Fear not: there’s just enough time to come up with a dream date to treat your partner on Thursday February 14. Valentine’s Day can strike fear into the hearts of singles, but for couples it can also be a challenge for the imagination and the bank balance. Last year the most expensive Valentine’s Day dinner deal in our city was priced at Dhs7,000 per couple; this year Dhs36,000 and Dhs100,000 options are available.
Keen to offer you more creative – and cheaper – options, we’ve come up with 37 varied activities for two, from fast-paced to relaxing and culinary to cultural, to satisfy any kind of date. We don’t want to see you out of pocket (or lonely), so amid the romantic couples’ deals are plenty of activities suitable for two good friends.
Less than Dhs199 for two
1 Boating at Za’abeel Park: Recreate the romance of Venice by taking to the water with your date. Za’abeel Park’s boating lake offers fantastic views of the Sheikh Zayed Road skyline – particularly romantic at sunset.
Dhs40 per person for 20 minutes. Near Trade Centre, Za’abeel (04 398 6888).
2 Book binding workshop at The Archive: Lovers of literature can learn how the humble book is assembled, stitching together their own hardback book. The workshop takes place on Monday February 18.
Dhs50 per person. Gate 5, Safa Park, Jumeirah (04 349 4033).
3 Foster a homeless animal: Dubai’s animal rescue operations are always on the lookout for fosterers and permanent homes for the dogs and cats on their books.
Free. K9 Friends (04 887 8739), Feline Friends (050 451 0058), Animal Action (050 315 1427).
4 Hear a celebrity couple on the decks at Embassy: Renowned for kick-starting the UK’s rave scene, Danny Rampling performs live with his third wife, DJ Ilona Inc, on Valentine’s Day.
Free entry (bookings recommended). 7pm-3am, February 14. Embassy, Grosvenor House Dubai (04 399 8888).
5 Hotpot to share at Xiao Wei Yang Hotpot: Invite your date to tuck into a steaming hotpot, made with your selection of ingredients.
From Dhs150 (average meal for two with soft drinks). Baniyas Road, near Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek (04 221 7177).
6 Kayaking at Nautica 1992: Get out on the water in a double kayak. According to Nautica 1992, casual paddlers will do better in the mornings when the water is much calmer.
From Dhs100 per kayak. Nautica 1992, Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (050 426 2415).
7 Listen to ballads at Kitakits: Hear some heartfelt, un-ironic ballads complete with all the stadium rock trimmings from house band Resound, at Filipino couples’ favourite (and alliteration-heavy) Kitakits Kafé and Klubb.
Free entry; drinks and food prices vary. Marco Polo Hotel, Deira (04 272 0000).
8 Nightlife stroll in ‘old Dubai’: Start at the Queens Quays (Dhow Palace Hotel, 04 359 9992), before heading north onto Al Mankhool Road, where you can grab food at the pleasant Viceroy (Four Points by Sheraton, 04 397 7444). Carry on up to the traditional Old Vic (Ramada Dubai, 04 351 9999) for a bit of grit, before continuing north and turning onto Al Fahidi Street to finish the evening dancing to the twee band at the Sherlock Holmes (Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, 04 351 9111).
Free entry; food and drink prices vary.
9 Gift challenge at West LA Boutique: Do you and your other half share a love of fashion? Visit the his-and-hers West LA Boutiques in Sunset Mall and challenge each other to find a gift to a set budget and time frame.
Prices vary. Sunset Mall, Jumeirah 3 (04 394 4248).
10 Play pool at The Music Room: Challenge your date to a quick-fire pool competition. The Music Room has multiple tables, so you won’t have other players hovering as they wait for their turn.
Free entry; Dhs5 per table per game.
Majestic Hotel, Bur Dubai (056 799 6355).
11 Ride the halfpipe canyon at Sega Republic: Catch some air on the Halfpipe Canyon snowboarding simulator. Hop aboard in pairs and co-ordinate your footwork to pull off cool 360-degree spins.
Dhs30 per ride per person, or Dhs160 for a day pass. The Dubai Mall (04 448 8484).
12 Skate at Dubai Ice Rink: Wobbly on your feet? Lean on each other to stay upright as you glide round The Dubai Mall’s rink.
Dhs55 per person for two hours, including skate hire. The Dubai Mall (04 448 5111).
13 Watch Love, Wedding, Marriage: This quirky rom-com about a pair of newlyweds is a great choice for a cinema date. Spot the star voice cameo from Julia Roberts.
From Dhs35 per person. In UAE cinemas from Thursday February 7.
Dhs200-499 for two
14 Double-tubing at Wild Wadi: Hold on tight and shriek your way through the twists and turns of Wild Wadi’s double-tube rides as a twosome. Our favourite is the giggle-inducing Master Blasters, which propel you uphill.
Dhs225 entry per person. Wild Wadi, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 348 4444).
