Lessons at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
Dubai is a city unified by the differences of its residents. Travellers from all corners of the globe are bound together by their love of their new home.
Keen to foster this spirit of unity, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and the Ruler of Dubai, envisioned the need for a platform where expatriates could be educated about the traditions and customs of Emirati culture.
Out of this idea, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding was born back in 1998.
Nearly 20 years on, it continues to act as a vital bridge between the many different nationalities living and working in the UAE, by organising Arabic-language courses, mosque visits, walking tours and hosting cultural breakfasts where Emirati dishes are served up while diners are given food for thought about the local way of life. Al Mussallah Road, Al Fahidi Historical District, Bur Dubai, www.cultures.ae (04 353 6666).
Cheer on a dromedary at a camel race
One of the UAE’s most traditional pastimes is also one of the most fun
There are more than a dozen camel racing sites across the UAE, and races take place all year round.
The main season is between October and April, when there are usually two races per day every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, every week.
Watching the races, which can feature up to 70 camels, is free and there’s no need to get dressed up, though you should still dress respectfully.
The riders of the camels used to be young boys, but now there are robots in their place. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
There’s a track on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi road past Ghantoot, but the Al Marmoum Racetrack in Dubai (on the Dubai-Al Ain Road), and the Al Wathba track on the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Road, are the most accessible to spectactors. Camel Racing Federation, Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi (02 885 8888). Dubai Camel Racing Club, Al Marmoum, Dubai (04 832 6526).
Chill out at Nation Riviera Beach Club
A huge pool with swim-up bar, Jacuzzi, pristine sands and a top kids’ club
Looking for the ultimate weekend unwind? Sea, sand and sanctuary can be found at this luxurious beach club.
Part of The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, guests can make their way to the club via an air-conditioned private tunnel. After arriving in style, what you make of the day is entirely up to you.
If you want nothing more than to laze in sun-soaked bliss at the beach or lounge in one of the club’s 12 cabanas beside the pool, you won’t be disappointed. For those eager for a bit more action, you’re in luck, too. Dip your toe in the water to complete some laps in the pool or make use of the state-of-the-art gym facilities.
There is a 200-metre pristine beach, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, and a brilliant pirate ship-themed kids’ club, too.
What more could you ask for? Actually, there’s a swim-up bar, too. We’re in. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Towers, Corniche West, www.nationrivierabeachclub.com (02 694 4444).
Four theme parks, some great restaurants and a hotel – brilliant
It’s every kids’ dream to live in a theme park, isn’t it? While the constant noise and bright lights might get a bit too much for a permanent move, spending a full weekend at Dubai Parks & Resorts sounds like a whole load of fun (and big kids won’t be putting up too much of a fight, either).
Lapita Hotel & Resort, which won Best Family Hotel at Time Out Dubai Kids Awards 2017, offers a gateway to hours of thrilling entertainment. All guests staying at the plush address will enjoy unlimited multi-park access for the duration of their stay, plus a complimentary Q-fast pass, so you can skip the queues and get to the action.
You won’t be left twiddling your thumbs during the weekend, either. Have a block party at LEGOLAND Dubai and LEGOLAND Waterpark, explore India’s flamboyant culture at Bollywood Parks and bring Hollywood to the Middle East at motiongate Dubai. What a wonderful weekend getaway. Dubai Parks and Resorts, Sheikh Zayed Road, opposite Palm Jebel Ali, Dubai, www.dubaiparksandresorts.com (800 262 9464).
There are loads of things to do at one of the world’s most iconic hotels
The legend of Atlantis is brought to life at this incredible water wonderland in one of Dubai’s glitziest addresses.
The sprawling resort set on the luxurious Palm Jumeirah provides guests with their very own five-star voyage to the bottom of the sea.
Book a break in one of the two underwater suites – Poseidon and Neptune (pictured right, bottom) – and you will enjoy floor-to-ceiling views directly into a lagoon aquarium, where thousands of different species of colourful marine life swim by. You won’t have to worry about coming up for air, but the sight will certainly take your breath away.
When you are not glued to the windows of your room, pay a visit to Aquaventure Waterpark, swim with dolphins or splash out on a top-class meal at restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Giorgio Locatelli and Nobu Matsuhisa. Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, www.atlantisthepalm.com (04 426 2000).
A dazzling circus show from the man behind Cirque du Soleil
One of Dubai’s newest attractions is already one of the hottest tickets in town.
The spectacular Las Vegas-style theatre show is a stunning production filled with gravity-defying performances – most of which take place over water.
