Everything You Need to Know About the City of Dubai
Your Ultimate Travel and Reference Guide
Famously celebrated for its opulence and grandeur, Dubai has become the most popular holiday destination in the world among a wide scope of travellers.
While many of us are no strangers to Dubai’s reputation for luxury and 7-star finesse, this Emirati city has plenty more to offer in terms of culture, architectural history, and even mountainous landscapes.
In this jam-packed travel guide, exclusive to Luke Stays, we’ve covered everything you need to know about visiting and staying in Dubai – from where to go, what to eat, and how to respect the religious and cultural practices of the Arabs.
As Dubai remains the #1 tourist destination, there’s a plethora of information about it on the internet (which can sometimes be a little overwhelming). So, put your feet up and scroll no further – because you’ll be able to bookmark all the ins-and-outs of glorious Dubai, right here with us.
Remember Luke Stays HQ is actually based in Dubai and we know this city like the back of our hands. If after reading this guide, you cannot resist the urge to book your next holiday to Dubai (and we wouldn’t blame you) contact us, or view our accommodation across Dubai here – and we’ll offer you the most competitive rates.
Top Topics to Know about the City of Dubai:
Food & Hospitality
Things to Do: Luxury & Relaxation
Things to Do: Adventure
Where to Stay: Areas & Serviced Accommodation
When to Visit
The History of Dubai
The Pre-Oil Era
Dubai’s phenomenal growth has occurred over the span of just 300 years. The city’s story begins with its rulers in 1833, The Al Maktoum family.
The family led 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe (one of the most highly regarded tribes in Southern Arabia) to what is now Dubai Creek, where they set up home. The creek was a natural harbour, and during the 19th century, it served as Dubai’s commercial engine, establishing itself as a centre for fishing, pearling, and maritime trade.
The old dhows (traditional wooden boats) that were used during this time still sail the routes between India, Dubai, and beyond. In fact, the city now attracts an increasing number of tourists for its Dhow Cruises – which is the best way to witness the antique charm of Dubai up close.
By the 20th century, Dubai had established itself as a successful port. The Souk (on the Deira side of the creek) was the most expansive on the coast, with an impressive 350 shops – and steadily growing. This marked the emergence of crowds of visitors and businessmen, and by the 1930s, the city’s population was nearly 20,000.
In the 1950s, the famous creek began to slit, so the ruler at the time Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum decided to have the waterway dredged. This resulted in a vast increase in cargo traffic; so even though many believed the Sheikh was being overly ambitious, the project certainly paid off.
The Post-Oil Era
By 1966, Dubai discovered what is commonly referred to as its own ‘Black Gold’, and this post-oil era revolutionised the landscape of the Emiratis.
The successful commercialisation of the oil fields brought enormous wealth and regional leadership to Dubai. Abu Dhabi became the first beneficiary of the vast treasures gained from the oil trade and used it to fund a massive construction program. This included building houses, schools, hospitals, and roads under the leadership of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
The famous Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai – which is now home to the city’s highest skyscrapers (including the Emirati Towers) is actually named after this ruler and has become somewhat iconic.
Between 1966 and 1972, Dubai built on its wealth and tourist market; and in 1971, Dubai became part of the United Arab Emirates. A year later, the final Emirati Ras Al Khaimah joined the fledgling country.
Even though the visionary Sheikh Rashid died in 2006, the city continued to flourish under the leadership of his son Sheikh Mohammed. And despite the setbacks of the recession in 2008, this glistening part of the UAE hasn’t once turned back in terms of its development and popularity; and is as busy as ever.
It’s incredible to think that what once started as a small pearl fishing village is now at the helm of global economics, tourism, and business. Rest assured, despite the city’s rapid modernisation, you’ll still catch those stunning historical glimpses of Dubai when you visit. Its history will never be erased; that’s probably one of the reasons we adore it most.
Interesting facts about the city of Dubai
- “Sheikh” is the term given to the chief of a tribe or a royal family member in Arabian countries. In some countries, it is also given to those with great knowledge of Islamic religious affairs as a surname (or occasionally to Sufi Scholars). The term “bin” simply translates as “son of”.
- The oldest reference to Dubai is by the Venetian Gasparo Balbi in 1580.
- Before the discovery of oil, the pearl trade was Dubai’s primary source of wealth.
- In 2001, Dubai became the home of the world’s largest man-made island, Palm Jumeirah, which can be seen from space.
Travellers from the West can experience a bit of a “culture shock” when visiting city of Dubai for the first time. This Arabian city has become iconic for its colourful culture – which will make you feel like you’ve been swept into a completely different (albeit, beautiful) world.
From the fruity smells of shisha (in the most charming pipes) to the aromas coming from the Souk, then there’s the poetic language, the art, the food, and the hospitality. It’s certainly helpful to do a little research beforehand, so you can make the most of what the city has to offer.
