Abra on the Dubai Creek

The best time to visit Dubai

Abra on the Dubai Creek

I have received a few emails from readers of my blog asking me, when is the best time to come visit Dubai? Is it scorching, unbelievably hot the whole year through? Can people actually walk outside in the heat?  When it comes to the weather, this is probably the travel factor that would discourage many, many travelers from coming here because of the notion that is is hot and summer-y all year round but as I repeatedly mention in this blog, IT IS NOT HOT the whole year through!

And even if it is, it shouldn’t hamper your holidays because there are so many cheap holidays to Dubai during summer! This period offers the best value for money. You might not be able to walk outside that much but lounging by the pool in the morning or dipping in the afternoon can be quite enjoyable.

Weather wise, the best time to come to Dubai and really enjoy the outdoors as much as you enjoy what’s inside the malls are in the cooler months of November to March (or even until April). There are lots to see and do here, not just the sun, shopping and modern buildings – you can go see the traditional (old) Arabic architecture down at the Bastakiya Quarters near the Dubai Creek or join a desert safari to experience the vast desert, do dune bashing, ride a camel and have dinner at a traditional Arabic Camp in the middle of the desert watching a belly dancer perform under the starry desert sky.

Top 10 things to do in Dubai

There are lots of things to do when staying in Dubai but here are the top ten in my mind.

1. Beaches – Dubai is home to the world’s cleaniest beaches with fine, white sand. When visiting, if there’s one thing you musn’t forget, it’s gotta be your favorite sunscreen.

Mamzar Beach

Pristine and my friend from Japan admiring the clear waters

2. Desert Safari – just an hour outside of the city lies the golden desert. You can book a safari tour that will take you to the desert, experience dune bashing and have a great dinner of Arabic/Indian food. If you’re worried of motion sickness, ask your tour operator the duration of the desert ride so you won’t have to be sick in your trip.

3. Cruising the creek – Dubai is divided into two by a natural water formation called Dubai Creek. The creek holds a lot of history and up to this day, the traditional wooden boats are still available for anyone who wants to cross the creek the way the inhabitants did before all the ‘rush’.


4. Shopping for gold – Dubai is bling heaven. A visit to Dubai’s gold souq (Souq is Arabic for market) is worth your time even if you’re not interested in buying jewelry, strolling down the lanes of the gold souq provides “entertainment” for the eyes as shop window after shop window is filled with gold necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings and brooches, all in 22K or 24K. Gold prices here are among the lowest in the world.


5. Golf – You didn’t expect golf courses in the desert, did you? There are a lot of nice golf clubs in Dubai including the only Tiger Woods designed golf course and golf resort in the world (planned).

6. Heritage Tour – Take a tour to see old Dubai at the Dubai Museum and Dubai Heritage Village.


A local woman preparing traditional food, in a traditional way at Heritage Village

7. Dining – Every resident and visitor in Dubai will go through the maze of diverse foods and beverages in this city. With Dubai’s diverse population, it’s not surprising that the city has a wide range of dining options, covering everything from Malaysian to Moroccan.

8. Skiing – Ski Dubai is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East and offers an amazing snow setting to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing or just playing in the snow.



9. Hot Air Balloon Rides – While I haven’t tried this, I know that hot air balloon rides are definitely one of the most exciting things to do while in Dubai. On your hot air balloon, you can view the Dubai skyline and spectacular landscapes of mountains and azure waters, as you go high up in air, almost into the endearing arms of the blue sky.


10. Shopping – Dubai is literally a shopper’s paradise. Dubai holds shopping festivals twice a year, one in winter starting around January (Dubai Shopping Festival) and one in the summer called Dubai Summer Surprises where you can get good bargains. Huge malls are sprouting on a regular basis so the competion results in even more bargains for shoppers!

When in Dubai, which of these would you do first?

Be a whirling dervish: How far can you go?

