UAE thrills and skills: 18 ways to master an art or stare fear in the face

This month we’re all about confronting our fears, and upgrading talent tiers…

Self-improvement is a lifelong commitment, but the Holy Month of Ramadan has traditionally been a time where we look inward and get stuck into some serious work on ourselves. In this round-up we look at the two wolves within us all – one of them represents our fears, the other – our potential for growth. And we’re feeding them both, on a diet of thrills and skills…

Thrill: Rollerin’ with the punches – Thrill rating 7.5/10

There are more miles of amusement ride track in the UAE than there are miles of canal in Venice. Probably. We haven’t checked the maths, but the very fact that you briefly entertained it as plausible trivia, proves a point. There are three big-dipper-packed parks on Yas (including a number of record breakers), a clutch of white knuckle, jowl-flapping roller coasters at Dubai Parks and Resorts, IMG Worlds of Adventure, and a very unM25-like London Loop at Global Village. There’s even one inside the Dubai Hills Mall, in case the need for simulated oblivion strikes you mid-retail splurge. Our favourite one though, has to be the Madagascar-themed Mad Pursuit at Motiongate – your journey begins with a canon blast into fractally-interrupted blackness, and only gets more intense from there.

Dubai Parks and Resorts, Sun to Thur 12pm to 9pm, Fri to Sat 12pm to 10pm, Dhs295. Tel: (800) 2629464. @dubaiparksandresorts

Skill: On the to-dune list – skill rating 7/10

You can give your stomach a more pragmatic away day with an advanced course of desert motoring via the Emirates Driving Institute. Full-day, let’s not call them ‘crash’, courses start at just Dhs700 – and they’ll teach you tips and techniques for off-roading, desert recovery, and four-wheeled dune surfing, as well as offering insights into the theoretical and mechanical nature of summiting sand.

Multiple locations, from Dhs700. Tel: (0)4 263 1100. edi-uae.com

Thrill: Laughter is the best medicine – thrill level 5.5/10

That’s what they say, isn’t it? It’s not a universal truth, sometimes antibiotics make more sense, but when it comes to existential ennui or maladies of the mind, stand-up comedy gets to the site of pain, fast. And there’s no better place in the UAE to watch people on stage saying funny things, live and relatively uncensored – than at The Selfdrive Laughter Factory. The, as-yet-unspecified, trio for March’s shows will be lining up LOLs between the 7th and 9th of the month. And we’ve got a funny feeling it’ll be a laugh riot.

Multiple locations, tickets from around Dhs160. thelaughterfactory.com

Skill: Stand up for yourself – skill level 8/10

“Everyone says I should be on the stage”. Prove it. The Courtyard Playhouse in Al Quoz has been providing a platform for the dramatic arts since 2013, and in between their own ovation-courting performances, comedy nights and National Theatre Live screenings – they offer a range of workshops for kids and adults, including improv. And whilst it might not be technically possible to teach spontaneous creativity, the improvisation maestros at Courtyard can arm you with a humourist’s tool kit for stitching together hilarious hypotheticals from the loose end of whoever’s line it is anyway.

The Courtyard, Al Quoz, the next Improv Monthly Mashup is on March 10, 4.30pm to 6pm, Dhs200. courtyardplayhouse.com


Thrill: Wave if you want to go faster – thrill level 7/10

Poised to open imminently, Surf Abu Dhabi on Hudayriyat Island will offer gnarly corduroy chasers the opportunity to ride “the world’s biggest man-made wave”. It’s been designed in partnership with an organisation fronted by pro surfing royalty (and World Surf League champion a record 11 times) – the Kelly Slater Wave Co. And when it finally opens, amongst the island’s other active attractions – will reinforce Hudayriyat’s reputation as a GCC adventure epicentre.


Skill: Board meeting – skill level 8.5/10

Surf House Dubai, as their name may imply, is one of the emirate’s most trusted custodians of the ocean – and their team of expert wave whisperers have an outstanding record in getting newbies on the barrel shredding train. Prices for private sessions are Dhs325, with discounts for groups and multi-lesson packages.



Thrill: chute me now – thrill level 8.5/10

There are few better ways to harvest the body’s own natural supply of thrill juice than by hurling yourself out of a perfectly functioning plane. And if that sounds like a fun activity to you (firstly, is everything ok?), you can take part in a tandem tumble from 13,000 feet above Dubai’s shoreline (there’s also a desert descent) from Dhs2,499. That price is inclusive of a one-way airfare, limitless bragging rights and all-you-can-burn trips to the adrenaline buffet

Al Seyahi St, Dubai Marina, daily 8.30am to 2.30pm, from Dhs2,499. Tel: (0)4 377 8888. skydivedubai.ae

Skill: coup de Gracie – skill level 8/10

If you prefer to hit the deck from a less vertiginous height – alongside learning the fundamentals of a much-loved martial art, jiu-jitsu clearly seems like the sport for you. At the Middle East’s only accredited Royce Gracie Academy, you can benefit from the distilled wisdom of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu masters, learn how to defend yourself against opponents that are larger than you, and develop disciplined life skills that feed into a surprisingly diverse mix of real-world applications.

API 1000 Complex, Al Wasl Road, Mon to Fri 10am to 9pm, Sat 9am to 2pm, closed Sun, from Dhs599 per month. Tel: (0)4 331 4484. roycegraciedubai.com


Thrill: The spice is right – thrill level 5/10

For those that enjoy their food with a side of thermonuclear fallout, there are now a few places in Dubai where you can dance with the (Carolina) Reaper, one of the hottest chilli peppers on earth (shout out to Dave’s Hot Chicken). But if you want to go head-to-head with one of the city’s most fearsome Hot Ones, make your way to one of the Buffalo Wings and Rings outlets. Here you can take part in their One Million (Schoville Units) challenge, where successful gastronomic gladiators will win a coveted spot on their ‘Wall of Flame’. You just have to sign a little waiver first.