The United Arab Emirates is a democratic country and adheres to Islamic and Sharia Law. While the religion is Islam, Dubai is by far, the most modern city in the UAE, due to the influence of many different cultures residing there. In fact, many are pleasantly surprised to see just how cosmopolitan Dubai is!
While the Islamic religion certainly isn’t enforced on visitors and residents in any way, Dubai expects everybody to be respectful of Sharia Law. This does mean doing things a little differently – however, these practices might be what makes Dubai one of the safest cities to live in, in the world.
Clothing and General Attire in Dubai
Modesty is revered in Dubai. The local women often wear the traditional hijab or abaya (a long loose dress with a headscarf, that can come in a variety of beautiful patterns and styles), and the local men are usually seen in plain white dishdasha – which is a single-piece, ankle-length garment.
As a tourist, you’re welcome to wear anything you like as long as it’s not too revealing (especially for women). So, shorts, mini skirts, and crop tops are frowned upon – and in some places, even illegal.
In public places, it’s generally good practice to keep your shoulders and knees covered. Even most shopping malls require you to wear trousers (not shorts). However, you’ll find that the hotels and beach resorts are a lot more relaxed, where swimwear is allowed; but topless sunbathing is of course, absolutely not.
Mosques are a religious place of worship for the many Muslims in Dubai, so it’s extremely important to adhere to the right dress code when you’re visiting one. This means trousers or skirts that cover the ankles, long sleeves, and a loose headscarf for women. Shoes are not prohibited in any mosque (despite the city you’re in), so, be mindful of taking these off before you enter the premises.
If you’re ever in doubt about how to dress in Dubai, your safest bet is to just wear something modest so that you’re always respecting the city’s cultural and religious practices. The souks and shopping malls sell the most stunning abayas and dishdasha if you really want to blend in as a local and channel your inner Arabian God/ Goddess.
More on Mosques and Islamic Practises in Dubai
Dubai is dotted with numerous mosques, large and small, showcasing the most beautiful Islamic artwork and calligraphy.
These buildings are sacred places of worship for Muslims and are busy during prayer times (note, Muslims pray five times a day). The call of prayer, called the “adhan” is broadcasted across the city at the relevant times, which might take some getting used to when you first visit the city. Do note, that the first Islamic prayer of the day is at sunrise so that first-morning call might even wake you up. This is something to bear in mind when you’re booking accommodation in Dubai.
Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter a mosque during prayer time, so it’s best to avoid them altogether on Fridays – which is the holy day of the week for Muslims. If you’re Catholic and you’d like to go to church while in Dubai, there are two in the city: St Mary’s and the Holy Trinity.
As per the Islamic Sharia Law, public display of affection is strictly prohibited in the city of Dubai – especially among unmarried couples. The city also disallows homosexuality and treats it as a punishable offence – please note, this absolutely does not reflect our views of the LGBTQ community at Luke Stays, and we remain an inclusive company.
Considering the Islamic laws of Dubai, many travellers question whether they’re allowed to consume alcohol while on holiday. Rest assured, drinking alcohol as a visitor or tourist is perfectly legal in the city; and Dubai is actually home to a number of lively bars and nightclubs. However, as ever, people are expected to be mindful and respectful.
The legal drinking age in Dubai is 21; but to buy a bottle of alcohol from a local supermarket, you would need a specific alcohol licence. This is generally not a problem if you’re visiting as a tourist, as the law doesn’t limit the amount of alcohol you can buy at a bar or restaurant (so long as you’re not getting plastered).
There are specific places in the city of Dubai where you’re allowed to consume alcohol – as drinking in public areas that are unlicensed (such as the streets or at the mall) is strictly prohibited. Needless to say, public intoxication is also a huge no-no, so don’t overdo those nights out.
Ramadhan in Dubai
Ramadhan is the Islamic holy month, whereby Muslims abstain from food and drink (including water) from sunrise to sunset. Naturally, this is a huge part of the culture of Dubai, and you’ll find all eateries and bars will be closed in the daytime, during this period. Ramadhan falls at different times of the year every year – as per the Islamic calendar, which is lunar.
So, it’s strongly advised that you double-check when the 30-day Ramadhan period takes place in Dubai before booking your holiday, as this will drastically affect your experience. (Even eating and drinking in public during Ramadhan is prohibited).
Cultural Differences for Women In Dubai
Women are enormously respected in the city of Dubai, as in Islam.
Despite the UAE’s reputation when it comes to women, Dubai is very liberal when it comes to them. They are allowed to drive, work, and socialise in public places in the absence of men – as you would find in any other Western city.
