Things to do - activities and places to visit in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, UAE
General - sections on this page
Are You Bored?
- Go to the Cinema - a great distraction for a couple of hours.
- Go to a coffee shop and read a book or a magazine.
- Learn something new - a sport, a hobby, a language, a study course, cooking, another skill.
- Join a club - sports or otherwise. There are some surprising choices available.
- Volunteer work in Dubai - there are many organisations that always appreciate help.
- Walk or run on the beach. In the summer it's not too hot at 5am.
- Watch a DVD - rent one for 10 dhs or, for the same price, buy a pirate version in Karama which doesn't work.
Cheap or Free
- Beach - swim, sunbathe, walk, jog, sleep.
- Movie nights free - on the Wafi Rooftop, Sun nights.
- Movie nights free - Mon at Mercato if you get Movie Monday ticket from 7 Days newspaper.
- Parks in Dubai - run, walk, read a book, play a sport.
- Shopping Center (if you don't buy anything) - walk around Ibn Battuta mall and learn some history from all the displays, watch people skiing at Mall of the Emirates, or just go window shopping and people watching at any of the large shopping malls in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or other emirates. At least in the hot summer months, you'll be in an airconditioned environment. Lock away your credit card first.
Guided Tours and Excursions
- Balloon Flights - 880 dhs pp, tel +971-4-2738585, www.ballooning.ae, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tickets from Emirates Post Offices (21 January 2007).
- Big Bus Tour of Dubai - see all the main sights of Dubai in a couple of hours (or longer if you get off and on at different stops).
- Desert Safaris
- Mosque tours in UAE - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah each have mosques with guided tours for non-Muslims.
- Seaplane tours of Dubai with Seawings - tel +971-4-8832999, toll-free in UAE 800-SEAWINGS (73294647), www.seawings.ae, email email@example.com. Tours cost AED 895 or AED 1125 per person, or charter the whole plane for yourself and friends or family. Seawings can organise other special flights and activities.
- TRAKS (Tour Ras Al Khaimah Systems) - article Friday mag 10 Nov 2006, James Falchetto (Jim) - outfitter providing outdoors equipment. Tour guide? Runs Land Rover Defenders up and down RAK mountains transporting gear for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Yacht charters - motor and sail, see the links on the sailing in Dubai page.
- Concerts - Classical Music - Dubai Concert Committee organises monthly concerts at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. Their mailing list for invitations is full but you can turn up to try and score a spare seat. Website www.dubaiconcerts.org seems to have expired (Jan 2007). See also groups.yahoo.com/group/dubaiclassicalmusic/ - there's a calendar there.
- Concerts - Rock Music - get Time Out Dubai (5 dhs in supermarkets, gas stations and bookshops) to see what's coming up in the next week. Or visit www.dubailook.com. Sometimes big names come to Dubai. Usually geriatrics though, like The Pretenders, Deep Purple, Roger Waters. Rolling Stones aren't expected for another decade or so.
- Concerts - DJ - get Timeout Dubai, or visit www.dubailook.com. You do get the latest and greatest DJs hitting the courts. Or floors. Or decks or whatever it is that DJs hit. See also nightclubs in Dubai.
- Bastakia Souk arts and craft fair on Saturdays in the winter months (December - February) - Bastakiya gets even better.
- Conferences - if you throw a business card in a goldfish bowl at the Conference and Exhibition Centre near the Dubai World Trade Centre, and look smart, you'll be able to walk in and learn about water sanitation, or heavy earth moving machinery, or office stationery supplies, or whatever the latest convention subject happens to be. It's not as boring as it sounds - you get free coffee cups and plastic pens in branded plastic bags...
- Dubai Desert Challenge - (February) - golf. The desert rally is the UAE Desert Challenge
- Dubai Film Festival - a great chance to see a good range of new films (December)
- Dubai Jazz Festival - an annual music festival in February.
