Head for the beach? Strip down to your shortest shorts and thongs? Barbie on the back-lawn with a few mates and a cooler full of cheer?
Well, all of these are not such good ideas in mid-summer Dubai for one main reason: the weather.
In July, the temperature every day is in the mid to high forties (that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit), and it can frequently top fifty degrees. Couple that with the fact that it’s also extremely humid, and you’ll understand why enjoying Dubai in the summer just has to entail staying close to an air-conditioned environment, whether that be a car, a shopping mall, a museum, an art gallery, or your own hotel or apartment.
Hit the water
So is swimming off then? Not at all!
If you are staying at one of Dubai’s many excellent beach-front hotels, you can certainly avail yourself of the waters of the Arabian Gulf, but when you find that the water temperature is over thirty degrees C, you might not want to stay there too long.
A better alternative might be to use the hotel’s swimming pool, which will be chilled (yes, cooled with refrigerated water) to something more comfortable, like the mid twenties.
What if you’re not staying in a hotel? Many hotels offer day memberships so that Dubai residents and their guests can use the facilities, such as the pool and gym on a non-residential, casual basis.
Be warned that it’s not exactly a cheap option, but most other good things in Dubai aren’t cheap either these days. The lovely Jumeirah Beach Hotel offers daily and weekend packages for between AED 350 and AED 450 per person. Details of exactly what you get can be found here.
Most other hotels along Dubai’s beach front will offer similar deals: some will be cheaper, so shop around on the hotel websites, or call and enquire to find what suits your budget and location best.
By the way, do take me seriously about the very short shorts. Thongs/jandals/flip-flops are OK, as are sensible shorts and tee shirts, but keep local sensibilities in mind. There’s no point in deliberately going out of your way to antagonize your hosts anywhere in the world.
There may be no consequences to wearing short shorts, but you will be judged negatively.
…And the back-lawn barbecue is fine, if you’ve got access to one, but only the hardiest will really want to endure the heat and humidity that way when there are other things to be doing.
Keep in mind that the humidity is at its worst after sunset.
Morning mall mini-marathon
Head for a mall – they’re all air-conditioned!
Now, it’s not what you think. I’m not suggesting daylong shopping as an antidote to the climatic restrictions of summer.
Many of the Malls offer (and indeed encourage) use of their kilometers of corridor space for walking-exercise groups in the hours before regular commercial activities begin.
Dubai’s famous Mall of the Emirates (the one with the ski field), for example, is more than happy to allow individuals or groups to use its corridors between 7:00am and 10:00am each morning for walking or running.
There is, of course, a commercial motive in this: a fair expectation that quite a high number of the exercisers will get together for a coffee or a full breakfast after walking, or pop back into one of the many shops after they open at 10:00 to check out something that caught the eye in passing.
But why not: it’s a win-win for both parties.
Hop on the bus
Dubai has a wonderful fleet of new air-conditioned buses, but if you’re only in Dubai for a couple of days in July or August, I don’t recommend that you use them for getting around the city.
Use taxis instead – they’re cheap, reliable, plentiful, air-conditioned, and metered: you pay what is on the meter and there are no hidden extras – apart from a twenty dirham charge for taxis from the airport, or crossing the border into Sharjah.
The buses are really for people who are familiar with the routes being travelled – something you wouldn’t be expected to know or learn in just a short, sightseeing visit.
There is one exception, however: the Dubai Big Bus Company: a one-price, hop-on, hop-off service that plies a route around all the likely places the short-stay visitor is likely to want to visit.
The buses are double-decked, air-conditioned, and about two-thirds of the top deck is open, but you can always duck into the covered, air-conditioned upstairs partition if the climatic challenge of the outdoors gets too much for you.
Read all about it here – there are many options to choose from, as well as add-ons. You really do get quite a lot thrown in if you opt for, for example, the 48-hour night and day ticket.
Stay close to the water
Being near water really does seem to make a difference to the way we perceive how hot it is. In the evening, when the temperatures will drop to the mid-thirties, it can be quite pleasant to go to a beachfront restaurant.
Many of the top hotels have restaurants literally meters from the water’s edge, but make enquiries first if you want to sit outside, as some do close their outside sections when summer is at its hottest.
The One and Only Royal Mirage’s Beach Bar and Grill has never disappointed me, as it is right on the beach front. Even if you have to be seated inside, you can see the sea. But it has plenty of worthy competitors – you could also do a lot worse than trying a restaurant or bar at one of the locations on Dubai’s Creek frontage.
The Boardwalk is a longstanding Dubai institution. Part of the extensive Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, it has an over-water deck that seems to catch the evening breezes beautifully – and for Dubai, it’s a relatively inexpensive option.
Further along the Creek frontage, but still within the confines of the Creek Golf and Yacht Club, is the Dubai Park Hyatt. Amongst the many outdoor, creek-side dining options are The Terrace for drinks and light snacks, the Thai Kitchen, an excellent Thai restaurant, and Traiteur, the restaurant I rate as simply Dubai’s best.
All three venues are close to each other, and offer both indoor and outdoor table accommodation.
Sports in the summer
For a cheaper option, taxi over to Sharjah and the Sharjah Golf Club also provides access to a shooting range and a paintball site – but stick to striding the greens in the evenings.
Water sports are still happening in the summer. Hire a jet ski, but do make sure you are ensured. The sport is regulated now, but in the past, there were some terrible accidents. It is possible to hire almost any form of water sport equipment.
There are plenty of good options to experience Gulf life in the open air – just don’t stay out in it for too long in the middle of the day.