DUBAI: Looking for ways to enjoy your weekend, while adhering to social distancing and health/safety protocols? Well, the winter is still very much upon us. The desert, wadis and mountains are waiting for the adventurous. There are unrivaled vistas and a whole new world out there to explore and help you unwind. Here, we list down ways you can enjoy the outdoors, avoid the more crowded and popular spots in the UAE.
1. If you miss swimming: Explore more hidden beaches
Most people who live in Dubai, love the beach, which is why you can usually never find one that's empty enough, especially on the weekend, but over the last few months, I have made some discoveries of hidden beaches in Dubai. Although La Mer, Kite Beach and Secret Beach are incredible beach destinations, they tend to fill up quickly because of the great amenities. The trick would be to visit beaches that aren’t really kitted out with bathrooms, food trucks or showers. They tend to be emptier. Great ones to explore would be Mercato Beach, Sunrise Beach, Sunset Beach and Open Beach all in Jumeirah. Or you can go for a drive all the way down to Jebel Ali to the Jebel Ali Open Beach.
2. If you miss eating out: Pick up a meal and eat in your car
The UAE is home to plenty of “honk to order” places. Whether you want to grab a karak of the side of the road or a proper meal with cutlery and service in your car. Pick any of the famous roadside restaurants, park outside, place your order and eat in the safety of your car. It’s a good opportunity to get out of the house but still not dine in a restaurant.
Or you can go the junk food route and pass through a drive through, grab a burger, fries and a shake before parking somewhere, rolling the windows down and eating your fast food in your car.
3. If you miss the gym: Cycle around your neighbourhood
Although gyms are still open, with more social distancing measures in place, your best bet right now is to be in the outdoors. Once you start biking, it becomes a fantastic addiction that you can’t get enough of. I bought my bike a few months ago in order to avoid going to the gym. I found myself spending hours exploring the neighborhood and seeing things that I would normally never get the chance to see if I were in my car. You could invest in a bicycle or rent one easily and cost effectively! For just Dh20 a day, Dh75 for a month, or Dh420 a year you can rent out a Careem bike to explore the area, while also getting some cardio in.
Whether you choose to go before or after work, you can bike at a bunch of different places in the city. My personal favourite is the Jumeirah bike track which takes you all the way down to Meydan. You cycle past Al Safa Park, past the canal, through Business Bay until you reach the Meydan bike track. Other popular spots to cycle are Al Khawaneej, Al Qudra and if you really want something adventurous… Hatta or Wadi Shawka.
4. If you miss art and culture: Go to Jameel Arts Centre or Al Serkal Avenue
The bourgeoning arts and culture scene in Dubai is worth taking the time to see. For those who miss wandering through art galleries, check out the Jameel Arts Centre, which is located at a quiet spot in Al Jaddaf by the edge of creek. Because you are required to schedule your visit ahead of time, you can ensure that you will be in a relatively quiet and empty space. Every visitor has to book a two-hour slot in advance of their visit, in order for them to monitor capacity and ensure a visit that follows social distancing guidelines. Entrance is free.
Then you have Al Serkal Avenue on the other hand, which has the benefit of being mostly outdoors, so you can pick and choose the galleries based on how empty you think they are. It’s a free place to hang out. One of Dubai’s coolest and most unique artsy spots. The avenue is home to art galleries, classic cars, record stores, many different cafes and even an old school karak shop.
5. If you miss the cinema: Try drive-in
Although movie theatres are safe to visit, because of the social distancing measures in place, you can take it one step further and go to the drive through cinema. Tickets will be more expensive, but at least you don’t have to leave your car, not even to get snacks. There are currently three drive-in cinemas in the UAE including Madar in Aljada in Sharjah, Reel Drive-In Cinemas at Dubai Hills Estate and the Reel Drive-In Cinema at the Zabeel Parking in Dubai Mall.
6. If you’re totally bored with your home: Go on a staycation in the middle of no where
As the weather cools down slightly UAE Residents can get their hands on various staycation offers that come with breakfast, access to the swimming pool and much more. Sometimes all you really need is a chance of scenery, rather than staying home. We put together a list of the UAE’s most beautiful desert resorts, to properly get away from it all.
