Wondering what to do when your parents come visit, mama? Here are our top ideas to ensure they enjoy their time here with you and your kids.
If you’re raising kids in Dubai when your own parents still live in your home country, chances are that they’ll want to visit. A lot. This is great news (especially when your stocks of Marmite, Calpol, Yorkshire Tea, Fry Light, proper Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut Chocolate and Oxo Cubes plus all those other home ‘treats’ and essentials are running low and you could really do with a hug from your own mama!). But after the initial excitement of the grandparents coming over has worn off and you’ve had lots of hugs (and the kids have been VERY spoilt!), the challenge of how to entertain your visitors sets in.
If you have parents who would be bored trawling the malls for hours on end, could think of nothing worse than a whole week by the pool and would rather be stuck in rush-hour traffic in the Marina than hit a ball endlessly around one of Dubai’s countless golf courses, here are our top ideas to keep up your sleeve to ensure they enjoy their visit and come back again (with more supplies and offers to babysit too…).
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is a must if your parents are visiting the Middle East for the first time. The centre runs a range of different activities, but by far our favourites are the cultural meals, where your parents will get a chance to try a delicious traditional Emirati breakfast or lunch and chat with a local host about UAE culture, customs, and religion. It really is an eye-opening couple of hours.
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After a morning at the Centre for Cultural Understanding, your parents will be perfectly positioned to go and explore the sights and sounds of ‘old’ Dubai. First up, though, should be a stop at the Arabian Tea House. They could then go and wander round the picturesque Al Fahidi Cultural Centre (previously Bastakiya), popping into the inspiring Mawaheb for Beautiful People – an art studio for kids and adults with special needs. Next up there’s the very reasonably priced Dubai Museum (AED 3 for adults), and then a wander through the Souqs (our favourite is Hindi Lane) before hopping on an Abra across the creek (1 AED per adult). Afterward, they could explore of the Gold Souq, the Spice Souq or even the Kitchen Utensil Souq, but our favourite thing to do is to sit and watch the world go by alongside the Creek – especially watching the hustle and bustle of people loading goods on and off the boats in the creek with a coffee in hand.
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Another favourite with many visitors to our desert city is Bateaux Dubai – an evening dinner cruise which runs up and down the creek whilst you tuck into the most delicious food. It’s not the cheapest Dubai dining option, but you can get 2 for 1 vouchers on The Entertainer. Yummy!
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Alserkal Avenue is an arts hub, a cluster of warehouses containing all sorts of weird and wonderful creations, hidden in one of Dubai’s largest industrial areas. The warehouses also run a range of talks, panel discussions and community festivals that celebrate the arts, food, and creativity. If you’ve got culture-vulture parents in town, it’s well worth checking out what’s going on and also stopping for coffee or lunch (we’re big fans of Hapi and Wild & The Moon!)
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Oh, Sharjah. It’s got a bit of a funny reputation in Dubai – I always imagine it like an unwritten bit in the Lion King where Simba’s Dad would say “Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is Dubai. But that shadowy place – that’s Sharjah. You must never go there Simba.” This reputation is unfair though, as Dubai’s sister Emirate is doing a lot to invest in arts and culture and it is worth a trip to one of their many museums if your parents are interested in Islamic civilisation, art, calligraphy, animals, fish, cars, science, archaeology, maritime history or forts. Something for everyone, basically. Check out the Sharjah Museums website for more info.
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As a general rule, I’d say dune bashing and sand boarding isn’t suitable for the over 60s. That’s why slightly gentler desert safaris are worth their weight in gold and Platinum Heritage are highly recommended. With a variety of different tour options, your parents will soon feel at one with Lawrence of Arabia as they trek across the dunes, followed by a falcon demonstration at sunset, then Emirati food and entertainment at a desert camp. Platinum Heritage are professional, on-time (and didn’t even laugh at the author’s mama when she put her hand in the hot coals of a Shisha pipe). Look out for 2 for 1’s on the Entertainer.
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Camel racing in Dubai really is an experience like no other. It’s well worth the trip up to the race track on the Al Ain road to witness hundreds of camels race round a circuit with tiny robot jockeys on their back (yes, really). Weekly races are usually held between September and April, with morning sessions between 6:30 am-8:30 am and afternoon sessions beginning at 3 pm.
Give the race track a call to confirm times on +971 (0) 4 832 6526 – the website is in Arabic.
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Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi is probably one of the UAE’s most spectacular sights and it’s well worth the trip up the road to see it. Remember to dress conservatively and remind your Mum to bring a scarf to cover her head. Open Sunday – Thursday from 9 am – 10 pm and after 4:30 on a Friday, there are also tours conducted in English. Abu Dhabi is also home to the recently opened Louvre Gallery which is a HUGE fave amongst many a visiting grandparent and well worth a trip to the capital for. If your parents are Formula One fans, the Yas Marina Racetrack is also fun – if you visit on a Sunday evening and pre-register they’ll also have the unique opportunity to walk, cycle or run around the circuit.
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We’re lucky that Dubai’s culinary options suit both the most adventurous and picky of parents. Sampling Veg Thali at Maharajah Bhog is a must if your parents are of the more adventurous ilk. They’ll be seriously impressed by both the range of different dishes on offer and the low price-tag. Situated in Karama, it’s a hit with the locals so get there early if you want a table.
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Featured image from Instagram handle of TGR, Image #2 Facebook page of Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Image #3 from Dubai Culture, Image #4 Facebook page of Bateaux Dubai, Image #5 Departures, Image #6 The Culture Trip, Image #7 Facebook page of Platinum Heritage, Image #8 Facebook page of Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack, Image #9 Facebook page of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Image #10 Facebook page of Maharaja Bhog
This post was originally published on the website in June 2017.