7 Hidden Gems in Dubai You Didn’t Know About

Dubai, a city built for tourism and hospitality. This city in the middle of a desert is one of the most popular destinations in the world. It has the second most 5-star hotels, and the tallest building in the world. There are several hidden gems in Dubai which we will cover in this post.

You have landed on the right page if you want to know more about the hidden gems in Dubai. We also explore some hidden gems in Sharjah, the most common language spoken in Dubai, its famous foods, and if it’s worth visiting.

  1. Where is Dubai?
  2. What is the most common language in Dubai?
  3. What are the hidden gems in Dubai?
  4. Where can I hang out in Dubai?
  5. Is Dubai worth visiting?

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Where is Dubai?

Dubai is the capital city of the Emirates of Dubai. The United Arab Emirates consists of seven Emirates. The six other Emirates are the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Emirates of Sharjah, Emirates of Ajman, Emirates of Fujairah, Emirates of Ras Al Khaimah, and the Emirates of Umm Al Quwain.

Situated on the Eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula along the Persian Gulf, Dubai has something for everyone. From beaches to the desert, or the souks or shopping malls, it is no wonder that Dubai has remained the fourth most visited city in the world in 2019. 

Origin of Name

The first written record which mentioned the name Dubai was in 1095 in The Book of Geography by Abu Abdullah Al Bakri. Further mention of the name was by Gaspero Balbi, a Venetian pearl trader who visited Dubai in 1580 for its pearl trade. 

What is the oldest pearl?

The oldest pearl is the “Abu Dhabi Pearl” which was found on Marawah Island. It was carbon-dated to 8,000 years ago and was probably worn as jewelry or used to trade with the Mesopotamians. 

However, there are many theories as to how the name came about. There is an Arabic proverb which states that “they came with Daba Dubai” which means they came with a swarm of locusts. The term Dubai meant locusts.

Another story is that the word comes from the word Yadub which means “to creep”. This refers to the way the creek creeps onto the land. British historians referred to Dubai as Al Wasl in the 1820s and included the geographical areas of Jumeirah, Bur Dubai, Shindagha, and Deira.


Dubai’s history can be divided into three periods which are pre-historic, the establishment of the United Arab Emirates, and modern Dubai as we now know it.


The Mleiha Archaeological Center is significant as it proves that an early human settlement existed in the United Arab Emirates. The trading links were possible with the Indus Valley and Mesopotamian Civilizations.

During the early 1950s, archaeologists began excavating grave mounds in Bahrain, Oman, and Abu Dhabi. The copper, bronze pins, beads, and jars were from an unknown civilization. This civilization is now believed to be the Magan Civilization.

What was first seen in Mleiha?

The Mleiha Fort is the first visible landmark that can be seen from the Mleiha-Madam Road. This site was accidentally discovered when pipelines for water trenches were being created. This archaeological site is another hidden gem in Dubai and is worth exploring.

However, the FAY-NE1 archaeological site is the most important. It was here that stone tools produced by modern humans were discovered. The discovery led archaeologists to believe that Mleiha was a transit point for early human migration from Africa to Europe and Asia.

Establishment of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The United Arab Emirates is a collection of emirates located in West Asia. The UAE shares borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia. Its maritime borders are the Persian Gulf which it shares with Qatar and Iran.

How did UAE start?

On 2nd December 1971, the United Arab Emirates was formed among the union of six emirates. The seventh emirate, Ras Al Khaimah was added on 10th February 1972. These nations were known as the Trucial States.

The term was given by the British government to these groups of tribal confederations that had signed protective treaties with them during the years 1820-1892. The British declared that the protectorate would be revoked when it had begun withdrawing its military in 1968 and left the population to its own devices.

Afraid of being dwarfed by its bigger neighbors in terms of military power and population, the six emirates organized themselves into a single political unit. 

How did UAE develop so fast?

From a humble fishing village in the 18th century to an economic powerhouse in the 21st century, how did UAE develop so fast?