7. If you miss the thrill of travel: Spend the day at the amusement park
One of the hallmarks of the winter season here in the UAE is going to the amusement park. With the great weather staying with us for the next few months, it’s time to truly take advantage of winter and experience action-packed rides with friends and family. The UAE is home to almost 10 different theme parks (not counting the water parks) and if you go early in the day or during off peak days of the week, you can basically enjoy a thrilling day for less, since plenty of spots are offering discounted ticket rates.
According to a psychologist, some theme parks rides incite a pounding heart, faster breathing as well as an energy boost caused by the release of glucose. Apart from thrill rides, the aroma of carnival food infused into the atmosphere can positively affect mood and leaves us feeling like we escaped from our usual daily life… The same feelings we get when we travel.
8. If you want fresh produce: Visit the farmers' market
With plenty of farmers markets in Dubai and one that recently opened one Sharjah, UAE residents have the chance to shop for groceries in the open air. Check out the Food District’s Emirati Farmers Souq at the Pointe, Ripe Market at the Police Academy, Organic Farmer’s Souq at Bay Avenue and Manbat in Sharjah’s Aljada.
9. If you want to see the city view: Walk along the canal
I went during the summer and it's actually very breezy if you go in the evening. Take your time along the illuminated walkways and pedestrian bridges that overlook the Dubai water canal and enjoy the sight of the mechanical waterfall. It’s a perfect place to take photos and just enjoy a relaxed, cool and free evening. The Wi-Fi there is really good too. Location: near Business Bay Metro Station; Cost: Free;
10. Go totally off the gird — in a hot air balloon
Get unrivalled views of the desert and the city. A hot air balloon ride treats people to a magnificent bird’s eye view of Dubai. Amazing sights start to appear on every trip, such as the mountains, Bedouin villages, camels and dunes, making it the ultimate adventure.
11. Horseback riding in the desert
Head down to the Al Jiyad Stables for a scenic ride through the Al Qoudra desert. Located in the Al Marmoom Conservation Area, the Marzooqi family has shared their passion for horse riding and endurance training by offering classes for beginners and experienced riders. Al Jiyad is home to over 120 horses. For a relaxed activity you can join a horse or camel safari through the desert, where you’ll spot gazelles, oryx, and other wildlife. During weekdays, you can ride horses for Dh150 per hour and on weekends it Dh200 per hour.
12. Visit Dubai Miracle Garden
Dubai Miracle Garden, the largest natural flower garden in the world, returns for its ninth season. The paradise-like attraction is home to over 150 million natural flowers and plants from more than 120 varieties, some of which have never been cultivated in the Gulf region that were arranged and shaped into dazzling and distinct designs, visitors to this popular attraction will see something really different. Record-breaking attractions include the Emirates A380 and an 18-metre floral structure of Mickey Mouse within the garden’s Disney Avenue.
13. Dune bash with Big Red
If you’re interested in a bit of a desert adventure, then check out Big Red DXB. They provide adventure enthusiasts with memorable buggy tours. These buggies come with a 4-wheel drive system and automatic gearboxes – making them super easy to operate. The best part is you don’t need a driver’s license to enjoy the activity.
14. Walk the hiking trail at Wadi Shawka
Why you should visit: Located just 45 minutes away from Dubai, Wadi Showka has become a popular spot for many UAE residents looking to escape the bustle of the city. You can go hiking in the mountains, biking on certain trails as well as a kids' playground, and the Shawka dam. Currently open for tourists with some facilities. Wadi Shawka is the ideal family recreational and picnic location. A dam was built following the instructions of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 2001. At 120mm, Wadi Shawka receives one of the highest rainfalls in the country and the dam helps harvest rainwater.
