Middle East island and beach holidays
Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Jumeirah is a 3km long beach of soft white sand that gently shelves into the shallow turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf; perfect for children and families.
Fringed with a pretty line of palm trees, the beach is divided into sections, never gets too crowded, is manned by lifesavers throughout the day and has barbecue facilities. Nearby is the Jumierah Park, which provides a break from the sun and is a pleasant place to enjoy lunch in the shade.
Popular with locals, expats and visitors, Jumeirah Beach is close to some of Dubai's best hotels and resorts, including the famous Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel. You can use the facilities in these hotels by paying a small amount. A road runs parallel to the beach making it easy to drive along and to pick a good spot to swim and sunbathe. On 'women's day' the beach is closed to men, allowing women to enjoy the beach and swim without unwanted male attention.
Jumeirah Beach is accessible to some of the finest hotels in the world - pop in for a refreshing cocktail and don't miss the eye-catching Burj Al Arab hotel, designed to resemble a billowing sail, that dominates Dubai's coastline. A pretty park adjoins Jumeirah Beach with walkways, kiosks, barbecue pits, picnic tables and a children's play area.
Dubai is divided into two parts - Deira on the northern side and Bur Dubai to the south of Dubai Creek. Once a haven for pearl divers, fishermen and traders of spices, gold and slaves, Dubai today offers ultra-modern shopping malls, classic sporting events, luxury hotels and impressive man-made islands. Beneath the shimmering office towers of Deira, on the right bank of Dubai Creek, lie atmospheric alleyways and ancient souqs where you can browse for spices, antiques, handicrafts and jewels.
Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House - This was once the home of the ruling Al-Maktoum family and was built in 1896 using traditional methods of coral coated with lime and plaster. It is one of the finest examples of local Arab architecture, with windtowers and rooms built around a central courtyard.
Dubai's souqs (markets) - At Deira's Gold Sou, choose from an Aladdin's Cave of exquisite gold jewellery. Browse gold ingots, chains, rings, earrings and bracelets of intricately crafted jewellery, many of an ornate Indian and Arabian design. In Deira's Spice Souq, breathe in the pungent aromas of frankincense and myrrh, herbs and spices, and at the Perfume Souq watch how local women buy spicy Arabic perfumes, oud (fragrant wood) and incense burners. Stroll beneath the wooden arcades and windtowers of Bur Dubai Souq for textiles, clothes and Arabian antiques; buy a sari, have a suit made or bargain for electronics.
Bastakiya Quarter - Explore the warren of narrow lanes in the old Bastakiya Quarter, lined with tall windtowers that soar from the rooftops of courtyard homes. In the days before electricity the windtowers were the only means of cooling houses.
Dubai Museum - Discover Dubai's history and get an insight into desert life at the Dubai Museum. Housed inside the 1790s-era Al-Fahidi Fort, the museum also has collections of Arabian sailing boats and a fearsome range of Arabian weapons including curved daggers, known as khanjars.
Heritage House - For a glimpse inside a wealthy pearl merchant's former home.
Madinat Jumeirah - Explore the old Arabian-style architecture, browse the souq and check out the beautiful Al
Qasr hotel - elevated and surrounded by water, the resort is an authentic recreation of 'old Arabia' and forms an island overlooking windtowers, pools, meandering waterways and a superb 2km wide private beach. Don't miss a visit to the stunning Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
Wild Wadi Waterpark - Cool off at this popular waterpark, which caters for everyone with gentle rides for younger children (and nervous adults), two artificial waves and the 'screaming' Jumeirah Sceirah for the more adventurous.
Heritage and Diving Village - A traditional heritage village where potters and weavers display their crafts, recreating life in Dubai as it was in days gone by. Located near the mouth of the creek, this area is a popular evening venue of open-air cafeterias and live entertainment.
Al-Mamzar Park - Tranquil Al-Mamzar Park, located on a small headland with a white sand beach, provides splendid views across the blue water to Sharjah. There's a swimming pool and changing rooms as well as barbecues and chalets for rent.
Za'abeel Park - A 51ha park with lakes and ponds, a low-impact jogging track, sports facilities and undulating green hills - perfect for picnics.
Burj Nahar - Stroll around the photogenic watchtowers at Burj Nahar.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (also known as Dubai Creek Waterbird and Wildlife Sanctuary) - Discover more than 3,000 pink flamingos during the winter months.
Things to do
Dubai offers a wide range of activities, from dune-bashing and horseback riding through the desert, to indoor skiing, deep-sea fishing and championship golf courses.
Golf - Choose from three championship courses. Play the verdant greens of the Majlis course, home of world-class events such as the Dubai Desert Classic and the Dubai Ladies' Masters, or tee-off at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club's 18-hole championship golf course complete with golf academy, restaurants and bars, gymnasium, swimming pool, the Park Hyatt Dubai and a 121-berth marina.