When meeting new people, it’s advised for women to wait for a man to offer his hand before shaking it – as some pious Muslim men prefer not to make physical contact with women, as a mark of respect. Women are generally served and helped first in public places in Dubai (such as at supermarkets and at the bank); and the metro also has a separate carriage for women, where men are not allowed.
Note, you’re not obliged to wear a headscarf in public places as a woman in Dubai (unless you are in a mosque); but you are expected to dress modestly and not bring attention to yourself, through your mannerisms and attire.
Language of Dubai
The official language of Dubai is Arabic – a member of the Semitic family of languages, and the language in which all the original Islamic scriptures are written.
Arabic is a beautiful, poetic language which is read from right-to-left and sounds very guttural and consonant-heavy. Rest assured, English is widely spoken in Dubai as well; and as more and more English-speaking expats are settling into the city, you’ll find nearly every place has clear English signs.
Expenses & Currency in Dubai
The dirham is the official currency of the United Arab Emirates (AED). It is pegged to the US dollar and is among the world’s most stable currencies.
While staying in Dubai, it’s certainly useful to exchange dirhams for yourself (especially if you plan on visiting the local Souk). You can also get by with your credit and visa cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. Do double-check what the fees are against this with your bank, as these can easily rack up and result in costing you a lot of money.
Contrary to popular belief, visiting Dubai isn’t as eye-wateringly expensive when you compare it to other major cities such as London and New York. Visiting the popular tourist sights is generally reasonable; for example entry into the Burj Khalifa starts at around 109 AED (around £30); and eating out and accommodation can easily be kept under tabs, too.
Of course, if you plan on experiencing the 5-star luxury that Dubai has built its reputation on and dining at the most iconic venues in the UAE, then you’ll likely burn a giant hole in your pocket. But for the average traveller, visiting and enjoying Dubai shouldn’t cost you a fortune. In fact, we have some incredible value-for-money serviced accommodation options in Dubai at Luke Stays– so, do check this out when you begin planning your visit.
Food & Hospitality in the city of Dubai
Emirati hospitality is among the finest in the world. The Arabian custom of welcoming travellers with warmth and generosity (where no ask is too much) is rooted in everything the hospitality professionals of Dubai do; they serve as an example for us all.
Whether you’re visiting an ultra-luxury restaurant or your nearby Starbucks, the service in Dubai simply has a finesse about it. Arabs are known to be well-groomed, well-mannered, and extremely professional, so be prepared to enjoy a positive experience wherever you go.
Prepare for a culinary adventure when you visit Dubai, as the food choices here are vast and exciting.
Popular Dubai cuisine is mainly made up of Iranian, Lebanese, and Arabic food – but as the city becomes more cosmopolitan than ever, you’ll surely find fancy European, Indian, African, and Caribbean-themed spots dotted across the streets and indoor shopping malls, too.
Whether you’re a vegetarian or have a carnivorous appetite like the local Muslims of the city, these iconic Dubai dishes offer something for everyone, and no trip to the desert city is complete without them. We’ve borrowed this brilliant list from our friends at the traveltriangle.
- Manousheh – Pizza of Dubai
- Iranian Sangak – One Of The Most Popular Dishes
- Chelo Kebab – A Heavenly Taste
- Al Harees – Taste The Tradition
- Al Machboos – Surprisingly Delicious
- Mandi – A Rendezvous With Tradition
- Oozie – Ramadan Special
- Tabbouleh – For Those Who Are Health Conscious
- Kousa Mahshi – Taste The Classic Spices
- Shirin Polo – For An Authentic Dining Experience
- Baba Ganoush – An Epic Starter
- Fatteh – All Things Good In One
- Kellaj – A Cheesy Delight
- Falafel – Prepared With Love
- Fattoush – Healthy And Yummy
- Madrouba – Healthy Food
- Shish Tawook – Have It Like The Locals
- Lahem Bl Ajin – The Arab Pizza
- Taboon Bread – Not Just A Bread
- Shawarma – The Popular Street Food Item
- Samboosa – The Dish With A Twist
- Oman Chips Roll – Childhood Favorite
- Mahalabiya – Can’t Afford To Miss
- Luqaimat – You Can’t Have Just One
- Knafeh – Cheese Pastry Redefined
- Khanfaroosh – For Teatime
Restaurants in the city of Dubai: Traditional Arabic / Middle-Eastern
If you have a hankering for the delicate spices from Lebanon or the Levant, then these spots are a must-visit in Dubai; and they’re excellent value for money too.
Cobblestone walls, high regal chairs, and archways rival the Roman colosseum. This stunning restaurant even has private dining rooms, a shisha area, an Arabian sweet counter, and a butchery (and even a Kids’ Corner, making it the perfect dining spot for families!).
At Al Meshwar, you’ll enjoy all your Lebanese favourites including cold hummus, hot falafel plates, and spicy potatoes. The Mixed Grill and desserts that include the iconic baklava are second-to-none, and you’ll indeed be able to enjoy your money’s worth.
