Things to see and do in Dubai: Visiting Dubai for the first time
There are so many things to see and do in Dubai now, that for visitors only coming to the city for a one week holiday, it can be hard to try to pack it all in without missing anything.
After ten years of living in the UAE, one of my best friends came to visit me last week for the first time and I realised just how true this is – the city has grown over the last decade and playing tour guide to visiting friends and family is now quite a demanding job! After much discussion with my friend however, we arrived at a loose itinerary that would enable her to see and do everything she wanted to in the short space of time we had (but without seeming like we were rushing around either – this was supposed to be a holiday after all, and some time spent sun worshipping was a prerequisite!)
I had previously listed my top six things to do with visitors to the UAE, but I thought I would share the rough itinerary of this recent trip for those expats in Dubai who are looking to show their first-time guests the best of what the city has to offer in only a week (It might also be worth pointing out that I live in Dubai Marina therefore a lot of activity is focussed in this area!)
Day 1: The Beach, JBR A walk over to JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residences) for breakfast/lunch/coffee in one of the cafes on the new The Beach development (optional sunbathing!) This allows guests a nice slow start (I don’t know any of my guests who have made it out much before midday on their first day!) They can people watch, get oriented and acclimatise to the heat, before heading home around 3pm.
Evening 1: Old Dubai Leave around 4pm to go to Bur Dubai, park along the Creek, optional visit to Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort to start, then a wander through Al Fahidi Historical District (previously known as Bastakiya) taking pictures of the traditional architecture. Indulge your artistic streak whilst enjoying a delicious and healthy dinner at XVA Gallery while you’re there, then stroll along Dubai Creek and through the textile souk (market), the best place to buy nice souvenirs and have a bit of a chuckle with the vendors. Catch an abra (traditional water taxi) from the second station (the further of the two) over to the Spice Souk. Check out the Spice Souk and Gold Souk then wander back, stopping at Bayt Al Wakeel restaurant for some Moroccan mint tea and baklava (Arabic pastries with nuts and honey) over the water before you head home. This offers your guests a bit more of the traditional view of Dubai and lets them get all of their souvenirs upfront!
Day 2: The Desert Let your visitors soak up the sun in the lap of luxury that Dubai is known for, and at the same time give them a taste of the desert, by spending the day at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa. Located 45 minutes drives from Dubai, the hotel allows visitors to pay for day rates and use all of the facilities. For those of us who have to work, I would recommend arriving at the hotel around 3.30/4pm, that way you can can get some work done and you only pay for the sundowner rate rather than the full day – depending on the time of year, you can still get 1-2 hours to make the most of the stunning infinity pools and jacuzzis in the sunshine and spend some quality time at the swim-up pool bar before the sunset activities start…