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The United Arab Emirates, an epicenter of luxury and culture, is widely known for its bustling capital and oil-rich land. If you’re taking a much-needed vacation and want to explore the country with your significant other, you may be looking for historical and cultural activities to fill your days.
Before we dive into the specifics, it’s important to understand a few important facets of knowledge about the UAE, starting with the fact that the UAE is a federation of seven emirates.
While Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken throughout the UAE due to its large immigrant population – 87.9% of its population in 2019 – and international oil companies based in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE was officially formed in 1971 and is comprised of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah—all with distinct geographical features and rich with culture, custom, and history.
Concerned about Covid? The UAE has resumed most transportation operations (including airports) and business operations (including daycares and school). Many hotels, restaurants and businesses have launched Covid safety precautions and are open for travellers. For the latest Covid information related to travel, please visit consult the official UAE government site or your local government agencies. In July 2020, Ras Al Khaimah was also declared as the first safe city in the world, receiving the Bureau Veritas Safeguard Assurance Label and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travel Stamp.
Here’s a list of seven historical and cultural activities you can do in the UAE for couples.
Nothing beats catching the sunrise from 4,000-feet in the air as you cruise above the desert and take in the breathtaking sights of Dubai.
Companies such as Balloon Adventures Emirates offer transportation from the city out to the desert. You’ll enjoy an hour-long hot air balloon ride before heading back to a nearby camp to eat a breakfast of Eggs Benedict, smoked salmon, caviar, and fruit at a nearby.
Others, like Balloon Adventures Dubai, offer exclusive hot air balloon rides for couples where you’ll get your own balloon and a secluded spot for breakfast.
If you’re looking for a longer getaway, Dubai Dunes has a special overnight safari and hot air balloon experience. You and your significant other will enjoy a 45-minute dune bashing adventure followed by
Fresh fruit, fish, and produce are available for sale alongside local-made crafts at farmers’ markets across the UAE.
If you’re staying in Dubai, Farmer’s Market Bay Avenue is lined with tables and stalls every Friday and Saturday starting at 8 a.m. The Abu Dhabi Farmers Market is located on the Zayed Port and open Sunday through Thursday from 4-10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from noon-10 p.m. It’s important to note that hours may differ on different Islamic Holidays.
Local farmers’ markets with vendors selling homemade crafts, local produce, fresh seafood, and meats offer some of the best food the region has to offer. Walking around the stall-lined streets is the perfect way to start your day off, while also learning more about the local culture, food, and crafts. Wander through the endless stalls and taste what Dubai has to offer.
Ride, slide, trek, and take a safari through the deserts of Dubai. Exhilarating Jeep rides, slower camel rides, and unbeatable sand surfing are activities you can do through local tour companies that offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
If planning a full day of various activities is intimidating, OceanAir Travels offers several desert activities in one stop. They can help you plan a full day of fun. After enjoying all the desert has to offer, relax Al Khayma Desert Safari Camp for barbecue buffet dinner and a live show.
Al Bastakiya, also known as the Al Fahidi Historical District, this cultural and historical epicenter is the oldest standing residential area of Dubai. It was established by textile and pearl merchants at the end of the 19th century, and buildings made of coral, mud, gypsum, and palm wood still stand today—a testament to the city’s rich roots and architectural history.
For those who enjoy art, stroll through XVA Gallery to see some to see a wide selection of some of the Middle East’s best contemporary works. The gallery opened in 2003 and showcases the best from local and international artists.
The Dubai Opera hall 2,000-seat multi-format building in the heart of Dubai’s Opera District is the perfect place for a date night for those that love the arts. Completed in 2016 under the architect Janus Rostock, the venue has since hosted legendary opera singer Plaácido Domingo and a hologram performance by Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum.
In addition to musical performances, you can also catch comedy shows and ballets. The space also converts into a banquet hall or exhibition space.
In addition to the show itself, you can also take in a breathtaking view of Dubai from its rooftop theater and sky garden.
Also located in the highly populated city, the Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural flower garden. It has a variety of attractions, entertainment, shops, and events that will keep you busy.
While the gardens transform each year, visitor favorites include the Butterfly and Heart Passages, the Floral Clock and Castle, the Umbrella Passage, and Disney Avenue. It’s also home to the Dubai Butterfly Park, which currently is home to 15,000 butterflies of more than 20 species.
You can also catch one of the many live performances at the garden’s amphitheater, which is surrounded by lush and gorgeous flowers.
Do not rush through the Louvre in Abu Dhabi and plan adequate time to explore. Surrounded by water on 3 sides, the Louvre Abu Dhabi building was built on a man-made peninsula.
The museum opened in 2017 and was a collaborative effort between the UAE and France. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first universal museum in the Middle East and presents modern, historical and cultural works of art from around the world. The museum is uniquely organized as well. Most museums are curated to display artifacts that are related by school, technique, regions, or materials. However, the Louvre Abu Dhabi have exhibits that items that may seem unrelated at first but at closer look are interconnected by influences and circulation of ideas.
Visiting the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is a must do while visiting Dubai. The mosque represents a mix of traditional and contemporary Islamic architecture and can house thousands of worshippers. Remember to check out one of the world’s largest woven rug as well as the 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers.
The mosque is open to visitors on every day except Friday. Friday is reserved for worshippers only. There are a few tips to keep in mind while visiting this religious site.
All visitors must remove their shoes when entering the mosque.
Plan on dressing conservatively and modestly. Women should make sure their head, arms, legs and wrists are covered. Do not plan on going on from the beach to the mosque. Men are not allowed to wear sleeveless tops and shorts.
The mosque is completely free to enter. There are also free guided tours which last about 45-60mins.
Located in the emirate of Sharjah, the Mleiha Archaeological Centre is a perfect activity for couples who want to experience an intersection of history, culture, and nature. With a wide array of day interactive exhibits, exploration trips around the area, and other special events, there’s something to interest everyone.
For those wanting to stay indoors, the Mleiha Archeological Centre’s many exhibitions and interactive displays tell the story of the region dating back to the Paleolithic period through history, cultural order, rituals, diet, and international influence on art in the area.
If you want to venture a little farther out for a more immersive experience, you can also visit the region’s archaeological sites, including the Umm an-Nar tomb, the Bronze Age Tombs at Jebel Faya, and the Mleiha Fort.
You can also engage in more blood pumping activities such as the two-hour Extreme Landscapes Tours via SUV or buggy. In between racing across the Faya Dunes and Mleiha Desert, you can see the area’s famous Fossil and Camel Rock.
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