Visit Al Meshwar website here.
The botanical setting of this cafe is enough to capture any diner’s heart; but we do recommend you try the food and drinks, too!
Here you’ll find traditional hot and cold Arabic mezze, and a very interesting take on tacos (falafel tacos, anyone?) with a trendy shisha lounge to match.
Visit Cafe Beirut website here.
Bayt al Wakeel
Originally a shipping office back in 1354, this restaurant is now the perfect spot for delicious mezze-style foods. You’re sure to enjoy great value for money here as Bayt al Wakeel is known for its larger portions which guests leisurely tuck into while admiring their nearby views. An excellent choice if you’re touring Old Dubai, and just a stone’s throw away from the textile souks and dhows.
Visit Bayt Al Wakeel website here.
Restaurants in Dubai: Pan Asian
For the spicy and fragrant flavours of Asia, whether it be Chinese, Tai, or South Indian, Dubai has a plethora of upscale and casual restaurants that promise to tickle those taste buds.
For those who are willing to pay a little more for absolute artistic luxury. Billionaire Dubai is renowned as the “Master of Extravaganza” as it offers world-class hospitality, nocturnal entertainment (live cabaret, anyone?) and the most exquisite food. The restaurant has an interesting spin on its cuisine by offering both Italian and Japanese, so you’ll get that Asian fix here.
Visit Billionaire Dubai website here.
Charm Thai lounge and kitchen spoils guests with modern Thai delicacies in the heart of Dubai Marina. This restaurant is known for its take on marrying contemporary cuisine with traditions, to create something truly unique. This is a great stylish venue for all lovers of Thai – without breaking the bank too much.
Visit Charm Thai website here.
We love the moody ambience of Miyako, as it serves as the perfect place to get your hands (or chopsticks) on authentic Japanese sushi. From traditional fish to vegetarian options, Miyako is a great pitstop to enjoy with family and friends whenever you get those salty cravings. The brand is part of Hyatt Restaurants – so you’re guaranteed quality control.
Visit Miyako website here.
Mint Leaf of London, Dubai
Often regarded as connoisseurs of the best Indian cuisine in the city, this restaurant is worth forking out the money for.
Mint Leaf of London is housed in the charming location of Emirates Financial Towers. It promises a fine-dining experience like no other, where an array of palettes are catered for. The venue also has a classy cocktail bar, serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages that pair perfectly with your Indian dishes.
Visit Mint Leaf of London website here.
Restaurants in Dubai: European
Should you be in the mood for the simplicity and zest of Italian linguine, or fancy a more British-inspired meal, then the desert city has a surprisingly wide range of choices for you, too.
Introducing Dubai’s only Balkan bistro – so it’s definitely worth a mention. This independent gem is inspired by Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian cuisine – so, expect plenty of baked goods, salads, and meats, served in a spacious and sleek dining room.
Visit 21grams website here.
Twiggy by La Cantine
Soak up the Mediterranean ambience on the banks of the Creek in Old Dubai. This famous beach club restaurant is plus, Instagrammable (we love those gorgeous white sands), serving fresh seafood, salads, and mixed grills. Enjoy a three-course meal, or simply enjoy a cocktail or two in the pretty, sun-dappled venue.
Visit Twiggy by La Cantine website here.
Loved and respected for championing locally-sourced ingredients, BOCA offers a range of Spanish, Italian, and French-inspired dishes in a fun and innovative way. There’s a strong sustainability focus at this restaurant, with highlights that include a garden dedicated to edible Emirati plants along with seafood sourced from the Arabian Gulf. And vegans, there are plenty of options for you too!
Visit BOCA website here.
Bread Street Kitchen & Bar
Bringing a slice of urban London to the iconic Atlantis Hotel, this Gordon Ramsey restaurant champions contemporary British dishes with influences from Europe and beyond. The venue also boasts an expansive bar with an eclectic mix of classic signature cocktails and fine wines. Did we mention there’s live entertainment, too?
Visit Bread Street Kitchen & Bar website here.
Shisha Lounges & Bars in Dubai
Smoking shisha (water pipes) is immensely popular in the city of Dubai. The traditional Arab meals actually conclude with this Arabian-styled tobacco smoke, from a charming and intrinsically designed water pipe (commonly known as “hookahs”).
There are numerous shisha cafes and bars across the city, and many restaurants serve shisha in a designated smoking areas, too. You can opt for distinct flavours such as apple, lemon, watermelon, and sour grape while socialising with friends (maybe while sipping on a solid Arabian coffee alongside it).
Here’s a round-up of some of the best shisha lounges in Dubai:
Ideally located among the city’s iconic landscapes, you can also catch a view of the Dubai Fountain Show.
