An alternative guide to Dubai: away from the 5* lifestyle

Dubai is rightly famed for its luxury lifestyle; all 5* hotels and designer shopping malls. While we like to indulge in the finer things this emirate has to offer, we also sometimes love to head away from it to instead seek out something more. If you feel the same, here are some places we suggest you visit: 

Overnight camping in the desert

 Man walking in the Dubai desert

Man walking in the Dubai desert

A short drive out of Dubai and you’ll find yourself in the middle of orange-red sand dunes. The dunes are an incredible sight, whether it’s your first or 100th time seeing them. Make the most of this spectacular natural landscape with an overnight camping trip; gaze up at the stars before bedtime and awake with the sunshine as it peers over the dunes in the morning. There are a few options for such trips; for a cheaper trip with a tour-group contact Arabian Adventures or do it in luxury with a stay at the Al Wadi Desert, Ras Al Khaimah

Alserkel Avenue 

 Hassan Hajjaj artwork on display at  The Third Line , Alserkel Avenue, Dubai.

Hassan Hajjaj artwork on display at The Third Line, Alserkel Avenue, Dubai.

The super-cool Alserkel Avenue is home to multiple art galleries, all of which are housed in former warehouses, giving an industrial vibe. Here you'll find all kinds of art on show; it's not unusual to find art from an up-and-coming UAE based artist alongside some of the bigger names in the art world. Former exhibitions have included work by popular Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, plus Moroccan born, UK-based artist (and an all-time Contemporary Class favourite) Hassan Hajjaj, dubbed the 'Andy Warhol of Marrakech'. In between the galleries you'll find a few of Dubai's coolest cafés to hang out in.  

Jumeirah Mosque

 Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai. Photo Credit: Aidas U.

Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai. Photo Credit: Aidas U.

A tour of the Jumeirah Mosque offers a unique insight into the culture and religion of Dubai. Do keep in mind that as a place of worship, visitors are expected to cover their arms, legs and shoulders. Next-door you'll find a cafe serving camel-milk coffees and hot chocolates; pop in after your tour is finished. 

Shopping in the souks 

 A spice souk

A spice souk

A variety of souks can be found in Old Dubai (Bur Dubai). Two of our favourites to visit are the gold souk and the spice souk. Visit the gold souk for varying carat jewellery; the gold sparkles and flickers from store after store, and all at reasonable rates - so long as your haggling skills are on point. The spice souk is the place to stock up on ingredients to take home with you; use your nose to seek out the strong scents of chilli, ginger, frankincense. We recommend taking an abra (traditional Arabic boat) from the south side of the creek over to the souks to get a feel for a more traditional way of life.

Watersports

 Contemporary Class Editor, Katie Silcox, wakeboarding in Dubai

Contemporary Class Editor, Katie Silcox, wakeboarding in Dubai

Dubai’s fantastic costal location means it’s the perfect place to partake in a watersport or two. We recommend having a go at fly-boarding, where you stand on a small platform attached to water jets that propel you high up into the air…or if you don’t quite master it, face down into the sea. Other popular watersports here include wakeboarding, yachting, jet-skiing and game fishing. 

Water parks 

 Aquaventure waterpark at The Atlantis, Dubai, UAE

Aquaventure waterpark at The Atlantis, Dubai, UAE

Fun for kids and adults alike visit either the Wild Wadi Water Park or the Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark (part of the famous Atlantis The Palm hotel). Both have a load of exhilarating water-themed rides, along with more relaxing lazy rivers and sun loungers.  The latter is home to a ride called The Leap of Faith, a near vertical drop that definitely takes some psyching up to hurtle yourself down. We’re proud to say, we managed it (and lived to tell the tale!). 

 - By Katie Silcox

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