Olympic sports to try in Dubai
Time Out celebrates Rio 2016 by profiling the Olympic sports to try in Dubai, from handball to tennis, badminton to weightlifting and more
The 2016 Olympic Games is arguably the most anticipated event of the year. From Friday August 5 to Sunday 21, athletes from more than 200 nations will be competing for medals, attempting to break records and doing their countries proud.
And whatever it is you choose to watch, we can be certain you'll be inspired somewhere along the line to take up something new, or return to an old favourite sport. So whether you like lifting, throwing, jumping, firing or pretty much any other form action, we've got you covered with this list of where to try every single Olympic sport in Dubai.
Oh, and Modern Pentathlon isn't listed because it comprises fencing, swimming, horse riding, running and shooting!
The best way to truly appreciate what life in the UAE was like before its meteoric rise from sand to skyscrapers is to actually experience it for yourself.
I’m not suggesting you grab the nearest camel and head for the dunes. There’s a better, safer and much more enjoyable alternative – an overnight stay at a desert Bedouin camp.
Our experience is with Platinum Heritage, one of the city’s best companies for desert safaris in and around Dubai, who have invited us down for the night. Based inside the protected Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in Margham, Platinum Heritage specialises in plenty more than wildlife-spotting.
At first, the name of our tour package –Overnight Desert Safari – left my wife and I slightly puzzled. Would we be given infrared goggles to spot oryx, camels and other species? The reality is that there are only so many words you can fit into a title when a tour includes falconry, a safari, dinner, traditional Emirati dancing, henna, shisha, accommodation and breakfast with a Bedouin.
At the camp, guests hop straight into a board beautiful 1950s convertible Land Rovers and head off on safari. When there are no animals in sight, the driver puts his foot down and takes us on a bumpy but equally exciting ride, not exactly dune bashing but definitely adrenaline-fuelled.
We spot some Arabian oryx, gazelles and most amusingly, a sandfish – a tiny lizard-like skink, which our guide jokingly tries to catch, only to fall face first in the sand as it quickly “swims” underground.
We also learn about the medicinal plants of the desert, as well as the life-saving qualities of the trusted camel, essential for survival prior to the arrival of fast cars, caviar and air-conditioning.
At the base of a dune, we all clamber out, looking very much like a pack of tourists – after all, we’ve been fitted with shemaghs or ghutrahs, traditional Middle Eastern headdress that we get to keep as gifts.
The Platinum Heritage team have done a great job protecting us from sun on the drive. Now they add the Lawrence of Arabia touch to the selfies we all take with an amazing backdrop of rolling dunes as the auburn sun starts to set.
Next up is falconry, a fairly short display, which sees a few guests catch their breath as one of the birds of prey swoops inches away from their heads on its way to catch its meal.
As night falls, we head to the Bedouin camp, an open-air bazaar-like setting, with a henna stand in one corner and underground food stations in the other. These shallow rock wells were used to slow-cook traditional Emirati meat dishes. Just like the extra-tender meat that these ovens produce, the salads and mezze-style dishes that accompany are equally delicious. Stomachs full, we head over to the central majlis, where our friendly driver, Hajaj, joins us for shisha and Middle Eastern coffee. My wife and I listen attentively to tales of his upbringing in the UAE and its spectacular metamorphosis.
Lounging on comfy cushions, we’re treated to two Emirati dances: yola, where young men skilfully spin wooden rifles to the rhythm of the music and a woman performing khaliji – a folkloric dance from the Arabian Peninsula, more about neck and hair spinning than belly dancing.
With just the overnight guests left, I begin to truly take in the peace and quiet of the desert. We’re 65 kilometres from Dubai and there’s not a car to be heard, no flashing lights or bustling bars. It’s not even 9pm and I actually feel sleepy. Despite this realisation of how overstimulating life in Dubai can be, I chat to the mix of visitors until the lights go out at 11pm.
This proves to be a light lesson in desert living, as we totter through the sand towards the toilets, brush our teeth in the dark and then hesitantly find our way back to our modest Bedouin abode. No air-conditioning means it’s slightly stuffy inside, but we decide to leave the canvas “door” closed after overhearing the word “scorpions” several times throughout the day.
