The cosmopolitan world of Dubai is loved by tourists. The right mixture of old and new makes Dubai a must-visit destination in the UAE. However, unlike touristy things, Dubai offers local gems to residents which visitors miss out on. And no one knows Dubai quite like its residents, right? So, why not follow tips from an insider's perspective to enjoy the varied things the city has to offer!
A little-known beach paradise
Dubai’s massive coastline means no two beaches are alike. There are vibrant beaches which are most popular among tourists but the little-known Black Palace Beach is a change from the crowds. Though it is a public beach along the Al Sufouh Street, wedged between the Dubai Marina and the Burj Al Arab, it's not as popular despite being a prime location. Swim in the blue waters and enjoy magnificent sunset views over Palm Jumeirah.
Explore the souks
Dubai’s traditional Arabian souks are still a crucial part of daily life and trade, and a wander through one of these bustling markets is an essential experience. There’s the Gold Souq, lined with bespoke pieces with prices that aren’t set in stone; the Textile Souq, a colourful, vibrant space with rolls of fabric, fine silks, airy cottons and dazzling sari fabrics on display; and the Spice Souq, offering sensory overload thanks to the colours and aromas of prized spices. Try to travel between the souk on the Bur Dubai and Deira sides of the Creek by abra — a traditional transport method that costs just AED1 a ticket.
Drink and Eat To Your Heart's Content
Dubai residents love brunches - from party feasts to intimate experiences. Enjoyed on Fridays, it extends to Saturdays too. Check out the Mr and Mrs Brunch website for inspiration and money-off deals. There's also the Al Reef Bakery for homemade sweets like baklava, maamoul and kaak. Gahwa (Arabic coffee) is very important in a local's daily life. But, it will be interesting to know that masala tea has made a headway into the consumption pattern. Karak chai is very popular during breakfast or afternoons and you can enjoy a cuppa down by Kite Beach.
Meander past the wind towers and gypsum and coral buildings of Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood, all painstakingly restored to their original glory using authentic traditional building materials and methods. Photography enthusiasts can get the perfect Instagram-click at almost every corner of this old district, whose low-rise buildings are adorned with Arabesque designs. A number of art galleries can be found in the area, displaying everything from calligraphy to modern art. Head to XVA, the unique art gallery that is also a boutique hotel and cafÃ©. No cultural experience is complete without a trip to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, located in the centre of Al Fahidi, and where guests are invited to ask whatever questions they may have about Arabic, Emirati and Islamic culture — no matter how ‘sensitive’.
More local traditions can be discovered at Hatta Heritage Village, which takes visitors back in time for a glimpse of what original villages in Dubai used to be like — and not even that long ago. The Village opened after its restoration in 2001 in the heart of the mountainous Hatta region of Dubai emirate, about 100km from the city centre. It provides immersive insights into traditional rural life in the surrounding mountains, with authentic models, documents, sculptures, illustrations and graphic/audio content spread out across 17 houses, two castles and a fortress.
Escape the city life
For a chance to discover Dubai’s sprawling desert oasis, head to Al Qudra Lakes to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Here, you can spend a quiet morning or afternoon in nature, exploring a series of lakes sprawled across 10 hectares of Dubai’s Saih Al Salam Desert landscape. Visitors can tuck into a picnic after a leisurely ride around the cycling track, and the trip also offers the chance to view some local wildlife, ranging from desert foxes and oryx, to 170 species of bird that include flamingos, swans and a host of migratory birds. For those staying into the early evening, it is also worth waiting to take in Dubai’s beautiful desert sunset.
Getting there: There are direct flights to Dubai from 15 Indian cities which include New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur, Mangalore and Kochi. Budget airlines ply continuously such as Indigo, SpiceJet, FlyDubai among other international carriers.