The United Arab Emirates is characterised by a diversity of landscapes – the 650-kilometre coast stretches along the Persian Gulf’s southern shore with most of it consisting of salt pans extending far into the interior; natural and man-made harbours in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah; and the deserts with their rolling sand dunes on the south and west of Abu Dhabi extending into the Rub al-Khali of Saudi Arabia as well as the abundant oases.
While the deserts of the UAE provide for plenty of outdoor activities, such as driving over the sand dunes in 4×4 vehicles, sand-boarding over the dunes, and participating in obstacle races, you will also find other non-desert outdoor activities. Just explore a bit more than the standard outdoor activities and you will find the outdoor activity that best suits your personality, preferences and plans while in the country.
In the following sections, the outdoor activities discussed are in Dubai. Keep in mind that other Emirates also have their fair share of attractions and activities, but Dubai is considered as one of the best starting points for exploration because of the juxtaposition between the old and new from its cultures to its infrastructure.
Savour the Souqs
Noisy yet imbued with a sense of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle; chaotic yet colourful in its people and their wares; local in flavour yet with a distinctly open ambience attracting people from all over the world. These are the apt descriptions of Dubai’s souqs, among the most enticing reminders of the country and its culture.
Step outside of the cool comfort of the shopping malls and explore the souqs with their cacophony of sounds and sights, which can instantly enliven a boring day. Be prepared for the organised chaos that so often permeates the souqs, as well as the bargaining adventure, can be enjoyed here. Be sure to carry cash as credit and debit cards are usually not accepted but since there is no risk for petty crimes here, your cash is as safe as can be.
Every souq has its own speciality while many offer a wide range of merchandise. Go to the Spice Souq for all types of spices including frankincense, lemons, dried fruits, nuts, and saffron, among others. Go to the Gold Souq at Sikkat Al Khail Street for the enormous varieties of gold jewellery available here. Every shop here has some unique designs of gold ornaments.
Sun and Surf
Dubai’s beaches are among the most beautiful beaches in the world and buzzing with activity in the entire UAE but you have to see it to believe it. During the peak season, groups including families and friends descend on the beaches for picnics as well as to play a wide range of water sports including jet-skiing, windsurfing, and swimming – or better yet, just catch the sun’s warmth any time of year. You can find some good quality swimwear in Dubai too, this is especially important as water sports can take a toll on your skin. Sun and Sand Sports have a great collection of outdoor clothing suitable for all of Dubai’s many activities.
You will find plenty of beaches in Dubai, from the free public parks with relatively decent facilities to the luxurious resorts with their expensive amenities. Check out the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina with its wide range of water sports from kayaking to water skiing; the Jumeirah Al Qasr for its beautiful beach; and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel for its private beach which is also suitable for water sports.