What to expect during Ramadan in Dubai

When we first moved here in 2015, we moved three weeks before Ramadan started. We didn’t quite know what we were getting ourselves into with the hot summer and we really didn’t know what to expect during Ramadan so we just kind of thought well, if we make it through Ramadan and the summer, it’s only going to get better!

I’ve received a few messages lately from people who are visiting Dubai during Ramadan and aren’t quite sure what to expect or what rules etc. they should abide by. So if you’re travelling to Dubai during Ramadan this year and have any questions about what to expect I’ve written this blog to hopefully answer some of those.

Some background on Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and lasts for around four weeks. Ramadan moves slightly earlier each year, by approximately 10 days, and the start and end date is confirmed by the sighting of the “new moon” by the Moonsighting Committee. Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims must observe several rules including fasting during the hours from sunrise to sunset; praying regularly and abstaining from sex and smoking (although smoking is allowed after Iftar). Charity is also a core element of Ramadan as a time for helping those in need and giving back to the community.

Eating and drinking in public

One of the core requirements of Muslims during Ramadan is to fast during the hours of daylight. That means that those who are fasting (in Dubai) are required to wake up around 4am for Suhoor (the first meal of the day) and they cannot eat or drink until breaking fast at Iftar at around 7.10pm.

As a result, consumption of food and drink in public is restricted. The malls in Dubai have worked to accommodate this and have sectioned off areas specifically for children and non-Muslims to eat and drink at any time of the day and you can find all the normal food chains in there.

Clothing

It is advised that people dress respectfully during this time, especially when in public places such as the malls where you will be surrounded by people who are fasting. It is recommended that individuals refrain from wearing extremely tight clothing and should cover knees / shoulders.

That being said, the public beaches remain open, as well a hotel swimming pools and beaches, and sunbathing is allowed.

Beach clubs / alcohol

During Ramadan the beach clubs don’t play loud / live music in the day and the majority don’t serve alcohol during the day. However, some hotels can obtain special licenses during Ramadan to serve alcohol. At sunset, you will find that the majority, if not all, bars and restaurants will begin serving alcohol – this is usually around 7pm.

Recommendations for Iftar / Suhoor

If you are visiting the UAE during Ramadan, I would strongly recommend visiting one of the traditional tents to experience an Iftar or Suhoor meal. The atmosphere at the Iftar tents is warming and so lovely to see families and friends together during this special time. So here a few recommendations of my favourite Iftar tents to visit, all of which offer a selection of traditional Arabic food, juices and shishas:

  • Majlis at the Madinat Jumeirah
  • The Palace Downtown
  • Atlantis the Palm
  • Dubai Opera Theatre (our company Iftar was held here last year. The setting was absolutely beautiful however the buffet offered a more continental range of food rather than traditional Arabic cuisine.)

 

Ramadan Mubarak

(Blessed Ramadan)

Our first month with Privilee

We have just finished our first month with Privilee and it’s fair to say it has had a huge impact on our spare time for the better! Not only have we been able to make the most of the 5* hotel facilities on the weekends, we have also been making the most of the gym access during the week days (it’s taken a year but yes, I have finally gone back to the gym!)

Here are some of the highlights from our first month on Privilee:

W Hotel Dubai Palm

W for “Wow”! Upon arriving at the hotel it definitely has the wow factor of a 5* hotel. The Reception staff were really helpful and guided us to the separate Privilee desk which allowed for a seamless check in of our Privilee cards. We headed up to the first floor to visit the gym and were blown away by the view from the outside training area. The gym has views of the W Hotel pool and beach area (which is breath taking on its own), as well as views of the Atlantis, the soon to be Royal Atlantis, the Palm and the Marina. The equipment in the gym is high-tech and the treadmill had access to news channels, Youtube and many more channels. We also loved the kettle bells which were designed to look like gorillas!

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We still couldn’t get over the views from the outside training area so decided to do some abs workouts outside whilst taking in the view – honestly the views actually motivated me to train for longer! We showered and changed before heading down to relax on the beach. The only downside of the gym facilities would be that the changing rooms are relatively small and there is only one shower in the changing room.

The pool area was pretty busy by the time we got down there, approx. 10.30am but this may have been due to the fact that the top pool was closed for brunch and also with it being opening weekend on Privilee. But there were still plenty of sun beds down the beach and we managed to get the last cabana. The hotel staff came over instantly with two complimentary bottles of water and apples!

We opted for sandwiches and chips for lunch, I had the chicken and avocado sandwich whilst Ryan had the Whole Cow (hard earned from the earlier workout) and the food came quickly, fresh and very tasty. We were pleasantly surprised with the bill at the end of the day, appreciating the Prviliee discount of 20% on food as well.

