Free things to do in Dubai

You don't have to spend a cent to have a good time in Dubai. Time Out selects it's favourite zero-cost activities

The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
Sea Floating

‘One of the main reasons I live in Dubai is because of the salty sea. Honest. I know some people hate it. And, whenever I’m catapulted unexpectedly from a wakeboard face-first into it, I would share their feeling. But the spluttering is quickly forgotten every time I float, suspended and carefree off Dubai’s coast, staring up at a sunrise or sunset. Time stops, wonderful things (apparently) happen to my skin and any signs of a Saturday morning headache softly ebb away. My favoured buoyant spot? Off the Open Beach, after the first jetty, where you’re less likely to bump limbs with fellow floating fans.’

Win when you're singing

‘Karaoke! Ah, a word to swell the spirit. In no other occupation is a complete lack of ability absolutely no barrier to success. Indeed, the more you sound like a goose being fed into a wood chipper the more the crowds will love you. And, while Dubai has no shortage of places to honk my lungs out, only one gives me the chance to win a holiday – Double Decker Idol. So if I’m going to put on my best Jarvis Cocker strut and warble out ‘Common People’ there’s only one place I want do it.’
Fridays, 9pm-11pm, Double Decker, Al Murooj Rotana (04 321 1111)

Haircuts at a snip

‘The difficult part of booking a free haircut with the Formul’a French Hairdressing Academy is the timing (they only have appointments at 9.30am and 1.30pm). The easy part, naturally, is the price. It’s always a bit hair-raising (boom, tish!) letting students work on your fine tresses, but their work is overseen by master hairdressers at all times. So far, our guinea pigs have only had positive things to say about the Academy. It may be no frills, but you certainly can’t argue with the price tag. Or rather – the complete lack of one.’
Appointments only at 9.30am and 1.30pm, Formul’a French Hairdressing Academy, Knowledge Village, Lot 11, Office G02 (04 438 0122)

Heart at the art

‘Dubai’s museum exhibitions might be lacking in diversity during the city’s long summer, but one Iranian collector has taken it upon himself to unleash some superior finds on the city – all for absolutely nothing. With one of the most helpful iPod tours we’ve ever laid our hands (or ears) on, this is a fantastic collection. It provides an insightful introduction to Islamic art – from a curtain for the Kaa’ba stitched in Saudi, right through to Qajar paintings of hirsute Persian women of the 19th century. Spanning the history of Islam, it’s hard not to come out with a vivid and colourful education.’
Farjam Collection, Gate Village 4, DIFC (04 323 0303;

Book clubbing

‘Dubai can seem like a lonely place if you’re interested in culture,’ says Rawan Al Khatib, a Kutub book club regular since 2006. ‘It’s really nice to have a community of people keen to talk about what they’ve been reading and thinking.’ Kutub meets every month at The Third Line Gallery in Al Quoz and makes the most of Dubai’s multicultural socialscape – every book is by an Arab author and can be read in English or Arabic. As such, members are a mixture of locals and expats, bringing diverse perspectives to the discussions. Rawan’s most memorable Kutub moment? ‘When we read Girls Of Riyadh, 75 people turned up. It was unbelievable.’
Next meeting is in September. To start reading up, visit

Brain gain

‘There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but Dubai has no shortage of free drinks. Several bars on Tuesdays offer ladies’ night, but at Fibber Magee’s every Tuesday from 8pm men and women alike can compete in the Easy Tiger Quiz Night for free pints. There are lots of rounds, with each one representing an opportunity to win a few swigs on the house. And ladies get four vouchers for free drinks on the way in. On our most recent visit we won so many rounds we had to store some away.’
Fibber Magee’s, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 3320 2400)

Walk on the creekside

‘Find your way to the Creek in Deira and you can complete one of this city’s few ready-made walks. Wander past the fishing dhows, under the National Bank of Dubai’s great sail-like structure and along the paved walkway, accompanied by hundreds of other promenaders. It’s one of the few places in Dubai where you get a sense of a city that’s alive. For a mere Dhs1, you can cross the water on an abra and explore the bustling streets of Bur Dubai, too. Head left towards Bastakia and, if you explore, you’ll find the enchanting Hindi lane.

Go fish

‘A one-time purchase of a rod and reel (Barracuda Fishing Equipment in Dubai Marina can’t be beaten, has secured me hours of completely free fishing on the breakwater just beyond the Sheraton Hotel on JBR beach. Get there around high-tide as the fish come in to feed and it’s a prime spot for pulling in decent-sized fish. First-timers are bound to spot a few other fishfolk, should they need some advice. Otherwise, there’s a rocky outcrop just next to Al Boom Tourist Village that’s become popular. By law, a licence is required for shore fishing, picked up from Dubai Municipality – again, for absolutely nothing.’

Get in on the scene

The Scene Club not only screens international, independent films for free, but gives away limitless popcorn and soft drinks too. ‘I was hooked after my first visit,’ regular Ashraf Ghori admits. ‘You can’t watch indie films in Dubai’s main cinemas, so there isn’t another club like it.’ Anyone can go to the monthly screening, and the director of the film usually gives a talk after. ‘It will open your mind,’ Ashraf promises.
Ramchand Pakistani is being shown on July 30. Knowledge Village, visit

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