It may be just a game in the women's netball recreational league but the rivalry is evident. Joining a club such as the Dubai Netball League can mean having fun and making friends, which improves other areas of your life. Image Credit: Xpress /Virendra Saklani

Having a hobby is a great way to discover new interests and hidden talents. And in a transient nation such as the UAE, it can also be the best method of finding friends who share your passions in life.

Take the Dubai Netball League. When Briton Sally King moved to Dubai in 2005, she immediately looked for somewhere to indulge her favourite hobby - playing netball. Six years on, and the 36-year-old teacher and mother-of-two is the chairwoman of the Dubai Netball League - a sports club for keen netballers who want to play and socialise. As well as providing members with a way to relax outside their regular routine, King also believes the league is responsible for helping newcomers settle into the UAE.

"Some of the girls arrive knowing no one and their netball gives them a new social life in a different country, which can be difficult. It has helped quite a few settle into their new environment and in some cases led to new jobs, new friends and new flatmates," she says.

Psychologist Devika Singh says that you should never underestimate the importance of having an interest outside of your job or family life. "Although it can feel like an indulgence, rest and recreation are basic human needs. When we engage in relaxation through hobbies, our brain and body actually release serotonin, which is the brain's ‘happy chemical.' Hobbies can also contribute to a sense of achievement. A psychological reward mechanism gets triggered when we complete a task, achieve a goal, or learn a new skill. This is why it feels so good to run a marathon, or finish reading a book."

Aquarius meets the UAE's ‘clubbers' and finds out how joining a group can also enrich your life.

Dubai Singers

What it is: Dubai Singers is an enthusiastic group of music lovers who have been entertaining audiences in Dubai for well over 30 years. From the humble beginnings of a group of expats singing around a living room piano to a diverse group capable of tackling a variety of musical genres, Dubai Singers includes men and women of many different nationalities and ages. Numbers vary from around 35 for smaller works, which can swell to close on 100 for the more popular or well-known performances.

Where and when: Rehearsals take place 8pm-10pm every Monday at Kindermusik in Umm Suqeim and no auditions are required.

Why joining will change your life: Singing not only improves a person's mood and feeling of wellbeing, but also has physical benefits in, for example, the development of breath control. Another benefit is the shared pride and close camaraderie members feel when taking part in a successful group production.

Tried and tested: British administrator Wendy Lindley, 62, joined in 1991. She says, "It was one of the first things I did when I arrived here. If you are a singer or play an instrument then it's something you need to do. It instantly gave me 50 new friends, so the seeds for my social life were sown."

How to join? Simply email dubaisingers@gmail.com or log onto www.dubaisingers.info. Membership costs Dh200 annually. 


What it is: Launched in December 2009, TwitBookClub is a book club with a difference, as it's managed entirely through twitter via @TwitBookClub. Followed by more than 700 people worldwide, members have a reading choice of four books a month - based entirely on members' suggestions - and each book is discussed for 15 minutes during the monthly meetings.

Where and when: Members meet at 11am in Dubai every third Saturday of the month and are notified of the exact location via a Twitvite - a twitter invite.

Why joining will change your life: With members from the UAE, UK, US, India, Iran, China, Russia, and Pakistan, it's a chance to meet lots of different nationalities. It also encourages members to read both fiction and non-fiction.

Tried and tested: Indian journalist Devina Divecha, 24, joined in March this year. She says, "Quite simply, I love books. I own over 1,000, and reading is something my mother encouraged since I was very young. TwitBookClub has given me a way to connect with other readers, and I've read books I probably wouldn't have known about earlier."

How to join: Just show up at one of the meetings or log onto twitter.com/twitbookclub or email TDAllonsy@gmail.com. Membership is free.

Dubai Netball League (DNL)

What it is: More than 30 years old and now considered the most competitive netball league in the region, the DNL offers senior, youth and social teams to suit all levels, age groups and abilities. For those more serious about the game, the competitive teams recruit players who have played at national level in their home countries.

Where and when: Training nights are held on Sunday or Monday at the Sevens ground on Al Ain Road and Wednesdays are match nights.

Why joining will change your life: Whether you want to get fit, meet new friends, or simply pick up a sport that you have not played for years, the DNL can cater to your level. While those looking for fun can join the social teams, the more serious competitors can join the representative team, which takes part in the annual Inter Gulf Championships. And all the teams host regular social events of their own. During the summer, there is an option to join the summer netball team where you can just turn up and play.

Tried and tested: British mother-of-two Dawn Heathershaw, 41, a former PA, joined the league in March 2005. She says, "The first thing I did when my husband said he'd been offered a job in Dubai, was to check whether I could play netball. Being part of DNL has helped me meet lots of new people, which is important when moving to a new place. Netball is a part of my life where I can escape for two, three or four hours a week without any worries about my husband, kids or household chores."

How to join: Registration for the league costs Dh400 annually. To join a team, email sdknetball@gmail.com with details of your playing experience and the type of netball you want to play such as social or competitive, or log onto www.dubainetballleague.com for more information. 

