Outbound Adventures: A weekend in Dubai–what to do if you are not a shopaholic

Lina El-Wardani , Sunday 27 Nov 2016

So your luck takes you to Dubai for a couple of days, but you are claustrophobic and the skyscrapers and shopping malls are not exactly your cup of tea. What do you do?

Dubai museum in old town Dubai (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

No you are not playing a video game, and you haven't travelled to the future, and you are not in Lego city. This is Dubai, with the quirkiest and most modern skyscrapers, buildings and shopping malls, Dubai certainly has a lot to offer to modernist architects and those with an eye for modern and fresh designed buildings. It also has a lot to offer for nature-lovers.

Ras Al-Khor protectorate in Dubai, home to the beautiful white and pink flamingos. (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

Flamingo park

Take a taxi to Wadi Al-Khor protectorate and enjoy watching the flamingos standing on one leg, wiggling both legs, standing so quiet and tall, or even playing with each other.

You are not entirely free to walk around the protectorate, you just enter the park through a narrow shaded passage until you reach an air conditioned room with six large windows, you open the window and sit and watch the lovely birds for as long as you want. There is also a telescope for clearer vision. And the protectorate is free of charge. 

The air conditioned room with the big windows from which you can watch the flamingos, swans, canaries and other birds in Ras AL-Khor protectorate in Dubai

I stayed there for half-an-hour. My heart was singing to the beat of the flamingos, it was all so relaxing and conducive to meditation. 

The breathtaking views of Ras Al-Khor protectorate away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai city (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

Tip: Arrange for a car or taxi to pick you up or ask the car that dropped you to wait for you, as it is extremely difficult to hail a cab here. 

Atlantis water park
Marine and Water Park at Atlantis Palm Dubai (Photo Courtesy of http://blog.atlantisthepalm.com)

Atlantis Palm Water Park

This is one of the biggest water parks in the world. It is like a water Disney Land. Enjoy the aquaventure river rides where you can grab an inner-tube and slide through the rushing water, or race down the 1.6 km Rapdis river ride wth its twists and turns. 

If you are not feeling too adventurous you can relax and swim in one of the many swimming pools. When hungry pop by any of the 15 Waterpark restaurants and kiosks for a quick, refreshing bite to eat.

You can also watch a fascinating dolphins show or even better swim with the dolphins, or go on a shark safari. 

There are many more adrenaline rush adventures; book ahead and enjoy a fun day or weekend at the Aquaventure Waterpark.

Dubai gold market in the old town Dubai (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

Dubai Old Town

The gold souk, spice souk, textile market and the harbour. This is the old Dubai, this is where it all started, this is the harbour where trade used to actually happen.

The taxi dropped me off at the beginning of the gold souk, and I managed to walk fascinated by the beautiful, colourful shops in small alleyways. This is like any city’s old market, there is a life here after all.

A walk in this place is necessary when in Dubai, as it reminds you that this is a city after all, and not a man-made maquette.

Bur Dubai, or Dubai harbour where you can take a boat and cross from one side of the market to the other. (Photo: Lina EL Wardani)

I am not into gold, but gold here seems cheaper and the variety is huge. So if you have a couple of thousand dollars, or dirhams, to spare, spend it here rather than at the malls.

Then there is the spice market. My nose was tickled as I passed by the enchanting smells of amber, sandalwood, jasmine, lavender, and pomegranate flowers, and the spicy paprika, saffron, and all kinds of curry.

It is like any market with a lot of haggling and people asking you to come see this shop or that, or asking if you “want to buy a copy of a Gucci bag?”

I politely declined the offer and continued to the creek, the harbour where you take a boat called Abra to take you to the other side for only one dirham.

A huge ship carrying goods at Dubai harbour (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

The old boat carries around 12 people, and like everything in Dubai, the ride was very easy and organised. I admired the scenery of small old buildings, clear sky, old boats, and some huge wooden ships. It was such a treat to my eyes.

The colourful textile market in old town Dubai (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

But at that point the sun was too hot and I was ready for a cold drink or ice cream, both of which you can find on the harbour.

