What’s On teams with Hype to bring you you alternative A-Z, a list of cool things to do in Dubai, best bars, best restaurants and other hidden gems.

How well do you really know Dubai? Do you stick with the tried and tested or do you dig deeper? Beneath the obvious glitz and glamour there’s a new breed of faces, places and hangouts lending Dubai a cutting edge. We asked our savvy gang of clued-up columnists, cool cats and local tastemakers to devise the Alternative A – Z of Dubai.

Tim Woodstock (Bassworx promoter and DJ)

The main race of the year at the Autodrome is the 24 Hours Dubai endurance race: I first experienced that the week after I moved to Dubai. With free entry, pit lane access throughout the race and all sorts of different cars, it was a petrolhead’s dream. There’s also Audi R8 and single seater driving experiences, as well as ‘bring your own’ track days, outdoor and indoor karting tracks, a laserdrome and chillout area. I’ve also done the outdoor karting. There’s a whole load of big boy fun to be had around Dubai Autodrome’s massive race track. Leave the wife at home.

Dubai Autodrome, off the E311 Emirates Highway, Motor City, Dubai. Tel: (04) 3678700. dubaiautodrome.com

A is for Autodrome: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Lee Tunnicliffe (Hype Magazine)
A Dubai institution, Bob’s chippy in Dubai Marina is a clubber’s saviour. Open until 4am, many taxi drivers are directed here when the clubs empty at the weekend, and don’t be surprised if you spot loads of familiar faces in the queue or sitting at the tables and chairs outside. Needless to say, in the wee hours of the morning it can get a bit boisterous but Bob and his wonderful staff always keep calm, courteous and professional under pressure. It’s a sign of a good night when you wake up the next day with Bob’s take-away cartons strewn across your kitchen. There’s a Bob’s in Business Bay and at Terminal One Dubai Airport, but for late night party people it’s really all about that Marina branch.

Bob’s Fish & Chips, Dream Tower 2, Opposite Marina Byblos Hotel, Dubai Marina, daily 10.45am to 4am. Tel: (04) 4504262. bobsfishandchips.com

B is for Bobs Fish & Chips: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Dominic Beesley (Hype Magazine)
If you have no shame or just don’t take yourself too seriously, you can’t beat a bit of crooning down the karaoke for a proper giggle. Make your way to Rock Bottom Café – in either Tecom or Bur Dubai – for some seriously woeful warbling. Last time I got up on stage here I serenaded the audience with a tragic version of Love Machine by Girls Aloud and watched people walk out when I was only half way through the song. This is a fun night out for people who love singing but don’t care if they’re awful or the next Adele. Thankfully, the karaoke finishes at 11.30pm and a DJ provides an eclectic soundtrack through ’til close.

Rock Bottom Café, Ramee Rose Hotel, Tecom, Friday from 8pm. Tel: (04) 4500111. facebook.com/rbctecom. Or Regent Palace Hotel, Bur Dubai, Friday from 8pm. Tel: (04) 3963888. rockbottomcafe.com

C is for Crooning: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Brad Kirr (Skate Biladi)
This is Dubai’s only surf shop and coffee bar. Dubai averages about 90 days every year – mostly in winter – with waves big enough to surf, and the main surfing beach of Umm Suqeim attracts about 1,000 surfers. The Surf House is where these people get their gear and pre/post surf caffeine buzz on. It attracts drowning challenged coffee connoisseurs that begrudgingly work day jobs and exist on land until the next time they surf. This species of human can be found repeatedly checking weather charts to find out when the next swell is coming, travelling to remote and highly dangerous tropical locations to ride waves, conjuring up excuses to tell their bosses why they are late for work because they were surfing – “My dog/cat/chinchilla went into cardiac arrest” is a popular one but you can only use it once… maybe twice – and generally living and breathing all things surf-related.

Surf House Dubai, Villa 110, Al Soon Street, Beachside, Umm Suqeim 2, Dubai, daily 7am to 7pm. Tel: (050) 5043020. surfingdubai.com

D is for Dubai Surf House: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

E is for ENERGY
Steffi Bow (street artist)
I love to go running outside but during the summer months it’s impossible to do any real distance. Running on a treadmill is completely dull so to get my fresh air and adventure fix I go sprint training on a secret track at the back of Nad Al Sheba Racecourse. The track is about 700 metres long with a spongy rubber surface and it’s marked every 50 metres. It stretches out next to the horse track so if you are feeling really speedy you can race the racehorses when they are being exercised. You might spot the odd local having a brisk walk but apart from that it’s incredibly peaceful. And it’s beautiful first thing in the morning as the track is in the shade then. If you jog there from the Trade Centre or DIFC watch out for all the mushy dates on the pavement, if you get them stuck in your trainer soles it’s worse than dog poo.

Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, Za’abeel 2, Dubai

E is for Energy: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Dia Hassan (Juliana Down lead singer)
Fatiniza is a Colombian singer/musician based in Dubai, giving a Latin twist to her sound that crosses from rock to pop to beautiful ballads, one of which I co-wrote and feature on. She’s a hard working musician who keeps inspiring others while they try to promote their art and original music. The art and music scene in Dubai is simmering under its skyscrapers. If you’re bored of the glitter of Dubai’s nightclubs, start scratching through our concrete empire and you’ll find artists and musicians that create works of gold. Spending a few days with Fatiniza in the studio, I found myself absorbed in the creative energy she creates – a sign of a good musician. She usually plays at the main music events around Dubai and you’ll find a mix of ages and people at her shows, which is a reflection of the variety of genres she delivers live. 

Check fatiniza.com or facebook.com/fatiniza.gamarra for news of upcoming gigs

F is for Fatiniza: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Marko Smokingroove (DJ and producer)
This is one of the region’s best underground electronic ‘festivals’ put on by people who actually care about underground music. It’s a must for anyone serious about underground house music and I tip my hat to the promoters. If you are all about the music, this is for you. If you like your Bob Sinclares and David Guettas mashed up with cheesy radio R&B this is definitely not for you. At Groove On The Grass you’ll meet thousands of like-minded people – predominantly in jeans, a T-shirt and trainers – and, in my opinion, the kind of people that really make Dubai’s nightlife tick. I won’t oversell this little gem as it sells itself.”

Groove On The Grass takes place at Emirates Golf Club. Their new season kicks off on September 26. Keep checking facebook.com/GrooveOnTheGrass for more details

G is for Groove on the  Grass: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

H is for HAMDAN
Hussain and Christian (SoleDXB)
Hamdan Al-Abri is the front man of Dubai-based soul band Abri & Funk Radius, a group made up of six individually established and highly acclaimed musicians. As well as playing in Dubai every week, we’re delighted that he’ll also be performing at our SoleDXB [sneaker convention] in November. Born and raised in the UAE, Hamdan is a singer/songwriter who has earned his stripes. As Abri, he and the band have released two albums (Sunchild and Blank Notes) and toured India, Bahrain, the UK, the Maldives and the UAE. As well as releasing solo material, Hamdan has performed alongside Herbie Hancock, Sade, Sting, Quincy Jones and Erykah Badu. Last year he was nominated for Best Middle East Act at the MTV European Music Awards.

Jazz @ Pizza Express, next to Mövenpick Hotel, Cluster A, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Thursday from 9pm. Tel: (04) 4416342. facebook.com/jazzpizzaexpressdubai, facebook.com/HamdanABRI

H is for Hamdan: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

I is for ICE RINK
Sya One (graffiti artist)
There’s an Olympic size ice-rink on the ground floor of Dubai Mall. It’s frozen water indoors that’s rubbish for fishing but great for skidding about on. I’ve never skated there myself but the ice-hockey looks cool, and if you’re rubbish at skating they give you a plastic penguin to hold yourself up on.

Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, Sunday to Wednesday, 10am to 10pm, Thursday to Saturday, 11.15am to midnight, Dhs55. Tel: (04) 4485111. dubaiicerink.com

I is for Ice Rink: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

J is for JULIAN
GlobalFunk promoter Ben McDonald
Julian Hairdressing is a cool, traditional style gents’ barber shop complete with a spinning red and white pole outside. It’s run by Julian Colclough, who also DJs under the alias Julian Jinx at places like 360°, but as I understand it he’s gone into semi-retirement as a deck technician. It’s got a bit of an old school feel, the assistant makes a mean cup of tea and it’s worth a trip there for the banter alone. Julian is a friend of mine and I like to support the little independent guys in a city that’s full of chains and corporations.”

