1. The Friday Brunch – In the United Arab Emirates, Friday is a holy day and therefore the weekend begins on Thursday night through until Sunday morning. The only places (questionable) to drink are in hotels, so you can imagine that everything social revolves around these luxury five-star properties that spread across the nation. Most hotels hold Friday brunch which is a great start to a liquor infused weekend. Aside from the heaping amounts of buffet-style and globally inspired food from canapés to entrees to deserts the cocktails, wines, beers, spirits and Champagne is free-flowing and very welcomed after a long work week. Usually beginning around noon and finished by three, it’s the perfect time to get the weekend started, but don’t forget to keep hydrated so not to wreck the rest of your weekend. Check out the Fairmont Dubai, Le Royale Meridien, Al Qasr at Madinat Jumeirah and the Le Meridien near the airport.
2. The Desert Experience – This is quite vague, but the desert sand dunes in the UAE that border Saudi Arabia are some of the highest in the World and intensely stunning. If your budget allows, a stay at Qasr Al Sarab, Bab Al Shams or Al Maha will surely make your global top 10 list in hotel stays. While staying in any of the desert properties, one truly understands how beautiful a desert can be. Activity-wise, taking a sunset trek on camel with a small group of four to watch the sunset over the rolling sand dunes complimented by traditional tea or plenty bottles of water to keep hydrated makes for a romantic or simply inspirational way to end the day. Dune bashing and sand surfing are among the other favorites for the thrill seeking traveler. I have yet to try either, because I am not so into sand-in-the-face experiences nor do I trust the 4×4 vehicle won’t tip over the way the locals drive out here. There are plenty of horse stables in the area as well and can be very inexpensive desert experiences. The Arabian horses are another great option for an early morning ride into the sunrise… Be sure to keep control, because these beauties like to run.
3. Amusement Parks – If you are a fish, like me – then you will love the amusement water-parks around Dubai including Wild Wadi with all its awesomeness and thrilling water-slides. The front row view of the famous “7” star hotel, the Burj Al Arab and the Arabian Gulf will tie you over while waiting in the long line-ups before the fun begins. Atlantis, the sister hotel to the Atlantis in the Bahamas, on the man-made palm island, is one of my favorites. From roller-coaster style water-slides that push you up the slide and over the other to the faster than slow lazy river, makes for a great day in the sun. Themed like the underwater city, the largest slide takes you atop the temple and straight down and underneath the shark and sting ray tank, A-mazing! I don’t know what is better… the fact you don’t even need to walk up the stairs to get atop the slide because the conveyor belts do that for you or the fact you can sip on alcoholic beverages, a rarity in most public places. When the heat gets to you, try the indoor ski hill inside Mall of the Emirates. If you are into sustainable tourism, avoid this attraction – keeping this massive ski hill running likely has a hefty price tag attached to it, considering its surrounded by a 50 degree heated desert. And, if you are an avid skier, watch out for the surrounding participants as some have no idea what they are doing! ha! Abu Dhabi is home to Ferrari World, which I have yet to visit because I understand the roller coaster line-ups are ridiculously long, however, if you are patient enough, get yourself on the fastest roller coast in the World… when it’s working.
4. Shopping Malls – I know, I know – likely the last thing you are to do when you are traveling and exploring a new part of the world, but it is the culture here. Malls are full from morning to late at night with the locals in traditional attire. The ladies in their Black Abayas are not to be mistaken as underneath, they are likely sporting designer fashions and the Worlds finest jewellery from all the top brands. Moving here, I packed my bags with products I never thought would be found in the UAE, however the malls in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have absolutely every brand name you have come across from London, New York, Paris to Sydney but most importantly, they have air conditioning. One of the most amazing malls include Dubai Mall which has everything from fine restaurants, designer stores, large department stores, an ice rink, a massive aquarium, family game parks (yes, more than one) and sits outside the largest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa which glitter at night behind the musical dancing fountains that make the Bellagio something of the past.
5. Dhow Cruise – A lovely way to end the evening or see the sights by day is to take a Dhow cruise in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. A traditional wooden vessel that was used by merchants and traders in the Gulf is now a nice piece of culture and history for tourists to experience. Along the Abu Dhabi Corniche or the Dubai Creek, both offer a more traditional and historic experience of the neighboring cities that usually show the glitz, glamor and egocentric towering skyscrapers as a modern architects playground. Before or after the trip, check out the souks near by for touristy gifts and authentic treasures.
Of course, there are plenty more things to see and experience here in the UAE, including the Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi and a couple night stay at Snoopy Island beach in Fujairah, but the list above is how I see it… for a weekend getaway or a stop over with Emirates or Etihad Airlines to a week stay here in the United Arab Emirates, I highly recommend getting on board with at least one of the five recommendations above.