We had the pleasure of seeing a stunning Whirling Dervish performance during a desert safari a few days back. The whirling dervish, performing the traditional Egyptian folk dance Tannoura is something you wouldn’t want to miss. It is spectacular and will leave you in awe.

He started slowly turning along with the soft music:

Whirling Dervish

The performer “turns” or whirls endlessly while manipulating skirts in a colorful display.

Whirling Dervish

The dancer continues to turn round and round faster this time, keeping up with the faster music beat. Amazingly, he did not stray far from his original position meaning, he didn’t feel any dizziness or disorientation.

Whirling Dervish

Ten, 15 minutes passed and the music refused to die down. The dancer is still alive, ecstatic and obviously NOT dizzy at all! Then the lights were turned off and we wondered why.

Whirling Dervish

The lights on his colorful skirt lit up, creating an illusion of human kaleidoscope! Pristine thought it was a UFO.

Whirling Dervish

The whole show, which lasted for TWENTY MINUTES  was magnificent from start to finish and left me breathless. Then the whirling dervish asked for volunteers. He was heavily sweating but still very articulate, smiling and looked very normal.

My friend Rose bravely took on the challenge, put on the colorful skirt with the help of the dervish, gave a big smiled and took off. She turned and turned and stopped after less than 10 SECONDS.

Whirling Dervish

Everyone who took on the challenge did not last long and had to grab hold of the dervish so they might not fall down.  How can he stay sane in TWENTY long minutes!? I can only imagine the concentration and training required.

Try turning round and round. How long can you go without getting dizzy?

Note: There are several travel operators providing desert safaris but they don’t offer the same type of entertainment at the camps. Ask your travel operator if the desert safari includes the Tannoura dance before making your reservation if you want to see this spectacular show.

The desert safari that might be my last

I had a good dose of Friday the 13th curse last week. We went to the desert to treat friends to a Desert Safari. My husband booked a reputable desert safari provider – good desert course (he claims), dune bashing, delicious food and lively entertainment. Well, the desert safari provider delivered everything, except that the “good” desert course wasn’t so good for ME.

It was too long, around more than 30 minutes of going up and down the sand hills, shaking our whole bodies. During the first 10-15 minutes, we were still screaming with excitement but after that, everyone was silent and I was blue. Pale, heavily breathing and seriously wanted to throw up. This was my third desert safari but the first time that I got bat-sh*t crazy motion sickness.

We stopped (I begged the driver to STOP so I won’t flood his Land Cruiser with vomit) and got some air. Funny how posing for a photo can make you look a little normal even if you’re not. (I am the one in the white shirt)


Pristine, however was fine. Goodness, my powers don’t match that of a five year old because apart from some hair clips out of place, she was perfectly ok with the rough and long desert course and even smiling naturally.


When we arrived at the camp, I wasted no time and rushed to the toilet to do my thing. It was my first time having a major throw up session like that! I was disgustingly sick. Until now, I was not aware that vomiting can be so involuntary, that no matter how you try to stop it before all your internal organs come out, it is all involuntary. One advice if you are on the verge of throwing  up: empty your bladder first!

Ok, I won’t go into details.

But if there was any consolation, we saw a WHITE CAMEL in the desert! I had no idea there’s a camel with color other than the usual brownish ones.


Wandering around Dubai like a real tourist, Day 1


A friend of mine, who is so interested in Dubai even before I hopped on the plane to relocate here came to see me last month, just after Christmas. Japan offices are off on the last week of the year so she had the chance to finally come, bringing all her guide books and t-shirts. She really never believed me that it’s quite chilly here in December.

After picking her up at the airport at 5:30 am, we went to have breakfast at the Riviera Hotel, a small B&B hotel at Baniyas Road, facing Dubai Creek in Deira. They offer very affordable breakfast buffet at 50 dhs only. I say “only” although I don’t want to spend an amount like that for my breakfast everyday, because it is still inexpensive compared to the other hotel restaurants in the city. They had Japanese food also, with menus changing daily thanks to a resident Japanese staff they have.

