The UAE is made up of 7 Emirates; Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Each emirate offers something different to travellers, from bright bold Dubai, sprawling capital Abu Dhabi and laidback Umm al-Quwain. Expect Arabian mystique, natural beauty and luxury hospitality and you will not be disappointed!
Abu Dhabi is an expansive desert spanning an impressive 87% of the United Arab Emirates and is also the capital of the UAE. However, don’t be fooled, this vast land is filled with wonders such as the sixth largest mosque in the world; the opulent and newly built Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Beautiful scenery ranging from luxurious high rise buildings, to pristine waterfalls, to the abundance of green glorious gardens and parks are awe-inspiring. If you are looking for a new exiting experience head to the Camel Race Track, common in eastern Abu Dhabi. If spectating isn’t for you take part in the action and participate in the ride of your life as specialized desert drivers take you on an action packed Dune Bashing adventure, then treat you to an elegant dinner afterward. Top things to do in Abu Dhabi include taking tea at the über-luxury Emirates Palace (unless you can afford to stay there of course), catch the F1 season on Yas Island and chill out at Khalifa Park.
The second largest city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate is Al Ain, which is often dubbed the ‘Garden City’ thanks to its lush greenery, which is in stark contrast to Abu Dhabi itself. The Al Ain oasis lies inland, close to the border town of Buraimi in Oman with which it almost merges. Explore the second tallest mountain in the UAE, Jebel Hafeet which stands at 1350 m tall. Discover the Al Ain Museum and Fort which was constructed to protect Al Ain from raiders. And for a unique experience, check out the Camel Souq for a photo opportunity and to catch a glimpse of everyday local life. The cultural site of Al Ain is also a recognised UNESCO World Heritage destination.
Ajman, though the smallest of the United Arab Emirates, is an excellent vantage point. From Ajman you can easily access Sharjah, Dubai, and Umm al Quwain. Although small, there is plenty to see and do such as exploring the Ajman Museum which is a 16th century fort. A favourite activity of locals is lounging on the white sands of Ajman beach, looking out on the crystal clear water. Dolphin spotting on the beach is the perfect way to unwind after a long day of shopping at many of the designer outlets, visiting the compelling Ajman museum, and dining at any of the pristine waterfront cafes. Ajman is also the most budget-friendly of the Emirates.
The most well-known of all the Emirates is Dubai, which is the main point of commerce and transport in the United Arab Emirates. There is much to see and do in Dubai; gawp at the towering Burj Khalifa skyscraper which rises to 829m. Get in quick though as this may not be the tallest building in the world soon if Changsha gets its way! Shopping is practically a sport in Dubai, and you can even participate in a shopping festival! If the ostentatious lifestyle is a bit too flamboyant for your tastes, spend some time immersing yourself in the culture rich Karama or Satwa. Here you will find locals who appreciate song, dance, and traditions. This part of Dubai is a thousand times removed from the chaos and materialism Dubai has grown to be known for. Whether you are looking to get out on the town and spend some cash, or find a quieter, tranquil area, Dubai is the place to be.
Fujairah is the newest of all the United Arab Emirates, gaining independence from Sharjah in 1952. A city built focused on its roadways and businesses, Fujairah is not ideal for traveling by foot. Thankfully there is no shortage of taxi drivers to escort you around. Many come to Fujairah for the enticing beaches. Others come for some of the unique opportunities, such as the flight school, Fujairah Aviation Academy which is located at the Fujairah Airport.
Ras al-Khaimah is located in the northern region of the United Arab Emirates. This emirates name aptly means “top of the tent”. Ras al-Khaimah’s hot climate makes for mild winters, an ideal destination for winter travelers. The UAE Awafi Festival is 3 weeks of pure fun in Ras al-Khaimah. The climactic event being a suspenseful sand dune race by the professional 4-wheel drivers of the United Arab Emirates. Browse the Ras Al Khaimah Old City, which is the oldest area with a souq, mosque, fort and fishing harbour. Learn about the local culture at the National Museum and see the remains of the 16th century Sheeba’s Palace. Experience traditional food and dance in the traditional heritage village. Spend some time shopping for food and souvenirs. There is also an impressive petting zoo and a ton of activities for children. Families often enjoy picnics together as they watch the race. There is no entry fee to the festival, talk about fun on a budget!
Sharjah is a unique destination in the sense that it contains land on both the Persian Gulf Coast as well as the Gulf of Oman. Sharjah is often described as the opposite of Dubai; generally cheaper with its own unique charm. If you are looking for a quiet, more conservative travel experience, look no further. Spend some time exploring the historical culture of the town in Heritage area – a great place to see historical restorations. Or check out one of the many museums, a great place to learn the background of the area. This self-proclaimed cultural capital of the UAE will not disappoint.
Umm al-Quwain is the most peaceful of all the United Arab Emirates. Without the busy city you really have a chance to unwind. You may find yourself relaxing on the beach at the Islands of Umm Al Quwain. Or perhaps you will visit Dreamland, the world’s biggest aqua park. For the ultimate chill out, head to the Islands of Umm Al Quwain, try a spot of Camel Racing or dune bashing in the winter and wander the interesting Umm Al Quwain Museum.