What to do in the UAE

Known for a lavish nightlife and some of the most gargantuan shopping malls in human history, the UAE has a reputation for upscale entertainment. Regardless of your interests or tastes, as an expat you’ll be part of a sociable, exciting community with plenty to do and see.

Rub shoulders with expats from all over the globe. Boasting one of the largest expatriate communities in the world, you’ll find loads of foreigners ready to mingle in the UAE. There are numerous communities that organise events and networking opportunities for expats, so it’s easy to get started (check out some of the groups that cater to different nationalities and interests). Lots of expats will be in the same boat as you, so the majority of people tend to be extremely open to new friends and connections.

Friday brunch. Since the weekend starts on Thursday, Friday brunches are a popular tradition and can get rowdy. Many restaurants offer all-you-can-eat specials to kick off the first full day of the weekend, and it’s as good a time as any to take in a little champagne at one of the UAE’s famous five-star hotels. Try an award-winning brunch at Traiteur in Dubai, or head to Oléa in Abu Dhabi for a Mediterranean meal with ocean-side views.

Day tripping and outdoor exploring. There’s a lot more to the UAE than glittering cities and luxurious brunches. You’ll have opportunities for snorkelling and diving in the Indian Ocean, camping, hiking, camel-riding and even Dubai’s extreme desert sports. If you’re not the sort to get carsick easily, try some dune-bashing and go on a rollercoaster tour of the desert, followed by amazing views of the desert sunset. Check out sites like weekenduae.com for all kinds of ideas on adventuring in the UAE outdoors.

Sport and recreation. You don’t have to leave the city to get some exercise. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are home to iconic golf courses, including the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. Besides golf, Zayed Sports City offers facilities for almost any conceivable activity: rugby, hockey, football, tennis, beach volleyball, combat sports and more. If you want a change from warm beaches and sandy deserts, head to Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates and hit the slopes of an indoor ski resort.

Drink. Although the UAE is officially a Muslim country, you won’t find any shortage in opportunities to imbibe. Unless you’re in the dry emirate Sharjah, buying and drinking alcohol at a licensed venue is legal for non-Muslims over the age of 21. Friday brunch is a popular time for having a drink, but there are also an abundance of lounges and nightclubs open late, like Dubai’s famous Neos Lounge.

Still, it’s important to be sensitive to the local culture and avoid drunken public displays. In fact, if you’re really over the top, you could even wind up arrested.

Explore Old Dubai. It’s easy (and fun) to get lost in the glitz of modern Dubai’s incredible shopping malls and man-made islands, but it also has a lot of history to offer. Experience a meticulously reconstructed souq at the Dubai Museum, which also happens to be the city’s oldest existing building. You can also take a stroll through the markets along Dubai Creek.

Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Located in Abu Dhabi, this architectural wonder is the primary place of worship in the UAE and the largest mosque in the world. It’s open to visitors on a daily basis and features an enormous library on Islamic studies in art, calligraphy, civilisation, sciences, and ancient publications.  It’s a useful opportunity for non-Muslims to learn more about the Islamic faith and culture, while taking in some once-in-a-lifetime views.  

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