Glitter, gold, camels and futuristic glamour: when you think of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a plethora of images spring to mind, from endless undulating desert to gravity-defying skylines. However, the fact is, that the United Arab Emirates have a lot more to offer than the glamour of Dubai.
The United Arab Emirates was formed in the 1970s, when Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujayrah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain gained independence from Britain. Until the 1950s, when oil was discovered, the primary industry was fishing. Since then, the UAE’s economy has flourished, transforming the physical landscape, as well as societal norms and demographics. The formerly conservative area is now considered to be one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf; hordes of expats and tourists flock to the UAE for a new life ora short break.
A trip to the UAE offers an insight into the cultures of each of the seven emirates that form the country, as well as a blissful retreat into an other-worldly glamour and charm.
Most people looking for direct flights to UAE will fly to Dubai International Airport (DXB), although there are also international airports in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, and Sharjah.
When you plan your trip to the UAE really depends on what you want to go for. If you are all about shopping malls the size of small villages, the climate doesn’t really matter; you can find cheap flights to UAE in the very hot season of June - August (when temperatures reach around 40 degrees and rarely drop below thirty at night) or the rainy season of January – March. If you plan on doing a little more exploring on your trip, you may want to go when the climate is hot, instead of exceedingly hot. You may find the climate more bearable from November to December, but with the favorable climate comes a rarity of cheap flights and, of course, seething crowds.
You may well visit UAE for the manmade islands, massive indoor ski slopes and white sand beaches (of the natural and man-made variety), but there is still a lot more on offer, should you wish to delve a little further.
The UAE’s capital city, Abu Dhabi is the country’s capital. Abu Dhabi is not as chic as Dubai, but the self-made sport and culture capital of the UAE also has fewer traffic jam, more green space and a host of world records under its proverbial belt. (Including world’s tower with the greatest lean, world’s highest afternoon tea, fastest rollercoaster and largest hand-loomed carpet, to name but a few. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven emirates, taking up nearly 87% of the country’s total area.
Abu Dhabi is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, yet it still retains its charm, making the glitz of Dubai look positively brash in comparison.
The smallest of the seven emirates, Ajman, is often overlooked. However, despite its diminutive size, the country is prospering; visitors will be rewarded with kilometer upon kilometer of immaculate, deserted white-sand beaches, a far cray (and welcome break) from the hustle and bustle of nearby Dubai. Ajman gives you a glimpse into life in all seven emirates in the old days, before oil was discovered, transforming the fortunes of the Emirates and possesses an optimistic dignity that makes it impossible to resist.
Probably the best known of the seven emirates, Dubai’s reputation precedes it! World-class shopping, unimaginable opulence, and reality-defying architecture are complemented by breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. Your first trip to Dubai will be a shock, as you are faced with whole new levels of extravagance and innovation, which juxtapose the city’s Arabic roots. After your first trip, it is likely that you will be in love with Dubai’s action-packed, hot, shiny, futuristic vibe.
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The commercial center of the UAE, Fujairah is lined with evidence of the prospering oil industry. Sleek office blocks line the streets and huge fields play out either side of the waterfront, laden with countless oil storage barrels. On your trip to UAE, it is worth stopping at Fujairah City, to get an idea of the sheer scale of the oil industry, and to take advantage of the city’s developments, including Fujairah City Centre Mall and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. If you venture out of the city, you will find some of the best snorkeling, diving, and swimming, in the crystalline waters of the Gulf of Oman.
If you are looking for varied scenery featuring hot springs, white sand, mountain ranges and mirage-perfect oases, Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) is the emirate for you!
Like the rest of the Emirates, RAK is growing at an incredible rate – it now boasts an artificial island and five-star resorts. However, in addition to the standard trappings of the newly rich emirates, RAK is the home to priceless, incomparable beauty in the form of stunning beaches and breath-taking mountain views. Most visitors to RAK head for Al Hamra, a resort based 9 miles from the city center.
The third largest emirate is fiercely protective of its roots. It is this respect and protectiveness that caused UNESCO to declare the emirate as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World (a title that Abu Dhabi is now vying for). It is also due to this defense of the emirate’s past that, in Sharjah, the tenets of Islam and decency laws are taken very seriously. Men and women are required to dress modestly; no knees, backs or stomachs on a show. One-piece swimsuits (no bikinis) are permitted, but only at your hotel’s beach or pool. You will also be unlikely to find fine-dining, public beaches or alcohol. This, however, could see as a fair trade, because what you will get is incredible galleries and museums, fantastic souks and an unspoiled air that leaves you wondering what century you are in.
The least populous emirate, Umm al Quwain gives a good insight into what the UAE was like before oil was discovered. Situated on the West Coast, where lush mangrove forests meet the sea, Umm al Quwain boasts idyllic landscapes of rippling desert dunes and vibrant oases. However, don’t be deceived into thinking this unassuming emirate is quiet or even boring; alongside its natural beauty; Umm al Quwain has everything one may expect from a seaside holiday location, including a water park, stunning Corniche, water sports and even camel racing!
The multi-faceted UAE offers something for all tastes; from unimaginable luxury to the rugged natural beauty of the landscape. The only way to discover your favorite emirate is to explore them all and discover the true beauty that lies within.
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