Overall, we had a lovely daycation at W Hotel and felt like it was the perfect way to escape a busy week in Dubai. This is definitely a hotel we will recommend to friends and family – along with the Privilee card.

Address Hotel Dubai Marina

Sticking with our weekend gym routine we decided to visit the Address Hotel Dubai Marina on Saturday morning to take advantage of the gym facilities (as we heard that this gym also has a great view) and we were not disappointed. The gym itself is much bigger than we expected with the 5 treadmills, cross trainers, bikes and rowing machines lined up along the windows with excellent views of the Marina.

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The staff were friendly and helpful by showing us where to exchange our Privilee cards for access cards. Sadly the weather wasn’t great so we didn’t stay to make the most of the pool facilities but, having caught a glimpse of the, we will definitely return!

Waldorf Astoria the Palm

When I first arrived at the hotel the staff were extremely helpful with signing in and swapping my Privilee card for a hotel guest access card. I headed down to the gym for a quick cardio and abs session before showering and beelining straight to the beach!

I really did feel like I was on holiday for the day. The Waldorf has such a relaxing, family holiday vibe that I pitched up on the beach with a book and barely moved for 7 hours!

The hotel offers a large family friendly swimming pool which was a buzz of activity with children playing. They also have a separate adults only pool with a Jacuzzi which was  a lot calmer and more relaxing.

Bounty Beets Breakfast Spot

Has anyone else ever chosen a breakfast spot just because it looks cute on the gram?! Well I did and I’m so glad that the food was just as lovely as the décor. Bounty Beets is located in the ground floor in Le Meridien (next to the Westin) and is the perfect place for a girly breakfast date! The best thing about it though, is that with Privilee you receive 25% off the total bill!

Habtoor Grand

We had such a relaxing day at the Habtoor Grand, the hotel is lovely and the pool area is large with slides in the pool which is great for kids. We, however, headed straight down to the beach to switch off and unwind. This end of JBR beach is lovely because it’s much quieter and you can take in all of the amazing views of the Marina / JBR skyline.

Playa Nomade

This was my first time visiting Playa Nomade and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We arrived at 10 (when it opened) but it didn’t get busy until around 1pm. So we chose a bed by the pool (with easy access in as it was quite hot) and chilled for the day. We treated ourselves to a pizza for lunch and some strawberry daqs in the afternoon (all of which tasted even better with 25% off!)

Fidelity Fitness JLT

Fidelity Fitness is the newest gym to be added to Privilee’s ever growing list of partners. It’s located in Almas Tower in JLT which is few minutes walk from the JLT metro stop which is perfect going on the way home from work. The great thing about Fidelity Fitness is that all of their classes are free to Privilee members! They have a huge timetable of spin classes which run throughout the day every day of the week. I decided to try out the TRX class which was a tough workout but I really enjoyed it. The gym itself is huge and is spread over three rooms and has a swimming pool!

Now that the weather in Dubai is heating up and we are just about to enter Ramadan, I plan on using Privilee to the maximum on weekends and making the most of the pools (and spas) throughout the summer months!

Cheers, Privilee

Exploring Old Dubai

I used to save taking a trip down to Old Dubai as something to do with guests when they’re over on holiday. But lately, it seems I have swapped Friday Brunches, for Friday adventures – and I like it!

Dubai is such a vibrant, advanced and modern city to live in, but I love heading down to the Creek to experience the “old Dubai” and see some of the amazing variety of culture that this city has to offer. So, if you are planning on taking a trip down to the Dubai Creek soon, here are some of my favourite things to do there:

Gold Souk / Spice Market

Obviously this has to be first on my list, because diamonds 686b56bc-a370-4c2e-8483-70f9304dbd09really are a girl’s best
friend! I love visiting the Gold Souk to window shop and also barter on jewellery to haggle the price down. I recently visited to search for my wedding jewellery, albeit some ambitious wedding jewellery, but it was still fun!

Just around the corner from the Gold Souk is the Spice Market. All of the shops sell a range of local and imported spices at great prices (I should copyright that slogan).

Abra across the Dubai Creek

Previously, if someone told me I could purchase something in Dubai for AED 1 (=£0.20 /  $0.27) I would not have believed them. But you can take one of the small abra boats across the Creek for AED 1 for a return trip!

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Visit the Iranian Mosque

When I visited the Iranian Mosque I saw just how beautiful it was from the outside, but sadly, we hadn’t planned the timing of our trip very well and arrived at prayer time on a Friday! So the mosque, and car park, was actually packed full to the brim so we were unable to enter and explore inside.

