DUBAI UNEARTHED

Written by root. Posted in FEATURES

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Published on July 01, 2016 with No Comments

Experience the city through the eyes of its residents.

Words EMMA RAMSAY
Images DUBAI TOURISM

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Dubai is one of the most exciting cities in the world. But who better to highlight the city’s hidden gems than the locals? Follow the itinerary below to experience a different side of Dubai that will engage you in activities, hidden gems and lesser known highlights not covered by any travel guide.

 

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DAY 1

Start the day with a light, healthy breakfast at The Archive, beautifully situated within the leafy surrounds of Safa Park. Then make your way to one of Dubai’s manmade wonders, Palm Jumeirah, from where your helicopter sightseeing tour with Alpha Tours lifts off. It’s the perfect way to get your bearings, take in all the different Dubai icons and truly appreciate the scale of the city’s engineering and architectural marvels.

Back on terra firma, you’ll no doubt have built up an appetite, so head over to the popular Bikers Café on Jumeirah Beach Road. This casual American-style diner serves classic Emirati dishes as well as delicious signature burgers – and don’t worry, non-bikers are more than welcome. Refuelled, you’ll be ready for the afternoon’s adrenaline-packed activity as you try the latest sport to have taken the city by storm, namely flyboarding. SeaRide Dubai, located at Jumeirah Fishing Harbour, will show you how it’s done before you strap yourself in and let the jets of water propel you up to ten metres into the air.

After all the excitement, you’ll enjoy the peace and quiet afforded by a sunset workout session on the Madinat Jumeirah beach overlooking Burj Al Arab hotel. After which it’s time for dinner at nearby Al Marhabani Restaurant, where you can tuck into the traditional Yemeni dish of mandi, made from rice, tender lamb and a mixture of spices, all cooked in a clay oven.

 

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DAY 2

Enjoy an ‘eggciting’ breakfast at popular Karama haunt Raju Omlet, a casual, laidback eatery that does delicious things with the humble egg. Spend the morning exploring the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, home to your first stop, Dubai Museum, whose exhibits and dioramas shed light on life in the city before the skyscrapers went up. To help you get acquainted with the area, you can sign up for the National Geographic Walking Tour or opt for a two-wheeled journey through Old Dubai courtesy of Fishtail Rides, who will provide you with an eco-friendly single-speed bicycle. Don’t miss the opportunity to drop by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where your local hosts will answer all your questions about UAE culture, customs and religion.

For lunch, drop by Rajdhani Restaurant in nearby Bur Dubai, specialising in authentic Indian thali meals, or enjoy tasty vegetarian fare while relaxing in the tree-filled courtyard of XVA Art Hotel. Afterwards, head across the Creek to Deira in a wooden abra (the short journey will cost you a bargain AED1), and make your way to the Spice Souk and Gold Souk, where you can perfect your haggling skills.

Having hopefully picked up a bargain or two, your second day in Dubai draws to a sumptuous close at Khan Murjan in the heart of Wafi Mall’s underground souk. The restaurant is designed to resemble a Damascene courtyard and serves the finest cuisine from across Arabia.

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DAY 3

Today you’ll get a taste of desert life as you explore the sea of sand on the city’s doorstep. Rising before dawn, you’ll be picked up in a 4×4 and driven out into the dunes for your sunrise hot air balloon ride. Don’t forget your camera as you watch the colours slowly fill the golden landscape – it’s an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Next, make your way to Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, a luxurious oasis in the desert. Grab a bite to eat and then get ready to discover the ancient practice of falconry, an important, enduring tradition that uses trained falcons to hunt prey. Afterwards, on your way back into town, stop off at Al Sahra Desert Resort Equestrian Centre to enjoy a leisurely camel ride over the dunes – there’s even the opportunity to sample camel milk.

In the afternoon, drop by funky eatery Zaroob on Sheikh Zayed Road. This fun, colourful restaurant is inspired by the traditional street food vendors of the Levant region and serves award-winning cuisine. Staying in the Downtown region – and in stark contrast to the first half of the day – head to The Dubai Mall and swap your clothes for a wetsuit as you plunge into the mammoth tank at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, getting up close and personal with a huge variety of sea life. Afterwards, don’t forget to take in the impressive Dubai Fountain.

Dinner is served at everyone’s favourite Bu Qtair, offering yet more Dubai contrasts. This simple, cheap and cheerful eatery is essentially a beach shack, but it overlooks the ‘seven-star’ Burj Al Arab and serves fresh fish and seafood that’s so good diners are more than happy to stand in line and wait their turn.

 

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DAY 4

Enjoy an early morning breakfast at Mamatani, a cosy Jumeirah café that promises ‘a taste of home’. It’s also a great place to try traditional Emirati ‘Khameer’ bread. Next, it’s off to Hatta, an inland exclave of Dubai emirate on the border with Oman. About an hour’s drive away, it’s the perfect spot for some mountain trekking, broken up with regular dips in the freshwater rock pools. On your way back to Dubai, stop off for lunch at The Farm on the outskirts of the city. It’s a surprisingly lush, green oasis
with a tranquil atmosphere and a healthy, wholesome menu. The afternoon then offers an opportunity to get better acquainted with Dubai’s heritage and history, visiting Heritage House, the Pearl Museum and Juma Al-Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage, all located in Deira.

Round off the day by booking yourself onto a dinner cruise along the Creek. Several options are available, including a sumptuous buffet aboard a traditional wooden dhow or a more intimate affair on board the modern Bateaux Dubai.

 

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DAY 5

Your final day in Dubai begins with a bite to eat at buzzing Tom & Serg. This super-trendy café is located in Dubai’s warehouse district of Al Quoz and serves tasty breakfast fare and some of the best coffee in the city. The location is ideal for moving on to explore Dubai’s art galleries, spread all over Al Quoz with a particular concentration in Alserkal Avenue, a cul de sac of around 20 creative spaces showcasing works by local artists and from across the region and beyond.

If all that art has made you hungry, head over to café-deli Omnia Gourmet in Jumeirah on the other side of Sheikh Zayed Road. Opened by celebrity chef Silvena Rowe, you can expect mouth-watering dishes with a particular focus on healthy eating and local ingredients. Afterwards, golf fans shouldn’t miss the chance to practise their swing on one of Dubai’s championship courses, such as Emirates Golf Club. Or, if golf’s not your thing, you could always head over to Atlantis The Palm to swim with its resident dolphins.

The perfect ending to the perfect day takes the form of a Bedouin-style barbecue in the desert, complete with delicious grills, regional delicacies, a campfire and, of course, a canopy of stars.

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Dubai daily.

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