15 Fly a plane at iPilot: Book yourselves in to be captain and co-pilot of a Boeing 737-800 in this highly realistic flight simulator.
From Dhs299 for 15 minutes. iPilot, The Dubai Mall, www.ipilot.ae (058 738 7444).
16 Painting at thejamjar: Paint a portrait of your Valentine at thejamjar’s studio. Study each other’s features and capture them on canvas, then take your (ahem) masterpieces home as a memento – or hang them in the spare bathroom.
Dhs100 per person for two hours. Al Quoz (04 341 7303).
17 Fondue at Oeno: Known for its cheese and grape evenings, the bar will be heating things up with a sparkling grape and fondue evening on Valentine’s Day.
Dhs320 per couple. The Westin, Dubai Marina (04 511 7136).
18 Get photographed at Pink Pepper: Immortalise your love and let a pro photographer snap away.
From Dhs299. Pink Pepper, The Dubai Mall (04 434 0437).
19 Partner workshop at Zen Yoga: Working in pairs, this yoga session works through positions and asanas, finishing with a Thai massage. It’s open to everyone, including children over the age of 12.
Dhs375 per couple. Dubai Media City (04 367 0435).
20 Private karaoke at Yuraku: This Japanese-style casual dining bar has private rooms for karaoke, eating and drinking, which can be reserved with a minimum of two people with a menu of sharing dishes.
Dhs180 per person (seven courses and house beverages). Asiana Hotel, Deira (04 238 7777).
21 See a Michael Jackson tribute act: Kenny Whizz is, apparently, the world’s number one MJ impersonator. Share a giggle and marvel at the likeness.
Dhs185-250 per person. 8pm, February 12-15, 19-20. Madinat Theatre, www.timeouttickets.com.
22 Share a steak at The Exchange grill: Splash out on a huge sharing steak that’s perfect for two. We particularly like The Exchange’s 560g chateaubriand or, if you’re feeling really hungry, the 900g tomahawk.
Dhs495 per steak (serves two). The Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 311 8316).
23 Skiing lessons at Ski Dubai: Skiing is always more fun in pairs: beginners can sign up for a two-person lesson, while more experienced skiers and snowboarders can race each other down the black run.
Dhs200 per person for a two-hour slope pass; group lessons from Dhs150 per person, private lessons Dhs745 for two people. Mall of the Emirates (800 386).
Dhs500-999 for two
24 Buddy diving in Musandam: Diving with a buddy is essential: if you’re both PADI qualified, who better to look out for you that your partner or best mate? Discover amazing reefs and marine life off the coast of Musandam: Al Boom is running an overnight trip from Friday February 15 to Saturday 16. Dives from Dhs350 per person, PADI scuba diver course from Dhs1,750.
Al Boom Diving (04 342 2993).
25 Camel excursion at Al Sahra: Head out to the secluded Al Sahra Equestrian Centre for a 40-minute private excursion on camel back.
Dhs350 per person. Al Sahra Equestrian Centre, Jebel Ali-Lehbab Road (04 367 9500).
26 Try the Fly Fish at Sheraton JBR: Head to the watersports centre at the Sheraton and prepare to be dragged laughing and screaming across the sea on this large inflatable.
From Dhs200 per couple. Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort, The Walk, JBR (04 399 5533).
27 Chocolate body ritual at Club Olympus: Using one of the world’s most romantic ingredients, this spa deal for two offers a chocolate body scrub, a chocolate mask and a full-body massage.
Dhs769 per couple. Hyatt Regency Dubai, Deira Corniche (04 209 6802).
28 Cooking class at Jones the Grocer: In addition to its regular programme of cooking classes, the gourmet café and grocery concept is hosting a Valentine’s edition on February 14.
Dhs695 per couple. Al Manara, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 346 6886).
29 Hire a two-seater car: Bomb around the city in a sleek and speedy sports car. Lane Luxury & Sports Car Rentals offers a BMW Z4 for just Dhs800 per car per day – or splash out on a brand new Audi R8 for Dhs3,000.
Al Naboodah Building, Oud Metha (050 156 0606).
30 Horse riding in Mushrif Park: What could be more romantic than riding off into the desert on horseback? Mushrif Equestrian and Polo Club offer desert rides and solo lessons. There are also beginners’ classes available.
Dhs250 per person (45-minute private lesson); Dhs300 per person (90-minute ride). Mushrif Park, off Al Khawaneef Road (04 257 1256).
31 Jet ski in Ghantoot: Share one of the speedy water vehicles and take it in turns to scare the wits out of each other. Fortunately, this particular company operates in a closed, 7km area of calm water, just a 20-minute drive from Dubai Marina.
From Dhs250 per person for 20 minutes. Next to Golden Tulip Al Jazeera Hotel & Resort, Ghantoot (052 983 8959).
