Dubai and Abu Dhabi: Five must-do activities on a trip to The United Arab Emirates

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  • Published on December 8, 2022
  • Last Updated December 22, 2022

Planning to travel to the Middle East? If you’re heading to the United Arab Emirates, here are five must-try activities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

On a recent trip to The United Arab Emirates, my family and I were overwhelmed by the vast array of activities that one could partake in. Of course we had planned to visit the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but with so many options, we decided to experience it from below and didn’t make time to ascend to the top. If you’re heading out to the Middle East, here are my top five picks for things to see and do if you’re on a bucket-list trip with room for a bit of adventure and a little luxury, too.

1. Go on a desert safari

A desert safari tour can be booked with any number of companies, but here’s what it usually entails: An adrenaline-pumping speed ride over tall sand dunes (also known as dune bashing), sand boarding, camel rides, a buffet-style barbeque meal, henna hand-painting, belly and tanoura dance performances as well as dune-buggy riding. Book with a reputable company and you will not regret this adventure. We opted for OceanAir Travels and had an experience with which we were not disappointed.

Desert sunset near Abu Dhabi. Courtesy of Freddy Sepulveda

2. Visit the outrageous malls

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have an abundance of malls, many of which have an unending number of luxury brand stores like Chanel, Gucci and Dior. However, a couple of malls take things to the next level. Right in the middle of the Dubai Mall is a spectacular aquarium and underwater zoo. At the Mall of the Emirates, there is an indoor ski resort: You can actually take the lift and hit the slopes or watch others do so from the warmth and comfort of one of the surrounding restaurants that give you a window seat into the action.

Sipping gold-flaked cappuccino at emirates Palace. Courtesy of Freddy Sepulveda

3. Plan for at least one day at the beach

There are various free public beaches to choose from in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But if you want to step it up a notch, spend some money to get into a private beach club like Saadiyat Beach Club in Abu Dhabi. There you can purchase a day pass and rent a cabana to while away the hours sipping champagne oceanside.

Saadiyat Beach Club, Abu Dhabi. Courtesy of Freddy Sepulveda

4. Ride the world’s longest urban zipline

At approximately 50 stories high and with a top speed of almost 50 mph, XLine Dubai, a half-mile long ride, will satisfy the needs of any adrenaline junkie. From your vantage point, strapped into a Superman-style harness, a rider can easily gaze upon the hundreds of modern towers in Dubai and the beautiful marina. This bird’s-eye-view adventure is certain to be a memorable one.

Outside Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. Courtesy of Khalil Harper-Arias

5. Schedule high tea at Emirates Palace

The opulence of Emirates Palace, the luxury 5-star hotel in Abu Dhabi, can not be overstated. It reportedly cost $3 billion to construct. If you can’t afford to spend the night there but would like a taste of the life of a jetsetter, schedule a high tea service at Le Café, located in the lobby of Emirates Palace. It includes various fancy teas and the ever-necessary gold-flaked cappuccino, plus a tower of decadent savory and sweet treats. You mustschedule and pay in advance but the setting, service and extravagant snacks are well worth the cost. You will be treated like royalty and perhaps bump into one of the rich and famous. While we were enjoying our high tea service, Pharrell Williams and his entourage sauntered past our table.

Gold-flaked cappuccino at Emirates Palace. Courtesy of Freddy Sepulveda


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