With all of its overt opulence and triumphs in setting extreme world records, it may seem that Dubai is nothing more than glitz and glam, but if you look past its well-groomed facade you’ll find that there’s much more to the city than showy supercars and manicured malls. Underneath its superficial layer is a rich and fascinating culture, with many locals open to sharing their stories and answering questions. You’ll also find that there’s a deep appreciation for the arts, highlighted with a bevy of galleries and a new project that has turned a street into an open-air museum. Then there are the more audacious activities for those who want to get their adrenaline pumping, with some of the most attractive options being beyond city limits.
And if you’re planning on making a trip to the Maldives, why not make it a two-in-one vacation with a stopover in Dubai? Odds are you’ll be flying Emirates when heading to the tropical nation, so you might as well take advantage of their amazing stopover program. Ahead of your stay in a dreamy overwater bungalow like those offered at One&Only Reethi Rah or, if you’re really going for a splurge, on your own private island, find out what Dubai has to offer. To help get you started, below are five experiences you won’t want to miss out on.
1. Venture out to the dessert
If you thought Dubai was just another city with one too many high-rises, think again. Head out to the dessert and let your adventurous side take over while dabbling in a multitude of activities, including hot air balloon rides, off-roading, and sandboarding. No matter what you choose to do, it’ll surely be a highlight of your trip.
2. Visit the Al Fahidi Historic District
Kick off the day at Arabian Tea House Café where exquisite breakfast trays with bites such as hummus, baba ghanoush, and falafel are served with piping hot Arabic bread. Afterward, hop over to the Sheikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding for a tour around the historic neighborhood and an opportunity to learn more about the United Arab Emirates’ customs and traditions.
3. Awe over the city’s latest in street art
For the first phase of the Dubai Street Museum project, artists from around the world were brought in to transform 2nd December Street using buildings as their canvas. Take a stroll along the road and set your eyes on striking murals, many of which depict aspects of the local culture.
4. Go skydiving
With man-made islands in the shape of palm trees and an archipelago meant to mimic a world map, Dubai is meant to be seen from above. Arguably one of the most spectacular drop zones, thrill seekers are in for a real treat when they skydive over the Palm Jumeirah, pairing their adrenaline rush with a fantastic view.
Touristy? Yes, but given that it’s the tallest building in the world and Dubai’s most famous landmark, it’s one of those things you should do to check off the list. With three observation decks on separate floors, take in the city from varying heights before you head back down to watch the Dubai Fountain’s show or stroll through the Dubai Mall to catch a glimpse of the aquarium.