Activities to do in Dubai without spending a dirham
For most of us, the festive period involves plenty of socialising and over-indulgence. And, again, for most of us, the aftermath is akin to the world’s worst hangover. So what now? The easy answer would be to retreat to your cave until your next pay check, but January is one of the most pleasant months in Dubai, with an average maximum temperature of 23˚C. This is the ideal time for all those wholesome, free cultural activities that you never get round to when you have enough cash for a brunch. In this spirit we’ve hunted down 45 things you can do at absolutely no cost this very week. Get out and enjoy the cooler weather, because as much as we hate to say it, in a little over two months (that’s just 62 days!) temperatures will be soaring to 33˚C again. And let’s not even think about the humidity. Go on, then!
See a film premiere Movie promoter Shooting Stars regularly gives away hundreds of tickets to the UAE premieres of the next big blockbuster – giving you the chance to not only see the film before anybody else, but get in for free. For details of upcoming competitions see www.facebook.com/ShootingStarsLLC
Get a free hair cut Formul’a Hairdressing Academy will snip off last year’s tresses for nothing more than a ‘thank you’. Formul’a French Hairdressing Academy, Knowledge Village, Block 11, G-02 (04 438 0122).
Try before you buy Go to Jones the Grocer and sample all the tasters of cheeses, cookies and pastries they have on offer (you really should buy something afterwards, too). Jones the Grocer, Al Manara, Sheikh Zayed Road (next to Reem Al Bawadi), www.jonesthegrocer.com (04 346 6886).
Check out the horse races Get a taste for the national sporting obsession and visit the races at Jebel Ali’s race track. Friday January 13. Jebel Ali Racecource, 611 Road, www.emiratesracing.com (04 347 4914).
Join a yoga class Perfect your downward dog and banish stress with a no-cost yoga session. Friends of Yoga, call for locations and timings (050 658 3159).
Go camping in the desert As long as you already have the equipment, this can be one of the best ways to spend an economical weekend with the kids. For inspiration, see our recent camping feature at www.timeoutdubai.com
See spectacular fireworks at Dubai Creek Watch the city’s skies burst with colours during a daily five-minute firework show, being held this weekend to mark Dubai Shopping Festival. Thu-Sat 8pm. Until January 14. Dubai Creek, opposite Al Seef Street, www.dubaievents.ae.
Top house nights at 360° As well as hosting two of the city’s top house nights and some of the best views of the Burj Al Arab, 360° is also entirely free to enter. However, call ahead to get on the guest list. 360°, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, www.platinumlist.ae (04 406 8744).
Attend an empowerment coffee morning Learn about a 10-point resolution plan to gain empowerment in 2012. Yes! Saturdays 11am-1pm. SpaDunya (ladies only), Shams 1 Plaza Level, The Walk, JBR (04 439 3669).
See a theatrical photo exhibition Check out the medieval-inspired works of acclaimed Turkish photographer Nazif Topcuoglu in ‘Innerscapes’. Until March 5. Green Art Gallery, Al Quoz 1, Street 8, Al Serkal Avenue (04 346 9305).
Check out Declan O’Sullivan Declan’s fans trek across town regularly to hear classic Irish tunes and modern rock anthems from this popular singer. Wed 9pm-11pm at McGettigan’s, Bonnington, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 356 4040). Thu 10pm-2am at Fibber Magee’s, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 2400).
Explore Dubai Municipality Museum Located in the spice souk, this small museum is free. Catch a short film and sit at the planning table of HH Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (the late vice-president and UAE prime minister, and emir of Dubai). Open Sat-Thu, 9am-5pm. Dubai Municipality Museum, Bani Yas Street, Deira. Enter the spice souk to the right, and the museum entrance is up some stairs opposite the first few spice shops (04 225 3312).
Browse the stalls at Covent Garden Market Snap up a few bargains at Covent Garden market, held at JBR (outside Rimal). There’s even a kids’ zone opposite Paul Café. Wed-Thu, 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 10am-9pm. JBR, Rimal, www.coventgarden.ae (050 425 0543).
Watch flamingoes feed Arrive at Ras Al Khor and enter the observation room in time to view the flamingoes feeding between 9am and 9.30am. Open Sat-Thu 9am-4pm. Drive along Al Awir Road, do a U-turn at the junction where Nadd Al Hamar Road crosses over Al Awir, and exit onto the second service road. www.wildlife.ae (no number).
Browse the camel market Located near the camel racetrack, you can browse this strip of hole-in-the-wall stores and check out the pretty camel blankets and decorative ropes – for nothing.
Sip traditional Arabic tea in a carpet shop Sharjah’s Blue Souk is steeped in tradition and well worth the trip into the next emirate. Spend hours viewing carpets while the vendors serve you tea. Open Sat-Thu 9am-1pm; 4pm-11pm (closed Friday). King Faisal Road, near the Corniche, Sharjah (no number).
Check out Iranian art In ‘Mr Passive’, Iranian artist Mehrdad Mohebali uses detailed, figurative paintings to depict humans in their daily life. January 16- February 18. Gallery Etemad, Unit 12, Al Serkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1 (04 346 8649).
Check out a European artist Austrian photographer Birgit Graschopf explores the fine line between public and private space in her exhibition, ‘Space Forward’. Until February 12. Carbon 12, Street 8, Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1 (050 464 4392).
