Think of Dubai and your mind may automatically conjure images of shopping malls, record-breaking skyscrapers, and opulent hotels. However, there is another side to the city; you just have to know where to look.

Saddle up

Held annually on the last Saturday of March, the Meydan Racecourse welcomes everyone to the Dubai World Cup, from the equestrian elite to the fascinator-wearing fashionistas. Although it’s considered one of the biggest calendar events of the summer season.
 
Since its founding in 1996, Dubai has provided a platform for the sport with the weekend-long event rapidly evolving from being a much-loved pastime of Emirati elites to becoming a nine-race showcase that is now considered the world’s richest horse race.
 
Come October, it’s the camels’ turn to take to the racing circuit. One particularly known track to admire them in full flight is the Al Marmoom Camel Racetrack, also the home of the Dubai Camel Racing Club. Located half an hour’s drive from the city, the sport attracts camel owners from across the UAE as well as visitors and Emiratis.
 
A novel spectacle it may be, the sport, in fact, is a centuries-old tradition that over the years has implemented changes, including the introduction in 2002 of robot jockeys controlled by operators who drive alongside the racing camels.
 

Sweat it out

Fitness in every form is part and parcel of the Dubai lifestyle. Often overlooked by visitors, Dubai’s sporting side welcomes abilities of all levels, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a yoga novice.
 
One place that actively promotes this ethos is Kite Beach. A stretch of sand just off Jumeirah Beach Road that plays host to everything from paddle boarding and skating to swimming and, as the name suggests, kite surfing. Each spring, Dubai’s annual International Kite Festival attracts kite-flying experts from 25 different countries, and it’s a spectacle to behold.
 
If it’s something more high-octane you’re after, the Al Qudra Cycling Track is a popular destination among Dubai’s fitness tribe. The 86-kilometre track runs through the desert and is popular with both professional and novice riders. To avoid the heat of the day, saddle up at sunrise or sunset and enjoy the view across the sandy landscape.

For a more conventional approach to fitness, there’s always the gym, and as with everything in Dubai, you can guarantee the facilities won’t fall short of being anything but state-of-the-art. Most apartment blocks and hotels come equipped with on-site facilities, whether it’s a HIIT class or a juice bar to quench a post-workout thirst. There are also boutique health clubs that offer a more tailored approach to your regimen, with personal trainers and post-session sports massages.

Escape the city 

Just an hour and a half drive from Dubai’s centre is Hatta — an inland enclave of the city that sits at the foot of the Hajar Mountain Range.
 
Snuck away in the shadow of the sprawling metropolis, Hatta, once only known for its historic fort and small desert farms, attracts sports enthusiasts and those seeking a rural retreat.
 
For the thrill seekers, there’s much to consider, including kayaking and riding down rocky trails to take in the views from a higher vantage point by bike or motocross.

Want to explore more of Dubai’s hidden gems? Contact Quintessentially Travel for the low-down on these and other experiences: Quintessentially Travel: +44 (0)20 7022 6560 or info@quintessentiallytravel.com