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9 Reasons Dubai Should Be Your Next Escape To Vacay Like Royalty

A great Arabian adventure in Dubai

Things To Do In Dubai, The Smart Local

“Please find me an oil prince.” said some of my friends when I asked them if they wanted anything from Dubai.

I couldn’t guarantee playing cupid, but did leave home with some idea of royalty. I’d heard about the city’s rich culture (and people), super-cars of every imaginable colour whizzing down the streets, and even crazy rumours about people bringing their pet lion cubs out for a casual stroll.

After a 7 hour movie marathon via Emirates, we finally arrived in the City of Gold. No pet lion cubs were in sight, but we were greeted with warm Arabian hospitality, and an endless array of activities for any mood. Here are 9 things we did while there:

1. Roll down a ski slope in a human hamster ball

Dubai: the land of sand, sun and…snow – at Ski Dubai at least. This place puts our very own Snow City to shame, boasting the title of the world’s largest indoor snow park. At -4 degrees, you’re bound to forget that you’re in a city that’s smack middle of a desert.

Ski Dubai Ski Lifts, Highest Ski Slope

First thing on our agenda: hopping onto the ski-lifts, which took us all the way to the highest slope in the dome.

Ski Dubai, Zorb Ball

If you’re done fumbling around like newborn Bambi and would rather skip the skiing, hop into a Zorb ball and roll down the ski slopes! You’ll probably get out of it confused and dishevelled, but it’s all part of the fun.

Ski Dubai Mountaineering

For noobs like us who can’t scale actual mountains, the one at Ski Dubai was enough of a challenge

Tubing at Ski Dubai

Rolling around in a hamster ball was fun and all, but it was tubing that had me queuing for more. There are 3 courses of varying difficulties – we say go for the toughest one. It’s bumpy, steep, and fun enough for seconds…and thirds.

Must-do factor: 7 camels out of 10

Location: Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates
Address: Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, UAE
Telephone: +971 800 368

2. Have a blast in the world’s biggest indoor theme park

IMG Worlds of Adventure Entrance

Daaaaaamn Dubai, back again with the world records. Behold IMG Worlds of Adventure, the biggest indoor theme park in the world.

Marvel Zone at IMG Worlds Of Adventure

Marvel fans, loki no further – there’s an entire section just for you. Inspired by the comics’ Manhattan universe, you’ll see familiar buildings like the Stark Tower and the Daily Bugle around.

One attraction took home all the glory was the Thor Thunder Spin. From being flung up and spun around while suspended mid air, this ride is reserved for those with an iron stomach as strong as Thor himself.

Thor Thunder Spin at IMG Worlds of Adventure

Other fun rides to go on are Mojo Jojo’s Robot Rampage in Cartoon Network Land, The Haunted Hotel which gave us some serious chills and The Lost Valley’s roller coaster on steroids, The Velociraptor.

The Lost Valley at IMG Worlds of Adventure


Must-do factor: 8 camels out of 10

Book a trip to IMG Worlds of Adventure.

Address: E311, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, Dubai, UAE
Opening Hours: 11AM – 10PM (Thur – Saturday), 11AM – 9PM (Sun – Wed)

3. Explore the rustic streets of Old Dubai

Dubai's historic district, Al Fahidi

Dubai may be a sprawling city with skyscrapers aplenty, but little known to many are its historic districts, like Al Fahidi. The buildings here are significantly shorter and more humble, with a warm creamy hue.

Al Bastakiya Trading Village, Al Fahidi

Nestled within Al Fahidi is Al Bastakiya Trading Village, a genteel neighbourhood built in the 18th century. After the discovery of oil spurred the development of Dubai into the city it is today, the village was abandoned in the 1960s. Today, it serves as a cultural hub where visitors can learn more about the Arabic way of life.

SMCCU Cultural Breakfast, Al Fahidi

Be sure to stop by in the mornings to enjoy a traditional Emirati breakfast hosted by Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Visitors can chat with an Emirati host about anything under Dubai’s hot sun, like UAE’s customs and religion.

Find out more about cultural meals at SMCCU here.

Walls made out of dried coral

Some houses even had walls built out of dried corals!