Dubai Ladies Bridge Club

What it is: Founded in 1981, Dubai Ladies Bridge Club currently has 50 members with many different nationalities represented. Members play in pairs and those without partners can come to the club where a partner will be found for them.

Where and when: Members play every Sunday and Wednesday at the Dubai International Women's Clubhouse on Jumeirah Beach Road.

Why joining will change your life: Bridge is one of the most demanding and challenging card games because it literally exercises your brain by stimulating your thinking and memory. It is also good socially because you have to work closely with a partner and learn to trust them.

Tried and tested: Emirati Maryam Benham, 90, joined the club 32 years ago. She says, "I started growing into bridge late in life, but once in, I never looked back. It has saved me from boredom and a meaningless existence; I have made friends and my mental faculties have been strengthened as a result. Bridge does exactly that, unites the people of the world, regardless of cast, creed, colour, age and other social barriers."

How to join: Just turn up at a session, or call Jan Irvine on 050-6454395. Membership costs Dh250 a year, plus Dh20 per playing session.

Dubai Drama Group

What it is: Founded 28 years ago, this amateur dramatics group has 70 members ranging in age from their early 20s to their 60s, who all share a passion for community theatre. The group performs three shows a year to audiences of 100 a night. And as well as passionate actors, members include people interested in the backstage aspect of theatre, including scenery, costume, makeup, lights and sound.

Where and when: Rehearsals are held at International House and live performances at the Jam Jar in Al Quoz. The group also meets socially at 7.30pm on the last Wednesday of each month.

Why joining will change your life: People get a genuine buzz when they are involved in a show - from getting the production going to the nerves of the first night. And there's a sense of camaraderie between the cast and crew as they all come together to make the performance a success.

Tried and tested: British teacher Peter Milner, 60, joined 18 years ago. He says, "It's very easy just to go to work and then home again and lead a very humdrum existence, but I find being on stage widens your horizons and it's always nice to meet other people who have the same interests."

How to join: Go to a social evening or log onto www.dubaidramagroup.org to find out more. Membership costs Dh100 annually.

Dubai Roadsters

What it is: First launched ten years ago, Dubai Roadsters is a group of cyclists who enjoy leisure and recreational cycling. Their cycling events include weekly club rides, training rides and tours through the desert and mountains of the UAE, with an average of 150 cyclists taking part in the weekly Friday ride.

Where and when: The main rides start early on Friday mornings from Jumeirah, and riders can choose between three distances of 80km, 120km or 140km. There are also informal training rides on Sunday and Tuesday evenings at Nad Al Sheba and rides in Hatta in the winter. Cyclists can also enjoy two 220km coast-to-coast rides per year that go to up to Fujairah.

Why joining will change your life: Cycling in such a large group is very sociable as you can chat to several different people as you cycle alongside them and there are often barbecues or lunches after the sessions. Plus there's no denying the health benefits of exercising outdoors. Cycling has the added benefit of being a low-impact exercise and therefore less damaging on the joints.

Tried and tested: Dutchwoman Helen Rodd, 50, a swimming and gymnastics coach, joined the group six years ago: "Dubai Roadsters has changed my life. It introduced me to road biking, which I had never done before, and got me hooked straight away. I enjoy exercising outdoors and cycling was a great solution, as I do not really enjoy running. It comes across as quite an individual sport, so I was also pleasantly surprised how sociable it was, on the ride and afterwards."

How do I join: You need to be of intermediate to advanced level to take part in the bigger rides, but beginners can join a training ride on the first Sunday of every month at Nad Al Sheba. Membership is free, log onto www.dubairoadsters.com or call Wolfi's Bike Shop on 04-3394453 for more info.

Dubai Anime Club (DAC)

What it is: Set up in early 2007, DAC unites people with interests in Japanese anime, manga (Japanese for comics) and pop culture via online communities and regular meet-ups. The club has 300 registered members from a variety of nationalities and 400 online followers, with an age range of 12 to mid-30s. Meetings include activities such as trivia contests, comic workshops, drawing contests and events, where members dress up as their favourite anime character.

Where and when: Meetings are either held in a mall coffee shop or at Dubai Creek Park for bigger events to encourage children and teenagers to bring their families and friends along.

Why joining will change your life: It's a great way to meet people with a shared passion for anime and manga. It also encourages the largely young membership to interact with different nationalities to develop their social skills and participate in activities that promote artistic expression, creativity and teamwork.

Tried and tested: Emirati student Saeed Al Khaja, 19, joined in November last year: "I have finally found a group who share my love for Japanese culture, specifically anime and manga. I have made great friends and have reallocated my free time to help DAC with ongoing activities that have impacted many lives, thus I am pleased to say my life has improved for the better."

How to join: Just register online and participate in the discussions or join one of the group's events. Log on to www.dubaianimeclub.com, www.forum.dubaianimeclub.com or email info@dubaianimeclub.com. Membership is free.

Alice Haine is a contributor for Aquarius magazine