We wake up just in time for breakfast with a local Bedouin. With a guide as interpreter, he answers questions about his nomadic life and why the arrival of expats in the UAE “has made life easier”.
It’s a fitting finale to this crash course in heritage. The activities are fun and insightful, and it has have helped me appreciate Dubai’s past and present even more.
Dhs895. Pick-up from locations across Dubai, www.platinum-heritage.com.
An ideal day out for family, friends and groups, Wadi Adventure is located at the base of the picturesque Jebel Hafeet mountains and surrounds the hot water springs. With the most unique adventure-based water sport activities around, there’s just so much to do here.
With everything that the state-of-the-art facility has to offer, all you need to bring is a sense of adventure and you’re sure to head home with an experience to be reckoned with. But, it’s not all about thrills and spills – you can cool off and relax here, too. This is what you can expect from the park’s myriad attractions...
1 Jump into a raft and speed down the longest man-made white water channels in the world.
This activity is usually the highlight of the day for most thrill-seekers. You never know what the water is going to do, so each time you go around the channel, it’s a new experience. You may even think the boat is about to flip over, but you’re always in safe hands. If you’re a complete novice at this sport, don’t worry, it requires no previous experience or skill. There are three white water channels, each providing a different thrill factor to cater to all levels of rafters. So there’s no fear… kind of!
Dhs100 for a one-hour session.
2 Go for a refreshing splash in the pool or relax at the open beach lounge.
The family pool and kids’ splash area are available throughout the day and are the perfect spots to cool off in and soak up the sun. During specific hours of the day, the world-famous surf pool is open for swimming sessions, while the beach area is near the surf park and family swimming pool. There’s no actual sand as it interferes with the filtration systems, but there are plenty of shade structures and beach loungers.
Dhs50 for adults; Dhs25 for kids (below 1.2m in height). The price includes admission to the family pool, open beach and kids’ splash area.
3 Challenge yourself at the airpark and take a trip down the zip line.
Each level of the airpark obstacle course takes about 20 minutes to complete. The high ropes course is an adventure challenge in which you are suspended 20m in the air. The goal is to navigate different elements such as stepping stones and rolling logs. There’s also a very popular giant swing. Once released, you feel a sense of weightlessness and then lots of speed, as you whizz through the air like Tarzan to the other side. Don’t forget to unleash your infamous jungle roar! Meanwhile, a zip line crosses from one side of the park to the other. The cable is suspended about 20m above ground level and stretches out over an open area of 200m. It’s exhilarating to be flying through the air and eyeing up the scenery below. Live for the moment.
Dhs50 for a one-hour session.
4 If you’d rather hit the water on your own, then grab a paddle.
Kayaking is a great experience, paddling along, observing the landscape and letting your worries melt away. With the longest combined channels in the world, you can go from the easy class one to the very challenging class three-plus, all in the manageable confines of the conveyor access channels. If you’d rather take a few lessons first, then there are instructors to take you through all the basics to get you on your way. All equipment is included in the class and all you need is your swimsuit and a pair of shoes.
Dhs150 for an all-day pass.
5 Head to the surf pool and start riding the waves.
Unlike learning to surf in the sea, Wadi Adventure will tailor the size of the waves to your skill level. This allows you to develop at a much faster pace than you would in the ocean, at the whim of the natural elements. As you grow in confidence, so will the waves – they can reach up to 3m. Take a lesson with one of the experienced surf instructors in the largest surf pool in the world, or hire the whole thing and keep the perfect break all to yourself. With state-of-the-art Wave Pool technology, there are waves for every level of surfer – from small, rolling waves for beginners to 3m-plus lefts, rights, A-Frames and close-outs. Don’t worry about the jargon, you’ll learn as you go along.
Dhs150 for a 55-minute session.