*Bonus* Sail along Dubai Creek on an abra

Abra ride along Dubai Creek

While you’re here, take a short walk to the creek where a sturdy fleet of abras, or water-taxis, await. Once a traditional mode of transport for residents to get across the river from Bur Dubai to Deira, they now cater mostly to tourists who wish to get a waterfront view of the city.

Bur Dubai view from the abra

Travel tip: Bur Dubai and Deira are great places to get delicious food at cheaper prices than downtown – think Ang Mo Kio versus Orchard.

Must-do factor: 8 camels out of 10

4. Brush up on your bargaining skills along the souks of spice and gold

Spices along the Spice Souk

After a relaxing boat ride along the creek, the abra will bring you to Deira, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Dubai and also home to vibrant Spice Souk and Gold Souk (market). Time to put on your haggling hat – this is the best place to get a good bargain.

Shop for souvenirs along the Spice Souk

Once you get past the swarm of shop vendors who seem a little too eager to guess where you come from, the Spice Souk is a pretty cool place to explore. Pop into a store and ask to sample some of their exotic spices and sweet treats, like camel milk chocolate!

Bottles spices to bring home, Spice Souk

Just a minute away is the Gold Souk, the Spice Souk’s more famous and glamourous sister. Keep a look-out for biggest gold ring on the planet, which had garnered a line of people waiting to get a photo.

World's biggest gold ring, Gold Souk

Must-do factor: 8 camels out of 10

Address: 54 Al Khor Street, Dubai, UAE (Nearest Subway: Al Ras Metro Station)
Opening Hours: 4PM – 10PM

5. Dine at vintage American food trucks along the desert

E!11 Last Exit, Dubai's Food-Truck Park

Fashioned after American highway pit-stops, this retro food truck park situated on the border of Dubai is a 1950s fantasy. You’ll find burgers, tacos, and even a Starbucks truck – E11! Last Exit is an easy stopover for those commuting between Dubai and neighbouring Abu Dhabi.

The Burger Pit, E!11 Last Exit, Dubai

A hearty meal from E!11 Last Exit's food trucks

Lobster rolls, chicken and waffles and ice cream – and this was just breakfast.

You don’t even need to get out of your car to enjoy a good burger, because all the trucks have drive-thrus. It’s open 24/7 too, so if you’re looking for an on-the-road pick-me-up at 3am, forget finding the nearest gas station – just head over here for some fast food instead.

Must-do factor: 7.5 camels out of 10

Address: Interchange 11, Sheikh Zayed Road (Dubai direction), Dubai, UAE
Opening Hours: 24/7 Daily

6. Get up to 85% off high end brands at The Outlet Village

The Outlet Village, Dubai

Modelled after the rustic architecture of the Italian countryside is The Outlet Village, Tuscany’s Middle Eastern twin.

Shopaholics can visit over 100 high-end brands, like Gucci, Ted Baker and even Sephora. Being an outlet mall, price points here start at 30% off. You’ll be sure to find some good steals too – one of us even clinched a pair of $4,000 Roberto Cavalli heels at 85% off!

The Outlet Village interior

The interior was just as photo-worthy, with natural light giving the mall a warm, cosy feel.

If you’re not that big of a shopper, there’s a wide range of international F&B outlets to enjoy, like American pancake house IHOP.

Must-do factor: 6 camels out of 10

Address: Jebel Ali, Dubai, UAE (Nearest subway: UAE Exchange, Red line)
Opening Hours: 10AM – 10PM (Sun – Wed), 10AM – 12AM (Thur – Sat)

7. Visit the hip streets of Dubai’s arts district

Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai's Arts Hub

Disguised as a congregation of industrial warehouses is Al Serkal Avenue, a low-key art hub full of photo galleries, museums and hip cafes away from the hustle of the city. Though maps are located around the area, I’d say ditch the directions and wander uninhibited – because no matter which corner you turn, you’re bound to discover something interesting.

Al Serkal Avenue, Art Gallery

After randomly waltzing into the galleries and putting on a pretty believable art-aficionado game face, I came across The Chocolate Makers, a.k.a heaven on earth.