Cruise the creek - Cruise down the Dubai Creek or into the Gulf on a traditional dhow for a few hours or longer.
Wadi-bashing - Hire a 4WD, get off the beaten track and explore Dubai's wadis or dry river beds. Known locally as 'wadi-bashing', an hour or so of rough driving will reward you with rock pools, oases and ancient stone houses.
Dune driving - Take a roller coaster ride across the shifting surface of huge sand dunes. Don't be surprised to see wildlife - from foxes, hares and lizards to gazelles and eagles. Courses in sand driving are available.
Sand skiing - Strap on special skis and head to the interior of the Dubai desert for speed and excitement in the unusual sport of sand-skiing down the highest dunes.
Desert safari - Trek the desert atop a camel (or in a 4WD). Enjoy a spectacular desert sunset followed by a traditional Arab barbecue under the stars with music and belly dancers (optional).
Snow skiing - Go skiing in Dubai's Mall of the Emirates indoor ski resort.
Watch camel races - Held in Dubai on Thursdays and Fridays during the winter months. Browse camel accessories, including blankets, rugs and beads, at the nearby market.
Fishing - Charter a boat and fish for sailfish and bottom-feeding sharks. The Gulf is rich in marine life, with kingfish, jackfish, red snapper, rock cod, barracuda and other species caught commercially but not for sport.
Horse riding - Saddle up at one of several riding centres including the Dubai Equestrian Centre and Jebel Ali Hotel Riding Stables and trek into the desert. The sport of kings is Dubai's most popular spectator event, with race meetings held weekly at one of the UAE's four racecourses during the cooler months.
Bedouin Village - Take an adventurous trip to a Bedouin Village. Experience the traditional way of living in a desert and enjoy a camel riding lesson across the dunes.
Best time to visit
Winter, between November and April is the coolest season in Dubai and the best time to visit. Expect an average temperature of 21°C and a high of 28°C. Summers are very hot in Dubai, often reaching 48°C, so it can get uncomfortable.
Head to the local souqs for traditional leather goods, gold, brass, jewellery and silverware. For haute-couture clothing, jewellery, electronics and sporting equipment, explore Dubai's famous duty-free shopping at the Mall of the Emirates on Sheikh Zayed Road - the largest shopping mall outside North America - or Souq Madinat Jumeirah, designed to resemble a traditional souq but with the comfort of air-conditioning. For original paintings, Islamic calligraphy and sculpture by Dubai-based artists, as well as locally produced pottery, ceramics, glassware and handicrafts, head to the city's oldest commercial gallery, the Majlis Gallery, located in a charming courtyard house in the Bastakiya Quarter.
Other great beaches in Dubai
Here are some of the other great white sandy beaches in Dubai:
Al Mamzar Beach - One of the best beaches in Dubai, located on the Deira side of the Creek, accessible through a park of the same name. Facilities include barbecue sites, changing areas, toilets, playgrounds, picnic areas for families, and food stalls. The water is warm, crystal clear, sheltered (like a swimming pool) and with shoals of fish. Al Mamzar is ideal for snorkelling.
Umm Suqeim Beach - Between Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Kite Beach, this white sand beach has fabulous views of the Burj Al Arab and is popular with Jumeirah families and surfers during the winter months. There are showers but little shelter, so don't forget your sunscreen.
Khorfakkan Beach - A 30km stretch of virgin sand on the eastern side of the UAE looking out over the Indian Ocean. Pristine coral reefs off the coast make it supurb for snorkelling and diving and the breakers coming in off the Indian Ocean are just right for wind and body surfing.
Kite Beach - A long and pristine beach ideal for sunbathing and watching kite surfers ride the winds and waves. No facilities.
Note: Unlike most popular beaches elsewhere in the world, alcohol is not permitted in public places in Dubai, so there are no beach bars.
Did you know?
In Dubai, street addresses are not used. Only the main roads have names while streets are assigned numbers.
Recommended side trips
Hatta - Take a day trip out to the ancient fortressed village of Hatta in the mountains north of Dubai. Stroll around the military towers that date from the 18th century, and the Juma Mosque, built in 1780 and the oldest building in Hatta. At the reconstructed heritage village see displays of scenes from everyday life in the past.
Al Ghusals - Discover 2000-year-old graveyards at Al Ghusals and Al Sufooh; wander around the remains of stone walls, a souq, houses and a palace at Jumeirah, built in the 6th century AD and perhaps the most significant archaeological site in the UAE. Pottery and coins found at Jumeirah are on display at Dubai Museum and the Heritage Village.
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