Dubai: Top spots to visit that aren't malls or skyscrapers

Waheed Abbas/Dubai
Filed on May 21, 2021 | Last updated on May 21, 2021 at 09.09 am

Bedouin storytelling and visit to UAE’s largest unfenced nature reserve are must have experience for tourists in Dubai.

Dubai is globally known for its glitzy skyscrapers, manmade island, beautiful beach resorts, grand shopping malls, world-class dining and entertainment destinations among the tourists.

Interestingly, there is another less-explored side of Dubai’s modernism which takes visitors closer to nature. Dubai’s charm also extends to mountains, mangroves, desert, native wildlife and coastline.

Video: Top UAE mountains, dams revealed

Bedouin storytelling

Just a 90-minute drive from Downtown Dubai, stunning views of Hajjar mountain range, wadis and farms of Hatta offer visitors a chance to get away from the daily hustle and bustle of the city life. In addition to experiencing kayaking and boat trips of Hatta Dam, visitors have the option of take 30km of hiking trails and other daring activities such as archery, axe throwing, mountain carting, wall climbing and a zip-line experience.

In pictures: An essential travel guide to Hatta

And if visitors are looking for safari adventure, they can drive through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to spot native wildlife amongst the rocks and dunes and a traditional Emirati breakfast and storytelling by a local Bedouin. In addition, Dubai’s regular desert safari is also one of the must have experiences.


For those looking to experience wildlife in the desert, a visit to the UAE's largest unfenced nature reserve Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve is highly recommended. Spanning nearly 10 per cent of Dubai, Al Marmoom is abundant with native wildlife such as Arabian gazelles, camels, birds and Arabian oryx.

The nearby Al Qudra lakes, a network of manmade lakes in the desert, are home to 170 types of bird species, including endangered or vulnerable species such as the steppe eagle and the Asian houbara. Birdwatching is a popular activity and guided full or half-day tours are available through the UAE Birding Group. Possibly the jewel-in-the-crown are the two heart-shaped Love Lakes Dubai as well as the newly-developed Moon Lake.

Look: Dubai's Love Lake captured in stunning satellite photo

In wetland reserve of Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, visitors can watch brightly-coloured flamingos, grey herons, great egrets, reef herons, cormorants, black-winged stilts, sandpipers and ospreys.


For sports enthusiasts, there is plenty to enjoy outside of the city. Fitness fans will delight in the Al Qudra cycling path. This 86km track cuts through the sandy terrain and is popular with both professional and amateur riders, taking from 1.5 to 3 hours to complete.

More than a sport or a hobby: Cycling now part of city life in Dubai

For something a bit different, enjoy a new-age take on the traditional Emirati sport of camel racing at the Al Marmoom Camel Racing track early on a weekend morning, where the ‘ships of the desert' hurtle through the dirt track, reaching speeds of 40kmph.

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