Dubai can be a pretty pricey place to live, I’m sure most of us have felt the pinch at one time or another, so how do you save money?
Why not start with a few things to do with your weekends that won’t cost you more than getting there.
1. Chill with the flamingos
Head down to Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, a wetland reserve that is home to a huge flock of beautiful flamingos. While it may be located bang in the middle of the city and surround my some of the most infamously busy roads it is a place of surprising peace and tranquility.
Founded in 1985 this reserve was officially acknowledged as an area for endangered species in 1998 and is home to flamingos, marsh harriers, grey herons, eagles, ringed plovers, avocets, pintails, teal, kingfishers, spoonbills and snipe. All of which feast in the nutrient-rich waters eating queen fish and milk fish measuring up to a metre long.
During the winter the reserve hosts more than 20,000 water birds of 67 species and offers a refuge for the wintering birds of the East African-West Asian Flyway. The site hosts more than 500 species of flora and fauna and is one of the best-managed arid zone wetlands in the region.
For more information & the exact location check out their Facebook page.
2. Experience the sights and smells of the Dubai souks
Traditionally a souk is a market place, where traders barter their wares – and no, the Souk Madinat does not count.
In the early days of Dubai people settled along the creek where the fishermen and merchants would come in with their supplies ready to sell, trade and barter and despite the modernisation of the city and the construction of shopping malls and supermarkets there are some things people have still held on to.
The Spice and Gold souks, located in Deira are still operating and while some of the merchandise may have changed (I am sure you couldn’t buy cheap plastic toys, statutes of the Burj Khalifa in “crystal” and knock off football shirts in the 1950s) you can still find fragrant spices and perfumes, nuts, traditional beauty and skin care and of course gold lining the winding passageways of these marketplaces.
The souks are a perfect place to visit if you want to get some beautiful photography shots of a different kind of Dubai.
The easiest way to get there is to head down to Shindagha area and jump on an Abra across the creek – I would never recommend anyone drive in Diera no matter how many times you’ve done it.
3. Public Beach
Take your pick of public beaches be it Kite, Sunset, Jebel Ali, Russian, JBR, Black Palace, you name it there’s plenty to choose from and they are all free. In recent years the city has taken steps to “beautify” the beaches by adding a running track and food outlets but that doesn’t take away from the fact the beach is still the beach, it always has been and always will be beautiful no matter what.
Dubai is blessed with white sand and blue oceans and thanks to the construction of the islands fairly tame waves and currents by comparison to what they used to be. They are the perfect place for families and friends to gather and spend the day when the weather is on your side.
However there are a few things to remember about going to the beach here:
- Be respectful. You do not need to be half naked on the beach – bikinis are fine but they don’t need to be halfway up your bum. Recently the municipality have implemented family only beaches where certain swimsuits are not allowed, make sure you check for signs.
- During the summer it’s the plus side of 40c outside, just imagine how hot the sand is. You will get blisters on your feet, just don’t – beaches in the summer are for early mornings and late nights.
- Dogs are not allowed on beaches in Dubai, I cannot stress this enough; public beaches are not for those with four legs, you will get fined.
- Always check the flags, I have seen some pretty horrendous rescues on the beaches here over the last 25 years – watch out for sneaky undertows and save the lads from search and rescue a dip in the ocean.
4. Explore the creative
Dubai is a city teeming with art, from the beautiful paintings on the sides of buildings in Satwa and Karama to the galleries spanning the length and width of the emirate you can’t go far without bumping into an exhibition of some sort.
During March you will find Art Dubai takes over the city signifying the start of the art season which normally lasts until May, with Street Nights at Alserkal Avenue, Art Nights at DIFC and more exhibition openings than you can shake a stick at.
Some of the best places to go gallery cruising are:
- Al Quoz
- Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
If galleries aren’t your think there are plenty of statues, installations and of course stunning architecture to enjoy across the city. The Boulevard in Downtown Dubai has a number of stunning sculptures while places like D3 and Citywalk always have something exciting and creative going on.
5. Sing or be sung to
Whether you sing, play guitar, beatbox or just enjoy music there are a number of open mic nights throughout the week and it’s a great way to support local talent. While they may be held in bars and restaurants, entrance is completely free.
