Things to Do in Dubai
The Mall of the Emirates, Dubai’s second largest shopping complex after the Dubai Mall, houses 560 international retailers spread over 2,513,017 square feet (233,467 square meters) of retail space. Superlatives are plentiful — the mall houses the largest Carrefour supermarket in the city and five dozen stores made their Middle Eastern debut here.
While the shopping remains a huge draw to the Mall of the Emirates, even non-shoppers will find something to do. Ski Dubai (the first indoor ski slope in the region), multi-screen VOX Cinemas, Magic Planet arcade and family entertainment center, Peekaboo play area and the Dubai Community Theatre & Art Centre also make their home within the Mall of the Emirates. Two five-star hotels, the Kempinski Mall of the Emirates and the Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel both adjoin the shopping mall.
In front of the iconic Burj Al Arab, Wild Wadi Water Park has 30 rides and attractions themed around the tale of Juha, the Arabian folklore character. Nearly a million visitors come each year to play in the wave pool, ride the artificial surfing machines, soar down over 20 water slides, and splash in the 18-meter high waterfall that goes off every 10 minutes. Apart from its views of the Burj Al Arab and out to the Persian Gulf, Wild Wadi Water Park is probably most famous for its Jumeirah Sceirah ride. Climb up the 32-meter high tower with a friend, cross your arms and legs, and the floor beneath will open to slide the two of you down tandem water slides at speeds of up to 80 km/h.
For a more relaxing trip to Wild Wadi Water Park, float around Juha’s Journey Lazy River in a tube, or book one of the six VIP cabanas by the lazy river. There are also gift stores, fast-food and barbecue restaurants, and food stands that serve regular snacks as well as smoothies.
The Lost Chambers Aquarium in Atlantis, The Palm takes visitors through a series of mazes and tunnels as they explore the underwater ruins of Atlantis. This imaginative aquarium houses some 65,000 aquatic animals, including 12 species of rays and sharks.
Unlike most aquariums, The Lost Chambers has a complete backstory, adding a cinematic quality to the visit. According to the hotel’s “myth,” a series of passages and ruins were uncovered as the resort was being built -- ruins that were later determined to be the Lost City of Atlantis. As you walk through the different marine exhibits, you’ll not only read information on the marine life but on Atlantean history and culture as well.
Housed in one of the biggest malls in the world, Ski Dubai is home to the world’s first indoor black run and the world’s largest indoor snow park. You can also try out a toboggan and sled runs, scale the climbing tower, and head inside the ice cave. Oh, and there’s king and gentoo penguins too, who pop out from their enclosure several times a day.
Opened in November 2005, the indoor ski resort has five slopes of varying difficulties, lengths, and gradients. For beginners there are small slopes, and you can also hire your own ski instructor. More practiced snowboarders can make the most of Ski Dubai’s Freestyle Zone, where snowboarders work on their stunts and tricks.
The first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, you’ll be skiing on real snow here, which means the the temperature is kept to a slightly chilly -4 degrees C. Winter clothes are included with your ski pass, so you don’t have to worry about the temperature, especially as you can order a hot chocolate.
The lovely Bastakia Quarter, or Bur Bastakia, is Dubai’s historic heart. Here, in the narrow whitewashed lanes overlooked by lofty windtowers of traditional courtyard houses, the glitz and glamor of Sheikh Zayed Road and the Mall of the Emirates feel centuries away.
This is a place for wandering and soaking up the atmosphere, catching glimpses through shuttered gateways into the tranquil courtyards of traditional homes, hearing the sound of trickling fountains, and seeing sprays of purple bougainvillea add a dash of color to the passageways’ high whitewashed walls.
Several of the gorgeous courtyard buildings host art galleries showcasing the work of local artists, and their garden cafes provide a relaxing oasis. A colorful souq market is held here on Saturdays, featuring books, arts and crafts, and fashion.
Visit the former home and government seat of the ruling Al Maktoum family, Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum's House, built in 1894 for the present ruler’s grandfather and now preserved as a museum.
Inside you’ll see historic photographs, documents and furnishings, but the real thrill comes from stepping inside such a famous home, one of the oldest buildings in the city.
The building is a classic example of domestic Arabian architecture, complete with picturesque windtowers to catch the cooling breezes blowing in off the Gulf. From the top floor you can catch panoramic views of Dubai's Creek and skyscrapers.
More Things to Do in Dubai
Founded by Sheikh Mohammed and opened in 1998, the Centre for Cultural Understanding in Dubai serves to promote awareness of Emirati culture, including food, customs, and religion, with the aim to educate visitors and expats and remove cultural barriers. Situated within the Emirati wind tower house in Dubai's Al Fahidi district, the SMCCU run guided tours of this historic area, including local mosques such as the Jumeirah Mosque.