After a sumptous breakfast, I took my friend for a stroll along the Dubai Creek – a very relaxing thing to do on a Friday morning where everyone, I suspect, is still sleeping. The usual rush of the dhows and the traffic was not there, just us and the sea and the very pleasant winter weather.

A funny coincidence: a man drinking tea near a giant brass pitcher along Dubai Creek.


My friend smiling despite still jetlagged from her long flight.


Then we went to Radisson SAS Hotel, just on the same road. I love this hotel in Deira. Sure it is not one of the newest and most sophisticated hotels in the city right now but this was the first five star hotel in Dubai so it has a lot of history. They recently underwent major renovations so the establishment is good as new and with great service.

There were lavish Christmas decors at Radisson SAS.

A giant tree:


A huge ginger bread house where the walls are really made out of biscuits!



That same day, my friend and I were to board a bus, along with 10 other tourists for a city tour. My husband acts as a guide and we got special approval from the tour coordinator to join for free. I thought it was a great opportunity for my friend to tour around Dubai (for FREE) and a rare chance for me to see my husband at work.

He was very impressive. To say that I am extremely impressed would be an understatement. You could say I was awed, amazed, dazzled by the way he handled the tour. He really takes his work by heart. I am proud of my man – and what he had become compared to what how he was the day we arrived in Dubai. He’s a totally different person. From a man very dependent on his wife on everything because of the language barrier (he didn’t speak English that well 2 years ago) to someone beaming with confidence and being fluent on the language.

I feel like a mom looking at her grownup son. * sniff *

Moving on before I start looking for tissues for my tears….

The tour took us to Sheikh Zayed Road first to see the buildings – those tall, unique buildings you see in every Dubai guidebook and postcards.

Then on to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a shopping area styled to resemble typical Arabian market. The Burj Al Arab can be seen from here. The group shopped for souvenirs while I cautioned my friend that she can have the same particular item at half the price at the local market in Deira! We were the only ones empty handed.


I don’t know what this is for but I found this near the washroom. The rose petals were lovely.


My favorite tree in all of Dubai was still standing, very beautifully against the blue skies.



Next, the group went to Atlantis Hotel at Palm Jumeirah. In case you don’t know, The Palm Jumeirahis the largest manmade island in the world. There will be three Palm Islands in Dubaibut the one completed right now is only Palm Jumeirah yet. The contractors are still busy hurling big boulders to the see to construct the othe two.

(Atlantis Hotel photos to be uploaded shortly!)

Then the group proceeded to Jumeirah Beach Road and because there is not much to say about this “New Dubai” part of Dubai except for the the opulent lines of villas, the Jumeirah Mosque and Mercato Mall, my husband talked about the history of Dubai and the UAE – of how it was become what it is now from the time when pearl diving was the only means of living for the people. Everyone was listening at every detail and asked questions which our tour gladly answered.

The final leg of the group tour landed us in Dubai Museum in Bur Dubai. I love going to this museum as it has galleries and dioramas depicting people and their way of life during the olden times. The group was to have lunch at Basta Art Cafe – an outdoor cafe with great ambiance and good food. My friend and I had to go since we will be leaving for desert safari that evening.

The 4×4 picked us up at 3:30 pm. The desert will be cold at this time of the year so we packed jackets, scarves, winter hats and even gloves. My friend almost laughed at us. She’s from Japan where the temperature was zero at night when she left.


This is my second desert safari but the first time taking Pristine with me. It might be because we have a kiddo in tow that the driver made the safari very mild the first one was a blast. I only let out a few screams and didn’t break my mother’s arm everytime the car dove down sand hills.

We stopped by to take photos.



On a regular desert safari, the cost of the tour will include pickup and drop-off,dinner buffet, camel ride, henna body painting, belly dance show (where you can participate if you like), dressing up in National costumes and of course, the safari itself.

After the mad driving in the sand, we reached the camp site and took advantage of the camels resting. Some of the tourists haven’t arrived so we had the pleasure to get on the camels many times until the camel grunted with anger. I need to lose weight before getting on in one again.

