10 Great Things An Expat Must Do in the UAE
There are so many extraordinary things to do in the playground of the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates. These seven emirates cover a vast range of geographic and cultural features, with the most modern of construction next to the most ancient archaeological sites. In no special order, here are ten of the top things to do in the UAE.
Shop at Dubai’s Gold Souk
The souk is a traditional market located in Dubai’s Deira- the commercial business district. It has more than 300 dealers in jewellery, particularly gold. The winding narrow lanes of the souk offer a great opportunity to lose oneself in the traditions and charm of one of Dubai’s most unique marketplaces.
Attend a Camel Race
Horse racing is commonplace for most expatriates; but the UAE adds a twist with this form of racing. After recently banning the use of young children as camel jockeys, the United Arab Emirates now employs older jockeys and in some rarer places, robots. In Abu Dhabi, the Al Wathba racing grounds uses robot jockeys. These robots are attired in little uniforms and their whipping motion is remote controlled by the camel owners who travel alongside the camel. This is certainly a sight that can’t be experienced in Europe or North America.
The city of Sharjah is not only recognized as the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates; in 1998 Sharjah was named by UNESCO as the “Cultural Capital of the Arab World”.
The emir of Sharjah has headed up a long term commitment to developing the cultural institutions here, including the promotion of museums, mosques, and other cultural destinations. Sharjah is also a fantastic place to partake in Emirati cuisine.
Burj Khalifa is one of the UAE’s most famous buildings and the soaring sky-high landmark of Dubai. Not only is it the world’s tallest building, but it also lays the claim to the titles of tallest freestanding structure in the world, highest observation deck in the world and elevator with the longest travel distance in the world. A trip up to the observation deck with its panoramic views overlooking Dubai is a sightseeing highlight to not miss!
The Bastakia quarter of Dubai is one of the most engaging neighbourhoods in the country, and one of the last remaining fragments of Old Dubai. This small heritage area really evokes the simpler, gentler past of the city before skyscrapers took over the skyline. Narrow lanes are lined with beautifully preserved buildings in typical Arabian architecture styles, many with wind-tower features.
There are also various museums, where you can enter the houses and see typical Arabian interiors within the quarter, along with mosques and a small surviving segment of the original Dubai city wall.
For those with an adventurous streak, make a beeline for the empty stretch of desert hugging the coastline outside the metropolises. There is a myriad of things to do in the desert; these range from four-wheel-drive trips and dune-buggy journeys, to sand boarding, hiking and camel treks.
Most people plan a desert trip from Dubai, but Abu Dhabi and Fujairah are also excellent bases for desert sightseeing. For those less inclined to adventure, Bedouin-style dinners are another alternative if you want to experience the beauty of the desert.
Dubai Creek Dhow ride
While the Burj Khalifa may give you that famous skyline view from up high, some of the most iconic Dubai views can still be taken from the water. Dubai Creek slices through the city and the best way to experience Dubai is from one of the beautiful dhows -traditional Arab boats- that ply the creek similar to Venice’s gondolas. Sunset cruises are particularly beautiful as you watch the lights of the high-rises begin to twinkle in the dusk.
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
This is one of the largest tanks in the world, the Dubai Aquarium is located inside the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Aquarium is home to more than 33,000 living animals, including 400 sharks and rays and a close encounter via its acrylic walk through tunnel.
The Underwater Zoo brings you face-to-face with piranha, giant catfish, otters and a penguin colony while walking through the Rainforest, Rocky Shore and Living environments. This is a fantastic destination, especially for those with children.
Choreographed to music, the Dubai Fountain shoots water as high as 500 feet. Consider this: that’s as high as a fifty story building. Designed by the same creators of the Fountains of Bellagio in Vegas, Dubai Fountain Performances occur daily on the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake.
On Valentine’s Day 2013, the Dubai Miracle Garden, opened in Dubailand. The 72,000-square meter flower garden is currently recognized as the world’s largest flower garden. Be sure to see the gardens at the appropriate time however; during Dubai’s summer months from late May to September -when the climate can get extremely hot with an average high of about 40 °C (104 °F)- the garden stays closed.
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