I would therefore advise visiting the mosque on any other day of the week and also try to avoid prayer times! One important thing to note is that when visiting this mosque you should be sure to cover arms / legs fully. I was also advised to take a headscarf to enter the mosque – but sadly didn’t need to use it on this occasion!

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood allows you to see what traditional life was like in Old Dubai hundreds of years ago. You can walk around the narrow streets which are full of pop up shops, cafes, art galleries and even a boutique hotel.

You can find out more about it here: https://dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/Live-Our-Heritage/Pages/Al-Fahidi-Historical-Neighbourhood.aspx

Lunch at the Arabian Tea House

I’m getting hungry just writing this part of the post! The Arabian Tea House is located in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood so it’s a great place to stop and refuel. The food at the Arabian Tea House is traditional Emirati food so you can be sure to find a selection of breads, hummus, meze, biryani, shawarma and grilled meats. The food is delicious and really reasonably priced but, because of that, the queue is out of the door! If you are able to make a reservation here in advance, I would definitely advise doing so.

Ride on the Dubai Metro

This may seem like a strange one, but Dubai Metro is one of the top things to do in Dubai on Trip Advisor… I live in the Marina and a taxi up to the Creek would cost around AED 90 whereas the metro is AED 10 (in Gold Class or AED 5 in normal) so it’s a no brainer! If you’re looking for a cheap day out then I would definitely advise jumping on the metro. You can use the Journey Planner to help plan your trip.

Beach Days in Dubai

I absolutely love the beach, I have done my whole life. Growing up in Lowestoft I really took for granted the fact that we had the beach right on our doorstep. In the summer holidays my friends and I would bike down to the beach and spend all our time there. It was only when I moved away to uni that I realised we had been so lucky throughout our childhood.

In Dubai, it’s even better because we have the amazing beaches as well as the amazing weather, so here is a list of a few of my favourite beaches to visit:

Kite Beach

Kite Beach is slightly further away from my apartment in the Marina but still only a 15-20 minute taxi ride. I’m not really sure where Jumeirah Public Beach ends and Kite Beach starts but the beach is huge and stretches from the Burj Al Arab right the way up the Four Seasons (which would take around 2 hours to walk)! I prefer this beach because it’s a lot quieter than JBR. It doesn’t have as many restaurants or facilities but it does have SALT Burger (amazing) and also loads of parking which is free on Fridays for those who drive.

JBR Beach

This is probably the beach I go to most often because it less than a 10 minute walk from my apartment. JBR is great because it has a good selection of restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a spacious sandy beach to plonk down for the day. There are sunbeds and umbrellas available to rent for the day at AED 110 (which I think is quite pricy) so I literally head down there with my towel, a book and a bottle of water and set up on the sand for the day – or a few hours depending on how hot it is! JBR can also be quite busy with tourists and families so I tend to walk to the far end where it is a bit quieter.

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La Mer

La Mer is one of the newer public beaches to open in Dubai and is located the opposite end to the Marina (so heading back towards the airport). It is owned by the Developed as JBR beach so it offers a great range of restaurants and cafes but the best part about La Mer is that it is licensed for alcohol.

The Fairmont, Palm Jumeirah

This is actually one of my favourite hotel beaches to visit for the day. They often have deals on Groupon etc. for beach and pool access with a two course lunch for around AED200. This beach has gorgeous views of the Marina and there’s a great choice for sunbeds either down the beach or around the pool. It’s nice to feel like I’m on holiday just for a day at the weekend!

Atlantis The Palm

Another favourite pool / beach day of mine is at Nasimi Beach at the Atlantis. They have recently started a new deal on Saturday’s where for AED 149 girls can receive a sunbed and towel, unlimited wine, cocktails, beer and soft drinks from 12-4 as well as a token for lunch! It’s an amazing deal and a great way to show guests the Atlantis.

Zero Gravity

Although Zero Gravity is better known for the pool rather than the beach, it’s great to chill out during the week and then livens up during the weekend for their weekend brunches. On Tuesdays, ladies can join the guest list and spend the day around the pool and the beach free of charge.

Barasti

Barasti is another beach club I recommend to guests when they visit on holiday, mainly because it’s one of the only free beach clubs in Dubai. It’s great because there’s no entry fee for men or women and they have sunbeds / beach cabanas that are also complimentary. They also have a pool which opened last year some time. I have to admit though, I haven’t been here for a beach day in a while because I don’t like the music! If you want a chilled beach day this probably isn’t the best option.