Pristine and my friend posed with the camel and a handful of tourists.


It’s my mom’s first time to ride a camel. She was so nervous, but I bet the camel was too!


This man asked my two friends to pose with him and his wife so he could say when goes back home that he has THREE wives in Dubai!


Night fell and cold crept in but we were ready. My friend was not. She wished she brought the winter jacket she left in her cabinet in Japan.

After dinner, we were treated with a belly dance show.


She pulled a man from the crowd, who gamely put on a costume on his hip and shook his booty.


By 8:30 pm, it was time to go home. You bet everyone fell into a deep sleep the moment we closed our eyes!

Whew, it was a long day and this, a long post. Are you sure you still want me to continue writing about Day 2?

Thursday Thirteen #47: Dubai Desert Safari

An hour and a half away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai, the wide golden sand dunes awaits everyone. We went to experience a desert safari – an off road adventure you will never forget!

Here are 13 (+1) photos from our desert adventure.

dubai desert safari

Here’s what happens if you go on a desert safari:

  • The tour operator will come to your house or hotel to pick you up, depending on your location, between 3-4 pm.
  • After an hour drive, you will stop for toilet and refreshments. Also, your vehicle will wait for 15-30 minutes until all other vehicles arrive. It is the tradition that group of vehicles go together to the desert.
  • The driver checks for the tire pressure and deflate the tires (not completely, just take out some air). This is a necessary procedure for the car to run in the desert sand.


~ The driver assigned to us was a local! He gladly smiled for the camera ~

  • The driver will ask everyone in the car to buckle up and this is when the fun begins! The vehicles will go through the sand dunes, climb dune mountains, nose dive (but not quite) from atop sand hills. I can’t describe (and count) how much I screamed!


~ SUV’s in the desert! ~

dubai desert safari

~ that is a moving SUV in the sand hill ~

dubai desert safari

~ a Hummer was there too! ~

dubai desert safari

~ circling the desert ~

  • We stopped at a camel pen to take pictures.

dubai desert safari

~ camels of all sizes – there were baby camels as well ~

dubai desert safari

~ the camels were tame (but the smell is not!) ~

  • After the fun ride in the desert, we were taken to a central camp in the middle of the desert.

dubai desert safari

~ entrance to the camp ~

dubai desert safari

~ the camp ~

The tables are gathered around a big carpet. The center carpet has a purpose. I will tell you later.

The desert safari includes a buffet dinner of traditional Arabic food, Indian cuisine and barbeque. Here are the grillers preparing our dinner:

dubai desert safari

~ tandoori chicken grillers in action ~

dubai desert safari

~ Chicken Tikka skewers ~

I tell you, the delicious aroma could make your stomach growl! While waiting for dinner, desert safari participants can enjoy alcohol (you have to pay separately – not included in the cost of the safari), henna painting, camel riding, dune bashing and dressing up in traditional Arabic costume.

dubai desert safari

~ I wouldn’t even recognize my own husband with this dress! (at least when looking from the back) ~

I did henna and went to ride a camel. I wish there were plenty of time to ride a desert buggy and do some dune bashing but the queue was too long.

Dinner was served at 7:30. We were so hungry we took a dash to the buffet table – couldn’t resist the smell of barbeque!

While enjoying our dinner, music was played in the background and a belly dancer came out from her small hut inside the camp and entertained us. The center carpet was for the belly dancer!

belly dancer

Pity I wasn’t able to capture her beautiful face. The dancing was good! She also invited males on the center stage – to the delight of the audience and the invited male, of course. And you think Dubai is a strict Arab country? Look at the belly dancer, she’s practically half naked!!

The show finished at 8:45 p.m. and we headed home happy and full. Sorry for the long post. I hope you did not fall asleep reading this. 🙂

For anyone planning to visit Dubai anytime soon, desert safari is a MUST. You would like to avoid the summer months though, the desert sand will scorch your feet! All in all, our experience was great and filled with memories to keep for a lifetime.