10 Must-do Things for First Time Travellers in Dubai

**This post is a prologue to my travelogue to Dubai**
*This post is penned down with the help of a very amazing girl Neha. An avid trekker, explorer and a true foodie; Neha finds happiness in small endeavours of life and loves to pen them down as a cherished memory. A firm believer that “we have just one life to live and so much to do”, Neha lives every moment to the fullest.*

From a simple fishing and pearl-diving village, Dubai has today become a modern city of epic proportions. With impressive skyscrapers, magnificent manmade marvels, mysterious deserts, captivating culture and ancient history, Dubai can overwhelm the first-time visitor. Let us simplify Dubai for you by listing the 10 must-see attractions and must-do activities. Taste the incredible variety that Dubai can offer, and soon you’ll be planning another trip to the city to savour the rest!

Though I will be sharing a detailed post on Dubai you know that any of my travel posts are incomplete without the travel tips. So, here you go:
  1. Pay attention to the dress code in the area you’re in and dress accordingly. For example, at mosques, men must cover their shoulders and legs, while women must cover their whole bodies and their hair
  2. Swimsuits are appropriate only at beaches. Going topless is not allowed even at the most modern beaches
  3. See-through clothing and clothing that allows underwear to be seen are a strict no-no
  4. The dress code is more liberal at malls, but it’s best to avoid revealing clothes and mini-skirts, as these are still frowned upon

Grand Must-see and Must-do Things for First Timers to Dubai
1. Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa is literally the epicentre of Dubai’s extravagant lifestyle. Standing at 828 meters, this huge building is still the tallest building in the world. Visit the observatory deck on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa and enjoy a fabulous view of Dubai and the vast desert. You can see as far as the distant Persian Gulf. There are telescopes placed at regular intervals to help you focus on different landmarks in the city. If you want to, you can sign up for the views from both observatory decks – the one on the 125th floor and the one on the 148th floor which offers an even better view. This is undoubtedly my favourite place.

Dubai gave me some of my favourite back-shots!
2. Old Dubai 

If you want to get close to Dubai’s origins, visit the Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood, a well-preserved slice of Old Dubai. Explore the mazes of abandoned cobbled streets and narrow pathways containing old homes made out of black coral. Observe the way the old wind towers were constructed to keep homes cool in those days. Be sure to visit the souqs of Bur Dubai and bargain for spices and gold. Cross the Dubai Creek in an abra and explore the souqs of Deira – selling perfumes, carpets and textiles. I stayed in old Dubai for good days to explore the by-lanes of this amazing city.

3. The Shopping Malls Of Dubai

You cannot visit Dubai and not shop! Dubai has been designed for shopping. Remember my post? Be sure to check out the main shopping malls – Dubai Mall with its 1200 plus retail outlets. To name a few,  the Ibn Battuta Mall, the Emirates Mall and the Dubai Marina Mall are few of the iconic malls of Dubai. You can buy just about anything in Dubai – from designer goods to electronics to jewelry to spices to top-quality foodstuffs and souvenirs. What’s more, you’ll actually find a “Gold to Go” ATM at Dubai Mall that lets you purchase gold in exchange for money.

The malls!

4. Desert Safari

Sign up for a desert safari and head to the Dubai desert in your tour operator’s luxurious 4×4. During daytime Dubai desert safaris you can enjoy desert sports such as camel riding, dune bashing, sand boarding, and quad biking. During evening and overnight safaris, you can enjoy desert sports plus cultural entertainment programs followed by a fabulous Emirati dinner. A detailed account is to follow!

Dubai Safari was one of the most amazing travel adventures I have ever had!
5. Ski Dubai

Yes, there are indoor ski resorts in the world but nowhere where the sun blazes as hot as it does in Dubai. A ski resort in Dubai feel incongruous but only till you step inside. This ginormous ski resort is many football fields large. Several tall ice mountains have been constructed with multiple ski slopes designed to fit different levels of skiing proficiency. There’s even a Diamond Run of 400 meters here. You can go skiing, tobogganing, have a snow fight, build a snowman, play with penguins in the penguin’s park, or hide out in the ice cave.

The above five are probably some things which are very unique to Dubai only. Though there are many other things to do to, which I will be covering soon. Meanwhile, I am telling about five more things which are on my list. Yes, I am visiting Dubai again – and the following are the reasons (apart from shopping, of course) for that!

6. La Mer Beach

You cannot visit Dubai and not enjoy one of its hippest beachfront destinations. Explore the many fancy restaurants, shops and the long, long beach with white sands and crystal clear water.  You can sunbathe, swim and even go banana boating at La Mer beach. After the sun goes down, La Mer becomes a lively spot for nightlife. ANd trust me, Dubai nightlife is super happening!

7. The Mosques of Dubai

I loved the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Note to self for the next visit –  Take the time to learn about Dubai’s Islamic culture and visit some of the city’s beautiful mosques. Dubai’s mosques are impressive – the architecture, the design, and the ambience are all designed just for the worship of Allah. Be sure to visit Jumeirah Mosque, which is open to people from all religions. The Jumeirah Mosque adorns the 500 dirham banknote in Dubai as well. Visit the Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque, since it resembles Istanbul’s Blue Mosque.

8. Dubai Garden Glow

Dubai Garden Glow is a fabulous theme park that’s specially created during winter in Dubai. The park is open only from November to April the next year. This year the Dubai Garden Glow has put up some remarkable displays. For starters, the Ice Park feels like another world with fantastic ice sculptures and structures – created out of 5000 tons of ice by 150 artists. The biggest dinosaur park in the world has 100 animatronic dinosaurs that pounce, growl and move realistically. You can also explore the Dinosaur Museum’s collection of skeletons in the Dino Lab. The Glow Park is an illuminated park with a fascinating glowing underwater world.

9. IMG Worlds of Adventure

These are completely my type of places! IMG Worlds of Adventure is Dubai’s serenade to the world of childhood. Here, various zones bring cartoon network characters to life. For example, the Flintstones corner has a real animatronic Dino, a real stone car and real stone-age characters. There are zones for the Powerpuff Girls, Bugs Bunny, and several other cartoon characters. There are rides, rollercoasters, immersive shows and programs in this ginormous, several football-fields large incredible IMG Worlds of Adventure.

10. Camel Racing 
The last(and maybe the least!) on my list is camel racing. Camel racing is one of the traditional sports of the Emiratis. Though I hate the torture on animals, I really have to know more about this one because interestingly, there are no jockeys on these camels but robots. Small robots sit on them and are controlled by people holding remotes. The camel owners follow them on air-conditioned luxury 4WDs, holding the remote controllers, manipulating the robots driving the camels. The camel-racing tracks are very big. There’s room enough for the camels and the luxury vehicles following them. The atmosphere is contagious – there’s high excitement and million-dollar wagers are on, for the camel in the lead. It’s definitely one of the must-do things in Dubai for first-timers.

As a first-timer, you’ll be in awe of Dubai, and the places and activities we’ve listed will only whet your appetitive for more. Dubai is a fascinating city that offers you more excitement, each time you visit. Be sure to pack your bags and visit the city again – who knows what awaits you then?

  1. You got a nice list. Man! Can’t wait to go there. Its either Dubai or Canada for our next family trip. Waiting for the schedule and where.

    1. Dubai is a man-made paradise and I can not stop on insisting that. You should go to Dubai in December and be as much touristy as you can! 🙂

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