People-watch at the fish market Wake before 6am and head down to Dubai’s fish market to watch the fisherman and traders haggle over the catch (and nab some yourself – Dhs50 for a whole sheri). Open daily, Al Khaleej Road, Deira (no number). Head to Port Rashid: at Beach Road take a right through Shindaga Tunnel, then take the first U-turn – the market is on the right.
Take photos of dhows Head down to Dubai Creek to capture the beautiful old dhows of Old Dubai. The photos make great postcards to send back home. Dhow wharf, Deira (no number).
Take in Dubai’s architecture Dubai’s modern skyline is a sight to behold. Take a tour of the city’s best buildings with a drive around DIFC and Business Bay, then share your snaps with the world by uploading them onto a blog for free (create your own blog at www.wordpress.com).
See a French muralist French artist Julie Dalloz presents ‘Colours of a Beating Heart’: an exhibition that celebrates music. January 16-February 20. The Fridge, Warehouse No. 5, 26 Street, Al Quoz (04 347 7793).
Chat with vendors at the city’s souks The hustle and bustle of the city’s spice and gold souks will give you a cultural awakening. You can grab a chai tea for around Dhs3. Also, look out for frankincense – its production is currently under threat. Open Sat-Thu 10am-1pm, Fri 4pm-10pm. Across Baniyas Road to the left of Deira’s abra station (no number).
View Iraqi art Works from emerging and established artists including Dia Azzawi will be on show for two days before they are auctioned. January 12-14, 11am-5pm. Auction: Saturday, January 14, 6.30pm-8pm. In the Frame, Showcase Gallery, Jumeirah Beach Road, www.intheframe.org (055 104 6768).
Attend a healing session Alleviate physical and emotional pressures with a free session at India International Healing Institute. Every weekend, 10.30am-2pm. India International Healing Institute, Sheikh Zayed Road (055 598 7572).
Conjure up a home-made hair mask Raid your cupboards and make your own hydrating hair mask, perfect for dry hair. Mash up an avocado with two tablespoons of olive oil and apply to your hair, then leave it for 25 minutes. Rinse and enjoy your newly soft locks.
Make new friends Expand your social circle and join Dubai groups on Meetup.com – try the Dubai Sports Enthusiasts group, which currently has more than 500 members. www.meetup.com/dubaisports.
Sign up to volunteer around town Cat-loving charity Feline Friends is currently looking for volunteers to manage stalls and book sales across the city. www.felinefriendsdubai.com.
Donate your unwanted Christmas presents Do a good deed this month: donate books, toys, clothes and other household items to Dubai Foundation for Women & Children and help those who have been the victims of domestic violence. Al Awir, firstname.lastname@example.org (04 606 0300).
Visit Dubai Animal Rescue Centre Peruse the weird and wonderful animals in need of a good home, currently including rabbits, guinea pigs and even terrapins. Dubai Animal Rescue Centre, Barsha (050 858 7844).
Play in the fountains at Marina Walk Pack an extra set of clothes and let the children burn off some energy in the walk-through fountains at Marina Walk – kids can’t seem to get enough of them! Marina Walk, Dubai Marina (no number).
Take a stroll through Heritage Village Wander around and learn more about the UAE’s beginnings. Activities tend to start later in the day, at around 6pm. Open Sat-Thu 8am-10pm; Fri 8am-11am and 4pm-10pm. Near Dubai Creek, Shindaga (04 393 7151).
Aperitivo at M-Dek Staggeringly good house DJs play all kinds of funky beats at this free entry, straight-from-work night at the rooftop pool bar. Thursdays 6pm-9pm. M-Dek, Media One, Dubai Media City (050 876 4335).
Hear some free music at Ductac The Dubai Concert Committee hosts concerts at Ductac on a monthly basis, with any tickets not claimed by their members given out for free on the night. The next event will be the Maggini Quartet at 8pm on February 8, with unfilled seats offered to the public at 7.50pm. Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, Barsha, www.dubaiconcertcommittee.com (04 341 4777).
Eat carrots at Duke’s Bar Tired of snacking on calorie-laden crisps and nuts? The free nibbles on offer at this Deira pub include popcorn – and carrots. Bizarre, but surprisingly nutritious. Open daily noon-4pm, 6pm-3am. Al Khaleej Hotel, Deira (04 221 1144).
Indie nights at Catwalk Tucked-out-the-way Catwalk hosts some of the steamiest alternative nights in town, including guitar-heavy Step On, drum’n’ bass night Basswork and edgy urban night Prism. Times and dates vary: keep an eye on our weekly Music & Nightlife listings for more info. Golden Tulip Hotel, Al Barsha (04 341 7750).
Fizz’ickle at XL Beach Club Lounge in the sand all day while listening to chilled grooves at this popular poolside hangout. Best of all, ladies get two drinks absolutely free. Sat noon-6pm. XL Beach Club, Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (056 640 6161).
MoFunk at Republique Soul, funk and hip-hop tunes guarantee a good time at this cool club night. The fourth Tuesday of the month, 6pm-3am. Republique, The Address, Dubai Mall (050 488 0876).
Unplugged talent at Sublime Some of the city’s best musicians and DJs, including Noush Like Sploosh and Rone Jaxx, get involved in this weekly jam. Sat 9pm-3am. Sublime, Ibis Hotel, Dubai World Trade Centre (050 436 0891).
Play pool at Wavebreakers A bit of friendly competition never goes astray. Dust off the cues at this laid-back JBR beach bar, which offers sea views, a chilled atmosphere and plenty of shisha. Open 8am-11pm. Wavebreakers, Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, Dubai Marina (04 399 1111).