Discover a different side of Dubai's most memorable sights - from the water.
Set sail and explore the city's coastline with these equally adventurous experiences, one based in ancient tradition, the others in modernity.
While Dubai is a hub for glamorous super cars, private helicopters and other hi-tech toys, the city once relied on abras to transport people and goods up and down Dubai Creek. A simple, but very effective long boat, similar to a gondola, the abra (and its larger sailing relative, the dhow), represent both a dependable form of transport as well as the Emirati way of life that is still in use today. Travel back in time on an abra cruise.
The Madinat Jumeirah souk and resort use abras to connect the sanctuary's hotels, villas and restaurants via a manmade canal system, with regular stops. Cruising past the beach, a Madinat abra ride takes about 30 minutes for a full loop, leaving the docks so frequently that it's easy to find you have a boat all to yourself for at least part of the trip.
Time on your hands? A trip down Dubai Creek will be an indelible memory. A public transport service, the fleets of abras criss-cross the wide saltwater creek, as they've done for centuries. A token fee gives travellers a round-trip between the Gold, Textile and Spice Souks, where visitors can find well-priced gemstones and gold pieces, exotic fabrics, and Middle Eastern kitchen staples. Finish the ride at the far end of the Creek, at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, for a drink on the rooftop terrace.
Fast-forward to modern day Dubai, and water transport has had a makeover. Not content with conquering the Creek, Dubai will soon complete one of its most ambitious projects yet – the Dubai Canal. Stretching three kilometres from the Arabian Gulf, through Safa Park, into the heart of the city centre, and culminating in the existing waters of Business Bay, the new waterway will be 180 metres across at its widest point.
The Canal will add one and a half kilometres of beaches to urban Dubai's already plentiful beach count, not to mention an exciting new channel for keen sailors, rowers and paddlers. A fun fair-styled boardwalk, cycling and running paths, three new RTA metro train stations to service the promenade, a yacht club, 'floating' restaurants, and of course, a flurry of five-star hotels are also already planned for the new district. With the new shoreline and marina beginning to take shape, excitement is mounting as the daring designs take shape. The project is predicted to be fully complete in 2019.
Meanwhile, in the newer part of town, mega-yachts and sleek speed boats hold court in Dubai Marina, with a large number of choices available for couples wanting to charter a cruise for two. Most marine companies offer a fully-staffed vessel, complete with captain, hostess and chef, and are happy to customise the route as clients request.
Cruising along the Arabian Gulf, drop anchor next to the Burj Al Arab, to enjoy an on-deck meal with the iconic sail-shaped hotel as your backdrop, or head over to the World Islands and dock at Lebanon Island for a pre-booked lunch in one of the exclusive beach cabanas.
Sporty couples can arrange for jet-skis to be loaded before they leave the dock, with the open sea giving unobstructed space to rev up your ride.
As the sun sets, ask the captain to loop back towards the shoreline, with the pinks, oranges, and purples of the famously vivid Arabian sunset reflecting off the city's mirrored skyscrapers and back to sea making for a money-can't-buy memory.
Looking for more action on the water? Try our memorable water experiences for couples who like to share aquatic adventure.