Leave Dubai behind and explore the rest of the UAE over the Eid holidays
With Eid set to fall on Sunday October 5, we take a look at how to make the most of your much-needed three days off.
Along with New Year’s Eve fireworks at the Burj Khalifa, the arrival of a new burger chain and actually being able to find a taxi at 8pm on a Friday, the prospect of a long Eid weekend is one of the highlights of every hard-working Dubaian’s calendar. This year, Eid Al Adha is expected to fall on Sunday October 5, which will mean one extra day off for the private sector, with the possibility of a full week off for the public sector. If that wasn’t enough to put a smile on your face, we’ve put together a guide help you make the most of your time off. From weekends on the water to ice parks in the desert, we’ve got you covered. And if you’re planning a longer break, we’ve found a few overseas packages that will deliver you back to the city feeling refreshed and re-energised.
Visit the capital
How far from Dubai? From Dubai Marina to the centre of Abu Dhabi, the drive is around 90 minutes, while Dubai Marina to Yas Island will take you around an hour.
What’s worth doing? Check out theme and waterparks
Even CEOs like to shriek their way down a waterslide sometimes. Banish the Blackberry and hit the flumes at the UAE’s newest waterpark on Yas Island. Yas Waterworld boasts a thrilling tornado slide, the Middle East’s longest suspended rollercoaster, a surf pool, the terrifying ‘Jebel Drop’ and many more to lodge your heart firmly in your throat. Better yet, the current offer means if you book four tickets online, you’ll only pay for three. Also located on Yas Island is Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, currently the world’s largest theme park and home to the fastest rollercoaster on the planet – use this weekend to tick that one off your bucket list. Yas Waterworld: Dhs240 (adults), Dhs195 (kids), www.yaswaterworld.com (02 414 2000). Ferrari World: Dhs240 (adults), Dhs195 (kids), www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com (02 496 8000).
Kayak in the mangroves Explore the capital’s unique landscape. Made up of islands, the best way to discover the abundance of wildlife in the region is by boat – specifically, kayak. A relaxed, gentle pursuit, paddling around Abu Dhabi’s mangroves is an accessible activity whatever your age or fitness level, and Dive Mahara offers trips in the morning, lunchtime or afternoon. While it’s still rather warm, you can also try a picturesque sunset tour. Don’t leave your selfie stick at home! From Dhs150 Eastern Mangroves, Dhs200 Yas Links. Dive Mahara, www.divemahara.com (02 643 7377).
Discover Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque The largest mosque in the UAE and one of the largest in the world, this important cultural landmark is open to visitors every day (except certain hours on a Friday). With 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet, the mosque’s first ceremony was the funeral of the late Sheikh Zayed, founding father of the UAE. As a religious site, there is a strict dress code – men must cover their shoulders and wear trousers, while women must cover their hair, arms, bodies and legs, though full-length black abayas are provided upon arrival. Tours are available throughout the day, but visitors are welcome to look around without a guide. Free. Sun-Thu 9am-10pm, Fri 5pm-10pm. Between Maqta and Mussafah Bridges, www.szgmc.ae (02 419 1919).
Stay at… Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi Stay at this inner-city hotel and get a buffet breakfast for two in Urban Kitchen, two tickets to Yas Waterworld or Ferrari World, a one-way taxi to either of the parks, 50 percent off laundry, 20 percent off spa treatments, 15 percent off food and drinks, a free baby cot or rollaway bed for kids under 12 and free use of the kids’ club. Phew. From Dhs700 per room per night. Until December 31. Sultan Bin Zayed The First Street, www.dusit.com (02 698 8888).
Head out into the emirate’s desert region and kick back at this serene hideaway. The Eid deal includes a buffet breakfast for two adults and two kids under the age of 12, plus a 20 percent discount on all food and drinks and free access to a range of recreational facilities. From Dhs530. October 3-10. Liwa, www.danathotels.com (02 894 6111).
Head to the coast
How far from Dubai? Approximately two-and-a-half hours.
What’s worth doing? Day-long diving trips The relatively shallow waters off the coast of Fujairah offer fantastic – and often extremely clear – conditions for a spot of scuba diving. As most boat trips also take snorkellers, hopping on one of these expeditions is great for a group with mixed abilities or families with younger kids. Expect to see all manner of marine life, from moray eels to rays, puffa fish to turtles, and even the odd leopard or whale shark if you’re extremely lucky. Stay in a nearby hotel, or head out on a trip with Al Boom Diving and you can join the bus that departs early doors from Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Diving from Dhs400, including full kit; snorkelling from Dhs250. Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, www.alboomdiving.com (04 342 2993).