The arabian-nights-inspired venue, overlooking the Burj Khalifa
Urban hideaway and rooftop escape for shisha lovers.
Smoky Beach, JBR
The coolest vibes with fantastic views of the vast Arabian Gulf and Ain Dubai.
The most frequently visited restaurant by shisha enthusiasts. Located in the Business Bay, the shisha here is served with natural coal.
Pipes Shisha Lounge & Cafe
The new kid on the block and popular with the young crowd. This hip and trendy lounge is located at Al Safa.
Things to Do in Dubai: Luxury & Relaxation
Over the years, the city of Dubai has become synonymous with words like “luxury” and “indulgence”; and for a good reason, too.
This Arabian city continues to attract celebrities and A-listers alike who want to detox from the bustle of the world and spoil themselves with experiences that are nothing short of exquisite.
But this doesn’t mean that the luxuries of Dubai are only reserved for the world’s most rich and famous. In fact, there are a number of indulgent activities you can sink yourselves into on your next visit to Dubai, without spending all the money in the bank.
A little planning and prior research go a long way, and you’ll save a few dirhams in the process.
Soak Up Those Arabian Views
The views from the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world are a sight to behold, and one of the most popular tourist activities in the city of Dubai.
Going “To the Top” is not as extortionately expensive as most people think, and you can easily book your tickets via the official Burj Khalifa website. Here, you’ll have the choice between travelling up to Level 124 and Level 125 – on the world’s fastest double-deck elevators.
Witnessing the city’s ever-growing skyline from the Burj truly is an experience like no other; and Level 125 is even decorated with stunning Arabic mashrabiya, for stunning 360-degree views.
However, there are even more spectacular ways of enjoying the sights of Dubai from up-top, should you wish to really spoil yourselves.
Why not book yourself a hot air balloon flight and pair it with a luxury breakfast and even a vintage Land Rover ride, by choosing from one of the experiences on Tripadvisor’s website here? This is particularly perfect if you’re planning a romantic getaway – be sure to book a sunrise or sunset flight if you are!
Enjoy a Beach Day
Nothing says “relaxing holiday” like a beach day in Dubai. With the climate hot all-year-round, there’s never a bad time to hit one of the city’s beautiful beaches and enjoy the sand between your toes.
Jumeirah Open Beach is free for public users, though it can get quite crowded during the peak holiday season. If you’re looking for a truly relaxing day, then it’s certainly worth paying the entrance fee for places like Jumeirah Beach Park – where you’ll feel at one with the turquoise waters and leafy palm trees. The beach park is ideal for families with younger children, too.
Other stunning beaches in the city of Dubai include Kite Beach, La Mer Beach, and Black Palace Beach – just be sure to have lots of water and sun lotion with you, as the Arabian sun is very intense during the hotter months.
Stroll Around Miracle Garden
What’s the miracle about Miracle Garden? Well, for one it’s the world’s most extensive natural flower garden (occupying over 72,000 square metres) – and has over 50 million flowers and over 250 million plants.
There’s perhaps nothing more relaxing than taking in the colourfulness of blooms and blossoms, as well as the garden’s iconic showstoppers. This includes the newly-designed three-dimensional clock, a floating rock with a fountain, floral peacocks, and two floral exhibits inspired by favourite characters (a Genie and his flying carpet).
While you’re in the garden, don’t forget to check out the Emirates A380 (the world’s largest flower structure), the floating lady, the teddy bear, and more.
You’ll need at least three hours to enjoy the entire garden; however, if you expect to take photographs and short breaks in between, give yourself five hours and make a day of it. Admission is priced differently for adults and children (under 12) – you can book your tickets on Dubai Miracle Garden website this website.
Cruise the Waters on a Luxury Electric Boat
Perfect for a romantic date, an electric boat hire with Costa Azzurra will allow you to sail the waters surrounding the Palm Jumeriah in style.
You’ll sit side-by-side in two comfortable seats under a shaded canopy and use the electric joystick to guide you smoothly around the waters. You can even listen to your favourite music during your cruise, as the catamaran is hooked up to Bluetooth as well as radio. The Arabians really do know hospitality well, don’t they?
More information can be found on their website linked above – but you won’t want to pass on this if luxury relaxation is your vibe in Dubai. This is one of the most highly recommended activities by couples.
A Spot of Retail Therapy in Dubai
Unlike what you might find in the West, Dubai’s iconic shopping malls are bucket-list destinations within themselves!
Whether you’re looking to splurge some serious cash, or simply window shop at designer stores with an iced coffee in hand, then this city is your luxury retail dream. Shopping sprees really are in a league of their own in Dubai; and if you enjoy it, you’ll likely want to set a few days aside just to explore the malls properly.
The Dubai Mall: Among the world’s largest malls, where you can find just about anything you desire, including the Dubai Fountain and incredible views of the Burj Khalifa (not to purchase of course!). This mall has over 1200 luxury stores and its own Fashion Avenue showcases luxury labels.