DIFC and JLT (Cluster U), wings from Dhs3 per piece on Wed. dubai.bwr-intl.com

Skill: Thai a new way of cooking – skill level 6/10

Give a man a curry, and it’ll feed him for a day. Teach him to make a curry and he’ll have that spice on tap for a lifetime. Or something like that. The Skilldear Dubai website has some amazing cooking classes on its books, with multiple South East Asian cuisine immersions. Our pick of the clicks is the three-hour Fundamentals of Thai Cuisine which will set you up with the know-how to knock out your own kaeng khiao wan (green Thai curry), starting with a paste made from scratch. How hot you go, is entirely up to you, but remember all good curries burn twice.

JLT Cluster I, next session 6pm Thu March 7, Dhs500. skilldeer.com


Thrill: The writing is on the wall – Thrill 5/10

Ask any toddler, there’s something innately human about drawing on walls. Early human cave paintings are almost certainly the oldest surviving examples of homo sapiens ‘doing art’, and whilst it hasn’t dimmed in popularity in the intervening years, it has generally become less socially acceptable to manifest your murals in public spaces. A notable exception to the rule in Dubai, is at Wild Paint House – which offers graffiti sessions, right in its own back yard (there’s even a glow-in-the-dark option). Let the nozzles of war paint fly and etch your design on walls, canvasses, and statuette souvenirs.

Al Quoz Industrial Area 1, 2pm to 8pm Weds to Fri, 10am to 10pm Sat and Sun, from Dhs180. Tel: (0)56 145 9689, wildpainthouse.com

Skill: School of rock – skill rating 8.5/10

Music is another ancient art form – and as long as you’re not playing Stairway to Heaven, the laws regarding its public performance, are significantly less strict. Melodica has locations across the UAE, and they offer guitar lessons from just Dhs120. You might not become a shred demon overnight, but keep at it, and you’ll be scaling those melodic mountains in no time.

Multiple locations, from Dhs120. melodica.ae


Thrill: A nice spot for lunch – thrill level 8/10

Emirates Park Zoo has an incredibly diverse population of animal inhabitants, some of them cuddly, some of them decidedly less so. They also have awesome immersive experiences where you can get up and close and relatively personal with a select crew of animal pals. The Big Cat Lunch lets you eat dine in the company of an actual leopard, you can pose questions, take photos and there’s even a private expert-led tour.

Al Bahyah, 1pm to 2.30pm, Dhs273 per person (two to five people) includes zoo admission. Tel: (02) 501 0000, emiratesparkzooandresort.com

Skill: UFC you in the gym – skill level 8/10

From a king of the jungle, we’re clumsily pivoting to kings of the Octagon. There are currently five UFC gyms in Dubai, two in Abu Dhabi and one in Ajman – all of them offering tailored, expert MMA and BJJ coaching, as well as group classes. Improve your fitness, train like a champion, condition your mind, body and soul – and develop apex self-defence skills.

Multiple locations, membership from Dhs899. ufcgym.me


Thrill: Haven of the half pipe – thrill level 7/10

Dubai Design District is one of those arty enclaves of the city that hides a disproportionate ensemble of off-beat adventures. Its supporters point to the great restaurant melange, mega-club (Sky2.0), chic boutiques, visiting exhibitions, art, alfresco volleyball and basketball courts, an urban beach and a completely free-to-ride skatepark. Designed by Hardcore Skateparks of California, The Block offers challenging lips, rails, bowls, and halfpipes for you to make like Tony Hawk, and skate Until the Wheels Fall Off.

Dubai Design District, 9am to 10pm, free. dubaidesigndistrict.com

Skill: Roll on the weekend – skill level 8/10

Before you take on three dimensions of on-wheel locomotion, it’s generally advised to have a grasp of the basics. And at RollDXB – you can book tuition for how to roller skate on a mercifully flat rink. The learning curve is pretty sharp, as are those initial tumbles, and after a few lessons you should expect to graduate from a Bambi on ice aesthetic, to a more graceful sort of glide.

Shed 3 Marina Cubes Street, Dubai Maritime City, 11am to 11pm, lessons from Dhs367.50. rolldxb.com


Thrill: High tea – thrill level 7/10

Gourmands with a head for heights should make for a date at Dinner in the Sky. This lofty experience elevates dining in a very literal sense, with multi-course menus served on what is essentially a grand picnic table suspended 50 metres in the air. With day and night seatings available, your views include Dubai Marina, Dubai Harbour, Palm Jumeirah and Ain Dubai. Just try not to drop your cutlery.

Skydive Dubai, dining slots daily from 2pm to 9.30pm, priced from Dhs699. Tel: (0)58 819 3296, dinnerinthesky.ae

Skill: Super ‘Za – skill level 6/10

If you’re one of the hordes of people who bought an Ooni pizza oven, but have yet to master the base-ics (and the sauce, toppings, char-level etc), Kamil can help. His Pizza Craft workshop, instructs you on the essential knowledge and techniques required to knock-up an authentic Neapolitan style pizza. Or if you’re more voyeur than doer, you can always book in for one of his popular supper clubs.

JVC, selected dates, Dhs400. Check upcoming dates and book via breakbread.com

Images: Unspalsh