Exploring Dubai Off The Beaten Track

Everyone knows about the beach, the marina, the mall and shops but what do you do in Dubai when you want to step off the beaten track and enjoy some time away from the tourists? There are a lot of hidden gems in and around Dubai, where you can explore away from the crowds and discover the brilliance of this cultural melting pot. So get off the beach and try out these locations while you are on your holiday.

Dubai Astronomy Group
Step out of the sun and enjoy the night sky with the Dubai Astronomy Group. This gathering congregates around the city and explores the cool night skies throughout the year. You can join in and take part in the stargazing events through their website and by visiting the Zubair Astronomy observatory. The group was founded in 1993 and is still very active. To get started you can download the app StarWalk, that lets you locate stars and planets based on your location. This is a great event to take part in as a couple or with your children.

Dragon Mart
This is the largest Chinese market outside of China with over 4000 stalls, in a warehouse that is the shape of a dragon. You will find everything here - spices, silks, clothes, antiques, food, and so much more. It is such a large place that staff use bikes to get around. You will find this gem on Hatta Oman Road just past International City. Plan on at least a day to explore and shop at the Dragon Mart.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
This is a wonderful place to explore the raw natural beauty of Dubai. For the bird lover, outdoor-loving person or naturalist, a trip to Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (RAWLS) is worth the time. This award winning wildlife sanctuary is home to birds, crustaceans, small mammals, and fish. Located along the Dubai Creek, RAWLS features sabkhas saline flats, intertidal mudflats, mangroves, lagoons, and pools. The few tiny islands are situated between the Arabian Gulf and the Al Awir Desert. During the winter, more than 60 species make their home in the sanctuary as they enjoy the warm temperatures of Dubai. The entrance fee is free and the sanctuary is open 9 am to 4 pm Saturday to Thursday (closed on Friday).

Hatta Rock Pools
In the mountains above Dubai is a hidden treat, to cool off from the desert heat. About 110 miles from Dubai city, you will find the Hatta Rock Pools. These natural water pools are nestled in a palm oasis about an hour away from the city. This would make a great side-trip during your holiday in Dubai. Plan an overnight visit to the Heritage Village and a day swimming and exploring the pools. There is a hotel for your night’s stay, or you can spend the night under the stars camping. The best time for a swim is in the early morning and late afternoon.

With a little planning and forethought, a visit to Sharjah will be one that you will surely enjoy. Despite the traffic, Sharjah is a colorful area with magnificent architecture. There is a large marketplace to explore local wares and cuisine, the Sharjah Corniche & Khalid Lagoon, the Arabian Wildlife Center and petting zoo. You will also want to take a ride of the Eye of Emirates, a large Ferris wheel with air-conditioned cabins, to take in a bird’s eye view of the city. This is a fascinating place to have a picnic, shop, and explore the culture, but don’t go on Thursdays as you will get stuck in the local traffic.

Dubai is known for its luxury, real estate developments and towering spires, but is worth checking out some of the older riches that it has to offer. Book your flight now and set foot in a land of excitement and wonder.

Charles Holland is a travel writer specialising in snow sports, cultural Europe, coastal India and African cities.  Charles was born in London, but having grown up in Lagos, Nigeria, he has a great understanding of different cultures and world destinations.  It was after he completed his English degree at the University of Sussex that he decided to combine both skills, travel knowledge and writing, to start posting his blogs onto the internet.  So far he's had great feedback and has some exciting projects in the pipeline.  His latest work sees him compiling a guide to Goa which he will be posting onto his new website in the near future.  Feel free to contact him via email at charlie.holland@firespinjay.co.uk