Although at first glance the outdoors may seem dull and uninteresting, and even dangerous due to the desert conditions, there are actually amazing natural destinations in the UAE - the difficulty is in knowing where to find them! There are pristine waterfalls, cliffs lined with fossils, even freshwater lakes - Weekenduae is a blog that freely shares ideas, routes and plans for weekend adventures in the UAE (and Oman) with all trip details including description, GPS track, interactive map, and photos.
One of the main focuses of tourist life (other than shopping) is the beach. The waters of the UAE, although definitely more cloudy in recent years due to heavy coastal construction, are still, for those from less torrid climes, remarkably warm, clean, and beautiful. There are long stretches of white-sand beaches, ranging from completely undeveloped to highly touristed (even in cities like Dubai). The snorkeling and diving can be magnificent, especially along the eastern (Indian Ocean) coast. Vast swaths of desert stretch to the south of the major urban areas, offering dramatic views and terrifying rides in fast-driven safaris. The mountains are dramatic, steep rocky crags, and a visit to them (for example, the town of Hatta) is well rewarded with amazing views. Women wearing bathing suits will draw unwanted attention at the public beaches; it is advisable to pay for a one-day entry pass to a private beach at a hotel.
Ski Dubai in Dubai Emirates Mall opened in December 2005. It is the world's third largest indoor ski slope, measuring 400 metres and using 6000 tons of snow. Ski Dubai resort is the first UAE indoor ski slope to open, and more are planned. All equipment, except for gloves and a hat, are provided--skis/snowboards, snowsuits, boots and socks are all included in the price (the socks are disposable). The adjoining ski store sells equipment, including gloves.
The Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open an indoor ski slope as well in 2007 - 2008. A ski slope in Ra's al Khaimah is also in the works.
'Desert Safari' trips can be a fun experience for tourists. They can be booked ahead, but can often be booked as late as the day before, and most hotel receptionists can arrange this for you. Trips normally start late afternoon and end late evening. You will be collected from your hotel and driven to the desert in a 4x4 vehicle. Most packages include a heart-pumping drive over the dunes, a short camel ride, an Arabic buffet and perhaps a belly dancer. Another option would be renting/buying a 4x4 and joining the many growing 4x4 clubs in the UAE, which are varied and each carry their own different flavour: ad4x4, uaeoffroaders, arabianoffroader, me4x4, emarat4x4, etc. They offer a free learning experience for all newcomers with scheduled weekly trips to suit all levels of driving skills, some of them have over 2,000 members from many nationalities.
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