Dubai is known for its luxury and opulent offerings when it comes to accommodation, sightseeing and eateries. The introduction of affordable luxury means that there’s now plenty more to see and do in this city that won’t break the bank.
Whether its breakfast with butterflies, sailing across the Creek, dining with the locals or simply discovering the emirate’s roots dating back to the Iron Age. Here’s how you can explore Dubai in three days for less than $350 (R4588.26)
Breakfast at Arabian Tea House
Start the day unwinding at Arabian Tea House. Set in the historic Al Fahidi district on the Bur Dubai side of the Creek, the tea house offers everything from delectable breakfast platters, healthy sandwiches, salads and dips, to pastries, refreshing mint lemonades and more than 100 types of tea – including a house special blend of black tea with fruit and herbs.
AED80(R285.75) for 2 people. www.arabianteahouse.co
Morning exploring Dubai’s oldest neighbourhoods
Saruq Al-Hadid interactive museum
Discover one of the most exciting and mysterious archaeological sites in the emirate, telling the story of Dubai via a stunning range of artefacts unearthed at a recent dig at Saruq Al Hadid. This newly opened museum takes you through the mysterious archaeological discoveries and presents exciting treasures of yesteryear, including relics, gold, bronze and iron artefacts, and an impressive haul of over 900 objects discovered at the site. Keep your eye out for the stunning swords, arrowheads and interactive video exhibitions. Young visitors can get hands-on with culture and reconstruct a pot, assemble an animal skeleton, or even help the experts solve a mystery.
AED 40 (R142.87) for 2 people. www.saruqalhadid.ae
Al Fahidi tour
A visit to Al Fahidi neighbourhood is a great opportunity to get acquainted with Dubai’s old way of life, reflected in the traditional buildings featuring wind towers (Barajeel) built out of stone, gypsum, teak, sandal wood, fronds and palm wood. Wander through the narrow alleys, pathways and public squares, and discover the beauty of old Dubai. Don’t miss the area’s various art exhibits, specialised museums, cultural centres (including the highly recommended Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding) and quaint cafés, restaurants and guesthouses.
Visitors to Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort can take a step back in time to view precious artefacts, dioramas, drawings and diagrams, audio and video media on the history of Dubai, with the museum divided into a number of different wings. At the centre of the fort is an open-air space displaying local boats, traditional homes and old fortifications.
AED 6 (R21.43)for 2 people.
Lunch at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
Enjoy a traditional meal with local flair while chatting with an Emirati host about UAE culture, customs and religion at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, set in a traditional wind tower house in the historic Al Fahidi neighbourhood.
AED180 (R642.93) for 2 people www.cultures.ae/index.php/ouractivities/cultural-meals
Afternoon stroll through Deira
Spice Souk, Deira
Savour the aromas as you stroll past mounds of herbs, spices, incense and traditional medicinal products at every turn at the Deira Spice Souk. The souk also sells Oud (agarwood) perfumes, nuts and dried fruits, as well as other quintessentially Arabian souvenirs such as pashminas and embroidered wares. The shopkeepers are friendly and chatty, and more than happy to introduce lesser-known spices. Remember, haggling is not only accepted, it’s expected!
Bait Al Banat (Women’s Museum)
Bait Al Banat is a house of historical importance, dating back to the 1950s and translating to ‘The Girls’ House’. The museum was established to preserve the history of women in the UAE, break down stereotypes and reveal the extraordinary role that UAE women have played in defining Emirati culture and shaping society. The museum offers an introduction to the lives of UAE women, with the ‘Memory of the Place’ exhibition revisiting the past of Dubai’s Gold Souk area, the ‘Diwan Ousha Bint Khalifa’ space celebrating the life and work of the acclaimed UAE poet, and the gallery spaces holding permanent and temporary exhibitions of works by female artists.