Sundays you’ll find people crooning at Tribeca at the JA Ocean View, JBR
Tuesdays they will be rocking out at Original Wings & Rings in DIFC
Wednesdays are band nights at On42 in Media One
You’ll find more information here.
6. Get bendy on the beach
What more could you want: yoga, beach and a beautiful sky. People love bending at stretching on the beach while they sun is coming up and going down and while there are plenty of paid yoga classes around the city there are also a few passionate yogis who offer them for free.
So set your alarm and grab your mat, it’s time to get bendy.
7. Cheer on your favourite camel
Yes, camel racing. At the Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack on the Dubai-Al Ain road just beyond the Dubai Sevens Stadium you can go and watch the ships of the desert as they speed around the circuit at 40km/hour.
Between October and March the racing season is one of the most exciting ways to spend your morning, with races starting at around 7:30am on Fridays and Saturdays though it is best to call beforehand as the website isn’t always the most helpful.
In 2002 the whole sport underwent a huge change when outcries from human rights groups rang out condemning the use of child jockeys – it was a dangerous job with a high chance of injury or worse and with children as young as three racing these giant beasts around the track it is no surprise people got hurt. Hence the robots – when you watch a camel race you will see that each animal is being ridden by a funny looking machine, that’s the new jockey. They are controlled by a remote operated by someone in one of the 4x4s you see racing along next to the track.
8. When horses are more your speed
Dubai is famous for hosting the richest horse race in the world, The Dubai World Cup, a day of high energy races, stunning dresses and outlandish hats – oh, and an awful lot of champers. But a day at the races doesn’t have to be a big spend, nor limited to one day a year; from the moment the season begins in November horse fanatics can head down the the track at Meydan and enjoy watching the races from the grandstand without spending a Dirham.
9. Brush up on your history
The UAE may be less that 50 years old but that doesn’t mean that it is a country devoid of culture, heritage and tradition. The rich history of the region is one of the most interesting things you can explore during your time here and it is an important part of understanding the traditions and values of the Emiratis.
There are a number of museums to choose from and explore and a handful of them are free to enter – so now you have absolutely no excuse for not going.
- The Coffee Museum, located in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is a haven for coffee lovers where you can learn about the harvesting, roasting and trading of these wonderful beans as well as sampling some of the best brews in the coffee shop upstairs (this bit isn’t free).
- The Horse Museum tells the story of the regions special relationship with these beautiful creatures from their integral role as a mode of transportation to the training and preparation for the horse races of today.
- Dubai started out as a maritime village with fishermen, traders and of course pearl divers. The Diving Village, which opened in 1997, showcases the traditional professions that the city was built on.
- Heritage House gives visitors a look into what daily life was like for the early settlers, from homewares to furniture this two story museum showcases the reality of living in early Dubai.
- Al Ahmadiya School dates back to the early 20th century and was the first of its kind in the emirate and teaching here went on until 1958. Visitors can explore the classrooms and get a sense of what it was like to grow up in this emerging city.
- Located in Dubai’s first police station the Naif Museum showcases the history of the police and security services.
- A visit to the Museum of the Poet Al Oqaili takes you to the home of Mubarak bin Hamad bin Mubarak Al Manea Al Oqaili that he built in 1923. Considered on of the most influential poet in Emirati history this house showcases his work as well as the stunning architecture and design of the house.
- The Coin Museum is exactly what it sounds like: a home to more than 470 coins from across the MENA region.
- Delve into the true traditions of the country at the Camel Museum, complete with a simulation camel ride and a room that takes you inside a camel so you can witness how this amazing animal survives the harsh desert climate.
- If you really want to immerse yourself in the heritage of the country a visit to the Heritage Village should be on the cards. Here you can experience traditional food, handicrafts, dances and so much more as the site is alive with activity.
Each museum or heritage site has different opening times and days so it always best to check before you make the journey to the other side of Dubai, you can find all the information here as well as the other museums the city has to offer.
10. Ladies Nights
What is Dubai famous for – other than big buildings and a lot of sand – Ladies Nights. With free drinks for the girls somewhere in the city every night of the week it’s the perfect way to save a little cash and have a great time.
Sorry lads but Gents nights aren’t normally free – though there are some pretty good deals!
Share these with your friends and plan your next weekend, for free!