After this thirst-quenching treat, I was ready to explore the textile market. Most fabrics here are made in India and Pakistan, with pure cotton, silk and linen in bright colours, cosy modern and ethnic designs of pants, dresses, skirts and traditional gallabeyas and abayas.

The textile market with lots of colourful fabrics from all over the world (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

I bought two pants, one shawl and two traditional dresses for a total of 200 dirhams. The original price the salesman gave me was 500, so you have to haggle here.

Dubai museum in old town Dubai (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

At the end of the textile market you reach Dubai Museum, where the entry ticket is only three dirhams. This museum is worth visiting, as it puts the city into historical perspective. Dubai's best museum occupies the sturdy Al-Fahidi Fort, built around 1800 and considered the city's oldest structure.

Inside Dubai museum (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

The exhibit charts the emirate's turbo-evolution from a fishing and pearling village to a global centre of commerce, finance and tourism in an engaging, multimedia fashion.

Al-Fahidi fort in front of Dubai Museum (Photo: Lina El Wardani)

A walk through mock souk exhibits on Bedouin life in the desert and a room highlighting the importance of the sea illustrate the days before the discovery of oil. The last room showcases archaeological findings from nearby excavation sites.

I got out of the museum and it was boiling hot. I was so tired and could only see the glittering lights of the restaurant in front of me; The Fishermen's Hub.

I opened the door and let the air conditioning cool me down before the Indian waiter brought me a cold drink with complimentary popcorn, peanuts, cucumber and carrots. He also brought me a power bank to recharge my phone and gave me the wireless password.

I was glad to be back in the modern world after four hours in the alleyways of this wonderful old market in Dubai.


Desert Safari

If you can spare a few hours, take a desert safari and enjoy sand bashing and the view of endless sand dunes and a relaxing atmosphere in the Arabian Desert.

There are many companies that offer this trip, or you can arrange it via your hotel.

For those who love nature there is also... 

Dubai Miracle garden (Photo courtesy of http://www.dubaimiraclegarden.com)

Miracle Garden

The Dubai Miracle Garden is a flower garden located in the district of Dubailand. The garden was launched in 2013 and spreads over 72,000 square metres, making it the world's largest natural flower garden with over 109 million flowers planted.

In April 2015, the garden was awarded the Moselle Award for New Garden Experiences of the year by the Garden Tourism Award 2015.

The Dubai Miracle Garden operates from late November to April and is closed from May to October due to high temperatures which reach an average of 40°C (104°F), which is not conducive to flower-gazing.


Dubai is a shopping addict’s paradise, as there are many shopping malls hosting almost every kind of brand shop on the planet; from Holland and Bert to Carolina Herrera to Gucci, and any other brand you can think of.

There is the Dubai Mall with the world’s largest music fountain, which dances to world classical tunes every 45 minutes in the evening accompanied by a light and colour show on Burj Al-Khalifa. Although I personally found it irritating, it definitely drew a huge crowd, with cameras and all.

For those who get lost and claustrophobic in large malls there is the small and cosy Marina Mall, which has Desigual designer clothes store, Borders book store, Waterose supermarket, H&M, Mothercare, and Gymboree, among others. It also has the mouth-watering chocolate and dates store Bateel, ideal for gifts but very expensive.  

Marina Mall has a lot of nice restaurants and cafes. You can sit outside in the open air and enjoy the breeze at night.

There is also the less expensive and friendly Ibn Batuta Mall, but it is a bit far from central Dubai.


In Dubai, everything is very expensive, especially if you convert from Egyptian pounds. A regular lunch will cost you around 50 dirhams, a dinner from 100 to 150 dirhams, and a drink around 50 dirhams.

Alcoholic drinks are only served in bars that are mostly in hotels, so they are expensive. One beer is 50 dirhams.

Shopping for clothes is best to do when there are sales, otherwise it can be very expensive.

However, shopping for electronic devices seems to be more favourable in Dubai than in Egypt, with reasonable prices for cameras, phones and various appliances.

Do not spend all your time at the hotels and malls, enjoy the streets, metro and parks. 

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