The center operates under the motto, "Open Doors, Open Minds" and organizes various activities in addition to tours, including lectures and educational programs, cultural awareness events, Arabic classes, and Iftars during Ramadan. It also offers visitors the opportunity to learn about and experience Emirati food by hosting Cultural Breakfasts and Cultural Lunches, where guests are free to ask questions and exchange ideas with locals while sampling authentic Emirati cuisine.
Travelers finding themselves in need of some retail therapy while in the Jumeirah Beach Road area will find the strip’s most luxurious shopping complex in the Mercato Shopping Mall. Fashioned in the style of an Italian village, the mall is relatively small for Dubai standards — it only houses 140 shops in 643,067 square feet (59,743 square meters) — but it wins points for its ambience. At the heart of the two-floor shopping complex, which also houses a Spinneys supermarket, VOX Cinemas, Virgin Megastore and Fun City family entertainment center, is the Piazza Grande, an indoor “square” lined with cafes and European restaurants. Since it doesn’t get as crowded as some of Dubai’s bigger malls, it’s a great place to escape the heat during the afternoons.
One of the fastest and most convenient ways to get around Dubai is on the Metro. Opened in 2010, the metro features driverless, automated trains with five cars each, including one reserved for women and children.
So far, two lines are operational; the Red Line mostly parallels Sheikh Zayed Road and features 29 stations with a total one-way travel time of an hour and 12 minutes, while the Green Line services 20 stations between the Dubai Airport Free Zone and Dubai Healthcare City with a round-trip time of one hour and 23 minutes. Three more lines are in the works. Both the Dubai Metro and the local bus network use rechargeable Nol Cards to pay for fares. Every metro station has a ticket vending machine with instructions in English and a variety of card categories, including a 10-journey ticket or a day pass for unlimited travel.
Located in the middle of New Dubai on busy Sheikh Zayed Road, the Jumeirah Lake Towers comprise one of the city’s large developments — a series of 64 residential and commercial towers interspersed with hotels, shops and restaurants spread out over 500 acres (200 hectares).
The lakeside community houses a growing population of about 35,000 residents, but visitors often come to enjoy the four artificial lakes, four covered children’s play areas and abundant shopping and dining.
Located in Diera, the Burjuman Centre is one of Dubai’s oldest malls, popular for its selection of high-street fashions. Built in 1991 and expanded in 2004, the shopping center now boasts more than 300 luxury and high end stores located across 2.8 million square feet of mixed-use space. Alongside the high-street brands, shoppers will find Saks Fifth Avenue, Dior, Versace, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Valentino, among others.
The mall is currently undergoing another round of upgrades that will bring a multiplex movie theater, Carrefour supermarket and an expanded food court to the complex.
The Gurunanak Darbar is a beautiful Sikh temple on the outskirts of Dubai that was modelled on the Golden Temple in Punjab, as well as the gurdwara in Southall, London. Visually striking from both inside and out, the temple features a large carpeted prayer hall, along with three smaller rooms, a meditation room, a library, and a large kitchen, which caters for over 10,000 worshipers who come to pray here each Friday.
To develop religious values among the next generation, a special three-hour session is held at the Gurunanak Darbar Sikh Temple in Dubai each Saturday to teach children about the Sikh faith. It’s a peaceful and serene place that welcomes both Sikh and non-Sikh visitors through its doors.
At Dubai Dolphinarium you can see six bottlenose dolphins and six seals perform a show full of acrobatics, dancing, juggling, jumping through hoops, and painting. You read that right. Painting. The 45-minute show is a popular Dubai attraction, and receives over 30,000 visitors a month.
Opened by the Dubai government in 2008 in order to teach younger generations about marine life and protection of the environment, Dubai Dolphinarium is the first marine center in the Middle East to be fully indoors and air-conditioned. Photo sessions with the dolphins and seals are available, and you can also arrange to swim with the dolphins.
Another popular attraction at Dubai Dolphinarium is the Creek Park Bird Show, where over 20 species of bird fly over the audience. The dolphinarium is also home to the UAE’s only mirror maze, and a 5D and 7D cinema. There’s also a new, underwater-themed soft play area for small children.
Located in the Gold Souk area of Dubai, the Bait Al Banat Women’s Museum opened in 2012 as a project of Emirati Professor Rafia Ghubash with the aim of preserving and sharing the history of women in the United Arab Emirates and breaking down cultural stereotypes and misconceptions about women’s role in the development of the country.
Three floors of exhibit space celebrate women throughout the nation’s history, including many female artists who were pioneers in their fields. An entire hall is dedicated to Emirati poet Ousha Bint Khalifa, nicknamed ‘The Girl of the Arabs.’ Highlights of the exhibit include her hand-written poems. The Women’s Studies Centre on the second floor of the museum maintains a library and database of documents available for research in the field.
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