There are a huge amount of entertainment options in the UAE including multi-screen cinemas showing all the latest releases, bowling alleys, zoos and aquariums, ice rinks, waterparks, autodromes, beach clubs, theaters and art galleries.
The UAE is also home to some of the world’s largest shopping malls with most of the globe’s top international brands represented. Opening hours are normally 10:00 – 22:00, later on weekends, and often during Eid, some malls have 24-hour opening. The traditional gold, textile and spice souks along the Creek in Bur Dubai and Deira are also certainly worth a visit. Haggling is expected and recommended in the souks.
In terms of leisure options, a wide range of water sports are available at the hundreds of hotels along the UAE’s coastline including jet-skiing, banana rides, kite-surfing and even sky-diving.
Most residential communities and apartment blocks have their own swimming pools, with some offering tennis courts and gymnasiums as well. International fitness companies also have outlets throughout the UAE for private membership.
A popular weekend pastime in the cooler months is desert camping and off-roading, and many families enjoy travelling a short distance into the dunes with other families and setting up camp for a night or two.
So whether you’re passionate about arts and culture or more of an adventure sports fan, the UAE is certain to have enough to keep you occupied.
Here is a brief look at some of the activities and sights on offer:
In 2008, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority was launched, with the aim of “establishing the city as a vibrant, global Arabian metropolis that shapes culture and arts in the region and the world”, and a vast number of arts initiatives, exhibitions, centers and heritage sites have been introduced. Visit www.dubaiculture.gov.ae to see what’s on offer.
Formerly known as Bastakiya, the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood is a beautifully reconstructed district home to many artists, galleries and small museums, set amidst traditional cobbled streets and wind towers that date back from 1859. It hosts many different exhibitions year-round, the most popular being the Sikka Art Fair. Nearby is Dubai Museum, housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787.
To glimpse the Dubai of yesteryear, Al Shindagah Neighborhood is a must-visit. The Heritage and Diving Village tells the story of the UAE’s thriving pearling past, while the nearby Sheikh Saeed’s house shows the realities of life in the Emirates a century ago.
Children and adults alike will love the array of waterparks on the doorstep. These include Wild Wadi and Aquaventure (where you can even swim with dolphins) in Dubai, Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi and Dreamland Aquapark in Umm Al Quwain.
On a clear day, from the viewing deck on the 123rd floor of the Burj Khalifa, you can see the length of Dubai, down to Dubai Marina and in the other direction, out into the desert. It’s a fascinating experience looking at the urban sprawl from above, and one not to be missed.
A good thing to do when you first arrive, or when you host visitors, the Big Bus Tour offers three routes – the souks, the beach tour or Dubai Marina and the Palm Jumeirah, and it’s a great way to get your bearings of your new city. You can hop on and off all day and explore as much of Dubai as you want to, while learning about the city through multi-language headsets on board the bus.
More and more art galleries are opening all the time in the UAE, but two of the most popular areas for galleries are Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz and DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre). Both have a range of galleries showcasing works from local and international artists with contemporary and traditional tastes. ‘Art Dubai’ is held every March and the whole city is involved in a range of art-based exhibits and performances.