6 Wadi Adventure has the infrastructure to host world-class events such as the upcoming World Rafting Championship.
For the first time in the sport’s history, the championships will take place here in the UAE. The World Rafting Championship is an R4-level competition open to four-man rafts covering sprint, head-to-head, slalom and downriver rafting disciplines. Enjoy the entertainment, visit the food festival and leave little ones at the kids’ zone, while you watch 86 teams from 28 different countries battling it out to be crowned world champions.
Free. Nov 1-5. 8am-5pm. www.wadiadventure.ae/wrc2016.
7 Jump, grind, flip and ski your way through Wadi Adventure’s newest attraction, the cable wake park.
Experience the thrills of wakeboarding, knee boarding and skiing in a safe and controlled environment. There are more than 350 metres of running cable, two unique features and you can reach speeds of up to 45km/h. The wake park is a fun experience for all ages and levels, and there are lessons available too, for those who would like to learn a new skill. Passes are sold per hour for up to eight people and all safety equipment and boards are provided.
Dhs50 for a 30-minute session of wakeboarding.
8 Get face-to-face with the climbing wall.
At 13 metres high and with seven colour-coded routes to choose from, this vertical wall has something to challenge every level of climber. The wall uses an auto belay system, which helps climbers to easily move down at any point of the climb. It’s an ideal activity for anyone looking to stretch their mental and physical powers.
Dhs30 for a 20-minute session.
9 Don’t forget to replenish your energy with food and drinks.
There are plenty of food and beverage outlets to cater to everyone’s tastes. Enjoy a range of menu options, from finely plated international dishes to hotdogs and fries and freshly made smoothies and milkshakes. Restaurants include the Surf Café, Tiki Hut, Rafter’s Grill and Mango Mango.
Opening daily 11am-8pm.
10 All types of groups are catered for here.
Whether you are planning a private party, a business pow-wow or an exciting day out of the office, there’s a package to suit your needs. The versatile events space at Wadi Adventure provides a completely unique centre for your chosen events. With picturesque Jebel Hafeet as a backdrop, the Summit Events Centre is perfect for business lunches, corporate meetings or social events. All event planning, catering and the provision of all audio and visual equipment are done in-house, so you’ll have a hassle-free time. Wadi Adventure is also the perfect place to host a children’s birthday party. With activities for children both young and old, and customisable party menus, it’s a great destination for little ones celebrating their big day. And they’re sure to burn some energy through all the activities.
Open daily Sat-Thu 11am-8pm, Fri 10am-8pm. The Open Beach is open daily Sat-Thu 1pm-2pm 5pm-7pm; Fri 2pm-7pm. Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain (03 781 8422).
All about Wadi Adventure
The number of world-class white water and kayaking runs with a combined length of 1.1km with grade3+ rapids.
The length of the wakeboard running cable.
The total size of the park.
million gallons The total volume of water.
Since it opened in September 2007, Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club has provided Al Ain residents and visitors the chance to enjoy its equestrian lessons, shooting, rugby and 18-hole and nine-hole golf courses. But that’s not all. The club also offers many activities to keep the whole family entertained, including outdoor pools, a gym, football pitches, beauty salon, tennis and basketball courts and even a climbing wall. And if it’s the shooting that really appeals to you, you’ll be glad to know the club is considered one of the UAE’s best in terms of Olympic and International Shooting Sport Federation standards. It’s perfect for beginners, corporate groups and experienced shooters alike thanks to its wide range of facilities, including a 25m pistol range, 50m rifle range and 10m air pistol and rifle ranges. Each of these is equipped with an electronic scoring system so you can challenge your pals and see the scores rack up. There are also four ranges for the clay shooting disciplines of skeet, trap and double trap. Pull!
Prices and times vary.
The fastest growing multi-participant sport in the world, triathlon is big business in Dubai.
But go into it under-prepared at your peril. TriDubai supports athletes of all levels and training sessions are free of charge to all levels. Since launch, they have fostered a brilliant community of 4,000 people, the most senior or which volunteer the time throughout the year to help improve technique and race attitude for all.
The team also hold seminars with elite competitors, as well as specialist camps which have limited availability.
Sign up at www.tridubai.org
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