The Outlet Village: Perfect if you fancy designer labels, without the designer price tag! The village has a Tuscan-style set-up at the end of Dubai, with designer items at high-end discounts.
Gold & Diamond Park: Situated on the iconic Sheikh Zayed Road, the Black & Gold Park offers you a shopping experience brought to you by the Emaar. Here, you’ll find the world’s most famous gemstones, precious stones, jewellery, gold, and silver, and luxe accessories. The mall also boasts a range of luxury boutique cafes and restaurants.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah: For an alternative shopping experience decked in old-world charm, head over to this traditional souk (market) rendition. You’ll find colourful stores dotted along the alleyway, with a range of jewellery, fashion accessories, and souvenirs on offer. The souk is ideally located along the river bank (that runs through it), where you can enjoy a bite to eat.
If you have the time (and the appetite) for even more retail therapy, we recommend visiting the Mall of the Emirates, Wafi Mall, Ibn Battuta Mall, and Jumeirah Emirates Shopping Boulevard, too.
Best Activities to Do in Dubai
Contrary to popular belief, paddle boarding can be a very relaxing activity, especially if you go during the quietest time of the morning (if you’re an early bird – make the most of the peacefulness!).
You can hire a paddle board from Hydro Sports, located in front of Dukes, The Palm, and take in some of the most breathtaking views. Find out more about how to hire and give this luxury activity a try on their website.
Dubai is a hotspot for adventure lovers and adrenaline junkies. Don’t let the reserved and sophisticated nature of Emiratis make you think otherwise; because if you fancy screaming your lungs out in a desert land, then you’re certainly in the right place.
Over the years, Dubai has built a reputation for its adventure sports and theme parks, which makes the hairs on the back of people’s necks stand up. As the city continues to radically develop, we wouldn’t be surprised to see even more thrill-seeking activities thrown into the mix; but for now, here’s a round-up of what you can plan to enjoy.
How does free falling from 13,000 feet at 120 miles per hour sound to you?
You’ll create the most unforgettable moments with Skydive Dubai, who enable you to literally “take the plunge” over the beautiful Palm Jumeirah.
While you’re feeling the Arabian wind hitting your face, you’ll enjoy the most breathtaking views of the waters of the Arabian Gulf and the iconic city landscapes. There’s even the opportunity to swap those city views with the golden Arabian desert instead if that’s more to your taste.
Skydive Dubai offers tandem skydiving as one of its extreme air sports experiences, along with a gyrocopter flight, skydiving school, indoor skydiving, and more thrilling experiences for experienced skydivers. You can find out more on their website.
XLine Dubai Marina is the world’s longest urban zipline. So, if you’re a true thrill-seeker, this attraction is unmissable for you.
You’ll glide across the city at an incredible 80 km/hour, and if you can keep your stomach from getting into your mouth, you’ll even be able to soak-up the views of yachts and shiny high-rises that make up the skyline of Dubai. The best part is, there are two concurrent ziplines here, so you can enjoy this experience in real-time with a friend.
The landing takes place on the terrace of Dubai Marina Mall; the perfect place to catch your breath after all that adventure. Get more info on the official website.
Take a High-Speed Safari
“Safari” translates as “journey” in English; this experience will surely be the journey of a lifetime.
Why visit the Arabian desert in slow-mo, when you could do with the sandblasting across your face, at ultra-high speed, right? This is why a ride across the desert on a quad bike or desert dune buggy is perfect for adventure addicts, which will see you tackle dunes that feature heart-racing 45-degree slopes.
You can give this experience a go with Big Red Adventure, a tour operator that offers desert safari packages with morning, evening, and overnight options. The rides themselves will have no windows, roof, or doors; but when you book with a certified tour operator, they’ll guarantee that you’re kept safe with a safety harness and extra suspension for tackling the sand at high speeds.
These safaris are not for the faint-hearted. But adventure never is, right?
Water Sports Dubai – Feel Free on a Flyboard
We all know that Dubai’s turquoise waters are ideal for lounging; but if you want to up the ante then flyboarding just might be the activity for you.
This extreme sport is a combination of wakeboarding and kitesurfing, and will have you propelled 10m above the water, with the help of a powerful turbine. This is still a relatively “modern” phenomenon compared to other water sports; however, even an absolute beginner can get the hang of balancing in the air as the water shoots them up. (You’ll soon be mastering backflips).
You can book this experience with Sea & Sky Adventures, a leading and verified watersports company with expert trainers who will keep you safe. Kite Beach in Dubai also offers a range of other extreme water sports, such as kitesurfing, parasailing, and scuba diving.