- Dubai Marathon
- Dubai Rugby Sevens (December)
- Dubai Shopping Festival (January/February)
- Dubai Summer Suprise (July/August)
- Dubai Tennis Open - (February/March)
- Dubai World Cup - horse racing
- GITEX (November/December)
- Jumana - Secret of the Desert. Fireworks, water, fire, 3D displays, lasers and 50 people jumping around a stage telling the story of a dying Arabian King, his two sons, a princess and some magic. Just over an hour long, costs 185 dhs, Get there at 830 pm for 9 pm show, daily except Mondays (and possibly Sundays). Season finished for 2006/2007, starts again from 01 September 2007. Jumana is performed at Al Sahra Desert Resort in Dubailand. Tel 800-586262, www.alsahra.com. Jumana location may be tricky (location map - opens in new window). If you miss the entrance, you're two U-turns and an hour and a half's drive away from a second chance (Gulf News Tabloid 28 Jan 2007 had a favorable write up - except for the U-turns).
- UAE Desert Challenge (November) - cars, bikes & trucks go mad.
- Abras (water taxis
on Dubai Creek) - a cheap commute for many but
you can hire one on your own.
- BBQ/Barbeque - at home, on the beach, or go camping in the desert.
see Camping entry below.
- Billiards - see Pool.
- Al Ain Mall, Al Ain, tel +971-3-7510006
- Al Nasr Leisureland (cheap), www.alnasrll.ae, tel +971-4-3371234
- American University, Sharjah, tel +971-6-5589094
- Bowling City, Abu Dhabi Mall, Abu Dhabi, tel +971-2-6760444
- Dubai Bowling Centre, Al Mamzar, www.dubaibowlingcentre.com
tel +971-4-2969222, fax +971-4-2966599, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Dubai Bowling Center, Al Quoz (large, smoky), near Safa Park interchange on Sheikh Zayed Rd, www.dubaibowling.com, tel +971-4-3391010
- Emirates University, Al Ain, tel +971-3-7676255
- Insports, tel +971-4-3475833
- Khalifa International Bowling Centre, Abu Dhabi
of the Emirates (short lanes)
- Thunderbowl at Defence Roundabout on Sheikh Zayed Road possibly closed
by the time you read this due to reconstruction of interchange from
- Bungee Jumping
- Camel Racing - early Friday mornings in the winter. Schedules and
times are notoriously difficult to figure out. Go to Nad Al Sheba at
0500 on Thursday after November, wait for three days and you should
see something. This section will be updated with more useful information
- Camel Riding - everyone wants to have a go right? A large collection
of camels for riding on at 'Big Red' sand dunes on the Dubai-Hatta
road, about 30 mins from Dubai. Keep driving till you see it, it will
be obvious. Quad bikes and big dunes on either side of the road with
4wd cars all over them.
Sometimes there's a rent-a-camel on the public beach next to the Jumeirah Beach
- Camping - in true expat fashion, get your BBQ, a crate of erm refreshments,
a few bangers and a tent, and park on a sand dune somewhere for the
night. You're supposed to have a permit to camp on the beach, how much
that's monitored is variable. Don't go into the desert with just one
lots of water, suncream, towrope, spade, mobile phone, and expect it
to be 10 degrees colder at night than
city. Things you should bring that people will laugh at but wish they'd
brought themselves include plastic table, chairs, disposable BBQ, and
(or garden watering can). Stretchers are the best compromise between
ease of setting up and comfort when zzzzzzzzzz.......... Get them for
less than 100 dhs at Carrefour. Choithrams has the best sausages,
Spinneys the best bread. Park n Shop and Spinneys also have a good
- Cinema - lots of cinemas in big shopping malls, also the Grand Cineplex
near the Wafi Center. Standard ticket prices 30-35 dhs as of Jan 2007.
Films only seem to run for a week or two. Go daytime or early evening
if you want to avoid noisy crowds. It's common for people to have loud
conversations and talk on mobile phones during screenings. English
films are usually subtitled in Arabic, and sometimes French.
- Cinema - arthouse / retro / old movies - XVA art
gallery on Wed nights,
Wafi Rooftop Sun nights (not in summer).
- Dancing - nightclubs, salsa, ballroom
- Eating Out - try an "all you can eat & drink" buffet. Spice Island
was one of the first and is still worth a trip. There's the Friday
- Fishing - cheapest place is off Maktoum Bridge or the beach. Hotels
and yacht clubs will organise more expensive offshore fishing trips.