15. Have a picnic at Al Qudra Lake
Why you should visit: The benefit of Al Qudra is its proximity to the city. It is a man-made desert oasis built to promote eco-tourism in Dubai. It is made up by several artificial lakes, surrounded by dunes and desert greenery. The Al Qudra lakes are spread over 10 hectares in the middle of the Saih Al Salam Desert. The man-made Lake is supplied with water by the Jebel Ali sewage treatment plant of Dubai Municipality, thus has created a natural habitat of rare breeds of birds, fish and other smaller animals. Get in touch with nature in this free to enter area and have a picnic with friends and family. Most importantly, do not forget to clean up after yourself.
16. Check out Al Noor Island in Sharjah
Al Noor Island, Sharjah’s most unique leisure attraction, is a bastion of exotic trees, prehistoric rocks, a Butterfly House and other features. The small island in Khalid Lagoon is connected to Buhairah Corniche by a footbridge near Al Noor mosque and has wooden walkways for visitors. Inside the island, the centrepiece is a Butterfly House that houses 500 exotic East Asians butterflies, donated by Dr Shaikh Sultan. The trees, some of them oddly shaped, have been imported from other countries, including a 250-year-old olive tree from Spain. There are also 300 million-year-old crystal rocks and art sculptures installed at various points. There is also a play area for children and a Literate Pavilion where visitors can relax. A cafeteria is also available within the Butterfly House.
17: See the animals at the Sharjah Natural History Museum and Desert Park
The Natural History Museum and Desert Park was founded in 1997 as a children’s petting zoo. The museum gives visitors a chance to learn about the growth of flora and fauna of the Arabian Desert. People can additionally observe and enjoy the various species of animals that are found on the Arabian Peninsula.
18. Enjoy a little bit of history by visiting the Fujairah Fort
The Fujairah Fort, perched high up on a 20-metre rocky hill overlooking the historic town of Fujairah, served as a symbol of power and refuge for the local inhabitants of Fujairah in the old days. It was where rulers performed their administrative duties, like resolving tribal conflicts that were rife during that period. But the fort also served another purpose for the community. Because of its stability and height, it was a fortress for the people seeking protection as they weathered storms back then. Such refuge is critical to the community as Fujairah sits along the coast of the Gulf of Oman, which makes it prone to weather disturbances. The fort was constructed using materials available in the area at that time such as rock, gravel and clay stacked together using lime-based plaster. Very interesting to walk through and explore.
19. Drive through the Al Khazna Desert
The desert stretch between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi is an off-roader’s delight, promising an unwavering desert vista that’s usually devoid of too many vehicles. Although, it is advisable to have a convoy of two to three vehicles if you happen to be a novice off-roader. Also, pack warm clothes as the temperatures are known to dip at night, bringing on some serious chills. Al Khaznah is also on the route of many desert safaris and camps in case the solo trip isn’t too appealing.
20. Go Kayaking in Hatta
Hatta is the perfect getaway from the city lights, providing an opportunity to get back to nature as well as to experience a wide range of activities. You could go mountain biking or hiking in the Hajar Mountains – also known for its stunning views – or enjoy wadi-bashing in the riverbeds and even go kayaking in the Hatta Dam. The Hatta Wadi Hub offers visitors experiences such as a 10-metre high climbing wall that includes five lanes, a slingshot that propels those looking for adventure, fun and suspense to a height of up to 50 meters, and paragliding.
How to stay safe
The goal is to still get out of the house, have a great time, but take all the necessary precautions.
- A maximum of three unrelated people can be in a car at the same time
- This means that only 2 people can be together in a taxi
- You can be more than three people in a car if you are from the same family
- When taking public transport like bus or metro, make sure you maintain a proper 2 meter distance from other passengers
- If you do choose to eat at a restaurant make sure you do not exceed 7 at a table
- Make sure you are not more than 4 at cafes and shisha cafes
- Make sure your table is at a 3 meter distance from other tables
- Always practise social distancing of two to three metres
- Everyone has to wear a mask or face a Dh1,000 fine.
- Use smart and electronic payment methods and avoid the use of cash.
- Sanitise or wash your hands whenever possible
- Use the toilet at home rather than outside your home
- Do not touch your face