Julian Hairdressing, The Village Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai, daily 10pm to 7pm. Tel: (04) 3449006. julianhairdressingdubai.com

J is for Julien: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Emily Kidman-Lee (promotions manager, Universal Music MENA)
The sister of Buddha Bar, Karma Kafé in Souq Al Bahar is a restaurant/bar where you’re guaranteed to find good food and great music. There’s a choice of Asian delicacies and unique and classic cocktails that you can enjoy either indoors or outside with breath-taking views of the fountains at the bottom of Burj Khalifa. Better yet, the music ranges from chilled ethnic vibes to pumping house music so, for me, Karma Kafé is a great place to meet friends and get your night started.

Karma Kafé, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown, Dubai, Sunday to Thursday, 3pm to 2am, Friday and Saturday, noon to 2am. Tel: (04) 4230909. karma-kafe.com

Karma Kafe, Souk Al Bahar

Shadi Megallaa (DJ and Producer)
It’s actually The Pizza Guys, but since there was nothing I love starting with the letter L in Dubai I thought I would cheat a little. Dubai’s first New York-style pizzeria, it was founded by Rami Badawi and his wife Amber Haque. I’ve known them both for many, many years since we went to school together so The Pizza Guys has it all – a love story and killer pizza. You can’t go wrong with their amazing ingredients, which include 100 per cent hormone-free Wagyu beef, creamy handmade cheeses and fresh dough. They also make some killer cookies and, as with any pizzeria, the most important factor is the brick oven. I went there with my dear friend Nadine and we shared a Margherita and a Godfather pizza, both of which were nothing short of amazing. I’m salivating just thinking about it right now. The whole experience was lovely due to the best pizza in town and the very friendly staff. The Pizza Guys are also the first in the UAE to accept Bitcoins as a form of payment. Now that’s cool, innit?”

The Pizza Guys, Bay Avenue at Executive Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, Dubai, Saturday to Wednesday, 11am to 10.30pm, Thursday and Friday, 11am to 11pm. Tel: (800) 8434897. thepizzaguys.ae

L is for Le Pizza Guys: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Olly Wood (Hollaphonic)
This is an ultra cool boutique grocery where you can grab freshly caught fish, artisan cheeses and fruit and veg that actually look like they haven’t been dragged halfway across the world. I’m always unimpressed with the selection of produce from the major chains in the UAE; the fruit, veg, fish and sometimes meat are as fresh as my flip-flop. Market & Platters has an attention to detail and a level of care that inspires me to cook more and, most importantly, helps me eat healthily. It’s a great place to find inspiration for the kitchen. I made a Sri-Lankan curry the other night and Market & Platters sorted me out with fresh fish prepared upon request, spice mixtures and amazing vegetables. It allowed me to make something really special for my wife and stock up on brownie points that I’m collecting for a lads’ trip to Las Vegas.

Pinnacle Tower, Dubai Marina, Dubai, daily 9am to 10pm. Tel: (04) 4504466. marketandplatters.com

M is for Market and Platters: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Hamdan Al Abri (singer/songwriter)
Narcy is a hip-hop MC, artist, producer, writer, actor, humanitarian and teacher. Originally from Basra, in Iraq, he was raised in the UAE. He has recorded two albums as the group Euphrates, one solo album (Fear Of An Arab Planet), three solo mix-tapes, The Arab Summit album, two concept EPs and an instrumental/experimental album called Warchestra. He’s acted in three short films and one feature film (City Of Life) and he’s a published writer (Diatribes Of A Dying Tribe). Never one to stand still, he’s working on an Arabic EP, an artist collective, plus a new solo album and a short film that will go with it.

Find out more about The Narcicyst at  thenarcicyst.com and facebook.com/Narcicyst

N is for Narcicyst: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Safe Smokingroove (DJ and producer)
Step outside right now and it’s only a matter of minutes before you turn into a hot, sweaty mess, but roll on mid-September, when Dubai’s outdoor bars and venues come into their own. Barasti is an expat hotspot, Nasimi is great for chillin’ by day and dancing by night, and Dek On 8 is stylish without being pretentious. And then, of course, there’s the Audio Tonic sessions each Friday at 360°, which should be on any clubhead’s calendar. That’s just scratching the surface so why not set yourself a mission to get around all of the best outdoor bars in the city? Just not in the one night, though.