Or try Carrefour if you just want something for dinner.
- Flight simulator experience - a real one, operated by Mutahida Airlines at Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi from mid-2010.
- Friday Brunch - a bit of a Dubai expat institution. Stuff yourself
with eggs and bacon and sleep the rest of the day. Pubs do standard
versions. The Burj Al Arab does a more expensive one with a great view
but disappointing food for the price.
- Hang-gliding - in Al Ain
- Helicopter flight - a great way to see Dubai if you didn't get a
window seat on your inward flight, www.aerogulfservices.com. Cheapest
one is 2500 dhs for 4 people for 25 mins.
- Horse Riding UAE
- Ice Skating in Dubai - ice rinks in Al Nasr Leisureland, Hyatt Galleria, Star Gate Dubai, The Dubai Mall. Also in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Sharjah.
- Karaoke - why has Karaoke never gone away? Groan....
- Karting. Dubai Autodrome - tel +971-4-3678700, expensive. Emirates
Kart Centre - near Jebel Ali Golf Resort, tel +971-50-5592131, cheaper.
- Massage - visit a hotel or beauty salon for the proper (and excellent)
version. Those with dribble and tongues leaking from mouths, go to
in Dubai page.
- Minigolf - Hyatt Regency Deira, tel +971-4-2096802.
- Mountain Biking - try the mountains in Ras Al Khaimah.
- Night Clubs in Dubai
- Paintball - www.paintballdubai.com, tel +971-4-3244755, between Wonderland Water Park
and Dubai Creek Park in Bur Dubai.
- Pool / Snooker / Billiards. Some bars have a pool table but not many. Non alcoholic locations include:
- Billiard Golden Hall tel +971-4-2629290, near Ramada Continental Hotel in Deira.
- Dubai Snooker Club tel +971-4-3375338, behind Dubai Printing near
Maktoum Bridge, Bur Dubai.
- Emirates Billiards Centre tel +971-4-2624499, near Ramada Continental Hotel in Deira.
- Millenium Avenue tel +971-4-2666595, near Galadari roundabout in Deira.
- Snooker World tel +971-4-2685566
near Dubai Police HQ in Deira.
- The Snooker Club tel +971-4-3430000, Metropolitan Hotel, Sheikh
- Salsa Dancing
- Shisha, or hubbly bubbly as some say. A traditional Arabic social
smoking pastime but is now also a pretentious expat jolly so westerners
can say they've blended in to the Arabic way of life, or something.
Still, bars have capitalized on it and you do get some splendid locations
to have a toke. Try Quarterdeck, Souk Madinat in Jumeirah, or Barasti
- Shopping - there's no shortage of opportunities, as you would expect
from a city where a Shopping Festival is a major tourist attraction.
- Skydiving - Umm Al Quwain airfield offers tandem skydiving. Not cheap.
- Snooker - see Pool.
- Study - a language, a higher level qualification, a different subject.
and Colleges in Dubai for some ideas.
- Sunbathing - since December 2006, women should have less problems
with getting harrassed or perved at on the beach. Police are telling
men who are not swimming to clear off.
- Theme parks in UAE - there are a few, nothing spectacular though but that's improving, especially with WOW RAK and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi opening in late 2010.
Automobiles, Motorcycles, Power Boats, and other stuff for petrolheads
- Autodrome - watch races or drive yourself. See Dubai
Autodrome page for more information.
- Desert Challenge - watch cars, trucks and motorcycles tear up the
sand in November.
- Drag Racing - an awesome display of power. The fastest cars are
known as 'rails'. Occasional Thu/Fri at Umm
Al Quwain Emirates Motorplex drag strip (they say Umm Al Quain), starts
late (2200 or so). Tel
+971-6-7681166 or +971-6-7681189, web www.motorplex.ae.
- Dune Bashing
- Dune Buggy Riding
- Jet Skiing - rentals are parked on Dubai Creek near Garhood and/or
Maktoum bridge. Noisy, smelly, dangerous (one fatality on the Creek
in 2005), and a month's worth of fun in 20 minutes.
