Dubai Bucket List (Part 1): Top 7 Things to Do in Dubai

Dubai is known for its luxury and decadence; fast cars, big penthouses, villas on the beach, brunches and extravagant night life. It’s like a fancy hotel, which sadly almost never feels like true cozy home, since everything changes so fast. Or is it? Yes, the people make the city, so maybe we have been looking at things from the wrong angle all along? This perception of Dubai is definitely not the city’s fault, and there is so much more to it than ritzy hotels and posh cars. Dubai might be young, but it has history and charm, we just have to look past the glitz and glamour. This city can be nice, cozy, and soft, just like a good comfy chair. Dubai can feel like home, and for those who are looking for meaning in simple everyday pleasures, this ultimate Dubai bucket list proves it. Re-discover your city with these simple tips. 

1. Have breakfast (or lunch) at Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding.

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Centre for Cultural Understanding is not only a great place to take your visitors to, it’s a perfect place to to go yourself. Whether you are new to the city or have lived here all your life, the centre will expand your horizons dramatically and will bring Emirati culture closer to you. You will learn a lot, and you can ask any questions about the things that seem puzzly and strange to you.  As it says on their website “Enjoy a meal with local flair while chatting with an Emirati host about UAE culture, customs and religion.” You know more about the Centre for Cultural Understanding in this post. But, honestly, visiting this place is quite an eye-opener and it enriches your perception of Dubai.

2. Cross the Creek by abra to explore creekside markets-both sides.

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Tradition meets technology: abra captain checking his phone

If you are going to visit the Cultural Centre, why not incorporate an abra ride into your day of exploring Old Dubai? Time runs differently there and you might need the whole day to explore everything. Anyway, start with an abra ride to immerse into the slow-paced ethnic atmosphere. Abras (long wooden boats which are used as a regular means of transportation across the Creek), are a great way to get acquainted with the old part of Dubai, especially for those who live in a modern Dubai bubble. At the low-low cost of AED 1 these trips are an absolute bargain and a must-do.

3. Go on a desert safari.

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Sunset in the desert

Desert safari is a very popular activity in Dubai. There are tons of affordable offers on Groupon and lots of VIP companies that will organize something more special. As an alternative, why not consider camping in the desert, especially if you are the brave one? ( I am not that brave so am still to do that). There is a lot of tour companies that specialize in desert experience, in fact, there are many of them in the Entertainer and on Groupon, so it won’t break your bank. You will get a terrifying (or exciting, depending whether you decided to take your mom with:) dune bashing ride in a four-wheel drive, a camel ride if you dare, henna tattoo, henna and trinket purchase opportunities, traditional shisha right in the middle of the desert, a buffet dinner as the sun sets and traditional dancing performances. It may be slightly touristy, hence cheesy, but it’s definitely worth it. When else would you have an opportunity to see sunset in the desert?!

4. Try an Iftar buffet.

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Iftar buffet is something you can try only during one month a year, during the holy month of Ramadan, so choose carefully. Iftar is an evening meal Muslims break their daily fast with, and it’s usually full of traditional Arabic delicacies, such as jalab, kunafe and umm ali. This particular meal is super popular with local families, so if you see lots of locals at a particular establishment, it means it’s good. You will have a unique opportunity to be part of something very important for your host nation, so take it! Besides, it’s a very different experience to be at a restaurant without any music on, so you can actually talk to people at your table.

However, Iftar has transformed a lot in the cosmopolitan city of Dubai, so you can even try an Indian or a Peruvian Iftar. More on affordable iftars you can read here. Dubai Bucket List will not be full without some of those.

5. Have a photo walk around Bastakiya area.

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Since I started talking about Old Dubai, I cannot skip the beautiful area of Bastakiya. This tiny area is one of Dubai’s most charming neighborhoods. Established at the end of the 19th century by well-off textile and pearl traders from Bastak, Iran, its labyrinthine puzzly streets are lined with restored merchants’ houses, art galleries, cozy cafés, and boutique hotels. It’s a picturesque area where time has stopped. Grab a camera and get there at sunset- the spectacular sight of the old buildings during the gold hour will be your reward.

6. Try some camel milk products.

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Or some camel meat if you have courage. (That one is still not ticked off my Dubai bucket list). It’s quite easy to get it in Dubai, so if exotic foods and drinks are on your personal bucket list, camel products should definitely take their place there. Not only is camel milk good-tasting, it is also good for health. It can prevent diabetes, improve the immune system, stimulate blood circulation, treat autism, lessen allergic reactions, promote growth and development, protect against certain autoimmune diseases, and boost heart health. And even lactose-intolerant people can have it. Camel milk should surely go on your Dubai Bucket List.

7. Speaking about camels…

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Ride a camel in Al Sahra Equestrian centre. Unforgettable experience! You can more information on the center here. If it sounds too remote, there are often camels walking right on JBR beach, so you can ride a camel with the skyscrapers in the background. Only in Dubai!

What is on your Dubai bucket list? Any special things to do? Let us know in comments below.

To be continued…

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