Barasti Beach Bar, Le Méridien Mina Seyahi, Al Sufouh Road. Tel: (04) 3992313. barastibeach.com; Nasimi Beach, Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah. Tel: (04) 426 2626. facebook.com/nasimibeach; Dek On 8, Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City. Tel: (04) 4271000. facebook.com/thedekon8; 360°, Marina Walkway, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah. Tel: (055) 5008518. facebook.com/360dubai

Lee Curtiss for Audio Tonic's birthday bash

Izzy Abidi (Freshly Ground Sounds founder)
Peter is an up-and-coming local musician who plays original music around the UAE. He plays with Freshly Ground Sounds, the UAE’s independent music community, and gigs take place in parks, independent cafés and unique community venues. He began gigging the London scene with his band Pedro VIII. Now in Dubai and back on the acoustic guitar, he has been a huge success with Freshly Ground Sounds and has received various media coverage locally. He was also one of the chosen artists for the UAE’s first independent acoustic compilation and his original track New Hive received radio play on Dubai Eye radio station. Check out Peter’s talent at one of our Freshly Ground Sounds events, where you’ll meet independent music-loving, coffee-drinking, feet-tapping Freshly fans and musicians.

Find out more about the Freshly Ground Sounds community and upcoming gigs at facebook.com/FreshlyGroundSounds

P is for Peter Martin: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Q is for QUIET
Freddie Colinares (Hype Magazine)
Once the clubbing season is in full swing and the temperature is a bit more bearable, there’s so much to choose from on any given weekend in Dubai. But if you want a break from loud music and late nights, hire a 4×4, get your hands on some camping equipment and set off for the desert dunes near Al Ain. Cosy round a campfire as darkness sets in and burn food on a stick. Of course, you could pack a generator, crank up a sound system and smash the peace and quiet to smithereens. Two things to note though: find a driver with some off-road experience, and it gets bleedin’ chilly in the desert at night so pack your thermals – or a warm hoody at least.

From Dubai get on Al Ain Road (Route 66) and drive for about 75mins. The road passes Dubai Outlet Mall, the turn-off to the camel market and more 

Pictures of Dubai desert from the sky

Lisateca Discosant (Groove On The Grass promoter)
OK, strictly speaking not in or from Dubai but Recondite is someone that Groove On The Grass fans should definitely check out. He’s a German DJ/producer with tracks on labels such as Ghostly International, Hotflush and Dystopian. I first found out about him when his tracks were played by some of my favourite DJs, including Mind Against who dropped some of his tracks during their set at Groove On The Grass, arguably one of the best we had last season. Recondite’s minimalistic yet earthly sounds are inspired by his long walks in Bavarian forests, which might be why his music really affects me, as I am a huge nature lover as well. He’s definitely on the Groove On The Grass team’s radar and I hope to see him live soon.

Check out Recondite’s album Hinterland and follow him on facebook.com/ReconditeMusic/info

R is for Recondite: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Mel Pickup (Retroculture artist)

It’s a bit obvious, I know, but I don’t think you can have an A – Z of Dubai and not include Sandance. Held on the beach at Atlantis Hotel, usually every two months, it’s where we’ve been entertained by some of the biggest artists on the planet and it’s fabulous to have something like this on our doorstep. There’s usually something musically to suit all tastes and my favourite acts to date have been Jamiroquai, Richard Ashcroft, Nightmares On Wax, Morcheeba, Joris Voorn, Carl Cox and some guy called Mark Pickup. I’d love to see Fleetwood Mac, De La Soul and Prince there one day so nudge nudge to the team at Sandance. I’d love the opportunity to exhibit my art there too.

The next Sandance is expected to take place on the beach at Atlantis Hotel, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, on October 10. More info as we have it or keep checking sandance.ae

Sandance in Dubai - October and November details

Chris Braun (House United)
Adrenaline freaks should head to Skydive Dubai for a freefall jump out of a plane. I did this in February with Paul van Dyk when he was in town to DJ. There are two jump locations and both offer amazing views – either over Palm Jumeirah or over the most beautiful desert dunes. You need to pre-book and you shouldn’t be afraid of heights.

Skydive Dubai, JBR, Dubai, Thursday to Monday, 5.15am to 10am. Tel: (04) 3778888. skydivedubai.ae

Skydive Dubai - pictures and video

Megadon Betamax (DJ and producer)

Situated on the 24th floor of Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Uptown is sometimes a forgotten bar with a killer view from the terrace. The terrace is best at sunset or any time when it’s not packed, the drinks are average price, the staff are super nice and there are free bar snacks too. I went here a little while back after Audio Tonic at 360°. It was nice and quiet and we bagged a table in the corner of the terrace – perfect. Oh, and it also attracts the best sort of randoms.