Deep Dive Dubai
If you’re an aqua enthusiast, you’ll love the world’s deepest swimming pool “Deep Dive Dubai” for diving. This plunge hole located in Dubai is an incredible 60.02m deep and offers renowned additions such as “Sunken City” – an underwater world with ruins and battered walls, waiting to be explored.
The pool itself has a volume of 14 million litres of water, and is about the equivalent of six Olympic-sized swimming pools! The best part is that this attraction continues to attract thrill seekers and families, as the oyster-shaped pool is said to be safe for beginners and children.
Definitely one worth getting your flippers wet for; you can find out more information on Deep Dive Dubai’s official website.
Sky Views Dubai
Grab the chance to see the city differently, with Sky Views Dubai when you’re next in the city. This latest attraction in downtown Dubai is perched atop the Address Sky View Hotel and invites you to walk across the edge at 219.5km above the ground.
You’ll be on your tippy-toes in an ultimately “hands-free” experience – with no windows nor protective barriers in between you and… well, the sky.
Perhaps the most daring walk you’ll ever take, and an excellent adventure to experience with your friends. Find out more and see if you can rise to the challenge, on the website linked above.
There are many areas and spots in Dubai that either remain widely unexplored or are simply not addressed enough in mainstream media.
But when you have a city that’s built its riches and reputation on oil, expansive malls, and Instagrammable servings of cheesecake, it’s common to dismiss the hidden gems – even though this should never be the case.
Given Luke Stays’ long-standing connection with Dubai, we owe it to this city to cover all (if not, most) of its understated beauty. You’ll be surprised to read how much more of Dubai there is to enjoy when you look beyond the most popular tourist destinations, or what your friends tell you to visit after they’ve spent a long and lavish weekend here.
So, if you’re fortunate enough to have more time in Dubai, or even if you just fancy an alternative experience (that might not be as crowded with tourists) – then bookmark some of our suggestions from this section.
Even though Hatta is widely known and read about, the region does not immediately spring to mind when most people plan their visit to Dubai.
But before Hatta turns into a fully-fledged tourist destination, as per the plans of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid (the ruler of Dubai), it’s certainly worth taking a trip to these mountains, to experience Dubai in a way that you’d perhaps never imagined.
This mountainous region sits on the border with Oman, and benefits from some of the most breathtaking, untouched views. Less than a two-hour drive from central Dubai, Hatta is the perfect place for a quiet and relaxing retreat, or simply an escape from the hustle of busy Dubai. You’ll find that the culture here is laid-back and life is generally more slow-paced.
However, the dulcet area of Hatta is far from cumbersome, as the region is the ideal location for hiking, biking, kayaking, and adventure – especially in the winter. If you’re short on time, you could even plan a simple daycation in Hatta and have a go at leisurely climbing the mountains (or around the mountain areas) – as even in the summer, the temperature is far cooler than central Dubai.
For places to stay in Hatta, there are several caravan parks, lodges, and more upscale resorts you can choose from. If you’re more of a free spirit, Hatta’s dedicated campsite is a good place for you to pitch your own tent and take in the serene landscapes. There are even barbecue areas for you to toast marshmallows and food trucks if you prefer not to cook your own food.
Built-in the 18th century by Persian merchants, Bastakiya Quarter is the oldest neighbourhood in Dubai. The area later became populated by Arab tribes (for trading). However, it still remains completely unchanged, even though the areas around it have become the most modern and glamorous in the world.
A walk among the alleyways of this quarter will see you admiring sand-coloured buildings with wind towers and intricate artwork. You may be able to view the interiors of some of these buildings, as they have now turned into museums, cafes, and art galleries.
This is a beautiful spot to visit if you need a break from the constantly developing modernisation of Dubai. Even though the city’s glamour and splendour are heart-stopping, something is soothing about untouched beauty, don’t you think?
Bastakiya Quarter is home to Dubai’s lesser-known (but equally exciting) attractions such as the Coffee Museum, Majlis Gallery, and the Arabian Teahouse. The best time to visit the quarter is just after sunset, as the evening lights bring a different aura to the entire area.
Many people don’t realise that Dubai is also emerging into the world of arts and culture; we can expect to see much more from it in this context over the coming years.
If you’re a lover of art and you had convinced yourself that Dubai’s glossy culture wouldn’t offer you “real art” culture, then prepare to be amazed at Alserkal Avenue – the “Art Centre ” of the city.
Established in 2008, this centre comprises a line-up of galleries, facilities, and platforms for residential and budding artists. The exhibitions change from time to time, displaying an extensive range of creative work(s), so be sure to check out what’s on during your next stay in Dubai.
