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Exploring Dubai beyond the shopping malls

Exploring Dubai beyond the shopping malls

Dubai is known as the entertainment capital of the Middle East. The Emirate is renowned for the shopping malls, futuristic architecture, and exuberant nightlife. As we had already visited almost all the enormous malls in Dubai, We decided to explore Dubai, beyond the shopping malls.

The best time to visit is November-March (December being the peak month).

Visa for Indians: Indians can apply for the visas to UAE through the agents or the nearest visa application centers. Now the UAE provides Visa on arrival for Indian passport holders with US green card or residence permits.

The EU nationals can enter the UAE without a visa for 90 days out of 180 days unless otherwise stated. Check out the Visa policy for your country here

Stay: There are numerous 2,3,4 and 5-star hotels that you can book according to your budget. Make sure you compare the prices in various sites before booking the rooms.

Dress code: Dubai is the fashion capital of the UAE and the dress code is very liberal here as compared to the other Emirates. But make sure the dresses don’t offend the locals.

Currency: The currency of the UAE is known as Dirhams(Dh) and 100 fils make a dirham. 1 AED= 17.57 INR.

Things to do in Dubai:

Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort: Dubai fort and museum is situated in the near the creek area.

Entrance: 3Dh

Timings: From Saturday to Thursday, from 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM, and Fridays, from 2:30 PM to 8:30 PM.

The place offers insight into the rich cultural heritage of Dubai. There are ancient items like pottery, weapons etc. The place is a must visit in Dubai.

Al Fahidi Fort and Museum
Some pearls and other artifacts
Deep divers
A scene from the ancient Arab land
The exit

The temple and the textile souk: Visit the Temple complex (Krishna and Sai Baba temples) and the Gurudwara in the same building. These places are near the museum.The textile souk or the old souk offers a massive range of fabrics (wools, cashmere, silk, cotton etc.) along with several souvenir stores.

Take an Abra to the other side of the Creek: The abra is the traditional boat of the Emirates. The ride costs 1 Dh per person. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the other side. The ride is totally a great experience.

The Abra Station
The view from the Abra
The sunset

Visit the gold and the spice souks: Visit the world famous gold souk of Dubai. The gold souk is situated near the Dubai Creek. The visitors remain astonished at the sight of so much gold. All that glitters is gold in the gold souk. The spice souk is quite near the gold souk. You can smell the place before you see it. The tantalizing aroma of all the spices is amazing. Besides the spices, one can get basmati rice, dry fruits, and various other materials in this souk.

All that glitters is Gold in Dubai!
Yeah!! All Gold
Guinness World Record for the Largest Ring made of Gold

Visit the Miracle garden and the butterfly garden: This park is the regions’ largest flower gardens with around 45 billion flowers blooming at a time. This place is a treat to the eyes. The Garden is closed during summer months. Tickets: 35 AED pp

Its heard to believe Dubai is actually a Desert

The Dubai water canal: This is the newest attractions of Dubai. This is the extension of the Dubai Creek till Business Bay. One can take a cruise ride in the water canal in the evenings or simply take a walk around the place.

Dubai Water Canal

Visit the Palm islands and the Atlantis lost chambers aquarium: I would recommend visitors to take a tram to the Palm Islands (from JLT stop) so as to see the crescents of the palm clearly. The tram tickets cost 30 per person (to and fro). One can either spend time taking photos outside the Atlantis (in the jogging track) or visit the Aquaventure water park or the Lost Chamber aquarium ( entrance starts from 100 Dh) One can also take helicopter rides and airplane rides from Marina (starts from 500AED per person)

The Atlantis (View from the Tram)

Go Dune bashing and Desert Safari: Take a Desert safari and enjoy the dune bashing in an SUV. The desert safari costs around 150 Dh per person and it is worth the money. The tour offers you a pickup and drops from the hotel. After the dune bashing, the tourists will be taken to the desert camp site where there will be Tanura show, belly dancing, Hookah bar followed by the dinner at the camp. Though the dinner is not so praiseworthy, the overall experience is amazing and one of the must haves in UAE

Ships of the desert-Camels
Tanura Dance
Sunset scenes at the desert

Visit at the top –Burj- Khalifa: Visit the observatory at the top of world’s tallest building at 124th floor. You can view the entire area from the telescope. The tickets cost around 150 Dh per person.

The Burj Khalifa

The beaches: There are many private and public beaches to spend quality time with family here. The Jumeirah beach is a chilled out beach here.One can take awesome snaps of Burj-al-Arab from here. Kite beach is famous for the kite surfers here, one can enjoy several water sports on this beach. Barasti Beach: This is a private beach and bar in Dubai and one of the most happening places. There are several events organized here. One can enjoy the chilled beer and hookah sitting on the beach side.