The answer lies in using oil revenue to build a city that people would want to come, stay and visit. The leaders were forward-thinking and encouraged hospitality and tourism to grow at astounding rates.

Dubai is now the most preferred work location for Bangladeshis, Indians, and Vietnamese. This means that 90% of Dubai’s population are guest workers. 

Check out Why Dubai Is Growing So Fast, How Dubai Became One of the Fastest Growing Cities In The World, and 8 Things Developing Nations Can Learn from UAE to know more.

Modern Era

With expanding revenues from oil and trade, Dubai grew to become the most populous state in the UAE. The busiest airport, the tallest building in the world, and having the ninth-largest port have turned Dubai into a finance, information technology, and real estate power hub.

Check out Dubai’s Model of a Very Modern Mideast Economy and Dubai is a Modern City, Built For Business to know more.

A concrete jungle of glass and steel in a scorched desert over the past three decades has turned Dubai into an ecological disaster. In 2006, the United Arab Emirates had the highest ecological footprint in the world. 

Imagine air conditioners, lighting, energy, and emissions working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. Read the Living Planet Report 2006 by World Wildlife Fund and see how much human activity has impacted nature.

Can Dubai be a sustainable city?

Dubai has started on a new development project, aptly called Sustainable City where a three-tiered approach is taken to ensure social, environmental, and economic sustainability.

Read The World’s Most Improbable Green City and Inside Dubai’s Sustainable City Megaproject to know more.

Some measures towards a greener Dubai include a solar energy park, a carbon market scheme, and Emirates Green Building Council which seeks to promote and educate on built environment sustainability. 

Visa Requirements

The United Arab Emirates Government Portal is an essential guide for anyone wishing to live, work, visit, and invest in the UAE. 

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation manages visas, entry permits, residence, and cultural visas.

Visa Free

Citizens from the Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) do not require a visa to enter the United Arab Emirates. These nations are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of Bahrain, State of Qatar, State of Kuwait, and Sultanate of Oman.

Visa On Arrival

To determine whether your country has a Visa On Arrival facility, click on Visa Information that immediately informs if you need a Visa and how to apply for one. The visa on arrival can either be 30 days or 90 days, subject to citizenship. Further extensions are subject to approval and submission of additional forms.

Visa Required Before Arrival

For citizens of countries not listed in either visa-free or visa on arrival, click on Visa Information that immediately informs if you need a Visa and how to apply for one.

Visa via Approved Airlines

The approved airlines for visa services are Etihad Airlines for entry to Abu Dhabi and Emirates for entry to Dubai.

Endless Possibilities

What is the most common language in Dubai?

The official language in Dubai is Arabic. However, with almost 85% expatriate population, English, Hindi, Urdu, and Tagalog are spoken in Dubai as well. Mandarin has begun appearing with Dubai Mall having its signages in the language. 


Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world. This language is spoken in the Middle East and North African nations and has at least 280 million native speakers. There are at least five kinds of Arabic that are Modern Standard, Maghrebi, Egyptian, Gulf, and Levantine.

However, for tourists to UAE, it is best to learn Modern Standard as that language is spoken in business and used at meetings that are conducted in Arabic. One characteristic of Modern Standard Arabic is that it is read from right to left.

How do you say hello in Dubai?

Sometimes it isn’t always saying hello that matters. Taking time to learn a new language and communicating in our host country’s language makes a difference. 

That being said, there are three ways to say Hello in Arabic. The first is As-salaam ‘Alaykum which means peace to be upon you. This greeting is used among Muslims with the reply being Wa ‘Alaykum as-salaam which means peace to be upon you too.

The second term is Ahlan. The formal term is Ahlan Wa Sahlan which means welcome. It is customary to gently grasp the receiver with hands slightly above the elbow and kiss on the cheeks in this greeting. It is important to note that ladies will kiss ladies and men will do the same with other men.

The third greeting is Marhaba which means to welcome. The Bedouin tradition is greeting visitors with rose water. The rose water is used to wash hands and refresh guests who may have traveled far.

