The biggest, the tallest, the most extravagant... Dubai is known for its towering skyscrapers, grandeur and year-round warm climate. At 800 metres, Burj Khalifa is one of the world's tallest buildings and Burj Al Arab provides some of the most luxurious accommodation money can buy. Dubai Mall is notably one of the largest and most visited shopping complexes. But after you've toured these impressive sites, try some of these suggestions for a unique and more affordable experience in this opulent city.
Who would have thought this would be free?
Also known as Beit Al-Rekkab, see the so-called 'ships of the desert' at Dubai camel museum at no charge. It's situated just behind Sheikh Maktoum's palace.
Pehlwani wrestling has become a popular spectator sport in Dubai. Loincloth clad men provide a direct contrast from the more conservative clothing and culture associated with the city. Take note, however, that for spectators the same rules do not apply for women – It is advised that you wear modest clothing to avoid causing embarrassment. It is customary to hand over a small donation at the conclusion of the evening. You run the risk of being the champ's next opponent if you refuse!
For just a few 'dirhams' more…
You can take an Abra ride for great photo opportunities of the city. Traditionally built as a trading vessel, these wooden boats provide a ferry-like trip across Dubai creek. They can get quite crowded on the weekend though and it is best to go later in the day as the heat and lack of shade during the midday period may make you feel like diving overboard into the water to cool off (not recommended!)
Visit the Al Fahidi Fort which was built in the late 18th century to defend the city against attacks from the sea. Today this mud structure includes a museum and is one of the oldest examples of architecture in Dubai. Afterwards take a tour of the oldest residential area and craft markets at Al Bastakiya village.
For the price of a meal in a local Shawarma joint…
While this immensely popular dish is definitely worth a try while in Dubai, you might find the thought of escaping the heat at the Chill Out Bar more enticing. The admission fee includes a welcome hot chocolate and all the warm gear you will need to brave the sub zero temperature.
Take a ride on the stunning 30 acre Burj Khalifa Lake. Check the website to time your trip to include the Dubai Fountain light and water show. Set to a range of contemporary and classical music, your front row seats will provide you with a spectacular view of the world's tallest dancing fountain.
When you go home, tell your friends that you enjoyed a day of skiing in Dubai and watch their puzzled reactions. In fact, skiing and snowboarding is a popular attraction in the city built on sand! The family friendly Ski Dubai features 22,500 square metres of man-made slopes in an indoor shopping mall. Say hello to the snow penguins while there and if you make a connection, why not become Peng-Friends?
But you've saved on your accommodation so do something extravagant!
If skiing snow slopes in Dubai sounds a little outrageous, ski down a sand dune in the middle of the desert instead! This unique tour includes a camel ride to the site. The sand is soft, but if you're not sure about the skiing part there's no reason to miss out on the camel ride on one of these tours.
Live like a Bedouin nomad on a desert safari! Your guide will escort you to the camp where you will witness a range of cultural activities and a sumptuous dinner under the stars. Some tours even provide the option of spending the night in a traditional Bedouin tent to complete the experience.
If you still have time to spare…
Hire a car and take a day trip to the north eastern tip of the United Arab Emirates. Take some time to explore some of the many fishing villages along the way and then swim in the oasis in the desert at Al Dhaid while admiring the back drop provided by the magnificent Hajar Mountains.
Alternatively, drive south to the stunning landmark, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi to complete your cultural experience. More than 30,000 workers created the elegant domes, pillars and fountains over a period of almost ten years and the result will likely take your breath away. Sunset is the best time to visit and while your tour guide will welcome you warmly, be sure to respect the conservative dress code in this place of worship.
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Sheikh Zayed Road
8Th St. Port Saeed District
Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha, near Mall of Emirates
Al Rigga Street
Opposite Al Maktoum Hospital, near Union Metro Station, 19th A Al Rigga Street
Sheikh Zayed Road
Al Mina Road
Bur Dubai, Near Al Gubaiba Bus Station
Jumeira1, Jumeira Beach Road, Behind The Village Mall
Al Rigga Road
Near Fish Roundabout Opposite Al Maktoum Hospital