Free entry. http://womenmuseumuae.com/eng/?page_id=900
Evening In-Between at Filli Tea Café, Naif
Satiating Dubai’s Zafarani Chai culture with its unique tea blend, along with scrumptious sandwiches and shakes, this cafeteria has managed to pull crowds from all over the country and serves nearly 2,000 cups of tea on any given day. Enjoy the scintillating assortment of six different FiLLi Teas, and then once you’ve found the blend for you, dive straight into the paratha bites, Fil Z Burgers, toasted crunchy tortillas’, mind blowing feast 6’ and hot n spicy samoosas’.
AED 30 (R107.16) for 2 people http://fillicafe.com/
Dinner at XVA Art Hotel’s Café
Tucked away in the charming quarters of the Al Fahidi district, the XVA Art Hotel and Café is an interesting, eclectic space for artistic and cultural expressions. The café is set in a traditional open-air courtyard and offers a wide variety of vegetarian dishes inspired by the cuisine of the region – including pumpkin kibbeh, beetroot kebabs, an eggplant burger, a rose cheesecake and refreshing mint lemonade.
AED100 (R357.19) for 2 people. www.xvahotel.com/cafe
DAY 1 TOTAL – AED 336 (R1200)
Breakfast by the beach at Bageterie Boulevard, Kite Beach
A trendy concept of fast food restaurants with French charm, the staff at Bageterie Boulevard are specialists when it comes to crispy baguettes with unique and high quality fillings, always baked on the spot and prepared fresh as you want them. The food is based on traditional European cuisine, transformed into a simple way of eating – perfect for an afternoon by the beach. Also on the menu are hearty soups, delectable desserts, yoghurts, fresh salads and breakfast items – all washed down with home-made ice tea, various coffees and local favourites like Karak tea and Moroccan mint tea.
AED80 (285.75) for 2 people. www.binhendi.com/brands/bageterie-boulevard
Morning at Jumeirah Mosque
Come and join a unique opportunity to learn about Emirati culture and religion in a relaxed, casual and open atmosphere at this iconic mosque, one of only two mosques in Dubai that are open to non-Muslims. One of the most beautiful landmarks in Dubai, Jumeirah Mosque, which is large enough to hold up to 1,200 worshippers, was built entirely from white stone in the medieval Fatimid tradition, with towering twin minarets framing a large central dome. Don’t forget your camera!
AED40 (R142.87) for 2. www.cultures.ae/index.php/ouractivities/jumeirah-mosque-visit
Lunch at Zaroob
Literally translating into “small alley”, Zaroob is inspired by the traditional street food vendors of the Levant region, capturing the best and most authentic aspects and ambiance of simple, wholesome Arabian cuisine. Perfect for lunch, dinner or a snack in between, the live cooking stations, open kitchens and eclectic decorative items from the Arab world present diners with the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional street or market in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt.
AED100 (R357.19) for 2. www.zaroob.com
Afternoon at Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Translated as ‘Cape of the Creek’, Ras Al Khor sits at the mouth of the Dubai Creek and is among the few protected urban areas in the world – a critical staging ground for the wintering birds of the East African to West Asian Flyway. Three bird reserves form the perimeter of the sanctuary, hosting flamingos, grey herons, great egrets, reef herons, cormorants, black-winged stilts, sandpipers and osprey among others. This wildlife haven covers an area of 6 sq km and features a combination of salt flats, intertidal mudflats, mangroves and lagoons, supporting over 20,000 water birds and 67 species. The site is also home to more than 500 species of flora and fauna and is one of the best-managed arid wetland zones in the region.
Free entry for individuals and families.
An Evening by the water
The Dubai Fountain
Delight your senses by experiencing the world’s largest choreographed fountain system during one of The Dubai Fountain’s daily performances – a show of dancing water accompanied by synchronised lights and music. Set on the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake, the fountain shoots water jets as high as 500 ft (150 metres), equivalent to the height of a 50-storey building. The fountain is 900 ft (275 metres) long and has five circles of varying sizes and two central arcs, all designed by California-based WET, the creators of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. Evening shows commence at 6pm and take place every 30 minutes until 11pm on weekdays and 11.30pm on weekends.