Visit the Madinat Jumeirah: It is a souk very near to the Jumeirah beach. Visit the souk to check out the souvenirs and local handmade items. There are also good restaurants and bars in that place.

Enjoy at the global village: The global village is world’s largest exhibition. It features over 25 pavilions showcasing the art, merchandise, and handicrafts of the countries across the globe.This place is a must visit in Dubai. The global village remains open from November to April. Timings: 4 PM- 12 AM. The entrance ticket is 15 Dh per person.

Other attractions:

IMG world of Adventure: This is an indoor amusement park. Ticket prices: 245 Dh per person onwards.

Wild Wadi water parks: The wild wadi water park is near the Burj-al-Arab and is one of the best places to beat the heat.

one can also go for the Hatta safari or to the Dibba Musandam as one day trip.

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Fujairah – the land of mountains, forts, and beaches.

Fujairah – the land of mountains, forts, and beaches.

It was our anniversary on the 25th of May, and the best way to celebrate it was to explore a new city together. So we decided to go to Fujairah, a lesser known emirate in the UAE. Fujairah is situated on the east coast.

About Fujairah: It is one of the seven emirates of the UAE and is situated on the east coast and has the coastline on the Gulf of Oman. The public transport is scarce here but taxis are available in plenty.

Best time to visit: definitely not May! It was very hot! The winter months ( November to March) are the best time to visit  any emirate in UAE for that matter 

Dress code: The emirate of Fujairah is not as liberal as Dubai and one must follow the dress code when visiting the mosque and other religious places. Swimwear etc. is allowed within the resort/ hotel limits.

We started from Dubai, which is on the west coast of the UAE at 2:30 PM. We took a metro from the Ibn batuta station to the Union stop. From Union, we boarded the bus E700 that would take us to Fujairah city ( Dh 28). Taking the bus was the biggest mistake we did on this trip It took us 3 hours to reach Fujairah whereas a taxi ride would have taken us to our destination in an hour and a half (Dh 250 approx). After a tiring journey, we got down at the Etisalat stop, Fujairah and checked in to our rooms at Hotel Nour Arjaan by Rotana. The hotel was right behind the Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque, the second largest mosque in UAE. The view from our hotel was just amazing.

View from our hotel Nour Arjaan by Rotana

Next day, there was a sumptuous spread for breakfast. We had our heart’s content and left to explore the city.

Yummy breakfast at the hotel

We asked our taxi driver to take us around the city. Our first stop was the Al Bidya Mosque.This mosque is situated at around 35KM to the north of Fujairah. This mosque is also known as the Othmanian mosque. It is the oldest mosque of UAE and was built in 1446 AD. The mosque was built using only locally available materials like stones and burned clay.

The view from the entrance to the Al-Bidya Mosque

The Al Bidya Mosque

On the way, we saw the Korfakkan Corniche and the Fujairah Seaport.Our next stop was Al Bithna Fort, which was 13 KM west of the Fujairah city.

Korfakkan Corniche

On the way, we stopped by at the heritage village, but it was not open yet. Then we headed to the fort. We had difficulty in finding the way to the fort as there were no direction signs put up anywhere. Finally, a friendly Emirati guy led us to the entrance.

Al Bithna Mosque

Al Bithna Fort is the 2nd largest fort and is nestled between a mountain range on both sides of Haam Valley. There is an agricultural oasis in front of the Fort. Al Bithna Fort consists of a main three- storied tower and one smaller tower located at the north. We spent some time here ( It was too hot to be out in the sun) and then went on to Al Hayl  Fort and Castle.

On the way to Al Hayl Castle

The Al Hayl castle was built in the year 1930. The road to this castle was narrow and through the mountains. I was surprised that there can be a castle in such a deserted area.  The guide at the castle told us that the forefathers of the current King of Fujairah had stayed in the Al Hayl castle. And there was an entire village in that area. (Now there are no people staying around the place).

It was already 1:30 PM by then and we were starting to get hungry. But we thought of visiting the Fujairah Fort before lunch. As it was Friday, the fort was closed. The Fujairah Fort was built in between 1500-1550 AD. This fort comprises of three circular towers and a square one. We took few snaps outside the fort and headed to the Lulu mall in Al Etisalat road for our lunch.

Entrance to the fujairah fort
Fujairah Fort
Ceiling at the Lulu Mall

Post lunch we got back to our room for a bit of rest. It was impossible to go roaming as the temperature was around 40 degrees C. I had a complimentary back and shoulder massage from the hotel :). At around 5 PM, we went on to visit the  Fujairah Museum.

