dubai with amazing green grass covering the desert sand. If you are looking to have a game here in Dubai see www.golfscape.com or www.dubaigolf.com There is also night golf under lights on the 18 hole Faldo course – See www.dubaigolf.com
The easiest way to see Dubai, given the heat and also traffic is to take one of the many day tours on offer to see the main City highlights and there is also a Hop On-Hop Off open-top double decker bus too. Once you have done a tour, you can then plan to see other things that interest you most.
The heat of the sun can be quite daunting, which is why the city comes to life more in the early evening than in the middle of the day, particularly during the hottest months.
All of the big name hotels have their swimming pools, bars and restaurants and you may well spend most of your time just enjoying great food, high tea or sitting around a pool. While you can get everything from a McDonald's hamburger to the finest international food in Dubai, you should also try Arabian food too.
To immerse yourself in local food culture and traditions, see www.fryingpanadventures.com They cater for small groups of people and take them on a tour of some of the really local food places. You need to book on-line to do this. Remember that during the Holy month of Ramadan – Muslims must fast during the day, (dawn to dusk) so for Non-Muslims there will be less places to find food in the daytime. If you are invited to an Iftar (breaking of the fast after dusk) make sure you take up the opportunity. It is a celebration of the day of fasting.
There is always something happening in Dubai – and if you're looking to find what is happening and where – buy a TimeOut Dubai Magazine (like TimeOut in London). See www.timeoutdubai.com Also TimeOut Magazine has a 'Citycard' with discounts for restaurants, shows and other activities too.
DUBAI is an exciting city to see and quite amazing given its location in the middle of the desert.
The other Emirate States are also relatively close to Dubai too, the best known of these being Abu Dhabi 93 miles (150km) from Dubai by car, so around 1 ½ hours away. Abu Dhabi is also on the coast and islands, with great hotels to stay, excellent restaurants and the beautiful Sheikh Zahed Grand Mosque and Qasr-al-Hosn Palace Fortress are here too. Abu Dhabi is the Capital of the UAE, and in recent years it has also developed into a Tourist City – with the Formula 1 Grand Prix car racing here on the Yas Marina Circuit, golf courses, white sandy beaches, Yas Island and Marina, Ferrari World theme park, Heritage Village and Mushrif Children's Garden being some of the attractions. Abu Dhabi is also the home airport for the Etihad Airlines.
The other Emirate States are smaller and less developed than Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Ajman is just 25 kilometres from Dubai, also with beaches and hotels, Fujairah is about 90 kilometres from Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah is 128 kilometres from Dubai. All of these Emirate States have great resort hotels to stay at too.
I hope you have a great time in DUBAI and the UAE.