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Dubai Days

When I first started this blog and decided on the handle of “vacays and sunny days”, my intention was to write about holidays (aka vacays) but also other things that we do here in Dubai on the sunny days and I’ve realised that since starting this blog I haven’t  actually written about any of my favourite weekend activities here!

I’ve lived in Dubai for three and a half years now and no two weekends are the same. This past weekend has been a long weekend with a public holiday on Sunday. Usually when a public holiday is announced, Ryan and I try to get away somewhere for a weekend break but this time, a long weekend in Dubai was just what we needed. I got to spend a lot of time catching up with the girls, having breakfast dates and I also spent the day with Ryan walking around Jumeirah Golf Estates watching the Race to Dubai golf tournament. I’m not exactly a fan of golf but every year Ryan and I go and spend the day there together, and I really enjoy it – especially as a free outdoor activity – and it’s prompted me to think of some of my other favourite outdoor things to do in Dubai.

Outdoor activities

The weather in Dubai is great from around October through to May but in the summer months it really is hot! The weather is amazing at the moment, I forget what it feels like as during the summer I feel like my face is going to melt off every time I step outside so  during the winter months, we have to take advantage of this weather. This year, I am trying to steer away from brunches and spend more time outside. So here are some of my favourite outdoor activities:

K9 friends dog walk

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Each year my company arranges a charity morning and we all head down to Jebel Ali where K9 Friends is based. K9 Friends is a dog charity in Dubai for abandoned dogs. The work they do is amazing and they are constantly seeking donations to help feed and house all of the rescued dogs. On the organised dog walk that my company arranges, we all head down and each take a few of the dogs out for a walk around the industrial area and the nearby desert. The dogs are so happy  and excited to be out walking – I just want to take them all home! Sadly, K9 Friends is above capacity and some of the dogs haven’t even been walked before. Anyone can contact K9 friends and request to take some of the dogs out for a walk at any time of the year, if you have a car you can even take the dogs out for the day.

Abu Dhabi Mangrove kayaking

The mangroves are a definitely one of Abu Dhabi’s best kept secrets. The most recent time I visited the mangroves, we stayed at the Anantara Abu Dhabi Eastern Mangroves hotel and were lucky enough to be upgraded to a mangrove facing room. The hotel room was lovely and the balcony overlooked the mangroves. It was so peaceful and a world away from the buzz in Dubai.

There are a few companies that are based along the promenade whereby you can hire kayaks for a few hours. Some of the companies offer guided kayak tours at set times of the day, but myself and my friends decided to head out alone and explore. I would advise stocking up on drinking water before heading out as this is something we overlooked and only had 1 litre each.

The mangroves are located less than a 10 minute drive from the Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque so it’s easy enough to see both in a day.

Al Qudra cycle track

My parents were over visiting Dubai recently and my Dad had been mentioning for a while about cycling at Al Qudra’s cycle track. As we no longer have a car in Dubai, we hired one for the weekend which was super easy and very cost effective. We drove out to the cycle track which was about 40 minutes from the Marina. I had emailed Trek Bikes in advance to reserve our bikes for two hours. All of the bikes are provided with helmets and my Mum and I were provided with a free gel seat cover (which I was very thankful for the next day!) The cycle track has several different routes that range from 8 to 56 kilometres. As we were only cycling for fun we timed ourselves and cycled out for just over an hour before turning back.img_6063

I definitely get my ‘explorer gene’ from my Dad as he wanted to stop and track what he thought were snake trails in the sand! We also dumped the bikes to walk up some of the sand dunes whilst Mum and Ryan waited patiently on the cycle track! On the way back to the base we were lucky enough to see wild oryx and gazelles but sadly no camels on this trip!img_6087

It was such a fun morning but it’s the most exercise I’ve done in a while. So, to allow us to unwind we headed straight to Bab al Shams Desert Resort and Spa for some R&R. The pool pass is on the Entertainer so it worked out to only AED 90 per person for a pool access with a sun bed and towel.

Marina walks

It’s such a simple activity but something I had taken for granted until recently. We have lived in the Marina ever since we moved to Dubai and I still love it as much as the day we moved in! We have everything we need right on our door step. I try to get out for a walk around the Marina at least twice a week although I need to motivate myself to start running in the morning again! So although this may seem like a boring activity, it is up there with one of my favourite things to do living here in Dubai.

Of course there are so many other amazing things that we get to spend our time doing here. One thing I haven’t even mentioned is all of the amazing beaches, hotels and pools we get to make use of here, so I will dedicate a whole post just to that shortly!