How do you say good morning in Dubai?

SabaaH il-xayr is good morning while masa il-xayr is good evening. Do note that there are different pronunciations for males and females. For example, chayf Haalik means how’s it going to a male recipient while chayf Haalkum means how’s it going said to a female recipient.

Check out the Gulf Arabic Learning System, Useful Phrases to Learn Before Visiting Dubai50 Basic Arabic Phrases You Should Know, and 15 Arabic Phrases To Help You In The UAE.

What are the hidden gems in Dubai?

The hidden gems in Dubai are shown on the map below.

A detailed description of these 7 hidden gems in and near Dubai is given below.

Fossil Dunes

hidden gems in dubai, fossil dunes

Photo by Adrian RA on Unsplash

The first in our hidden gems in Dubai are these fossil dunes. These fossil dunes are in Al Wathba Wetland Reserves which is a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi. This wetland also has a large population of flamingos with about 4,000 living here during the spring and autumn months.

What are fossil dunes?

Fossil dunes are mother nature’s work of art. These dunes were formed a million years ago when this desert was once an ocean, thriving with life. Over time, the ocean dried up with sand and sediments began compacting.

Each compact layer was cemented by minerals and salt crystals into the stable structures we see today. These dunes are unique in that each is an interplay of wind strength and supply of sediment.

Each layer tells the history of the land is a geologist delight. Why not experience these fossil dunes, sandboarding, and desert camping?

How do you get to the Fossil Dunes?

These dunes are approximately 44 miles southeast of Abu Dhabi. It is off the Abu-Dhabi-Al Ain Trunk Road (E30) and south of Al Wathba Wetland Reserves.

Although this place is accessible all year, the best times to visit are from October to April. There is no entrance fee to access the dunes. However, a 4×4 is recommended as it allows better access to the fossil dunes.

Hatta Dam

hidden gems in Dubai, Hatta Da, near Hajar Mountains

Photo by veer sree on Unsplash

The second in our hidden gems in Dubai is Hatta Dam. Hatta is located about 83 miles east of Dubai in Hajar Mountain ranges. This place was formerly known as Al Hajarain. The main economic activity here is tourism. Historically, Hatta was the place where date palms grew.

Hatta Dam was constructed in the early 1990s. The dam is now a major tourist attraction in the area. With turquoise waters, flanked by hilly mountain terrains, it is a photographer’s delight.

Hatta Honey is also the first queen bee rearing station in the UAE. Check out the Hatta Honey Bee & Safari visit to know more.

What is the best time to go to Hatta?

The best time to visit Hatta is between October to May. Read the Best Things To See and Do in Hatta, What To See and Do In Hatta, and 10 Fun Things To Do in Hatta to know more.

Jebel Jais

hidden gems in Dubai, Jebel Jais, rocky mountains

Photo by Pranav Madhu on Unsplash

The third in our hidden gems in Dubai is Jebel Jais. Jebel Jais is on the Hajar Mountain Ranges that borders Oman. The highest summit is on the Omani side. However, the highest point at 1,892 meters is one of the UAE’s highest peaks. 

The highest mountain peak in UAE is Jabal Yibir while the highest point you can stand on is Jebel Jais. The temperature at Jebel Jais is lower than in other parts of the country. These mountains were covered in snow in 2009, which was the second time in recorded history.

Do you know that the first snowfall was recorded in 2004?

What is Jebel Jais famous for?

Jebel Jais is famous for two things. Firstly, it has the Jebel Jais Flight which is in ToroVerde Ras Al Khaimah Adventure Park. This is the longest zip wire that has a single unbroken span of 1.5 miles. The costs for these flights are between $61$81 and takes about an hour to complete.

Secondly, Jebel Jais is a suitable place for mountain picnics that offer scenic views. You can enjoy the views with international cuisine served at your picnic spot. 

