The mercury is rising and you’re starting to sweat. But it’s not just the heat: Have you made the most of the fabulous UAE weather these last few months? If you’re like me, your FOMO has FOMO and you want to get out in the sunshine every weekend from here til forever.
I asked around Propertyfinder HQ, and scoured the Internet to bring you an up-to-date list of the six staycation ideas that will satisfy your expat wanderlust right in your own backyard, from now well into the summer.
See you out there!
1. Channel your inner Lawrence of Arabia: Go on a desert adventure
One of the hottest, driest places on Earth is home to awe-inspiring landscapes unlike anything else on the planet. You can easily DIY an overnight on a shoestring budget.
From Abu Dhabi, it’s about a three-hour drive to Moreeb Dune – supposedly the tallest in the UAE – via Hameem. This route (which you should take by 4×4 if you want to camp) will take you past camels (eyes peeled for the rare black camels of Liwa!), oases of date palms and lakes, and wild gazelles. Stay alert for roadside tented majlis (traditional spaces for hosting guests), hole in the wall spots to try some traditional biryani, and a good patch of sand to pitch a tent. Once you’ve settled camp, lay back and look up at the stars. You’ll never forget your first desert adventure.
2. Treat yourself: Overnight at a world-class resort
We all moved here for the sun, no? Do an overnight at an iconic resort and soak in all of the UAE-worthy splurges: world-class chefs, best-in-class spas, all set on a backdrop of the aquamarine Gulf. You’re worth it.
If you’re in Dubai, consider Jumeirah Al Naseem. You can sunbathe all day and get a spot of lunch at Summersalt, then head off to the unapologetically pink Flamingo Room for dinner, before ending the night at Rockfish.
If a bit more adventure is your speed, check out the Hilton Resort & Spa in RAK, where water sports like Stand up Paddling , jet-skiing, and kite-surfing are in order and finish the day off with a massage just steps from the beach.
If you’re in the capital, St. Regis Saadiyat offers a chance to spot dolphins off the island, the best Thai fusion this side of the Indian Ocean at Sontaya, and sundowners at the soon-to-open beachside Buddha Bar.
3. Adventure like no one’s watching: Go super-lux in the desert
While camping and Instagramming from the top of a dune is impressive, sometimes you want to take life (and perhaps your credit card bill) to the next level.
For that, there are numerous desert accommodations for you to work on your own spread for Travel & Leisure. Qasr Al Sarab in the Liwa Desert, Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa in the Dubai Desert, and the newly opened Ritz Carlton in the Al Wadi Desert of RAK are all lux opportunities to ride a camel, learn about the great Emirati tradition of falconry, and gape at the majesty of the place we call home — from your own personal cabana, of course.
4. Learn something new: Take in culture and get off the beaten path in Abu Dhabi
If you can tear yourself away from a five-star resort, then spend it exploring Abu Dhabi, a city that can provide culture in the morning, adventure in the afternoon, and more than enough places to rest your head in the evening.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened last year, and offers a stunning collection capped under a magnificent dome. Book your tickets in advance, and after gallery hopping, take a coffee break under its already iconic roof. From there, head to the Eastern Mangroves, where you can take an eco-tour by kayak, and better understand the biodiversity of where the Gulf meets land in clear blue shallows. This is also a unique vantage point of the Abu Dhabi skyline. Grab a late lunch at Arabia Cafe, a casual spot for traditional Middle Eastern fare. Then hang in Mushrif Park as the sun sets, it’s a beautiful community space for a stroll and some ice cream. You won’t regret a moment.
5. Make like a mountain goat and boat with the fishies: Hike and paddle on a road trip across the UAE
While on the weekdays you are dependent on Careem, the Metro, or your own four wheels to get around, sometimes it’s nice to get out there for a good old fashioned walk. Hit the hiking trails of Jebel Jais in RAK or Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain. I promise, it’s cooler at the top!
From the mountains, hop in the car for a road trip. Head south for a little under three hours until you reach JA Hatta Fort, one of the oldest hotels in the UAE. The next morning, you can wake up among lush greenery at the foot of craggy mountains. Rent a kayak in the lake formed by Hatta Dam and paddle your cares away. From there, you’re just one hour’s drive back to Dubai.
6. Go local: Spend a day in Dubai that celebrates both old and new
A worthy pursuit on an empty weekend in Dubai is to make like Anthony Bourdain and go hyperlocal. Start your day at the place that put Dubai on the map for many tourists: the Mall of the Emirates, located in one of the newer Dubai neighbourhoods, Al Barsha. Say ‘hello’ to the penguins at Ski Dubai, and grab breakfast at one of the more than two dozen cafes in the mall.
From the very new to the very old, head across the creek to Old Dubai on a dhow. Bring along your camera and prepare to eat adventurously at hole in the wall spots. If you’re feeling bold, bring along a fishing pole and fish the creek. Rest your head at XVA Art Hotel in Old Dubai, a chic and historic gallery-concept store-cafe-hotel all rolled into one.