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The Early Riser’s Guide to Dubai

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Rise and shine, mamas! Picture this – it’s the weekend and you’re up earlier than you’d like to be (courtesy of the littles). As tempting as it is to stay at home and put the kids in front of the TV, all that screen time isn’t good for them – and when boredom sets in and the kids start climbing the walls and whooping, getting them out of the house is the best option for everyone (sleeping neighbours included). We’ve come up with a handy little list of activities to get stuck into in the early hours of the morning while the city sleeps. Oh and dads this one’s for you too!


Get out on the streets with the kiddos – it’ll still be dark and they’ll feel like they’re on a little adventure – head towards your nearest mosque and listen outside to the call to prayer for the Fajr morning prayers (currently at 5:17am) –  a perfect way to begin to teach them about local culture and traditions.

fish market

Want an experience that’ll really wake you and the gang up? Get over to Deira for the opening of the fish market and watch hundreds of traders selling their catch – perfect for seeing a slice of local Dubai life – followed naturally by a curry breakfast and shopping for the fresh produce.

Put those early starts to good use with a sunrise hot air balloon trip over the desert. Suitable for the over 5’s, this isn’t cheap but then riding over giant red sand dunes and spotting gazelles and wandering camels from up high while glimpsing the Dubai skyline in the distance is a one-off experience worth digging into the pockets for.

Got a few little sailors in the clan? Jump on a motorised abra (starting at 5am each morning) for a ride along the creek and see the city a different way – we’d take water over road traffic any day, mamas!


living room fort

Dubai’s sunrise is officially at 6:37am – meaning that you have about half an hour to put together the most magical blanket fort to watch the sun come up from.


Want a fab, fresh start to your day? Zaroob is open 24/7 and aside from amazing nibbles, they also do the best fresh juices in town – perfect for getting the kids to have their 5 a day. This fun double storey eatery just off the SZR near business bay is a buzzy place to grab a bite – with live cooking and brightly coloured interiors, the kids will love the sights, sounds and smells.

The Dubai Metro is one of the earliest things running now so why not jump on its first 6am service and watch the city shake itself awake? Train-mad tots will go absolutely wild for this one! Or head to the tram for its 6.30am start – the tram loops around Dubai Marina, JBR, Al Sufouh, Palm Jumeirah and Knowledge Village. (psst…remember that on Fridays there is no metro service and the tram starts at 9am!)



Hit the beach! There’s nothing quite like the quiet bliss of a long stretch of sand and the Arabian Gulf crashing in the background, and at this hour you’ll probably have it mostly to yourself. Fitness junkies, bring along your bathers and runners or simply chill out on a blanket with a flask of tea while the kids dig holes, make castles and get sandy. Pack up a breakfast to enjoy al fresco (if you’re heading to Kite Beach the cafes and snack shacks there open at 9am if you can wait that long!).

Up for a bit of a drive? Head out to the desert with a packed breakfast and luxuriate on the dunes before it gets too hot. We recommend driving towards Hatta and pulling off the road to lay your blanket and goodies out, or heading out on Umm Suqeim Street past Arabian Ranches and towards Bab Al Shams.


Ready for a spot of breakfast that you don’t even have to make? There are a few family-friendly restaurants open this early in the morning: Cafe Bateel at 7:30, Dubai Marina Yacht Club’s own 25°55° Cafe Bistro open at 7, Urban Bistro at 7:30 and The Lime Tree Cafe at 7:30.

Headed over to the new JBR Beach path? Live like the Parisians do with a cycle around the picturesque route with the children before settling down at one of the cute cafes for a bit of people watching and brekkie. Dubai’s fabulous new beach track spanning the length of beach from Jumeirah to Umm Suqeim also offers an amazing running and cycle path – ideal for early morning scooter rides.


Got a tot who’s obsessed with horses? Maybe they’ll be keen on seeing their trainers go through the motions with them; Jebel Ali and Meydan are two of the best places to head for you child to get their equine fix.

It’s time for a spot of cheeky exercise and we’re praticularly loving the stroller/mama dynamic routine. You can either practice on your own or even sign up for one of Mountain Buggy’s physical fitness classes from 8 onwards.


It’s 8am and that means that most parks have opened for the day. Some of our favourites including Al Barsha Pond Park, Al Mamzar Beach Park, Creek Side Park, though we’ve written a super in-depth guide to all the parks in Dubai here that you might want to check out.

Are the tots ready for a workout? The Dubai cycle track near Nad Al Sheba is open pretty early and full of people whizzing around in the early hours, and the best thing is that they’ve got a couple of children’s paths to keep them away from over energetic aspiring Tour de France cyclists.

Goood morning! Heading out to the hypermarkets is always a good idea this early in the morning (not least because you’ll be able to beat the inevitable weekend queues). Waitrose and select Spinneys all open at 8 or just slightly before, so you’ll be able to get the shop done without too much stress.

How do you feel about a spot of ‘Dubai dashing’, mamas? The deserts are yours for the taking this early in the morning and you’ll be able to shoot off to explore them with Desert Safari Dubai, who do trips as early as 8:30 in the morning.


market2Now there are quite a few reasons we all love Ripe Market at Zabeel Park every Friday – and its 9am start is certainly one of them. Head on over with the troupe for some local provisions while the kiddos play around in the children’s zones.

Dubai Miracle Garden is open! For a morning spent re-energising amongst the blooms, head on over for a leisurely stroll and remember to bring a blanket along to recline on with the fam. (psst…butterfly park opening soon too!)

The Marina Promenade is gorgeous early in the morning – with blue waters, snowy white boats and no crowds to navigate. See in the start of the day with a leisurely walk – and if the kiddos get a little bored, there are always the playgrounds under the bridges for them to fool around in and plenty of places to stop for breakfast once you’ve built up an appetite.


Ras Al Khor is home to a number of beautiful birds, not least the numerous and very sassy pink flamingos hanging out in the shallow waters. Head on over to spy these feathery friends with the kiddos, they’ll have the time of their lives peering through binoculars to see everything close up!

And finally….looking for a bit of early morning pampering, mamas? The Cleopatra Spa and Wellness Centre opens at 9:00, so if you’re looking to unwind with a massage or simply get the nitty gritty out of the way with a scheduled wax or threading, they’ve got you sorted.

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