Sunday, March 20, 2011

Amusement Parks in Dubai

The Atlantis Marine and Waterpark is the latest of Dubai's attractions. The Dolphin Bay, Aquaventure(slides and rides), the Lost Chambers (65,000 marine animals in aquariums) and the Atlantis Dive Center are its main attractions.

Wild Wadi used to be the most popular water park until Atlantis burst on the scene. It is still more reasonable though. The Jumeirah Sceirah at 33 meters is the tallest and fastest free fall slide outside North America. Wipeout FlowRiders allows you to try body boarding, knee boarding or surfing.

Wonderland is a family fun park with multiple rides. The space shot which goes from 0 to 130km/hr in 2.5 seconds, the terminator which weaves in every possible direction and water rides at Splashland are what you can look forward to.

The Al Nasr Leisureland has rides for little kids and sporting facilities that include an ice rink, tennis courts, squash courts, swimming pools, boxing rings and bowling alleys.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Unusual Experiences in Dubai

Desert Safaris
There are multiple companies offering this in Dubai and you will need to shop around for one that will suit you best. You can look forward to dune driving, sand skiing, camel riding, exploring wadis (dry river beds) and a Bedouin village sojourn ending in a feast in the middle of the desert.

Creek Tours
Creek tours along the Dubai creek are a wonderful way to see and contrast old and new Dubai along its banks. Abras are the local taxis and you can catch the one the locals use for 2dhs to cross the creek or you can opt for the evening cruises which include dinner aboard a dhow.

Helicopter Tour
There are a couple of companies which specialize in helicopter rides above Dubai. Most tour agencies have tie-ups with one of these companies and can book a trip for you.

Balloon Ride
Early morning hot air balloon rides offer a different way of viewing Dubai's skyline, the Hajar Mountains and giant sand dunes.

Big Bus Tour
Big Bus tours operate in Dubai too and offer both a day and night tour. The day tour mostly covers shopping malls, but does have guided walking tours in the historical districts. The night tour is a once round, 2 hour trip.

Wonder Bus Tour
Wonder Bus Tours uses amphibious vehicles that can move on road and in water. The tour is a 1.5 hour ride around town, but does not have the hop on, hop off facility of the Big Bus Day tours.

Camel Racing
Races take place on Thursdays and Fridays in winter. The race track is on the outskirts of the city and a traditional market comes up overnight and is dismantled when the races are over.

Horse Racing
Nad al Sheba is the country's largest racing track with races held during the cooler months. Gambling is prohibited but there are plenty of free raffles that are very popular for their generous prizes.

Bird Watching
Khor Dubai is the largest bird sanctuary in Dubai and is home to over 400 species and upto 15,000 birds in the winter season. The Mud flats – a tidal wetland – is a resting spot for thousands of flamingos, herons, ducks and shorebirds during their annual migration.

Special permissions are required to visit and it is best to contact a company that specialises in bird watching tours.

Birds of Prey Show
The Birds of Prey show features trained falcons, owls and vultures. The kids will love this one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Picnics and Parks in Dubai

Most parks in Dubai have special play areas for children and areas demarcated for picnics, which may also have barbeque areas where you can carry your equipment and food and grill onsite.

Mushrif Park is the largest of all at 24,500sq m. An international village here is home to 13 model houses from different countries. It has a large sports playground for basketball, football or volleyball. 56 barbeque sites are equipped with modern grills.

Creekside Park has beautifully landscaped gardens making it the most scenic of parks in Dubai. A 2.5km cable car ride offers a completely different view of the Emirate from 30 meters above the ground. Bikes can be hired inside the park to cover more area. You can also catch a show at the Dolphinarium. Children's City is an educational city devoted to children between 2 and 15. Abra rides give you a wonderful view of Dubai creek.

Zabeel Park is a 47 hectare technology based recreational theme park divided into an Alternative Energy Zone, Communications Zone & Techno Zone. The ornamental boating lake offers pedal, rowboats and battery powered motor boats for hire. There's also a mini-cricket pitch & football pitch. The panoramic tower, IMAX theater and space maze modeled on the planetary system are other attractions of this park.

Safa Park is the earliest park in Dubai with a range of sporting facilities. An electronic games parlor, giant wheel, Traffic village for children and a waterfall make this an interesting place for children on a picnic.

