Considering the sprawling forest of construction cranes marking Dubai City, it would be easy to assume that it is only an urban development. While this is true in part, the emirate also is home to numerous natural attractions. For instance, if you take the road east, concrete will soon give way to a flat, almost featureless landscape—the northernmost tip of the Arabian Desert where acacias stand sentinel and feral camels graze.
The desert was the home of the Emirati until a few generations ago. Now it's become the Emirati playground. Local families visit to connect with their Arab roots or, in huge contrast, race across the sand in powerful 4WD vehicles. You can explore Dubai beyond the city on two legs, four legs (by camel or horse), or on four wheels. But remember, if you have a rental car it won't be insured for off-road driving—something you shouldn't do without a good map and backup water supplies. To be extra careful, hire a reliable tour company to take you on an off-road adventure.
There are also several desert resorts located outside Dubai City.