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DUBAI is often known as the “Entertainment Capital of Middle East” and labelled as the playground for the rich, what with its glitzy skyscrapers, lavish night scene, luxury brand hotels, and mega-malls.

Its other wallet-friendly side is often left unexplored. The most populous city in the United Arab Emirates is a melting pot of Arabic, Indian and Middle Eastern cultures, that offers a variety of free off-the-beaten-path experiences, efficient public transportation, affordable boutique hotels, thriving art scene, and cheap delicious food.


FREE HIDDEN GEM EXPERIENCES

#1 Witness 60 camels race through the gates, making their way as fast as they can down one of the biggest camel tracks in the kingdom at Al Marmoom Smart Camel Racing Track1. An integral part of UAE’s heritage, camel racing dates back centuries ago that is not to be missed by residents and tourists in Dubai.

#2 Jump on an abra (traditional water taxi) to cross the Dubai Creek. With just AED1 (RM1.10), you’ll have a “scenic cruise” passing through the bustling city and traditional houses, towers, trade cargos, and wooden dhows. At the other side of the shore, bargain at the city’s most vibrant and traditional markets - Spice Souk, Perfume Souk, Textile Souk, and world-famous Gold Souk.

#3 For the art aficionado, Alserkal Avenue is Dubai’s most influential creative enclave for edgy arts events, endless pop-up concept, and cutting-edge galleries. It also features artisan eateries, diverse fashion and homeware stores, a vintage showroom, Dubai's only independent record shop, a local arthouse cinema, and even a fitness studio.

#4 Wander through the narrow winding alleys and sand-coloured houses topped with the traditional wind towers at Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, taking a glimpse into how Emiratis from past generations lived their lives while discovering a plethora of cultural activities, museums, art galleries, craft shops, and courtyard cafes.

#5 In winter (October to March), nature lovers can head to Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary to spot countless species of reptiles, fish, invertebrates, and is prominently a heaven for birds of around 180 different species, including hundreds of gorgeous wild pink flamingos.

#6 Visit La Mer, the city’s newest urban beach cred and hottest Instagram spot filled with playful graffiti art murals and laid back charm at every turn. Stroll along the palm tree-lined boulevards and timber walkways to discover tantalising cafes, ice cream parlours, home-grown boutiques and unwind in one of the many beach sports, water play or beachside cabanas.


ART THEMED BOUTIQUE HOTELS

#1 Designed for convenience and comfort, Rove Hotels are located in six different central neighbourhoods with easy access to public transport and provides modern and clean amenities with plenty of add-ons.

#2 Hampton by Hilton Dubai Al Seef is perfect for eager explorers as it features playful, pocket-friendly rooms and is situated right in the heart of hustle and bustle in Dubai Creek.

#3 The trendy FORM Hotel Dubai is a timelessly designed boutique property for the forward-thinking travellers through its custom-crafted spaces, modern minimalist design and curated amenities.

#4 Studio One Hotel is where life and creativity collide, showcasing perfectly equipped rooms and award winning restaurants suitable for both family and business travellers.


AFFORDABLE AND DELICIOUS MEAL OPTIONS

#1 For a taste of an authentic bargain-priced meal, Satwa is one of the top spots to hunt for street food in Dubai as it features few of the most iconic and old-school eateries.

#2 Head to 2nd December Street (previously known as Al Dhiyafah road), a single bustling neon-lit strip that hosts many of the delicious bites from mouth-watering shawarmas and falafel sandwiches at Al Mallah, to succulent kebabs and flavourful curry at Ravi Restaurant, to traditional Middle Eastern sweet treats at Firas Sweets and Karak Chai from Koukh Al Shay. Other notable spots include Al Ustadl Special Kebab, Zaroob, Al Reef Labanese Bakery, SALT burgers, and Last Exit Food Truck Park.

#3 The cosmopolitan city is also home to many international restaurants and fast food chains like The Cheesecake Factory, IHOP, Shake Shack, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.


LOOK OUT FOR EXTRAORDINARY DEALS

Held annually between June to August, the city’s biggest shopping and entertainment festival offers incredible bargains and activities for visitors and residents alike, from spend-and-win promotions to daily deals at unbeatable prices to exciting live concerts and world-class entertainment.

Nearly every attractions, hotels, and malls in the city partake in the celebration, giving everyone a slew of fun things to do from morning to night.


MORE SAVINGS FROM EMIRATES

Malaysians now have the opportunity to visit Dubai for less with Emirates’ latest promotion that r includes great fares to Dubai and a host of added-value perks, including a complimentary 2-night hotel stay in the heart of Dubai and 10kg free excess baggage allowance.

The promotion which now runs until March 3 is valid for travel from now until Sept 30 this year. The return fares to Dubai start at RM2,459 (Economy Class) and RM8,890 (Business). The First Class fares are also available.

Economy Class passengers who book flights within the promotional period will get to stay at either Aloft Me’aisam or Aloft Dubai South; while First Class and Business Class passengers stay at either the JW Marriott Marquis or Marriott Al Jaddaf.

The hotel offer is on a room-only and on single or double-occupancy basis, with up to one child under 12 years old sharing the same room for Economy Class travel and up to two children under 12 years for Business Class or First Class bookings.

To enjoy the promotion, travellers just need to enter the promotional code, DUBAI20 before making payment on emirates.com/my. The complimentary hotel stay will then be booked and confirmed.

What’s more is that visitors can stretch their travel budget with My Emirates Pass – a seasonal pass that turns an Emirates boarding pass into an exclusive membership package – allowing customers to redeem discounts and special benefits in over 500 locations across the UAE.

Travellers flying to and through Dubai until March 31 can avail the offer and enjoy up to 30% off on retail outlets and up to 50% off on leisure activities by simply presenting their boarding pass and a valid form of identification.

Travellers to Dubai can also download and use Skywards Everyday, a location based app. It gives Emirates Skywards members the power to earn Skywards Miles anytime at more than 1,000 retail, entertainment and dining outlets across the UAE and with over 250 international brands.

Members can see their Skywards Miles racking up in real-time, which they can spend instantly on flights, upgrades and more. For more information, visit www.emirates.com.

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