Behold the sight of the city from a new perspective along the Dubai Water Canal, a 3.2km-long waterway that connects the inland part of the Creek to the Arabian Gulf via Business Bay. The waterfront also includes a promenade featuring a manmade waterfall, which flows regularly during the evening and mechanically parts the water to let boats pass beneath. Five strikingly designed pedestrian bridges cross the Canal, offering visitors various platforms from which to view the urban vistas.
Dinner at Operation: Falafel
Perfecting one recipe at a time, Operation: Falafel works on a specialised model that serves food that isn’t just cooked and plated, but handcrafted and presented by chefs who are masters of traditional Arabic street food, all within a contemporary space. The highlight of a dinner here are the best-selling pitas packed with crunchy hot falafels, generously drizzled with tahini sauce and a punchy salad – artfully layered and stuffed to perfection.
AED 70 (R250) for 2. http://operationfalafel.com/
DAY 2 TOTAL – AED 290(R1035)
Breakfast at Hapi
It is Dubai’s hottest new healthy, eco-friendly café, but the words raw or vegan do not feature in HAPI’s vocab. With wholesome egg pots, nutritious bone broth served with generously buttered baps, sirloin steak or hot smoked salmon with sides of chunky sweet potato wedges and soft-serve ice creams on the menu, HAPI follows an ‘eat, move, play’ philosophy. Never skimping on flavour, HAPI’s health creds stem from its balanced view of well-being, with its delicious culinary offerings complemented by a parkour playground, consultation room and yoga room, all under one roof.
AED100 (R357.19) for 2. https://alserkalavenue.ae/en/index.php
Morning stroll round Al Serkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue is home to an exciting contemporary art scene housed in the characteristic warehouse-style buildings of the industrial neighbourhood of Al Quoz. Beyond leading galleries such as Carbon 12 Dubai, Isabelle Van den Eynde Gallery and Green, you’ll also find Salsali Private Museum, Dubai’s first private museum, as well as numerous restaurants and cafés. The neighbourhood is also home to Satellite, an alternative arts space that supports artists in residence by inviting local, regional and international artists to the gallery and providing them with the opportunity, time and space to produce new and original works.
Lunch at Maraheb Restaurant, Global Village
Creating an unforgettable dining experience and capturing the true essence of Arabian culture and its aromatic flavours, Maraheb specialises in Mandi – a dish with its roots in Yemen. Mandi receives its name from the Arabic word ‘nada’ (meaning ‘dew’), due to the perfectly cooked moist rice prepared with tender meat and onions, and flavoured with saffron, cardamom and cloves.
AED100 (R357.19) for 2.
Afternoon at Dubai Miracle Garden
Be enchanted in a one-of-a-kind world of wonderment at Dubai Miracle Garden. Located in Al Barsha South, the park is home to the region’s biggest flower garden with more than 45 million blooming flowers across 72,000 sq m, all displayed within immense sculptures and intricate layouts. Feast your eyes on blooming pyramids, stars, igloos and hearts, take in the record-breaking wall of flowers, or enjoy a stroll under a ceiling of colourful umbrellas.
AED80 (R285.75) for 2 people. www.dubaimiraclegarden.com
Evening at Global Village
Global Village is Dubai’s leading family entertainment and cultural attraction with a unique shopping experience from over 70 participating countries presented in over 36 pavilions, each representing a different country. Offering a variety of international dining options along with thrill rides at Global Village’s Fantasy Island, this annual entertainment and shopping destination is open from November through to April.
AED30 (R107) for 2 people. http://globalvillage.ae/en/
Dinner by the shore at Bu Qtair
Located in a residential area along Jumeirah Road, overlooked by the glitzy Burj Al Arab, there are no reservations in this casual seafood eatery – it’s all first-come, first-served, with the queue building in anticipation of the 7pm opening. A popular entry in many Dubai residents’ little black book, the pomfret, chilli prawns and local hammour are marinated in a mildly spiced seasoning before being fried and served with rice or paratha and curry sauce. The devoted following that Bu Qtair has built up over more than two decades is down to the delicious fresh seafood and wallet-friendly prices.
AED100 (R357.19) for 2.
DAY 3 TOTAL – AED 410 (R1464.46)