Check out the history
Fujairah is home to a number of old structures that offer a glimpse of the region’s past. Take in Fujairah Fort, considered the oldest in the UAE, having stood for approximately 300 years, or head for Wadi Al Hayl, which houses Al Hayl Castle and its old watchtower. One of the emirate’s best-known historical landmarks is perhaps the tiny Al Badiyah Mosque – the oldest known mosque in the entire country. Built in 1446 out of bricks and mud (no-one knows who the structure’s builder was) the small building and the two towers that stand behind it (the remains of a 200-year-old Portuguese fort) welcome thousands of visitors every year. Free. Off E99, www.fujairahtourism.ae/en.
Watch bull-fighting Friday bull fighting in Fujairah has been drawing spectators for some years. Taking place most weekends between 4pm and 5pm, the traditional (and thankfully mostly bloodless) matches see beasts go head-to-head, with the winner determined as the bull that butts the other the longest in a one-minute challenge. It’s a noisy, popular affair, with crowds drawn from across the UAE and the local Fujairah community. Head towards Kalba from the Fujairah corniche.
Stay at… Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort
If you’re planning a long weekend of diving but your companions prefer lounging by the pool, this property offers the best of both. Home to Al Boom Diving’s Fujairah outpost, large gardens, kids’ and teen clubs, a delightful beach bar for watching the sunset from and the Hajar Mountains behind you, there are few better places to hole up on this part of the coast. Eid offers include 20 percent off with early booking, packages with Dhs125 dining credit, free breakfast and internet, free meals for kids and more. And, relax... From Dhs1,103 per night. www.lemeridien-alaqah.com (09 244 9000).
Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort One of the longest-standing hotels on the coast, Sandy Beach offers basic yet clean and comfortable accommodation in the form of chalets and hotel rooms. Facing the coast’s well-known Snoopy Island (so-named for its similarity in appearance to the cartoon character), the low-key resort has a private beach, small swimming pool and a no-frills rooftop bar that offers spectacular views over the Indian Ocean at sunset. There’s also a watersports centre and kids’ play area. From Dhs585 (standard double bedroom), from Dhs750 (one-bedroom chalet) per night. www.sandybm.com (09 244 5555).
Explore the Northern Emirates
How far from Dubai? Roughly 90 minutes from the centre.
What’s worth doing? Embrace the weirdness of Iceland Waterpark Does it get much more unusual than a glacier-themed waterpark in a sandy Middle Eastern city? Drift past the complex’s penguin statues on Snow River, cool off in the Arctic Wave Pool and conquer Mount Iceberg’s speedy slide. As well as the usual food hall, the park is also home to Platter, an outlet disguised as an igloo that specialises in Filipino dishes, plus finer dining option Snow Castle, with views out to the Arabian Gulf. Dhs150 (adults), Dhs100 (kids). Near Al Hamra Village, www.icelandwaterpark.com (800 969 725).
Take flight at Jazirah Aviation Club Get up in the air at Ras Al Khaimah’s mini aero-hub. Take an aerial tour of the emirate and its coastline (you might even spot dolphins) in a Delta trike microlight or tiny gyro copter, or try your hand at powered paramotoring. There are also courses in a range of aviation disciplines for those who discover a passion for the activity. www.jac-uae.net (07 244 6416).
Fall hook, line and sinker for fishing Whether fishing is your sport or you want to land your first catch, Ras Al Khaimah offers fantastic open waters for a spot of deep sea baiting. With its huge white sails and wooden body, the Prince of the Sea is one of the fancier ways to get out on the water, rod in hand, as part of a group trip. Alternatively, charter your own small boat and round up your most muscular mates – you’ll need them to reel in all your catch. From Dhs400 per person, or Dhs1,600 for private boat charter for up to six people Various locations, www.fishfishme.com.
Stay at… Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah Quite possibly one of the best hotels you’ll ever stay at in the UAE in terms of both service and setting, the five-star Waldorf has a stunning spa, access to two 18-hole championship golf courses (Al Hamra Golf Club and Tower Links Golf Club), two huge swimming pools (including one with the archetypal holiday swim-up bar and excellent mixed drinks) and beautifully appointed rooms (complete with a bespoke scented turn-down service). What’s more, there’s even a delicious dessert waiting in your room upon check-in. All the makings of a blissful weekend away for two. From Dhs2,250 per night. Vienna Street, waldorfastoria3.hilton.com (07 203 5555). Bin Majid Beach Resort Budget doesn’t have to be boring, and this more affordable hotel is absolutely heaps of fun. Expect dodgy puns and cries along the lines of ‘S’bin magic!’ as you depart following a weekend of pool frolics, eye-poppingly affordable drinks at the swim-up bar, live music at the African-themed Zulu Bar and dancing in the all-day-dining restaurant. From Dhs250 per night. Resort.binmajid.com (07 244 6644).
