From the world’s largest picture frame to arts, culture, designer boutiques and food adventures, Dubai offers a wealth of unique experiences.
1 - Museum of the future
The Museum of the Future is an engineering marvel; an elliptical stainless-steel shape covered in a filigree of flowing Arabic typography with a central void representing the unknown future. (The words are quotes from HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, sharing his vision of the future.) Located directly adjacent to Jumeirah Emirates Towers, the museum has exhibits exploring space travel, climate change, ecology, health and spirituality.
Start your visit with a trip to outer space – a virtual reality experience on a spacecraft that takes you to a space station 600km above Earth, and then work your way up through six floors of thought-provoking interactive displays. It has some very creative ideas about the future of humanity, how we will be living and travelling. The top floor is a pillar free, light-filled events space with all the typography visible from inside. Don’t miss the viewing platform in the void for a close-up view of the building.
- Open daily 10am-6pm. AED145 (£30); museumofthefuture.ae
2 - Dubai Frame
For a slightly different view of the city take the high-speed lift to the 48th floor of what is described as the world’s largest picture frame. It’s a glistening golden structure located in Zabeel Park, built to showcase the development of the city. From its 150m-high viewing gallery one side shows a panoramic view of old Dubai, overlooking Deira, the city’s early commercial centre, and in contrast the other side offers a stunning view of new Dubai, the Burj Khalifa, and its futuristic skyline. A glass floor runs along the viewing gallery for another viewing angle if you dare. Gate 4, Zabeel Park, Dubai.
- Open daily 9am-9pm. Adult ticket AED50 (£10); thedubaiframe.com
3 - Art and Culture
Alserkal Avenue is in the Al Quoz industrial area, a warehouse district of former marble works which now showcases regional artists in its community of over 70 contemporary galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, cafés and community spaces. Drop into the studio of calligraffiti artist el Seed (the Banksy of the Middle East), pick up some vinyl records from Flipside, try on some handmade Italian shoes or a designer kimono. You can also find the region’s first independent arthouse, Cinema Akil, and drink authentic spiced Chai (tea) served in traditional clay Kulhur cups at Project Chaiwalla. The area has a ‘Shoreditch’ trendy bohemian feel about it with plenty of places to relax and enjoy a healthy snack, a fresh juice or customised espresso in popular spots including Wild and The Moon and Night Jar, which also has a regular music programme. It’s a refreshing contrast from ultra-modern downtown Dubai and a good place to pick up some unique gifts.
- The galleries are open daily 10am-7pm. Individual businesses’ opening hours vary. alserkal.online
4 - Shopping
The Dubai Mall has more than 1,200 shops and its Fashion Avenue has more designer boutiques than any other mall. Be sure to wear comfy shoes as this place is vast – several million square metres, including a huge aquarium and underwater zoo, an Olympic-sized ice rink and a waterfront promenade. After crossing the bridge over the lake, you can enjoy the spectacular Dubai fountain display, which consists of powerful jets of water synchronised to music. The fountain display takes place every 30 minutes between 6pm and 11pm.
- The Dubai Mall is open daily 10am-12pm; thedubaimall.com
5 - Food Adventure
To get a taste of what the locals are eating, Frying Pan Adventures will take you on a walking tour of the culinary delights in Al Rigga, an area developed in the 1970s and home to the workforce of Dubai. Its bustling streets offer food from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Learn about spices, traditions and food history in a fun and fascinating way.
- Frying Pan Adventures Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage costs from AED425.25 (£88) per person and includes three dishes from local restaurants. To book visit fryingpanadventures.com
6 - Desert experience
Spend the evening at Sonara Camp accessed via a short Land Rover drive through the dunes. This eco-friendly, sustainable restaurant is nestled in a Dubai desert conservation reserve, and uses ethical products, solar energy and has a zero-waste policy. It’s a magical way to try some desert activities, including dune boarding, camel-riding and falconry, or just relax and admire the beautiful desert sunset. Dine out under the stars enjoying a seasonal sharing menu, with many dishes cooked on an open fire, and then be entertained by fire-breathing acrobats and a finale of fireworks. Top tip: take something warm to wear as desert temperatures drop dramatically at night.
- During low season (May-September) the sunset and dinner experience costs from AED690 (£143) for adults and AED280 (£58) for children aged 6-12. The price includes dinner, desert drive, soft drinks and entertainment. To book visit nara.ae
For more information about Dubai visitdubai.com
Words by Annie Harris