Uptown Bar, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah, Dubai, daily 8pm to 2am. Tel: (04) 4068999. jumeriah.com

U is for Uptown Bar: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

V is for VINTAGE
Drum ‘n’ bass producer Altitude
As far as I’m concerned, cheese and wine are two of life’s best indulgences, especially when they’re put together. Vintage is a cheese and wine bar that helps you enjoy these two things properly with a good wine selection and great cheese display, warm freshly baked bread, terrines and lots of other goodness all in a nice laidback atmosphere. The white stilton with apricots is something to write home about but keep an emergency clothes peg for your nose in your pocket as some smelly cheeses might come your way.

Vintage, Pyramids Wafi, Oud Metha, Dubai, Friday to Wednesday, 5pm to 1am and Thursday, 5pm to 2am. Tel: (04) 3244100. yahoo.wafi.com/restaurants/vintage.html

V is for Vintage: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Warren Noronha (Groove On The Grass promoter)
This isn’t a fine dining recommendation nor is it a place to be ‘seen’. What it is, however, is a saving grace if you’re new to Dubai with a growling belly. Consider Wide Range your local, umbrella concept, affordable, multi-cuisine restaurant with branches in most residential hubs around Dubai. The menu is extensive and the range is, um, wide. They offer Middle Eastern, Indian (north and south), Chinese and regular fast food (burgers, sandwiches, fries and the like) at extremely affordable prices. So, if you’re a fast food junkie or a curry hound, Wide Range is your go-to spot. I’m a huge Mix Grill fan and they do this well. In fact, they do almost all of it well. The flavours are strong and the spice levels can be challenging depending on what you order. Wide Range’s free home delivery service goes hand-in-hand with its pocket-friendly prices. Yes, it’s a hard life.

Wide Range Restaurant has branches in Jumeirah Village Circle, Al Quoz and Tecom, Dubai. More details at widerangerestaurant.com

W is for Wide Range: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Mark Pickup (DJ and producer)
According to the Guinness World Records, At.mosphere, which sits on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, is the world’s highest restaurant. For amazing views of Dubai, this restaurant and bar is a must-visit if you’ve just moved to the emirate or have friends/family in town and want to show them the sights. There are floor-to-ceiling windows from the lift to the bar area so if you suffer from vertigo you may not want to look down. The food here is amazing and the bar is relatively chilled with a DJ playing most nights.

At.mosphere Lounge, 122nd floor, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai, daily noon to 2am. Tel: (04) 8883444. atmosphereburjkhalifa.com

Pictures of Dubai Downtown from above. Burj Khalifa and Downtown

DJ Drinky
Dubai Marina Yacht Club is a great little place. Downstairs is Yots Sports Lounge and upstairs is Aquara Lounge, which has a nice terrace with a great view of the marina and, of course, all the yachts moored alongside. Every taxi driver knows where this is so it’s easy to get to and it has a great lunch menu. Ladies’ nights on Tuesdays are really busy and there’s a nice little after-work crowd too. Don’t be put off by the name – it’s not as pretentious as it sounds. I remember rocking up here with a date a few months ago but I bumped into the Hype crew on the terrace. The date was unceremoniously ditched and it turned into one of those off-the-cuff quiet nights that went a bit wonky.

Aquara Lounge, Dubai Marina Yacht Club, daily 6pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 3627900. dubaimarinayachtclub.com

Y is for Yacht Club: Things to do in Dubai - an alternative A-Z

Lesley Wright (Hype Magazine)
While there’s a cool crew of people determined to bring proper clubbing and an edgy counter-culture to Dubai, there are those clubs and establishments that are part of the ‘bling ring’. In these venues, it’s all more hype and less substance, where champagne and sparklers play a more important role than talented DJs and dope beats. So keep your eyes peeled for ‘celebrity DJs’ such as Paris Hilton popping up in these venues and DON’T get sucked in, kids. Keep it real and help strengthen Dubai’s exciting underground community.

Get in the know by picking up your free copy of Hype every Sunday or download the digital version from the iTunes app store

Superheroes party in Dubai

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