The Chocolate Makers, In-house Factory

Chocolate making is a sport – these workers were fast!

I may as well have won a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – I got to watch chocolate being made from scratch in their in-house kitchen. Rows and rows of chocolate bars called out to me as I walked further into the store – from white to 100% premium cocoa, and funky mixes like chilli, rose and orange caramel. The best part? Free. Samples.

The Chocolate Makers, Chocolate Store

Must-do factor: 8 camels out of 10

Address: Street 8, Al Quoz 1, Dubai, UAE
Opening Hours: 10AM – 7PM Daily, Closed on Fridays. (Hours may differ on Sundays and Mondays)

8. Cruise over sand dunes and meet camels up close

Making the descent into Dubai, the first thing that came into vision was a whole lotta sand – so naturally, the Desert Safari Tour was on our list of “things-to-do-or-regret“. Leaving a skyline of fancy towers for a day, we were wowed by the vastness of the great Arabian Desert – our host for the next 6 hours. First thing on the list? Tackling the sand dunes.

Cruising over sand dunes, Desert Safari Tour

“It’ll feel like a roller coaster,” was what our driver said when we asked him how driving over the dunes would be like. And then it happened: that beast of a Land Rover was going over the sand full throttle a la Fast and Furious, with us screaming our lungs – thankfully not lunch – out.

Climbing the sand dunes, Desert Safari Tour

We got to take on the dunes by foot too

Up close and personal with camels, Desert Safari Tour

We even stopped by a camel farm and admired these gorgeous creatures up close. Try your luck at getting a special Nat Geo-esque shot of your own while here.

Next up on our desert adventure package was the Safari Campsite, where visitors can try camel riding, shisha, henna and sandboarding.

Hold a falcon at the safari campsite, Desert Safari Tour

Falconry has been practiced for centuries in the UAE – you can try holding a falcon yourself!

After the sun sets over the desert, performers take centre stage with acts like fire-eating and light dancing, which you can enjoy from a cosy private hut and a BBQ dinner.

Desert Safari Tour, Light Dancer

Find out more about the Desert Safari experience here.

Must-do factor: 10 camels out of 10.

9. Be on top of the world…quite literally

Standing at 2,722 feet is the Burj Khalifa, which soars over the city – and the rest of the world – in its steel silver glory. Expect nothing short of the world’s tallest building – with 163 levels and thousands of glass panels which give it its signature dazzling facade.

Burj Khalifa, The World's Tallest Building

We got the chance to have the ultimate view of Dubai from the world’s highest outdoor observation deck on level 124 of the Burj. You could also take the bird’s eye view up a notch – literally – by going up to level 125 and enjoying a 360 degree view of the city from the indoor viewing gallery.

View from The Burj Khalifa's observation deck

Catching this once-in-a-lifetime view will cost you though – a regular ticket to the top comes at AED 300 (Around S$110)

Get your tickets for At The Top here

*Bonus* The Dubai Fountain show

The Dubai Fountain Show

Do stick around for the stunning dancing fountains on Burj Khalifa Lake. It sounds strange to be excited over a fountain show, but I’ll tell ya: I’ve never been more impressed by water “dancing” to hits like MJ’s Thriller and theme of James Bond.

Performances are held daily, and occur every half an hour from 6PM – 11PM.

Must-do factor: 7 camels out of 10

Location: At The Top, The Burj Khalifa
Address: 1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd, Dubai, UAE

Of gold, spice, and everything nice

So I didn’t manage to find any of my friends a date with an oil prince, but I did come home with actual dates, camel milk chocolates and a whole lot of memories.

In-flight, Emirates from Singapore to Dubai

Whether you’re on a mission to find true love or not, getting to Dubai isn’t a hassle. With Emirates’ direct route from Singapore to Dubai, you can look forward to reaching your destination in under 7 hours. With an amazing in-flight entertainment system and a cabin crew who’ll treat you like royalty, flying there was a definite treat.

Desert Safari Tour

So go forth and embark on your Arabian adventure in the beautiful city of Dubai, with its glittering skyscrapers and never-ending Guinness World Records – a journey of a lifetime awaits.

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