With its full-throttle development, iconic skylines of high-rises, and world famous beach resorts, the United Arab Emirates has become a favorite for family holidays and city breaks. Landmark tourist attractions such as Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa and Abu Dhabi’s modern Sheikh Zayed Mosque, have branded the UAE as an up-to-the-minute luxury destination.
Scrape below the surface though, and you’ll find there’s more here than skyscrapers, shopping, and sandy shores. The various UAE destinations offer culture fans plenty of things to do. Delve into the country’s Bedouin past on starry desert nights before exploring the many forts that guarded the coastline long before the domination of the glitzy high-rises. While for nature-lovers, the desert starts where the cities end, and the jagged peaks of the Hajar Mountains are ripe
The museum is recognized for its collection of works by Arabic artists and also for its important pieces by European artists who specialized in painting the Arab world. The museum is also noted for its program of temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
A must-do for anyone who wants to snap a great vista, the summit of Jebel Hafeet is a favorite day trip from Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. This is the second highest peak in the United Arab Emirates, and far-reaching, sumptuous desert panoramas greet you all the way up to the top on the winding road. After the twisting mountain road drive, you are rewarded with being able to see across the area’s vast sweep of desert.
The Bastakia quarter of Dubai is the last remaining fragment of Old Dubai and shouldn’t be missed. This small heritage area really evokes the simpler, gentler past of the city before skyscrapers took over the skyline.
Narrow lanes are lined with beautifully preserved buildings in typical Arabian architectural styles, many with wind-tower features.
Various museums allow you to enter the houses and see typical Arabian interiors within the quarter, along with mosques and a small surviving segment of the original Dubai city wall.
For those with an adventurous streak, make a beeline for the empty stretch of desert hugging the coastline outside the cities. You’ll find plenty of things to do here, from four-wheel-drive trips and dune-buggy journeys, to sand boarding, hiking, and camel treks.
Most people plan a desert trip from Dubai, but Abu Dhabi and Fujairah are also excellent bases for desert sightseeing. Bedouin-style dinners are a softer alternative if you want to experience the empty beauty of the desert.
There’s a beach for everyone in the United Arab Emirates. From the city beaches along the coast of Dubai, with their high-rise background, and Abu Dhabi’s golden sand beaches along its island-littered coastline, to the luxury sweeps of sand around Ajman and the wilder beaches of the Emirate of Fujairah, you have plenty of choice.
Many luxury hotels have private patches of sand, which non-guests can use for a day fee. Water-sports such as diving, jet skiing, stand up paddle boarding, and snorkeling are also available at many resort locales.
Published in Melange Intl. Magazine October 2018.