Three years in Dubai

I’m slightly delayed with writing this post, but, on the 25th of May we celebrated our 3 year Dubai-nniversary! Three years! It is crazy how fast the time has gone.

To celebrate, we wanted to treat ourselves to a little staycation, somewhere that had an authentic Arabic vibe so we chose the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort. When I booked the stay, I didn’t actually realise it was a three hour drive from Dubai and almost on the border of Saudi!

The Qasr Al Sarab is possibly the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed in, it is surrounded by nothing but vast desert and it felt so tranquil. The resort itself is located approximately 20 minutes away from the main road so it feels almost like you’re dune bashing on the drive up to the hotel! It was such a relaxing stay and I reflected on some of the amazing things we have had the opportunity to do since living here in the UAE, here are a few:

Skydive Dubai

I bought this as Ryan’s birthday present in 2015 and without really thinking about it, I purchased two tickets! I then thought shit I am going to have to do this now too! It was such an amazing experience and we were so lucky that the weather was perfect the day we jumped, you could see for miles! I would definitely recommend doing the skydive, I just wouldn’t advise doing brunch the day before!

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

I am so lucky to have an amazing group of friends that make weekends here so fun, but the best weekend of the year is the Abu Dhabi F1. In the two years I’ve been, I can’t say I have seen that many of the cars but we end up partying for the whole weekend and it’s such a great atmosphere there.

Dubai World Cup Horse Racing

It’s strange watching the horse racing and not being able to gamble, but the World Cup has such a buzz and it’s so nice to get properly dressed up for the races.img_5883-1

Dubai Opera

The Dubai Opera only recently opened in 2016 and as part of my Christmas present, Ryan bought us tickets to go and see the performance of Westside Story! I absolutely love the film and seeing it in the Dubai Opera theatre was so lovely. I am just holding out for Phantom of the Opera to do a tour over here because that is my absolute favourite West End show!

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Learning to ski in the Mall of the Emirates

So Ryan has previously skied quite a lot, I however had only been on one ski holiday and that’s when I was 15 at school. So for Christmas, Ryan bought me ski lessons at the Mall of the Emirates indoor ski slope. How crazy that I learnt to ski in the middle of the desert! The indoor ski slope is great and it actually has real snow so I had my ski lessons there right before we went to Georgia in February.

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Travelling

As I’ve said before, we try to maximise our holiday days as much as possible, so whenever there is a public holiday or long weekend, we try to get away. Since living in Dubai we have visited 10 countries (and counting)! We’ve done a safari in Kenya where I got to see eles in the wild – of course I burst into tears when I saw them! We’ve visited Sri Lanka twice for my birthday; we’ve also had holidays to Bali, Lebanon, Thailand, India, Philippines, Germany, Georgia and Nepal! Due to the central location of Dubai, it’s relatively easy to get around and you can usually be somewhere new and exotic within a few hours!

Making friends who feel like family

Living abroad is hard, and you don’t have the same support system as you do at home with your family, that’s why friends out here are so important because they really do turn into your family.

The past three years have had their challenges, but I wouldn’t change living here for the world. My time living in Dubai isn’t up yet!

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Home v Holiday

With such a small number of annual leave days per year, it’s always hard deciding on how to use them! The trouble with living abroad is wanting to spend my annual leave days travelling to places around the world that I have easy access to… but also wanting to spend them coming home to visit family! It’s funny though, living away from home makes you realise all the small things that you really love and miss (obviously family and friends) but also silly things such as a sausage roll from Greggs and mums cooking!

I decided to book a long weekend trip back to the UK to visit family in April and it was so lovely to just spend the days chilling at home with family and popping round to see my grandparents, I just really wanted to spend as much time with family in those 5 days as possible. One of the highlights of my trip home was spending the morning alpaca walking with my mum! It was so lovely just being out in the countryside and we had so much fun with the alpacas!

I have been feeling quite homesick again lately and I hate not having trips booked home as I feel like I always want to count down the days to seeing my family again. Ryan and I have just booked another trip back home for the first week in July and I really am excited as I will be able to spend some time with his family also this time. I’m praying that the weather in the UK stays nice as I am looking forward to BBQs and the long summer evenings – that’s something that I really miss, living in Dubai. The sun sets really quickly over here and the latest sunset throughout the year is only around 7.30pm.

Living as an expat really is an amazing experience, and I am so lucky that we have the ability to travel to so many new and amazing destinations, but nothing compares to home comforts.

“It’s good to know that the ones you love will always be in your heart. And if you’re lucky, only a plane ride away.” – Carrie Bradshaw