Over the Border: Oman
Discover adventures aplenty in the neighbouring Sultanate
This small Omani enclave next to Fujairah is most popular as a launch pad for weekend-long dhow trips along the peninsula and diving expeditions to some of the region’s more famous sites. Charter a dhow for a large group of family and friends and spend two days line fishing, snorkelling and sleeping under the stars from your very own vessel. Sheesa Beach, www.sheesabeach.com (+968 683 6551) Musandam Beloved of the UAE’s motorcyclists for its winding coastal roads, carved into cliff faces, enter this area of Oman just beyond Ras Al Khaimah. It’s a great place for a road trip, and if you’re not put off by the current temperatures, there are some nifty spots for a bit of beach camping. Alternatively, for a place to stay, new three-star hotel Atana Musandam (www.atanahotels.com) blows the limited nearby competition out of the water. With a diving centre, Omani restaurant, kids’ playground and more, there’s no better alternative. Khasab Coastal Road (no number).
Muscat Jump on a quick 45-minute flight from Dubai or visit by car and enjoy the five and-a-half-hour road trip. Once there, check out stunning beaches, mesmerizingly beautiful hotels such as The Chedi and peruse stalls at the Omani capital’s collection of traditional souks. For a slice of adventure, the landscape’s perfect for diving and rock-climbing. If you’re used to Dubai life, pack a little more conservatively for a visit to this city. www.omantourism.gov.om.
Jump on a plane and explore one of these nearby getaways
Flights included! So you’re interested in culture?
Sri Lanka, an island off the south coast of India, is a land of temples, historical cities and classical dance. Even on a short trip you’ll have time to meet elephants, hit the beach and explore villages and tea plantations. Depending on how much time you have off work, you have two options. You could stay three nights in a standard room in the four-star Bentota Beach Hotel; breakfast, transfers and flights are included. Alternatively, opt for a Sri Lanka mini tour and stay four nights; a night each in Heritance Kandalama, Earl’s Regency, Tea Factory and Cinnamon Grand, all of which have five stars. Breakfast, transfers and flights are included, as well as entrance fees to botanical gardens, a cultural show, a tea factory and an elephant orphanage in Pinnawela village. You will also have free city tours of the capital Columbo, the colonial hilltop town of Nuwara Eliya and Kandy, a former capital, where you can visit its famous temple. You will visit the ancient city of Sigiriya, too, to see its fortress ruins. Bentota Beach Hotel, from Dhs1,205, any three nights Oct 1-31. Sri Lanka mini tour, from Dhs3,455, any four nights Oct 1-31. Both options are priced per person, based on two sharing, and must be booked before Oct 15. Dnata, www.dnatatravel.com (04 316 6666).
Flights included! So you want to get healthy?
All the meals at SwaSwara, a luxury wellness retreat on the south west coast of India, are meat-free, low in fat and sugar and made from organic ingredients – most of which are grown in the resort’s grounds. Guests on the SwaSwara rejuvenation package also benefit from a personalised wellness regime which includes group yoga sessions on a cliff overlooking the beach, a private yoga class, sunrise and evening meditation, two hour-long ayurvedic massages and daily guided treks through the surrounding countryside. It also includes a boat cruise. Apart from a trip to a farmer’s market in the nearby temple village of Gokarna, your stay will be one of peace and tranquillity – giving you the chance to unwind and reflect. But you’ll never be bored, as the resort also has glass-painting, sculpture and woodblock printing classes in its art centre, and you can have a cooking lesson, help with the gardening, stroll along the beach or swim in the pool. Flights from the UAE to Goa take three hours. The price includes all meals, a wellness programme, flights, transfers and accommodation for five nights. Oct 3-7. Dhs21,807 per person. Email email@example.com SwaSwara, Dhoni Bhail, Om Beach, Uttara Kannada, Gokarna, Karnataka, India. Health and Fitness Travel, www.healthandfitnesstravel.com (00 44 20 3397 8891).
Budget option! So you want an alternative holiday?
For a unique trip, hire a houseboat in Kerala, south India, and cruise along its sleepy back waters. Alleppey Houseboat has a two-bedroom houseboat, which is ideal for a family of four. Check in at noon for an Alleppey circle trip, which will take you along the river to a village, where you can visit a temple and a market before having a dip in the river itself. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included, and so are tea and snacks in the early evening. Oct 3-5. Dhs1,990 (air-con 9pm-6am), Dhs2,553 (24-hour air-con), for three nights for two adults and two kids. Email firstname.lastname@example.org (00 91 960 598 4840).