It's beautiful," a lady tourist, with two little kids and a nanny in tow, exclaims as she enthusiastically takes pictures around her.
It's past 7pm and the temperature is hovering around the mid-thirties. Although humidity still hangs in the air, I find myself wading through a huge crowd outside Dubai Mall.
Just as the lights around the area go dim, everyone stops and cranes to watch the Dubai Fountain spectacle: a few minutes display of water dancing to music, rocketing up to 275 metres in the air. When the music stops, some onlookers and diners at outdoor tables clap their hands in awe.
It might seem odd to see a lot of eager GCC nationals and camera-toting tourists hanging around outdoors in the month of August. Dubai is at its most furnace-like in summer, which is why many locals and expat residents escape to cooler climes.
But even if you're not a heatseeker yourself, there's no point to getting all cooped up indoors the whole time. The UAE has a host of public attractions, stacks of malls and prime resorts, so there are plenty of reasons to have fun outside the home.
Besides, almost every merchant in town is now dangling discounts on almost everything from shopping to dining and accommodation to entertainment because it's a low season, so you can enjoy summer in the UAE without breaking the bank.
"Sweltering temperatures indeed force us to stay inside. But you can still have fun. The key is to manage our time well. For example, you can go out when temperatures are at comfortable levels," shares Sanish Oommen Cherian, 24, from India who works as a production manager at a printing press in Sharjah.
Occasionally, on summer nights, when there are no interesting movies to watch and going to the malls feel repetitive, Cherian goes all the way to Jumeirah beach to hang out with friends.
"We'd play volleyball or simply hang around. My favourite time to go there is after 11pm, when temperatures are down and you can feel the sand is quite cold. So, while half of the people in town are asleep, I'm enjoying my time with friends at the beach," Cherian says.
When he takes his family to dinner or treats himself to a day of pampering, budget is not an issue either. "Since we have many clients in the hotel industry, I get discount of 10 to 30 per cent almost everywhere, so it's not really expensive. In fact, there's one hotel where I can get almost 50 per cent off their spa rates," he says.
Jazmin Poblador, who works at an airline company, agrees that finding a good deal is the key to enjoying summer without going over budget.
The Filipino expat has signed up for CineStar's Cine Buzz loyalty program, so she gets to watch one movie at the Mall of the Emirates for free after earning certain points.
"The promo says that after 10 movies, you get one free. I go to the movies all the time, so I decided to sign up for this. Recently, I got to watch one movie for free, which is great," she says.
Since her company also enjoys some discount privileges at various commercial establishments around Dubai, Poblador has recently scored a 40 per cent price cut on facial and body massage at Nivea Haus. "I paid only around Dh320 for facial and body massage, plus I got a foot massage for free," she enthuses.
Robyn Mallalieu from South Africa is not one to pass up on a good deal, either. One weekend, after she felt she had enough of hibernating at home and watching movies in Dubai, she and her husband ventured out of town for some much-needed relaxation.
"We stayed at The Cove Rotana recently, which was nice, and much cheaper than it would be usually. It was a bit hot, but it was nice to get out of Dubai. We paid about Dh500 or so for a room, including breakfast. The normal rate is usually about Dh900 to Dh1,000 a night, I think," she says.
Mohammad Hassan, who is in town from Saudi Arabia, says he found a nice room at the Intercontinental Hotel in Deira for about Dh270, a steal from the normal price.
"It's really a good deal. I'm staying here for about a week since I'm spending time with my family. There's lots of things to enjoy here, although the hot weather can be discouraging. We've recently been to the Atlantis and different malls in Dubai. Tomorrow, we're off to Abu Dhabi," Hassan tells Gulf News.
There is also night golf, some clubs such as Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club offering at Dh75 per adult person and Dh55 for a junior. Emirates Golf Club, Tower Links Golf Club and Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club are some of the other venues where you can head after work when temperatures are much more bearable.
For those who don't have the budget for movies, hotels or fine dining, simply hanging out in the malls can be a good way to cure those summer blues away.
That is why almost every weekend, Nadeem Haji from Pakistan and his wife hang out either in Al Bawadi Mall or Al Jimi Mall in Al Ain. "Since I'm conscious with my spending these days, we'd just go window shopping and watch some musical and fashion shows to while away the time. The shows are fantastic and the good thing is, they're free," says Haji.
At other times, when temperatures in the late afternoon are tolerable, Haji and some friends would go to the Green Mubazzarah, a tourist attraction at the foothills of Jebel Hafeet.
"We'd go there after 5pm and have some picnic. It's not so hot there because there are green patches and the breeze is cooler. Even during summer, people would go there and stay after 2am. The Al Ain Zoo is also a good option. In fact, I went there recently, but I'd advise people to visit the reptile house first because it's air-conditioned and when the temperature is okay, say around 5:30pm, they can explore the rest of the zoo. They can also visit the air-conditioned museums and heritage places around town. The entrance fees are cheap, around Dh10," Haji suggests.
Tips to help you take advantage of the offers
- Don't let hotel offers like Dh325 per night fool you. Some are on a per person basis and require 20 per cent tourism and service charges. Those that are inclusive of taxes, breakfasts and activities are a good choice.
- Pre-plan to take advantage of the offers. Colin Beaton of Limelight Creative Services says it's wise to research hotels: check their location, amenities, nearby attractions; compare prices. "List in priority what other events, activities and places you want to visit and what hours they are open. Plan your week to include as many morning and evening events as possible," he says.
- Leave your car to save on fuel when you go mall hopping. It's convenient. Most shopping centres are well connected to the Metro, so it's just a matter of stepping from an air-conditioned mall to an air-conditioned bus to an air-conditioned train to another air-conditioned mall. All the transfers in between are at comfortable levels.
- If budget is tight, plan indoor activities. Hit the beach early in the morning or late in the evening or take the family to the mall to enjoy free shows.
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