Al Qudra love

Feel the love in Dubai. (Photo: Getty Images)


Pause, Reflect and Refuel: Here’s Where to Find Quiet in Dubai

Gargantuan shopping malls bustling with crowds of eager shoppers, trendy nightspots and exciting live entertainment, and a vibrant dining scene serving up the best of international cuisines — it’s easy to get caught up in Dubai’s endlessly energetic buzz to see and do more.

But venture away from these popular spots and there’s a whole other side to the city, where it feels like time slows down a bit and where locals turn when they want to pause, reflect and refuel. From lush parks and bird-watching havens to waterfront boardwalks that are a photographer’s dream, this is where to find a sense of calm in Dubai.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

For a tranquil morning (or evening) in Dubai, visit the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected wetland reserve with a somewhat off-the-beaten-path location at the end of Dubai Creek.

A hot spot of biodiversity, the saltwater lagoons, mudflats and mangroves of this tidal estuary are home to almost 180 bird species, of which some are migratory, such as the grey heron, black-winged stilts, Socotra cormorant and the kingfisher.

flock of flamingos
Don’t miss the much-loved flamingos. (Photo: Getty Images)

A favorite among local insiders, like bird-watchers and wildlife photographers, the sanctuary offers three viewing hides from which to see the birds. The Flamingo Hide is perhaps the most popular, thanks to hundreds of beautiful pink-legged flamingoes.

In winter, there are as many as 25,000 birds in the reserve. You might also spot other residents such as the Ethiopian hedgehog, Cape hare, horned viper and desert monitor.

The hides are free to enter, and you can stay as long as you like. For a quieter experience, it’s best to visit in the early morning or late afternoon.

Jumeirah Fishing Harbor

Tucked away in a largely residential neighborhood in the heart of Dubai, the Jumeirah Fishing Harbor presents a chance to authentically connect with Dubai’s fishing heritage.

At the harbor along the Jumeirah coastline, you’ll find privately owned yachts and fishing boats, as well as a small fish market and fishermen’s accommodations housed in sand-colored heritage-style buildings.

Depending on the time of day, you’ll see fishermen going about their daily business, setting up nets, working with ropes and cleaning their fishing gear.

Benches along the harbor look out to the water, and there is a decent selection of restaurants where you can dine al fresco and watch the activity while enjoying fresh seafood dishes. This is also a breathtaking spot to catch the sunset, with little more than flocks of excited seagulls for company.

Dubai Water Canal

dubai water canal bridge at night
Find a quiet moment along the Dubai Water Canal. (Photo: Getty Images)

To enjoy views of Dubai’s skyscraper-studded skyline in the cooler months between October and March, take a leisurely stroll or run along the 3.2-kilometer (2-mile) Dubai Water Canal Boardwalk.

The boardwalk is never crowded, except for a few cyclists and runners in the evenings. There are benches along the way if you’d like to rest. Three pedestrian bridges offer access to the other side — check out the photogenic, arc-shaped Tolerance Bridge, which boasts excellent views over the water. If you’d rather not walk, the Dubai Ferry and Water Bus are other ways to experience the canal.

Al Qudra Lakes

Al Qudra Lakes
Find your oasis in Al Qudra. (Photo: Getty Images)

Drive 40 minutes from the city and find a quick escape to the serene, human-made lakes at Al Qudra in the Al Marmoom Conservation Reserve. Catch the sunrise or sunset, or have a lakeside picnic and barbecue surrounded by the golden desert. Hundreds of bird species can be found here, including swans, geese, flamingoes and the Asian houbara. You’ll also find local wildlife such as Arabian oryx and desert foxes.

Don’t miss the intertwined, heart-shaped Love Lakes during your visit. See the birds up close from the shaded spots and viewing platforms along the lakes. The facilities at Al Qudra Lakes are basic, so bring everything you might need, including water and snacks.

Dubai Creek Park

For a healthy dose of green, picturesque views over Dubai Creek, and plenty of peace and quiet, head to Dubai Creek Park (also called Creekside Park), the city’s second-largest park. While the park has some fun areas for children, such as a dolphinarium and an indoor entertainment center, there are large sections of it that won’t disappoint if you’re simply looking to relax.

Take a stroll or rent a bike to explore the park’s verdant lawns, botanical gardens and leafy picnic and barbecue areas. Admire the traditional wooden dhows and boats in the creek while walking on the waterfront promenade. To make a day of it, pack a picnic.