- Motocross - Dubai Motocross Club, since 1986? www.mydubaimotocross.com,
meet Jebel Ali fortnightly, competitions monthly. Club administrator
Pamela Valentine. Motorbike sizes 50cc to 125cc for 4-16 yrs old, 250
cc for older. Boots 1200 dhs, body armour 600 dhs, kidney belt 125
dhs. Motorcycles 15,000-25,000 dhs. Info from ET 11 Oct 2006.
- Quad bikes - rent them at Big Red sand dune on the way to Hatta,
or on the Emirates Road near Umm Al Quwain. Mad. Dangerous too - sand
might feel soft to walk on but bones still break when you fall off.
- Wadi Bashing - not quite the same as Dune Bashing or Desert Driving.
Bounce over rocks instead of sand.
Board and Card Games
Join a board game club if you have a particular favorite
- Chess - Al Ain Chess Club, Abu Dhabi Chess & Culture Club (www.abudhabichess.com)
- Scrabble - UAE Scrabble Club (USC), run by Akshay Bhandarkar, website
maybe www.makbulmanji.com but no contact details. Meets monthly
at the The Grind Café (Grind Restaurant), Manazel Building, Mankhool Road, Bur Dubai (tel +971-4-3989304).
Places to visit in Dubai (besides the beach and the shopping
- Art Galleries and Exhibitions,
Displays and Auctions
- Bastakia / Bastakiya - see historical Dubai (yes really!) or art
- Dubai Marina - on a Friday morning there's an Arts and Crafts fair.
Pleasant place for a stroll and a coffee.
Museum - excellent, well worth a visit. Much bigger than it
looks from the outside.
- Dubai Police
Museum (caught fire in 2006 but reopened March 2008).
Open 0800-1400 weekdays - apply online at Dubai Police website before
- Dubai Zoo - Jumeirah Beach Road. Often crticised for too many animals
in small cages and not well looked after. A new zoo has been "planned" for
several years. One day...
- Fish Souk
- Gold Souk - for the old style one, go to Deira. For a less hectic
and more relaxed environment, go to the Gold & Diamond Park in
Al Barsha on the Sheikh Zayed Road, near Mall of the Emirates.
- Health Spas
- Historical Landmarks - yes, there are actually a few, see the Historic
Buildings in Dubai page.
- Jumeirah Mosque guided tours (location is next to "The One" furniture shop on
Jumeirah Beach Road) - non-Muslims can visit for guided tours of the
and interior. Dress code is long
shoulders covered. Women must wear scarves but they provide them if you don't have one.
- Parks (about 5 dhs entry fee per person) - Al Mamzar (pleasant beach
park near Sharjah), Mushriff, Creekside (gondolas), Jumeirah Beach
- Spice Souk
- Wild Wadi(next to the Burj Al Arab). Take a trip on the Jumeirah Sceirah / Screamer / Scarer
or whatever they call it, your body will produce a year's supply of
adrenalin in two seconds. Don't wear a thong unless you want to give your gynaecologist a surprise.
Places to visit in other emirates
- Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain - open 1600-2200 in Summer, Adults 15 dhs, children 5 dhs (free if under 6 years).
- Dreamland Water Park - Umm Al Quwain. Like Wild Wadi, this place
also has water. Drive towards RAK on the Emirates road until you see
the Dreamland sign, 30 mins after Sharjah.
- East Coast / Fujairah / Sandy Beach / Snoopy Island - good diving
- Eye of the Emirates - large wheel with 42 gondolas and a good view
of Sharjah but scratched windows make it a bit useless for photographs. In the Qanat Al Qasbah cultural and entertainment center
in Sharjah. Open April 2005.
- Jebel Hafeet / Jebel Hafit - a big hill just out of Al Ain. Spectacular
views in winter, hazy in summer but not as hot as sea level - you can
sit outside for lunch at the hotel on top.
