The mention of Dubai paints a picture of a glitzy city, one of over-the-top extravagance and fancy skyscrapers. While this image is very close to reality, there’s no reason for the budget conscious visitor to steer clear of the city.
There are plenty of free things to do and events to attend in Dubai, especially after the worst of the summer months have passed and the weather gets pleasant enough to head outdoors.
5. Go to the Beach
Dubai has miles and miles of beautiful coastline and a number of beaches to make the most of its all year round sunny weather. Many of these beaches are open to the public free of charge and are an ideal way to spend a morning or an afternoon. Kite Beach close to the Burj Al Arab is very popular with tourists and expats. If you’d like to spend some cash and check out activities such as stand up paddle boarding, kite surfing or fly boarding, there are plenty of options to choose from.
4. Walk around in Bastakiya
The Bastakiya Quarter in Al Fahidi is home to a number of heritage buildings in Old Dubaiand the feeling of wandering around in its lanes is remarkably different from being in the other parts of the city.
These buildings, many with traditional wind towers are restored houses of merchants in the 19th century but today are home to art galleries, cafes and boutique hotels.
Arrive in the morning so that you can really appreciate the structures and can actually walk into some of the buildings that are open to the public until 6.00pm. There are a number of art galleries inside these historic buildings that are free of charge to enter and walk around in.
If you’d like to stop for lunch, there are some lovely cafes housed in the courtyards of some of these traditional buildings.
3. Visit the Souks
The traditional markets or souks located in Deira are in stark contrast to the glamorous shopping malls of Dubai.
While the malls are free to enter and are also a good way to spend almost an entire day (yes, the Dubai mall has enough attractions to keep you busy for a day with a walk through aquarium, waterfall, ice rink and gold souk inside it!), the souks offer a glimpse into a Dubai that has long survived the fast pace of commercial growth in the city.
Visit the Gold Souk to look at opulent Arabic gold jewelry worn even today by brides from traditional families.
If you begin to tire of the glittering displays here, then head to the Spice Souk and follow your nose as you explore the market. It’s common to see African and Russian tourists, among other nationalities, bargaining away for everything from a faux fur coat to a bling adorned evening gown in the markets of Deira.
2. Attend Events & Get Cultured
A number of events take place in Dubai and that’s not just on weekends. A lot of these events provide top notch entertainment even on weekdays for free. Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, all you’ve got to do is turn up and enjoy the show. I believe this is due to a creative wave that the city is gripped in at the moment, with many young local artists from the Middle East showcasing their talent, for the love of art, culture and music rather than commercial gain.
Dubomedy School of Arts hosts some wonderful shows that guarantee an evening of rib-tickling laughter (the kind that has your stomach hurting by the time you walk out) at various venues and very often they’re free to attend. There are also a number of open air music concerts by talented bands and artists at Al Safa Park organized in partnership with The Archive, a community art center and workspace located in the park.The Sikka Art Fair is an arts festival that’s held every March over 10 days in the historic district of Bastakiya and is completely free to attend.
There are art galleries, interactive art displays and workshops conducted in the heritage buildings with many open air cultural performances taking place in the courtyards. Information on the programme and participants is available on the official website of Sikka.
There are many free activities if you’d like to build your fitness in Dubai, especially from October to February, when the evenings are cool and breezy.
If you like to run and would like to experience the city running along some beautiful locations such as the Jumeirah Corniche or in Downtown Dubai, then join one of many community running clubs in Dubai such as the Nike+ Run Club. Details are on their Facebook page and members show up for group running sessions at set times and locations.
The club also provides expert coaching to runners of all levels and encourages them to reach their fitness goals. This is also a great way for newly arrived expats to meet people while keeping fit.
If you prefer something that’s a little less action packed, then consider taking a free yoga class with Friends of Yoga, a voluntary, not-for-profit organization that has daily morning and evening sessions across various locations in Dubai. Details are available on their website.
This article was written by Natasha Amar from TheBohoChica. Natasha Amar is a Dubai based traveler & writer experiencing the world in cultures, cuisines & hiking trails & sharing these stories on The BohoChica. You can connect with her on Facebook , Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.