Study after study shows we value experiences over stuff – particularly millennials – yet every birthday or special occasion, we find ourselves heading to the mall. It doesn’t have to be that way, however, with this list of 10 ways to give an experience to remember
01 Throw them out of a plane
A must-do for any adrenaline junkie, Skydive Dubai offers tandem skydives at two spectacular locations – over the iconic Palm Jumeirah, or out in the Arabian desert. Your loved one will freefall through Dubai’s skies at 120mph, safely strapped to an experienced instructor. You could also gift them a 20-minute private flight in a gyrocopter, where you soar over The Palm and past the Burj Al Arab in a unique two-seater craft.
Skydive Dubai, Palm dropzone tandem skydive Dhs2,199, Desert Campus dropzone tandem skydive Dhs1,699, gyrocopter Dhs999. Tel: (04) 3778888. skydivedubai.ae
02 Send them down the slopes
What better way to beat the heat than by hitting the slopes at Ski Dubai, the famous indoor ski resort inside Mall of the Emirates? There’s all sorts of snowy fun on offer, from tobogganing to zorbing (rolling down the snowy slope in a plastic orb, as well as skiing and snowboarding. Take your pick from a selection of slope passes, or spring for a private lesson under the guidance of a professional ski or snowboard instructor. Good old fashioned gift cards are available, too.
Ski Dubai, Mall Of The Emirates, Dubai, daily 10am to 10pm, slope session pass from Dhs225, private lesson from Dhs620. Tel: (04) 4094000. Taxi: Mall Of The Emirates. booking.skidxb.com
03 Treat them to some pampering
Nowhere in the world does pampering quite like Dubai, and nowhere in Dubai does pampering quite like the palatial Talise Ottoman Spa at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray resort. The spa offers a treatment billed as the “world’s most luxurious spa experience”, which includes a 24-karat gold facial – but it will set you back a cool Dhs26,250. For a slightly more wallet-friendly (but still luxe) option, we recommend the 60-minute gold hammam.
Talise Ottoman Spa, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai daily 9am to 9pm, gold hammam Dhs565. Tel: (04) 4530456. Taxi: Palm Jumeirah. jumeirah.com
04 Strap them into a supercar
Satisfy their need for speed with a thrilling spin at the Dubai Autodrome. Serious petrolheads can put the pedal to the metal in a Ferrari GT, sprinting from 0 to 100kph in 3.1 seconds. Younger speedsters or those who simply prefer the comfort of the passenger seat can also enjoy the ‘Hot Lap’ experience, where a professional driver will speed you around the track.
Dubai Autodrome, Dubailand, Dubai, daily 8am to 10pm, from Dhs920 for Audi TT experience, from Dhs250 for Hot Lap experience. Tel: (04) 8062220. Taxi: Autodrome. dubaiautodrome.com
05 Let them fly an A380
Perfect for the aviation geek in your life, the Emirates A380 Experience at Dubai Mall allows you to experience the thrill of flying the world’s largest commercial aircraft. Wannabe pilots can choose their destination from 12 different airports, using a state-of-the-art flight simulator. You can even choose your own flight path and weather conditions – so if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to fly a superjumbo around the Burj Khalifa in a snowstorm, well, here’s your chance.
The Dubai Mall, Dubai, Sun to Wed 10am to 10pm, Thurs to Sat 10am to midnight, from Dhs325, sessions last 30 minutes. Tel: (04) 3882915. Taxi: Dubai Mall. emiratesa380experience.com
06 Make them walk with sharks
You don’t need any diving experience (or even have to know how to swim) to enjoy a close encounter with the sharks at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. Their jaw-dropping Shark Walker experience sees guests don an oxygenated helmet and enter a spacious cage, before descending into the 10 million litre tank. You’ll spend 25 minutes in the comfort of your cage, surrounded by some 33,000 fish, rays and sharks – just be sure to keep your fingers inside.
Al Boom Diving at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, Dubai Mall, Dubai, Dhs620 (includes access to Aquarium Tunnel and Underwater Zoo). Tel: (04) 3422993. Taxi: Dubai Mall. thedubaiaquarium.com
07 Suit them up in Satwa
Every man should have one bespoke suit in his wardrobe, and in Dubai, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to couture. Some of the city’s top tailors can be found in the humble neighbourhood of Satwa, with options for all budgets. Whistle & Flute is a favourite among discerning gentlemen – hidden down an alleyway behind the Iranian Hospital, it almost feels like entering a secret club. The cost for a basic suit is Dhs1,000, but that can rise to Dhs1,700 for one that has been completely hand-sewnwith canvas and trimmings imported from a Savile Row supplier.
Satwa, Dubai, Sun to Thurs 9am to 1pm, 4pm to 8pm. Tel: (04) 3429229. Taxi: Behind Iranian Hospital. facebook.com/The-Whistle-and-Flute-Gentlemens-Bespoke-Tailor
08 Take them on a foodie tour
If it’s true that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, you’d do well to book them a food tour with Frying Pan Adventures. There’s all kinds of experiences available, each with its own unique flavour, but the signature tour is the Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage. Over four hours, you’ll wind your way through the streets of Deira, feasting on lesser known dishes from Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and Iran. Prices start at Dhs350.
09 Book them a table in the clouds
Dubai has no shortage of unforgettable dining experiences, but At.mosphere on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa quite literally tops them all. Gift vouchers are available for lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, with special set menus for each. Bonus points? A window table at sunset, booking essential.
At.mosphere, Burj Khalifa, Dubai, daily 7am to 11pm. Tel: (04) 8883828. Taxi: Burj Khaliffa. atmosphereburjkhalifa.com
10 Up their Instagram game
If they have even the slightest interest in photography, they’re going to love the excellent workshops from the team at Gulf Photo Plus. Courses cover everything from mastering your smartphone camera to taking the perfect food flat lay, with options for complete novices as well as more advanced snappers. Keep an eye out for their Unseen Trails guided tours, which allow participants to explore lesser known areas of Dubai, picking up useful photography tips along the way.
Gulf Photo Plus, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, Sat to Thurs 10am to 7pm, beginner’s photography workshop from Dhs780. Tel: (04) 3808545. Taxi: Alserkal Avenue. gulfphotoplus.com