- Musandam Peninsula (Peninsular) - fjords/fiords, dolphins, and good
camping. Sign posts are poor. Brief directions (get a map): Emirates
road to Ras Al Khaimah (1 hour), follow signs to Hilton hotel (30 mins)
until you see signs
them to Shams (30 mins), drive through Shams and you'll get to the
Omani border (15 mins). There's only one road along the Musandam coast
to the town
of Khasab (1 hour from border).
- Liwa Sands - Abu Dhabi. A "must see" part
of the UAE. Giant sand dunes. Three hours drive from Dubai. There's a tarmac road to the largest sand dune in the UAE so you don't need a 4wd to visit the dunes.
- Qanat Al Qasbah
- Wadi Bih, Ras Al Khaima - bring passports and don't assume deserted
looking villages are deserted. There's a border post on the RAK side of the hill/pass which only allows UAE and Omani nationals through (usually) so to get the best views, visit via Fujairah - Dibba - East Coast.
Clubs, Groups and Societies
- Dubai Drums - Julie-Ann Odell, founder, tel +971-50-6592874, office
97, building 8, Dubai Media City, PO Box 502068, Dubai, UAE, email
Team building, events and presentations, but not a bunch of Led Zeppelin
fans who think the drum solo in Moby Dick should have been longer.
- Dubai Singers - choral music, operettas, contemporary music etc (but not a lot of ACDC), rehearsals at JESS Jumeirah 8-10pm on Mondays. Email email@example.com, website www.dubaisingers.info (www.dubaisingers.com is spam).
- Emirates Astronomical Society (Emirates Astronomy Society) - www.falak.ae (Arabic),
tel +971-2-6663318, fax +971-2-6663319, email firstname.lastname@example.org or
- Emirates Philatelic Association (Emirates Philatelic Society), www.epa.ae,
tel +971-4-3538383, PO Box 33333, Dubai. UAE
- Sports Clubs
Spiritual Activities and Places of Worship
The UAE is a Muslim or Islamic country but it is accepted that
people of other religions live here and wish to practice their faith.
The goverment/rulers of Dubai have donated land for churches and other
places of worship to be built on. Proselytising is not tolerated, atheism
is frowned upon, apostasy is apparently punishable by death (although it's unknown
for this to have been actually carried out), and if you're Jewish it's
better not to admit to that.
- Mosques are prevalant of course. In theory you should never be more
than a short walk away from one within a city.
- Churches - Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and other Christian denominations. The Dubai marriage page has some contact details.
- Greek Orthodox
- Hindu temples
- Sikh temple or Gurdawa - Al Awir/Al Aweer, Al Quoz
Sports and Fitness Centers
- Al Nasr Leisureland, tel +971-4-3371234, www.alnasrll.ae, near Lamcy
Plaza and Wafi Center in Bur Dubai. Ice skating, bowling, tennis, squash,
boxing, swimming pool, fitness center and gym, summer camps for children.
- Insportz Indoor Sports Club tel +971-4-3475833 / 3470838, www.insportzclub.com.
Indoor cricket, football, basketball, hockey, table tennis, and more.
Corporate events, coaching, camps, tournaments.
Sports and Sports Clubs
The UAE government runs sports clubs ranging from chess to football
but membership is restricted to UAE nationals only. Some embassies
have their own cultural clubs offering sports with membership open to
nationals of that country. Otherwise, private sports clubs are an option,
but cost money. A residence visa is not usually needed to join a private
sports club but check anyway.
- Archery - at Hatta Fort Hotel, also Dubai Archers Club at Dubai Country
Club tel +971-4-3442591.
- Badminton - Dubai Country Club tel +971-4-3331155
- Basketball - at Insportz
- Climbing - Pharoah's Club at the Wafi Center
have a climbing wall, tel +971-4-3240000. Ras Al Khaimah has real mountains.
- Cricket - Darjeeling Cricket Club near Dubai Country Club, Insportz
(indoor cricket), Emirates Cricket Board in Sharjah.
- Diving - www.alboomdiving.com
- Dragon Boating - www.dubaiflyingdragons.com.
- Fencing - www.dubaifencingclub.com. Also perhaps Metropolitan Hotel
tel +971-4-3430000, or Quay Health Club in Mina A' Salam tel +971-4-3668888.
