An Insider’s Guide to Dubai

No one knows a city quite like her people. Read on for the exclusive recommendations to discover Dubai’s hidden gems, explore the vibrant Middle Eastern culture, and enjoy the authentic city like a local.

Apr 20, 2018 | By Shirley Wang

No one knows a city quite like her people. Read on for an exclusive insider guide to discover Dubai’s hidden gems, explore the vibrant culture and enjoy the authentic city like a local.

Explore Dubai

  • Experience Dubai’s vibrant beach culture and seek the various unique coastlines. Despite its prime location between Dubai Marina and Barj Al Arab, the Black Palace Beach offers a serene, secluded. With many neighbouring royal summer palaces, the beach promises crystal blue waters and a stunning sunset views over the Palm Jumeirah.
  • Uncover a piece of local history or savour traditional delights to experience the old-world charm of Dubai. Visit the Gold Souq, lined with bespoke pieces; the Textile Souq, filled with rolls of fine silk and embellished fabrics; and the Spice Souq, offering a sensory overload with aromas of prized spices. Wander through the endless Arabian souks and marketplaces and remember to try the abra – a traditional transport that costs just AED1 a ticket.


Feasting in the Emirate

  • Weekend brunches are hot favourites, as the city’s diverse communities gather to celebrate the weekend. Usually held on Fridays and Saturdays, these brunches range from communal, party-worthy gatherings, to more relaxed, intimate meals. Some family-oriented brunches even include activities for the children. There are various platforms that offer services and deals for brunches, such as the award-winning Mr and Mrs Brunch website.
  • For traditional treats, head to Al Reef Bakery, a staunch favourite among locals. Located in the Satwa area, savour Lebanese sweets, including baklava, knafe, maamoul and kaak.
  • While gahwa (Arabic coffee) is essential in Emirati hospitality, the Indian masala tea is also a traditional drink popular at casual gatherings. Famously known as karak chai, it is a sweet milk tea boiled over low flame with black tea leaves and spices – often cardamon, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. A perfect cup to start and end the day, sample a steaming brew down by Kite Beach at FiLLi Tea & Café, a pioneer of home-grown karak chai.


Experience Dubai’s Old-World Charm

  • Dubai Creek is the heart of trade, the origin of Dubai’s roots. Meander past the wind towers and coral buildings of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, painstakingly restored to their original glory with traditional materials and methods. Take your perfect shots at this ancient district, with low-rise buildings adorned with Arabesque designs.
  • For some art appreciation, head over to XVA, a unique art gallery that houses a boutique hotel and café. There are many other galleries in the area, from calligraphy to modern art. Don’t miss a trip to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), where guests are encouraged to inquire about the culture – however ‘sensitive’.
  • For an insight into Emiratis’ enduring love for camels, head for a camel race that take place throughout Dubai from October and April. In the cooler months, these sandy races boast an avid following on Friday or Saturday mornings. Dubai’s biggest track is Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack, home of the Dubai Camel Racing Club. Located near the city with prizes of tens of thousands of dirhams, it attracts camel owners from across the UAE.

  • Travel back in time at Hatta Heritage Village, far from the city centre at the heart of the mountainous Hatta region. After its restoration in 2001, the village now holds 17 houses, two castles and a fortress. Immerse in the traditional rural life surrounded by mountains, with cultural artefacts and informative content planned across the village.
  • Head to Al Qudra Lakes and discover Dubai’s sprawling desert oasis. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and explore the beautiful lakes sprawled across 10 hectares of Saih Al Salam Desert landscape. Take a leisure ride around the Cycling Track to watch the vibrant wildlife, including 170 species of birds and animals such as desert foxes and oryx. Tuck into a relaxing picnic after and catch the splendid sunset.


About Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism)

With the ultimate vision of positioning Dubai as the world’s leading tourism destination and commercial hub, Dubai Tourism’s mission is to increase the awareness of Dubai among global audiences and to attract tourists and inward investment into the emirate.

Dubai Tourism is the principal authority for the planning, supervision, development and marketing of Dubai’s tourism sector. It markets and promotes the Emirate’s commerce sector, and is responsible for the licensing and classification of all tourism services, including hotels, tour operators and travel agents. Brands and departments within the Dubai Tourism portfolio include Dubai Convention and Events Bureau, Dubai Calendar, and Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment. In addition to its headquarters in Dubai, Dubai Tourism operates 20 offices worldwide.


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