Miracle Gardens

hidden gems in dubai, miracle gardens, zabeel park, floral gardens

Photo by Datingjungle on Unsplash

The fourth in our hidden gems in Dubai is Dubai’s Miracle Gardens. These gardens are the world’s largest flower gardens and has three Guinness Book of Records to their name. In 2013, it was on record as the world’s largest vertical garden. And, then in 2016, the record went for its largest display of flowers on an Airbus 380. 

Finally, in 2018, the gardens displayed the largest topiary structure. This was an 18 meter Disney character, Mickey Mouse. The floral structures of Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Daisy, and Donald Duck, and Huey Dewey and Louie are also on display.

What is the entry fee of Miracle Garden?

The Dubai Flora and Fauna Tour is $75. This four-hour tour includes entry to Dubai Miracle Garden and Butterfly Gardens and round-trip transportation to and from your hotel.

What is the best time to visit Miracle Garden?

The best time to visit the park is during the months from November to April. The park is closed in the summer months of May to October as the weather is hot and humid.

Why is it Miracle Gardens?

It is Miracle Gardens because of its massive display of flowers in the desert. It is an amazing feat that floral displays are changed every season.

Do you know that the flowers are kept fresh by re-using wastewater?

Dubai Gold Souk

hidden gems in Dubai, Gold Souk, gold bangles

Photo by Saj Shafique on Unsplash

The fifth in our hidden gems in Dubai is Dubai’s Gold Souk. A souk is an open-air bazaar in an enclosed marketplace. The term is from the Persian word bāzār. This bazaar is located in Deira, which is Dubai’s commercial district. The traders at the gold souk are home to ten tonnes of gold at any given moment in time. 

How many gold shops are in Gold Souk Dubai?

With its inception in the 1900s and close accessibility to Dubai Creek, there are now more than 700 merchants who ply this trade. Some of the family-run businesses have been here for the past four decades. 

The souk is open from 10 am to 10 pm from Saturdays to Thursdays. Do note that on Friday, the souk’s timings are from 4 pm to 10 pm. The best time to visit the souk is around 11 am to avoid the crowd.

Thus, it is essential to bargain for the best price. Check out the Dubai Gold Souk Travel Guide, 5 Reasons to Shop at Dubai Gold Souk, and 10 Things To Do in Deira, Dubai. You can explore Dubai’s Old Town, Souks, and Street Food Tour to experience the sights, sounds, and life in Dubai.

Dubai Frame

Dubai Frame, sunset

Photo by Shreyas Gupta on Unsplash

The sixth in our hidden gems in Dubai is the Dubai Frame. This landmark is in Zabeel Park. This frame is the stolen building of all time. Its frame is made of glass, steel, reinforced concrete, and aluminum. And, has a museum at its base.

What is special about the Frame?

The Dubai Frame is a metaphorical bridge that connects Dubai’s past and present. The northern views from the frame include old and historical neighborhoods while the southern views are glitzy skyscrapers and opulent buildings.

Can you go inside the Dubai Frame?

Yes, you can go inside the Dubai Frame with this Half Day City Tour that includes the Dubai Frame. 

What is the best time to visit the Dubai Frame?

The frame is open all year round. However, the best time to visit is around 5 pm as you experience sunset with a view of the city and dazzling nightlights from the skyscrapers once it is dark.

Liwa Oasis

hidden gems in Dubai, Liwa Oasis, the Empty Quarters was also the filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Image Credit: Xiaotong Gao (Wikipedia Commons)

The seventh and last in our hidden gems in Dubai is Liwa Oasis. This desert oasis is about 93 miles from Abu Dhabi at the northern edge of the Rub’ al Khali desert. The Empty Quarter was a filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2014.

What is Liwa Oasis famous for?

The Moreeb Sand Dunes which are about 16 miles south of Liwa Oasis is one of the highest dunes in the world. The highest dune is 300 meters in height. ‘Tal Moreeb’ is what these dunes are to the locals who live here.

Check out the Top Things To Do In Liwa Oasis and Into The Empty Quarter: The Desert Oasis Outside Abu Dhabi to experience the second-largest desert, and Arabian culture before air-conditioned malls and man-made islands.