The auditorium in Al Habtoor City houses 1,300 theatre-goers and makes use of 2.5 million litres of water, hydraulic lifts, fountains and high-powered winches.
The show is the brainchild of creative director Franco Dragone, one of the driving forces behind Cirque du Soleil. It sees actors and acrobats dazzling spectators with awe-inspiring stunts and aquatic and aerial feats, including daring dives from 25 metres in the air and performers whizzing around at speeds of 15km per hour.
La Perle comprises more than 130 world-class artistic, athletic and technical team members from 23 countries – all working together to create a show-stopping experience that has to be seen to be believed. From Dhs400. Show times vary. Al Habtoor City, Dubai, www.laperle.com.
Get Back to Nature at Hatta Dam
A hidden treasure surrounded by the rugged Hajar Mountain range Looking for a road trip?
If you’re keen to broaden your horizons without putting too many miles on the clock, Hatta Dam is one of Dubai’s most beautiful hidden treasures and natural sights.
Found high up in the Hajar Mountains, less than a two-hour drive from the city, the historic spot is a soothing sanctuary from hectic modern life. Surrounded by mountains and filled with turquoise waters, it makes for an awesome sight. You can explore the area on four wheels or by foot, on dry land and water. Drive your car along the dam, go for a hike or head to the waters by hiring a kayak or a paddle boat while soaking in the beautiful landscape.
If you want to stay over, then the JA Hatta Fort Hotel is close by and an excellent choice. Whether you want a bit of adventure or just want an idyllic escape, Hatta Dam is well worth a visit. Take the E44 Ras Al Khor Road east from Dubai towards Hatta. www.hattaforthotel.com.
Jump out of a plane at Skydive Dubai
See the city like never before with the quintessential bucket list experience
The view of the Dubai skyline is pretty nifty from your apartment balcony, so how about seeing the city from a little bit higher?
For those with a generous helping of adventure in their hearts, why not take the plunge and dive from the skies?
SkyDive Dubai offers all the thrills of freefall at a lightning-quick 120mph. Tandem skydives, with an experienced instructor, are held at the firm’s campus that overlooks the desert dunes. Meanwhile, at its premium spot, you can fly high over Palm Jumeirah.
For those who take a more relaxed view of proceedings, you can glide at your leisure from a comfortable perch inside the SkyDive gyrocopter. The scenic tour of the emirate soars over the iconic Palm Jumeirah and the world-famous Jumeirah Burj Al Arab hotel. Palm site: Al Seyahi Street, Mina Seyahi. Desert site: Al Ain Road, Near Margham. Dubai, www.skydivedubai.ae.
Spend a night in the desert
Book a tour to experience traditional Bedouin life, food and entertainment
It wasn’t always soaring skyscrapers and landmark developments in the UAE. This is, after all, a desert land, and you can turn back the sands of time and explore the country’s rich roots.
Go on a fun-packed desert safari with tour organisers Platinum Heritage to discover the Bedouin way of life in Dubai. Spot wildlife, enjoy a falconry display and eat traditional Emirati dishes under the stars, enjoying an authentic Arabian experience. You’ll also get there in a vintage Land Rover – great fun.
If it’s luxury you want, however, you can also enjoy the delights of the desert with more than a few five-star trappings thrown in. Book a stay at the magnificent Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, set in Abu Dhabi’s stunning Empty Quarter. It’s the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world and from the hotel you can ride a camel, go fat biking, dune biking or just enjoy a leisurely stroll over the sands.
The plush hotel also has a wide range of superb facilities to make your break even more special.
However you decide to do it, getting out of the city is a great way to take a step back in time. Dubai: Dhs995 (overnight desert safari), Platinum Heritage, www.platinum-heritage.com (04 440 9827). Abu Dhabi: Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Qasr Al Sarab Road, qasralsarab.anantara.com (02 8862088).
Learn how to ski in Dubai
That’s right – take skiiing and snowboarding lessons in the desert
The seemingly impossible tends to come true here in the UAE, but, at the time of writing, it’s still not possible to make it snow on command.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t hit the slopes in the desert. The white stuff is in rich supply at Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, based at Mall of the Emirates.
This is a winter wonderland no matter how hot it is outside. Set foot in an incredible 3,000 square metres of real snow, featuring twin-tracked bobsled runs, tobogganing hills, a snow cavern filled with interactive experiences, and a chairlift from which you can take in a bird’s-eye view of the entire park. Even the Swiss Alps can’t guarantee enough snow to keep you on your skis all year round, but the weather will never let you down here. Open daily 9am-1am. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, Dubai, www.theplaymania.com/skidubai (800 386).