32 Private desert safari in a classic land rover: Head out into Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve as passengers in a 1950s Land Rover. You’ll have the opportunity to spot all kinds of indigenous wildlife, such as sand gazelles and Arabian oryx, with the wind in your hair.
From Dhs345 per person. Platinum Heritage, www.platinum-heritage.com (04 388 4044).
33 See Cirque du Soleil’s new ‘Dralion’ show: You’ll be catching flies together for two hours with this jaw-dropping two-hour circus extravaganza. The show fuses traditional Chinese circus with avant-garde acrobatics.
Dhs295 per person silver, Dhs495 gold, Dhs1,295 platinum, Dhs2,295 royal. 6pm-8.30pm and 10pm-12.30am. February 6-17. Dubai World Trade Centre, www.timeouttickets.com.
34 Couples’ cooking class at Scafa: The weekly Wednesday classes are designed for two people to learn to cook together, and friends (as well as couples) are welcome. There is also a Valentine’s Day class taking place on Thursday 14.
Dhs500 per couple. Unit 16, Cluster I, JLT (04 379 4044).
Dhs1,000+ for two
35 Couples’ treatment at Raffles Spa: Treatments for two are offered in the intimate garden pavilion amid the hotel’s botanic garden, followed by strawberries, chocolate and bubbly by the pool.
Dhs1,399 per couple. Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha (04 314 9869).
36 Photography workshop at Gulf Photo Plus: Learn how to handle your DLSR and document that dream holiday together with this one-day beginners’ digital photography course at Gulf Photo Plus.
Dhs730 per person. Friday February 15. Alserkal Avenue (04 380 8545).
37 Spa and lunch at Emirates Golf Club: The ‘head over heels’ package offers a his-and-hers spa treatment at SensAsia Urban Spa, followed by lunch for two at M’s restaurant.
Dhs1,375 per couple. Emirates Golf Club, Emirates Hills (04 417 9999).
The origins of Valentine’s Day
• The ancient Romans celebrated the festival of love, known as Lupercalia, between February 13 and 15.
• In the second and third centuries AD, two Christian martyrs called Valentine – Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome – are both said to have died on February 14.
• In the fifth century AD, Valentine’s Day was declared a feast day on February 14.
• From the 14th century, Valentine’s Day began to creep into early English literature as a festival linked with romance.
• In 1400, a ‘high court of love’ opened in Paris on February 14 to process legal cases dealing with marriage disputes.
• During the 18th century, a trend for Valentine’s letters began in England. It became so popular that in 1797, a guide was published for young men on how to write them, and by the 19th century Valentine’s cards were being mass produced.
Love sick or sick of Valentine’s Day?
The Time Out team share their opinions for and against the annual romance-fest.
Holly Sands, Body and Mind Editor
‘Valentine’s Day is important in Dubai, where many people have a heavy work-life imbalance. Just switching off your phone and making time for each other is enough.’
Penelope Walsh, Eating Out Editor
‘I can’t see any harm in Valentine’s Day. We show our mothers we care for them on Mother’s Day, and fathers on Father’s Day, so why not a special day for our partners too?’
Adam Wilson, Group Picture Editor
‘Deep down (and I mean really deep down!) I’m a bit of a romantic. Valentine’s Day is a little nudge in the ribs, to remind us to do something romantic for our partner. Forget consumerism – everyone loves a surprise, and at least it will avoid a row!’
Rebecca Milford, Chief Sub Editor
‘It’s an overpriced, over-hyped marketing gimmick that makes singles feel miserable and couples feel compelled to be “romantic”. Why should I feel pressured into being lovey-dovey on an arbitrary day? Spontaneous romance – on any day of the year – is the way forward!’
Claire Glasby, Editor, Time Out Kids
I’m not against being showered with posh gifts, but my husband and I always seem to end up having an argument on February 14, so we’ve learned our lesson and give it a miss these days.’
Hfu Reisenhofer, Editor, Time Out Guides and Supplements
‘Call me a grinch, but aside from the unromantic and greedy commercial side of February 14 (not to mention the overabundance of teddy bears), it’s a miserable time for those without a loved one, or who didn’t receive that card they were expecting. A smug public celebration is just rubbing it in.’
Valentine’s day around the world
On February 14, friends send each other pressed white flowers known as ‘snowdrops’, while men send amusing rhymes (called ‘gaekkebrev’) to ladies. Men sign off the rhymes with dots (one for each letter
of their name), and if the lady guesses correctly who sent the letter, she’ll be given an Easter egg when the festival arrives.
Like the Japanese, the Koreans celebrate days for men, and then for women on February 14 and March 14 respectively. One of the few nations to take into account those without a date on either day, the Koreans have a third celebration on April 14, where singles get together to eat jajang noodles.
Traditionally, young girls in South Africa follow a ritual that started with the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, by pinning the name of their lover to their sleeve. Some men join in with this custom too.