Last Updated on August 26, 2015 by Natasha Amar
This post is part of the Hipmunk #CityLove project.
Too many people try to cram a visit to Dubai in four or five days, thinking that the glamorous skyline of Sheikh Zayed Road, the impressive Burj Khalifa, massive shopping malls, pristine beaches, posh hotels in Dubai, and elegant nightlife are all that the city has to offer. While there’s no doubt that Dubai provides the ultimate city life experience, there’s a completely different side waiting to be explored if you’re willing to travel a little deeper. Expect to be surprised by these day trips from Dubai where you won’t have to jostle for space with other tourists.
Al Ain Camel Market
Zayed Bin Sultan Street, Al Ain
Photo by Travelturtle via Trover.com
Camels enjoy a special place in Emirati heritage, which isn’t surprising considering these beasts made survival easier for the Bedouin tribes of the desert by helping them to cross the harsh region with their essential supplies while providing them with milk and meat. An hour’s drive from Dubai, the Al Ain Camel Market is the UAE’s largest livestock market. It’s a great place to watch market dynamics at play with persuasive negotiations between eager sellers and rich buyers, some of whom don’t even step out of their SUVs, choosing instead to cruise between pens to assess the animals.
Tourists are welcome to take a look at the different camels, but expect to have to tip for a photograph. The newborns, some bred for meat and others for racing, make great crowd pleasers. If you visit early enough, attend the mock races meant to train race camels. Visiting on a weekday allows you to avoid the crowds and provides you with plenty of photo opportunities.
Jebel Al Jais
Ras Al Khaimah
At 1,930 meters above sea level, Jebel Al Jais is the highest peak in the UAE. Located less than three hours away from Dubai in the Hajjar Mountains, the area is much cooler than the rest of the country thanks to its altitude.
The drive up to Jebel Al Jais is exhilarating with hairpin turns and dusty dirt roads. The summit offers fantastic panoramic views of the valley. Bring essentials, including food and water, because the lack of tourism in the region means few amenities. Take a 4-hour guided hike of the Jebel Al Jais region with RAK Tourism, during which you’ll see an abandoned village, old houses, traditional water systems and spectacular mountain scenery.
Photo by Travel-Ling via Trover.com
Four hours from Dubai, Liwa Oasis provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the majestic Rub Al Khali desert, also known as the Empty Quarter. Visit the Emirates National Auto Museum on your way there. The museum houses an impressive collection of vehicles including a 16-foot tall Dodge with an apartment in it, owned by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan al Nahyan, or the “Rainbow Sheikh.”
The drive to Liwa Oasis is particularly scenic. Enjoy the shifting colors of the dunes; the 328-foot-high Moreb Dune is among the largest in the world. The area is also a conservation reserve for the protected Arabian Gazelle, which roams wild in this area. As you take in the sheer beauty of the desert, you’ll pass by oases, local villages, camel farms and date plantations, so feel free to stop occasionally and appreciate the simple lifestyle outside of the city.
If you’re not confident enough to drive by yourself, book a Liwa Safari full-day tour instead.
Part 1 of this series explores other exciting day trips from Dubai.
If you’re visiting Dubai on a budget, check out my tips for traveling in Dubai on the cheap. For general information to help you plan your trip to the UAE or Dubai in particular and recommendations for culture in Abu Dhabi, cool hotels, or popular places of interest such as the Dubai Miracle Garden and At The Top Burj Khalifa, check out my UAE Travel Blog.