The Fujairah Museum

Fujairah museum houses the artifacts that were excavated from the various historical sites of Fujairah. The entrance tickets cost  5 Dh per person. The museum is divided into two sections: the heritage halls: which displays the occupations known to the region like fishing, agriculture etc. It also includes the display of weapons, utensils, and costumes of the region. The Antique hall includes the excavated artifacts. The place was worth the visit and gave us a rich insight of the culture of the locals.

Our last stop was to the Fujairah Corniche. The place was very crowded as it was a holiday. We spent some time sitting on the shore and enjoying the surroundings and passed by the Sheikh Zyed Masjid, the second largest mosque in UAE and got back to our room at around 8 PM.

The Fujairah Corniche
Shiekh Zayed Masjid, Fujairah

Next day was the start of the holy month of Ramadan, which is why we covered all the attractions in one day. We had a great breakfast at our hotel and checked out at around 12:30 PM.

This time we did not go back by bus 😛  and booked a taxi instead. We had a great time in Fujairah!

Abu Dhabi in a day

Abu Dhabi in a day

Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest of the 7 Emirates and also the richest. This Emirate consists of 200 Islands and 700 KM coastline. One can easily visit Abu Dhabi from Dubai, either by car or by bus.

The distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is approx. 140 KM and it takes around 1 hour 30 minutes by bus. The buses are available from Al Gubaiba Bus station in Bur Dubai (E100) or from Ibn batuta stop (E101). The frequency of the bus from Ibn Batuta is every half an hour. The ticket costs 25 AED, one way. Ordinary NOL card with sufficient currency is enough to swipe for the bus ticket.

the bus is the cheapest transport available to reach Abu Dhabi (taxi costs 300 AED one way!) or there are private tours that take a full day/half day city tour to Abu Dhabi for around 150-200 AED per person. Getting around Abu Dhabi is easy as there are plenty of cabs and price is reasonable ( meter starts from 3 AED, unlike in Dubai 5.50 AED

Places to visit in Abu Dhabi in a day

1) Marina mall: one of the famous malls in Abu Dhabi which houses all the local and the international brands. It also features the bowling alley, cinema and ice rink. One can also take the ferry wheel ride outside the mall (200AED pp)

2) Abu Dhabi corniche: It is a 8 km stretch and an amazing place to spend a couple of hours with the family.One can simply sit and enjoy the sunset, or cycle around, take a walk.Kids can play in the kids’ area. There are plenty of eateries available too.

3) Heritage Village: The heritage village is 20 minutes taxi ride from the Abu Dhabi metro station.The entrance to the heritage village is free. This place showcases the culture of UAE. It has an entire Emirati village re-created including the wells, farms, home, godowns etc. It shows how the city was before the oil boom. Kids can enjoy the camel ride and the horse rides here. There is a small souk, where the souvenirs, silverware, toy camels etc can be purchased. Also, there is a museum which houses photographs of various stages of development of the UAE, from small fishing villages to the super cities. The artisans there give a live demo on making of leather shoes, bags and glassware and various artifacts. One can have some quite time sitting at the sea shore and enjoying the view of the Abu Dhabi skyline from here. Recommended time to be spent: 2 hours. (unfortunately, I do not have enough pictures of the heritage village.)

pic courtesy:

4) Emirates palace Currently the 7-star hotel in Abu Dhabi, It used to be palace before. The visitors are allowed to visit the Hotel. Since it is closed on Friday (only hotel guests are allowed), we could not visit.We just took some snaps near the entrance to the palace. On the way to the palace, one can also see the famous Etihad towers (fast and furious 7 towers jumping scene) and ADNOC headquarters.

5)Sheik Zayed Grand mosque: It is one of the largest mosques in the world. It can accommodate around 41000 worshippers at a time.This mosque is open for people of all religion except during the prayer time.Women are required to dress modestly and cover their head with the scarf. The mosque is an amazing example of the modern day Islamic architecture. With over 80 domes and more than 1000 pillars, the mosque is a feast to the eyes of the visitors. The main attractions of the mosque include the largest loomed prayer carpet and the beautiful chandeliers (made of pure gold and Swarovski crystals).

6)Yas Island: Yas Island and Ferrari world need an entire day to dedicated to itself. But one can visit the Yas Island for a photo stop and also visit the Ferrari Merchandise store( Right before the entrance to the Ferrari world) and buy some Ferrari souvenirs and goodies.

One can also visit the Abu Dhabi souk, the carpet souq or the Abu Dhabi falcon hospital if the time permits.

The bus back to Dubai should be boarded from the Abu Dhabi bus station.