In fact, this January, Alserkal Avenue is hosting the much-anticipated Quoz Arts Fest, which welcomes artistically inspired individuals and innovators to engage in more art projects, communities, and performances. You can find out more on the official website: Alserkal Online
Where to Stay: Desirable Areas in the City of Dubai
Neighbourhoods are loosely defined in Dubai, as street addresses cease to exist. While this can take some getting used to, the good news is that choosing a location to stay in Dubai, is a pleasure within itself – as the entire city is shrouded with loveliness.
In saying that, some areas are quite different to others, so it’s best to have an idea of the kind of experience you’re looking for and who you’re travelling with, before booking your accommodation.
As Dubai’s leading short-term rental hosts, we’ve studied the nooks and crannies of Dubai’s sunlit geography. We can offer you those much-needed insights into the city’s most desirable locations.
For Dubai Mall, Dubai Opera, and the Dubai Fountain – as well as the tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, opt for hip and happening Downtown Dubai.
This modern area is at the heart of all the city’s action and offers both luxury and more affordable accommodation options in Dubai Downtown.
This is an ideal part of the city if you plan on enjoying lively dinners followed by walks among the city’s brightest lights. Certainly a place for the night owls: this is where all the actions happen.
Synonymous with the word “Dubai”, Jumeirah remains one of Dubai’s most desirable districts.
Ideal if you’re on holiday for ultimate beach vibes, and particularly great if you’re travelling with family and children (as it’ll give you a more diverse experience).
Jumeirah stretches for miles along the seafront to the southwest of central Dubai and is home to elegant villas and perfectly formed commercial areas.
Whatever kind of short-term rental accommodation you book here, you’ll always just be a stone’s throw away from boutique stores, fantastic restaurants, bars, and some of the city’s best tourist attractions.
The Palm Jumeirah
If you really want to make your friends at home jealous, then staying at The Palm is a must.
This district gives you official bragging rights, as it is doused in unbelievable luxury and finesse. Your short-term rental will likely be a glitzy apartment, offering the best views – while being within close proximity to the world’s largest fountain (The Palm Fountain).
Because this island itself is man-made, it is perfection, defined. A great way to unwind after the bustle of sightseeing, and treat yourself to a glass of something sparkling.
Accommodation is constantly opening up at The Palm; however, prices can be a little steeper (but you 100% get your money’s worth).
Find out about our serviced apartments in Palm Jumeirah.
If you love the idea of combining flashy, high-rise towers with your Dubai holiday, then look no further than serviced apartments in Dubai Marina.
Almost like its own city, Dubai Marina is packed with dining and nightlife options and has a fantastically buzzing vibe. You will also benefit from close access to the beach and a heap of water sports (if you can pull yourself away from the footie).
This is a great area to consider if you’re staying in Dubai with a group of friends – perhaps even for birthday or bachelorette parties.
Where to Stay: Serviced Accommodation
There’s no doubting the fact that the city of Dubai has a vast amount of luxury, hospitality, and world-class experiences to offer. This often leaves first-time visitors fearing that holidaying here will burn deep holes in their pockets.
But while this city boasts the world’s only (official) 7-star hotel, there are a number of accommodation options you can choose from that won’t cost you your life’s savings.
An excellent way to get your money’s worth and also indulge in more space, flexibility, and convenience is to opt for serviced accommodation rather than traditional hotels. Dubai can become rapidly expensive if you’re not careful (and especially if you’re a newbie) – so those additional hotel charges such as laundry, room service, etc can really rack up.
Not only this, but serviced accommodation in Dubai offers up to 30% more space than your average hotel room (excluding the extortionately priced ones); where you’ll have the luxury of a fully kitted-out kitchen, dining room, and generally more space to move around in the property itself. This works out to be far more convenient and cheaper for those who are visiting the desert land with family or a group of friends.
Booking Dubai Accommodation with Luke Stays
Once you’ve taken to the idea of booking your next holiday to Dubai and have decided what kind of experience you’d like (and maybe even in which area of the city), you’re welcome to browse through our portfolio of SA properties in Dubai, which cover all of the city’s desirable locations.
Each one of our properties is I-PRAC Approved, meaning it meets the highest industry standards (in terms of products and service) and is 100% protected against holiday rental fraud. Travelling to a brand-new country can be daunting, especially where the culture and language are so different – so, by booking with the industry’s most trusted serviced accommodation brand, you’ll be able to plan the rest of your trip with ultimate peace of mind.
What’s more is that when you book your Dubai accommodation directly with Luke Stays, we’ll throw in our exclusive StayCover feature absolutely free of charge, and give you our lowest rates and best deals (that aren’t available on Airbnb and Booking.com).
StayCover ensures you are 100% safe and protected, and also includes additional perks such as round-the-clock access to our dedicated hospitality team.
If you still have questions or concerns after reading through this guide, simply run them past a member of our team when enquiring/ making your booking, and we’ll be happy to help you with further resources and guidance. Our company headquarters is actually based in Dubai – so we know this part of the world like the back of our hands.