A hotel that is well worth your stay is Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort. The term ‘Qasr al Sarab’ means mirage palace. As one nears the resort, it seems as if we are approaching a desert palace. 

How big is the Liwa Oasis?

This T-shaped oasis is about 62 miles in length and is home to 50 villages. This oasis is home to the Bani Yas tribe who are now members of the ruling families in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The men of the Bani Yas tribe were once pearl divers, an ancient tradition that dates back 7,000 years ago. Check out 8 Things You Should Know About Pearl Diving and UAE’s Last Pearl Diver to know more about this dying tradition.

Where can I hang out in Dubai?

There are plenty of things to do and see in Dubai. There are the usual tourist trails, nature parks, beautiful beaches, and coastlines that make Dubai a traveler’s paradise. The next in our hidden gems in Dubai are the Top 5 places to hang out in Dubai.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, nightlife in Dubai

Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

Burj Dubai is the tallest structure in the world. It stands at a height of 829 meters and successfully vanquished its rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan. This ‘vertical city’ boasts luxury apartments, suites, four swimming pools, and a hotel by Giorgio Armani. 

There is an observation deck, the Dubai Fountains, and the Burj Khalifa Park where visitors can spend time relaxing while enjoying the surroundings. The observation deck is the ‘highest in the world’ at 1,821 feet.

How many floors is Burj Khalifa?

Burj Khalifa has 163 floors with the 163rd floor used for mechanical purposes. This floor is not accessible to the public. The highest accessible floor for the public is the 148th floor which has the At The Top Observation Deck. Get your entry tickets to the Dubai Burj Khalifa Tickets & Tour and skip the elevator lines to enjoy the incredible views. 

How long does it take to walk to the top of Burj Khalifa?

The fastest unassisted climb to the top of Burj Khalifa was 6 hours, 13 minutes, and 55 seconds by Alain Robert from France. This feat is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest time to climb the Burj Khalifa.

Can Burj Khalifa withstand an earthquake?

Burj Khalifa can withstand a magnitude 7 earthquake. Although UAE is not within a seismic region, developers took precautions by making this building earthquake-proof. The building has reinforced cross bracing beams and panels which would give sway the building slightly in an earthquake. The main structure consists of mechanical floors which connect the perimeter columns to interior walls.

Check out the 5 Fun Facts About Skyscrapers and the Top 5 Earthquake Resistant Structures Around The World to know more.

Dubai Creek Harbour

Dubai Creek Harbour, sunset, birds flying

Photo by Walid A on Unsplash

This historical saltwater creek divides the city into two parts, the Bur Dubai and Deira. Fishing and pearling were the main industries during the 1930s. A trip along this creek would take you back in time when the spice trade flourished. Today, you can book a 5-Star Dhow Cruise Buffet Dinner along the Marina.

Dubai Fountains

dubai fountains, Burj Khalifa lake, nightlife in Dubai

Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

This choreographed fountain system is located on the man-made Burj Khalifa Lake. This lake was designed by WET Design who created the Bellagio Lake in Las Vegas.

These fountains spray 83,000 liters of water at any one time. There are 6,600 lights and 25 color projectors all around the fountain. The responsibility of the Dubai Fountain Playlist lies with Peter Kopnik, the head of the choreography at WET Design.

Do you know that only one song has failed to enter the Dubai Fountain Playlist?

The song which never made it to the playlist was Gangnam Style by Psy. And, the hardest piece to choreograph was Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Is Dubai worth visiting?

Yes! Although Dubai seems to be all about skyscrapers and fast cars, there is more to Dubai and the UAE as a whole. Its rich history, delicious food, and malls should place this city on your bucket list.

Check out 12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went To Dubai, Why You Should Still Visit Dubai, and 25 Best Things To Do In Dubai to know more.

Feeling hungry? Check out The 10 Best Restaurants To Try In Dubai and the Top 12 Restaurants in Dubai. If you want to grab a few drinks, these 20 Best Bars In Dubai are where should be.

For hotels in Dubai, check out:


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