Dubai: The UAE is home to an abundance of natural beauty and plenty of things to do, especially during the winter months. Each of the seven emirates has its own unique gems, whether they are beaches, mountains, desserts or hundred-year-old forts.
Here's where to head in Dubai for your nature or history fix. Make sure to be well prepared in terms of equipment and/or clothing before heading out to these locations. Also, don't forget to follow COVID-19 guidelines stringently wherever you decide to go.
Big Red – Off-roading in Dubai
Why you should visit: Big Red is located just at the border between Sharjah and Dubai, via Hatta Road (E44). It is a magnificent open dessert that's open and accessible to everyone. You'll notice that the further you drive away from the city, the deeper the red colour of the dessert becomes. Then you’ll get to Big Red, a pretty popular spot for bashing dunes, but a beautiful and picturesque desert away from the hustle of Dubai. This is one of the most popular dune bashing sites in the UAE. This spot is always filled with those looking for an adrenaline rush. This desert has the easiest dunes that can be manoeuvred by both amateurs and professionals. On weekends and holidays, the area is swarming with motorists looking to show off the latest tricks in motorbikes, buggies, quad bikes and jeeps.
Location: Dubai, 24.969919230283388, 55.72327668101903
Hatta – Hiking, sight-seeing and a scenic drive
Why you should visit: 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.
Where: Dubai, 24.789697065050316, 56.119514087516066
Lahbab – Desert camping and dune bashing
Why you should visit: Known for its spectacular red sands, Lahbab is a popular night-time haunt for new campers. Many start off close to the familiar Fossil Rock that’s also a great place for stargazing. A barbecue in this weather is the best thing to do while attempting the ‘Big Red’, a 300-foot high sand dune, is a dune basher’s delight. You could also head over to the sleepy village of Madam just before the Hatta border crossing for more camping spots where you may have some wandering camels from local farms for company.
Location: Dubai, 25.050124501814, 55.59266294671861
Al Ahmadiya School – History
Why you should visit: The Al Ahmadiya School that was established in 1912 and remained active until 1962. It is located in Al Ras area of Dubai, this museum can be explored in a few hours. This heritage site belongs to wealthy pearl merchant, Shaikh Ahmad Bin Dalmouk, and exhibits life-size creations of the country in the 1970s. It’s worth taking a look round to get an idea of what education used to be like before the introduction of a foreign curriculum. It was the first regular school in Dubai, which was attended by famous pupils including the father of Dubai – Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Built around a large courtyard the school is a beauty complete with scalloped archways with intricate details.
Location: Dubai, Al Ahmadiya Street in Deira, near Al Ras metro station, behind Dubai Public Libraries
Timings: Sunday to Thursday from 8am to 7.30pm, Friday from 2.30pm to 7.30pm
Dubai Museum – History and culture
Why you should visit: Opened in Dubai in 1971, the Dubai Museum aims to showcase the traditional Bedouin way of life. Located within Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787, the Dubai museum housed life-size dioramas of the pre-oil era, several galleries with old maps and historical finds as old as 3000 BC. It also has a video room that shows the development of Dubai from the discovery of oil, up to the present day. The visitors of Dubai Museum’s ‘Al Fahidi Fort’ have an opportunity to get rich, full and integral knowledge of the very old history of Dubai that interacted with different people and civilizations across history. Visitors will get acquainted with the different environments of urban and rural lives in Dubai, whether they are marine, coastal, desert, mountain or agricultural life.
Location: Dubai, Opposite Grand Mosque on Al Fahidi Street
Cost: Dh3 per Adults; Dh1 for children under 12
Timings: Saturday to Thursday from 8.30am to 8.30pm, Friday from 2.30pm to 8.30pm
Dubai Coffee Museum – Coffee and history
Why you should visit: Located in the Al Fahidi district, Dubai is home to the UAE’s first every museum dedicated to coffee. The museum opened its doors in September 2014 to mark International Coffee Day, which takes place on September 29. The museum is a showcase that connects the past and the present of the coffee world. The ground floor of the museum is made up of 6 different rooms including the different roasting and brewing styles from various countries, which are live demonstrated. The first floor of the museum offers a large selection of books about the history of coffee as well as documentaries that visitors can watch in the media room. Coffee lovers can also sit and enjoy some tasty coffee in their homey and cozy coffee lounge as well as purchase related items from the museum gift shop.
Location: Dubai, Villa 44, Al Fahidi Historical District
Timings: Daily from 9am to 5pm, closed on Friday
Al Oqaili Museum – Poetic history
Why you should visit: Built in 1923, this museum used to be the house of Emirati poet Mubarak Al Oqaili. Built on two stories the ground floor contains information on his life, poems and other manuscripts while the second floor displays his cultural and social life. In 2010 the house was renovated using the original building materials and construction techniques to preserve the life and work of one of the great poets of UAE.
Location: Dubai, Bani Yas, near the Spice Souq, Deira
Timings: Sunday to Thursday 8am to 2pm
Kite Beach – Food, sea and sun
Why you should visit: From paddle-boarding, riding jet skis and kite surfing to simply lazing on the beach with a selection of food outlets nearby, there is no dearth of things to do at this free to enter Dubai beach. Kids and adults can also enjoy water park activities and a trampoline park.
Location: Dubai, Umm Suqeim area of Dubai in Jumeirah
Timings: 10am to 10pm
- With inputs from Dona Cherian, Assistant Online Editor