The Jumeirah Beach Park has sunbeds and umbrellas for hire and is one of the best beaches to visit with children because of the facilities available.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sightseeing in Dubai

While Dubai may seem like a very young Emirate, it does have some historical sites that have been converted to museums and attractions. Entry to most museums is free and the maximum you will pay is 5 dhirams.

Dubai Museum
In the Al Fahidi Fort, is the most popular of all the Heritage attractions in Dubai. It’s a good place to catch up on the history of Dubai, with a peek into Commercial, Domestic and Desert life of yore. There is also a section on pearl diving – the original economic activity of Dubai. Except for a few dhows and cannons, the exhibits are all inside and air conditioned.

A short walk from here will take you into the Bastakiya area, with the largest concentration of traditional houses within the city limits.

Heritage House
Originally built in 1890 and restored in 1994. The house gives visitors an idea of what a traditional Emirati furnished accommodation would look like right down to the bathroom (al zawiyah) and a brides room (al Hijla)

Al Ahmadiya School
The school is located right next to the Heritage House. Religious teaching was started here in 1922. This museum chronicles the development of formal education from religious education

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House
Built in 1896, this was once the seat of the local government. Its a fine example of Islamic art and design. Definitely explore the barajeel – wind towers – perhaps the world's earliest form of air conditioning.

Naif Museum
Situated in the Naif Fort in Deira, was the first headquarters of Dubai police and was also used as a prison. The museum explores the origin and developments in the police force of Dubai.

Heritage & Diving Villages
Handcrafters and Arab performers provide an insight into the traditional culture and lifestyle of the people of the UAE.

Jumeirah Archaeological Site
Believed to be over 1000 years old, excavations at this location are ongoing. But so far they have already identified residential buildings, a market, caravan serai and a mosque.To visit you will need to apply for permission from the Dubai Museum (04-3496874)

Hatta Heritage Village
This Heritage Village is 115km Southeast of Dubai located in the rocky Hatta Mountains. The history of the village can be traced back around 3000 years. There are 30 buildings made from different building materials. Special live events are held here during public holidays and the Shopping festivals.

Jumeirah Mosque
The only mosque in Dubai that is open to non-Muslims. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding conducts guided tours (1.5 hours) on every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 10am for 10dhs each. The purpose of the tour and the Centre itself is to bring down the barriers between different cultural groups residing in the UAE. Photography is permitted, remember to dress appropriately.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shopping in Dubai

During the summer months, when the sheer heat forces you indoors in air-conditioned environments, malls are your best bet for a day out. Malls in Dubai aren't just for shopping, they include entertainment, adventure and cultural outlets too. Options span from the High-end Burjuman mall and Boulevard for haute couture, the Gold Souk at Dubai Mall or Deira to the more reasonably priced Deira City Centre, Lamcy Plaza and Dragon Mart.

Most of the malls are based around a theme, which make them a sight seeing experience in themselves.

The Dubai Mall with its fountain to rival the Bellagio, largest single tank aquarium in the world, SEGA Republic and ice rink is currently the largest mall in Dubai.

The Ibn Battuta Mall is divided into sections designed to resemble the countries travelled by legendary traveller Ibn Battuta and is home to the UAE's only IMAX screen. Wafi City Mall has a Pharaonic theme to it and has a wonderful souk downstairs called Khan Murjan from where you can pick up souvenirs and local handicrafts.

Mall of the Emirates is home to Ski Dubai where you can enjoy the experience of Skiing on snow slopes even when the temperature outside is nudging 50C. DUCTAC - Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre is also on the premises with a wonderful library and theatre.

The Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a mall but designed in the style of a Souk - semi-open and semi-air conditioned. You can take an abra ride here in sanitized conditions. The Madinat Theatre here normally has very high quality international companies performing.

Global Village is an outdoor shopping and entertainment destination that is usually only open in the evenings for 3 months in a year (November to February) with stalls and products from across the globe.

If the temperature is conducive to outside walking, you may want to explore the more traditional shopping souks that are so filled with character. The gold souk in Deira is bordered by the spice souk and a very well stocked fish and vegetable market across the road. The textile souk across the creek has materials from across the world and in every kind of fabric, colour and price range.

Karama is a shopping zone mid-way between a traditional souk and a low price mall. It’s a good place for daily shopping or bargain clothes. Do polish your bargaining skills before you head to this area.