- Football - Dubai Expats League (Men) tel Gary Foote +971-50-4581087
- Football - Dubai Women's Football Association meet at Jebel Ali International
Centre of Excellence (also called Jebel Ali School
of Excellence or Jebel Ali Center of Excellence), tel +971-4-8830828.
Also possibly Dubai Women's Football League tel +971-50-7845758.
- Gaellic Football
- Golf - more and more golf courses are being built, including luxurious villas within walking distance, but there are cheaper possibilities too. Try a 9-hole pitch and putt for a cheap short game - and it's not so difficult for the novice.
- Hash House Harriers
- Ice Hockey - played at Al Nasr Leisureland. Mighty Camels (adults
- www.dubaimightycamels.com) and Sandstorms (youths - www.dubaisandstorms.com)
are Dubai based teams.
- Ice Skating - the Hyatt Galleria on Deira side (go through Shindagha
Tunnel) has a small ice rink, tel +971-4-2096550. Al Nasr Leisure Land (cheap)
near the American Hospital (handy!), tel +971-4-3371234. Skate hire included at both locations.
- Indian Pakistani wrestling - behind Deira fish market near the Hyatt, Friday afternoons (about 5pm), informal, no admission.
- Jogging - Hash House Harriers
- Kitesurfing - Dubai Kite Beach near University of Wollongong but
not on Fridays. Banned in most other locations near Dubai city. Jebel
Ali Beach no access as of July 2007 due to construction. Kiters need
a Dubai kitesurfing license, see www.dubaikiteclub.com for information.
Also www.fatimasport.com, www.kitepeople.net for kitesurfing equipment
- Martial Arts - Judo, Karate, Origami, etc
- Mountain Biking
- Mountain Climbing - Ras Al Khaimah
- Netball - Dubai Netball League, web www.dxbnetball.com
- Rugby. Dubai Dragons, eteamz.active.com/dubai_dragons_rugby/.
Dubai Exiles tel +971-4-3331198, www.dubaiexiles.com (under construction). Dubai Hurricanes,
tel +971-4-3331155, www.dubaihurricanes.com.
- Sandboarding - like snowboarding but warmer. And slower. Hard work
running back up the sand dune.
- Shooting - see also the list of UAE shooting clubs
- Hatta Fort Hotel - tel +971-4-8523211
- Jebel Ali Shooting Club - indoor and outdoor shooting ranges, tel +971-4-8836555
- Ras Al Khaimah - where they'll unleash you with an AK47
- Umm Al Quwain Shooting Club (forum) - closed from Sunday 17 June 2007
- Skiing, Snow - in Ski Dubai since November 2005. Not as silly as
it sounds, great for learners. At Mall
of the Emirates.
- Skiing, Water
- Skydiving - Umm Al Quwain
- Snowboarding - at Ski Dubai
- Squash - not as unbearable as tennis in the summer time. Some apartment
buildings have their own squash court. Also Al Nasr Leisureland tel +971-4-3371234.
- Squash Club - UAE Squash Rackets Association.
- Soccer - see Football
- Surfing - yes, really. There's even a website www.surfersofdubai.com.
- Swimming - many apartments have pools inside or on the roof but they're rarely big enough to do serious laps. For that you'll need to join a sports club, or some beach clubs have good pools for lap swimming.
- Table Tennis - try Al Nasr Leisureland near American Hospital, Dubai Bowling Center near Century Mall Al Mamzar, Dubai India Club, Al Ahli Club, International Alliance of Filipino Table Tennis Association Dubai (IAFTTAD), UAE Table Tennis Association tel +971-4-2669362
- Tennis - tennis courts at many private leisure and sports clubs, hotels, beach clubs. For free or cheap, try Al Nasr Leisureland, Safa Park, Zabeel Park (?), other public parks in Dubai, Al Barsha 2 Park 3 (Street 43) near the Uzbekistan Consulate (?).
- Water Park - see Wild Wadi or Dreamland
- Water Skiing
- Wrestling - see Indian-Pakistani wrestling
Information moved to Dubai volunteer work page.