The man-made marvels of Dubai could certainly lure in any avid tourist. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have their generous share of photos from tourists posing with the beautiful Burj Al Arab or sliding down the snowy slopes of Ski Dubai. But there is more to see than the shiny glass panels of the skyscrapers or the remarkable artificial islands so don’t stop there. Immerse yourself in the soul of this charming Arabian paradise by taking on the exotic offerings as well. You haven’t been to Dubai if you haven’t embarked on these unique adventures.
Obviously, this is a must-do. Undulating sand dunes are a trademark in the Middle East, so don’t say no to a desert safari. This includes dune bashing on 4×4 Land Cruisers, riding quad bikes in the sand, getting henna tattoos, sand surfing, belly and Tanoura dancing, and Arabic dinner. Also available are overnight safaris where you spend the night under the enchanting desert skies and greet the morning with authentic Bedouin breakfast and traditional coffee.
If you want to experience life in the desert 50 years ago, a camel safari is the perfect activity to try. You and your friends can spend an hour riding on the back of camels and going on a “camel convoy” while taking in the sights of the desert wildlife around you. Your camel safari will end at a camp where music, dancing, and food await. You have the opportunity to learn more about life back in the old days courtesy of a Bedouin storyteller.
As an essential part of desert hunting life, falconry is also a popular feature of desert safaris. You get the chance to observe the trained falcons, lure them in, or fly them yourself. You learn more about the role of falcons in the lives of the early Bedouins, and about ancient and modern training techniques.
Sail the seas
Dubai is not all deserts. In fact, the region has abundant marine resources where its livelihood and sustenance heavily depended upon back then. The seas produced bountiful harvests of tuna, hammour, mackerel, and gorgeous pearls. Fishing and pearl diving were huge industries, and were the main source of revenue for the region. Pearl diving literally took a dive in the 1940s with the introduction of cultured pearls, but fishing and trading flourished.
If you want to catch a glimpse of Dubai’s seafaring legacy, you can head to the Dubai Creek in Old Dubai where traditional dhows and abras still ply the waters. These wooden vessels offer tourists trips down the historic district through charming dhow cruise Dubai Creek dinners and refreshing abra rides. The brightly decorated dhows offer sumptuous buffet dinner and superb entertainment onboard while cruising down the Dubai Creek. Abras take people across the creek from Deira to Bur Dubai and vice versa for only Dhs1. They can also be hired for private trips down the length of the creek where you can see the stunning contrast of old Arabian architecture in the Bur Dubai side and the shiny towering buildings on the Deira side.
Dig into the roots
Another best way to know more about Dubai is through cultural and heritage tours. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) at Al Bastakiya in Bur Dubai has extensive walking tours, cultural meals, and awareness sessions that will introduce you to the authentic Emirati heritage. Coordinated by Emirati volunteers themselves, the activities are interactive and enlightening.
You can take a tour of the Jumeirah Mosque and learn more about Islam. You can tour the Bastakiya neighborhood and wander down the pathways amidst old-time wind tower houses. Nearby is the Dubai Museum, a treasure trove of historical artifacts from Dubai’s glorious past. The Textile Souk is also a neat stop with its veritable displays of colorful fabrics, clothes, shoes, and the like. On the Deira side of the creek are the extraordinary souks. You can wander down rows and rows of shops selling glittering jewelry of all kinds at the Gold Souk or smell the tangy aroma of herbs and spices at the Spice Souk. One day is simply not enough.
So there you are. A visit to Dubai is never complete without these exotic adventures. By going on a desert safari, having a dhow cruise Dubai Creek dinner, or visiting the jaw-dropping Gold Souk, you can finally boast to the world that you have truly been to Dubai.