The UAE government this week announce their plan for transit passengers to enjoy day out in UAE under new visa policy. The new policy aims to enhance transit visa procedures to enable stopover passengers to enjoy a day out in the country. Passengers transiting via any of the airports in the country will be able to obtain entry visas. You need to ensure you know the best experience in Dubai to try during your transit!
No one knows Dubai quite like its residents. So, to help you discover the city’s hidden gems, experience the culture and know where to go and what to see and do, read on for the best local recommendations.
Do in Dubai
- Dubai’s coastline has no shortage of beautiful beaches, and they’re all different, with no two alike. Each neighbourhood’s stretch of coast boasts its own personality, expressing Dubai’s vibrant beach culture in its own unique way. Black Palace Beach is perfect for those looking for a more serene – and less-known – beach experience. It’s a public beach open to all along Al Sufouh Street, wedged between Dubai Marina and the Burj Al Arab, and yet despite its prime location it’s definitely one of the city’s secret gems and well worth the scouting mission. Close to the city’s royal summer palaces at Al Sufouh, the beach promises crystal blue waters perfect for splashing and paddling, together with the most stunning sunset views over Palm Jumeirah.
- There’s lots to do in Old Dubai – whether you’re looking to uncover a piece of local history or heritage, or simply savour some traditional delights. Dubai’s traditional Arabian souks are still a crucial part of daily life and trade, and a wander through one of these bustling markets is an essential experience. Here, you’ll discover the true essence of Dubai’s shopping heritage. There’s the Gold Souq, lined with bespoke pieces with prices that aren’t set in stone; the Textile Souq, a colourful, vibrant space with rolls of fabric, fine silks, airy cottons and dazzling sari fabrics on display; and the Spice Souq, offering sensory overload thanks to the colours and aromas of some of the world’s most prized spices. Also recommended is travelling between the souk on the Bur Dubai and Deira sides of the Creek by abra – a traditional transport method that costs just AED1 a ticket.
- Weekend brunches have taken up a special place in the hearts of Dubai’s residents, and have quickly established themselves as a gastronomic institution. With the workweek running from Sunday to Thursday, these Friday all-you-can-eat-and-drink feasts are a time for the city’s diverse communities to come together and celebrate the start of the weekend. Brunches come in all shapes and sizes – many offering a party-style feast, some a more relaxed and intimate dining experience, while others come accompanied by a whole host of family-oriented events and activities, keeping the kids entertained and the parents stress-free. While Friday is traditionally the time to enjoy brunch in Dubai, the gastronomic occasion does also extend to Saturdays in some cases, and the tradition is now such a permanent part of expat life that a whole host of resources and apps have been created to help brunchers get the most out of the experience. For inspiration and money-off deals, it’s worth checking the award-winning Mr and Mrs Brunch website.
- For a traditional sweet treat, head to Al Reef Bakery, a staunch favourite in Dubai’s Satwa area that serves homemade, wholesome sweets, including baklava, knafe, maamoul and kaak.
- While gahwa (Arabic coffee) has long played an important role in Emirati hospitality, Indian masala tea, famously known as karak chai, has also become an essential part of Dubai culture. Traditionally boiled on a low flame and made with a combination of black tea, milk, sugar and Indian spices – often cardamon, cloves, ginger and cinnamon for a richer infusion – karak is the star of low-key outings or gatherings with family and friends, a quick breakfast or afternoon tea, and is even the perfect elixir with which to start and end the day. A great place to sample a steaming brew of karak is down by Kite Beach, served by FiLLi Tea & Café, one of the first franchises to pioneer a home-grown karak chai café concept.
- The city first began to grow around Dubai Creek – the beating heart of its import-export industry – and this is where you can still discover the roots of Dubai. Visitors are encouraged to meander past the wind towers and gypsum and coral buildings of Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, all painstakingly restored to their original glory using authentic traditional building materials and methods. Photography enthusiasts can get the perfect Instagram-click at almost every corner of this old district, whose low-rise buildings are adorned with Arabesque designs. A number of art galleries can be found in the area, displaying everything from calligraphy to modern art. Head toXVA, the unique art gallery that is also a boutique hotel and café. No cultural experience is complete without a trip to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), located in the centre of Al Fahidi, and where guests are invited to ask whatever questions they may have about Arabic, Emirati and Islamic culture – no matter how ‘sensitive’.
- For a truly authentic insight into the local culture, and to appreciate the enduring fondness that exists between Emiratis and their camels, head to one of several camel races that take place throughout the cooler months of the year. You’ll see these beloved beasts thunder along sandy tracks in a sport that originates in the Middle East and still boasts an avid following among locals. Racing season runs between October and April, with races usually taking place early on a Friday or Saturday morning. There are several tracks in the emirate, but Dubai’s biggest is Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack, the home of the Dubai Camel Racing Club. It’s located half an hour’s drive from the city and, with prizes running into the tens of thousands of dirhams, it attracts camel owners from across the UAE – even some from neighbouring countries.
- More local traditions can be discovered at Hatta Heritage Village, which takes visitors back in time for a glimpse of what original villages in Dubai used to be like – and not even that long ago. The Village opened after its restoration in 2001 in the heart of the mountainous Hatta region of Dubai emirate, about 100km from the city centre. It provides immersive insights into traditional rural life in the surrounding mountains, with authentic models, documents, sculptures, illustrations and graphic/audio content spread out across 17 houses, two castles and a fortress.
- For a chance to discover Dubai’s sprawling desert oasis, head to Al Qudra Lakes to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Here, you can spend a quiet morning or afternoon in nature, exploring a series of lakes sprawled across 10 hectares of Dubai’s Saih Al Salam Desert landscape. Visitors can tuck into a picnic after a leisurely ride around the Cycling Track, and the trip also offers the chance to view some local wildlife, ranging from desert foxes and oryx, to 170 species of bird that include flamingos, swans and a host of migratory birds. For those staying into the early evening, it is also worth waiting to take in Dubai’s beautiful desert sunset.