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Dubai guide

Travel guide: Keeping healthy in Dubai

Women running in Dubai

Bursting with glamour and boasting an ever-expanding skyline that includes the world’s tallest building, Dubai attracts both tourists and ambitious professionals. Read on for our guide to living a healthy life in the ‘City of Gold’.

Once a quiet fishing port, Dubai began its transformation in the 1990s. Today it’s one of the most populous cities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Home to expatriates from around the globe, this city of superlatives is also the world’s most cosmopolitan1, with plenty to inspire food lovers, fitness fiends and outdoor explorers.

Will Dowling is an airline pilot from Sydney, Australia, who moved to Dubai in 2015 and now lives in the Arabian Ranches with his wife and daughter. “The city is continually developing and growing, so there are always new places to eat, new sports to try and new social opportunities,” he says. “There’s a lot of choice.”

Finding healthy food

According to a study commissioned by Al Ahli Holding Group, government efforts to promote healthy eating in the UAE are taking effect. Of 1,000 respondents, more than a third said they were making conscious efforts to eat fresh fruits and vegetables2. “Most people I meet here are health conscious,” Will says.

The city offers a wealth of healthy options for eating out and in. Its thriving restaurant scene boasts countless international cuisines – from easily available, authentic curries to Michelin-starred eateries in six-star hotels. Healthier choices are plentiful. Highlights include: 77 Veggie Boutique at the Tiffany Tower (look up their Meal Packs too); Comptoir 102 for snacks, smoothies and juices and Biorganic Café for additive-free fare.

“Cooking at home is popular with people who live in villa complexes, away from the busiest areas like the Marina,” Will says. “I find I can buy 99 per cent of the ingredients I would’ve bought back home. Also, the choice of fresh fruit and vegetables has increased over the past years. More is being grown within the UAE.”

Will recommends Ripe Markets, held regularly in locations across Dubai. They aim to bring together local people and local food producers in a fun and social way, with stalls selling organic produce, live cooking demos, yoga, children’s activities and more.

“The choice of fresh fruit and vegetables has increased over the past years. More is being grown within the UAE.”

Home deliveries – groceries and meal kits – are widely used. “Delivered groceries tend to be fresher than supermarket produce,” Will says. “Meal kits are a great healthy option for people who travel often or work long hours. People speak really highly of them.” Online food retailers include:

  • Cook-a-Box, for recipes and pre-measured ingredients.
  • Hello Chef! for healthy meal kits, including low-calorie options.
  • Right Bite Renew You Plan for 14-day tailored packages based on dietician consultations.
  • Prime Gourmet, purveyors of high-quality meats, including grain-fed.

Antidotes to city life

Whether you’re a city lover through and through or an urbanite for practical reasons alone, chances are you’ll be happier and healthier if you know how to escape the hustle and bustle when you need to.

Relaxation, time outdoors and contact with nature aren’t often associated with Dubai, but Will says they are definitely within reach: “Dubai is a busy place that can be very hectic, but not too far away there’s beautiful desert. From where we live, we can be at a national park in around 20 minutes’ drive. The Gulf is stunning, and Oman, at under three hours, is great for camping, exploring and surfing.”

Also an hour away is the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, described by Lonely Planet as awe-inspiring. For a change of pace in the heart of the city, try the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, with varied inhabitants including flamingos and ospreys. There are parks for picnics and strolls aplenty, from Creek Park with its lawns and botanical gardens to the 50-acre Al Barsha Pond Park.

Knowing that we’re eating too much sugar is one thing, but how can you realistically go about reducing your family’s daily intake?

Yoga classes can be found throughout the city, including at the big gyms and resort clubs. Eco Yoga Sanctuary is a spa-like, women-only studio in Jumeirah 1; Zen Yoga has studios in Dubai Marina, Media City and Emirates Hills; and Urban Yoga’s offerings include candlelit and gentle flow classes.

Illuminations and Miracles both run meditation classes and wellbeing workshops. Similarly, MindfulMe offers meditation, mindfulness and courses centred on emotional health.

Keeping active

“There’s a huge choice in Dubai when it comes to keeping fit,” Will says. “Most accommodation includes an on-site pool and gym, so it’s easy to exercise regularly. Sometimes people also have access to facilities at fitness clubs through their work – squash and tennis courts, swimming classes and more.”

Whether you’re a daredevil, a water baby or happy with a gentle jog, you’re unlikely to find yourself stuck. “Kitesurfing has been here for a long time, as well as skydiving and paragliding in the hills,” Will says. “Water sports are available too – wakeboarding, waterskiing and even surfing to an extent.” (For skiing on solid ground, head for the slopes at Ski Dubai.)

Dubai Sports City is a multi-venue complex that promises every type of fitness imaginable. Tracks like Al Qudra attract cyclists keen to exercise their pedal power in a city that doesn’t generally encourage two wheels. The Beach at Dubai Marina features a running track alongside the sand, plus an outdoor gym and morning yoga by the sea.

Temperatures during the summer months can make exercising outside more difficult, but people adapt. “It means changing your schedule, but it’s a very can-do culture here – people will run at 3am or late at night,” Will says. Alternatively, choose from the many indoor facilities. Be aware of the risks of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, especially while you’re adjusting to the climate. Air pollution can be high due to construction and the surrounding desert. Steer clear of hotspots while exercising outdoors, especially if you have a respiratory condition.

Trekking is a great way to exercise and explore the region. UAE Trekkers describes itself as: “A passionate group of hikers, climbers, nature lovers and aspiring mountaineers.” The group organises expeditions for people of all abilities and ages. There are also training events in Dubai – good for making friends as well as working out.

For Will, Dubai’s proactive, friendly culture is key: “People find ways to bring their activities from back home to Dubai. If it isn’t here already, you can make it happen. The facilities are great, so it’s easy to hire a space and start up a new sports team.” With its ever-multiplying districts and broad cultural make-up, this is a city in which healthy living can take many forms, from reassuringly familiar to adventurous and new.

 

Sources

1. World Atlas (https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-most-cosmopolitan-cities-in-the-world.html), last accessed in September 2019

2. Gulf News (http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/health/one-in-three-uae-expats-follow-healthy-diet-1.1659134 ), last accessed in September 2019

3. Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/02/05/where-people-around-the-world-eat-the-most-sugar-and-fat/ ), last accessed in September 2019

Bupa Global (https://www.bupaglobal.com/en/your-wellbeing/healthy-eating/good-and-bad-sugar), last accessed in September 2019

Bupa Global (https://www.bupaglobal.com/en/your-wellbeing/healthy-eating/quitting-sugar), last accessed in September 2019

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