United Arab Emirates
The better known Dubai and Abu Dhabi are just two of the seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. There is more to the place than big, bigger, biggest. Here are some less obvious attractions that might hold your interest.
Go into the desert with a four-wheel-drive and try riding up and down some of the sand dunes or simply camp under a clear desert sky. Or perhaps you can visit one of the many cool and refreshing wadis in the Hajar Mountains (aka Al Hajar Mountains). Want to see what Dubai would look like without the oil wealth? Go to Umm al Quwain, the Emirate that lost out. For some cultural refreshment, and less bling, try Sharjah, which advertises itself as the cultural capital of the Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates are easy to travel and get into, the main hubs of entry being Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Almost everybody gets a visa on arrival, which is valid for a month.
While the United Arab Emirates are relatively liberal as far as foreigners are concerned, you should be aware that you are still visiting an Islamic country. Sure you can get alcohol, and there are bars and nightclubs, and beaches where women sunbathe in bikinis, however, don’t push the culturally established boundaries. Public drunkenness is not accepted, and neither is cuddling or kissing in public. Both are offenses that can get you expelled or jailed.
Highlights from United Arab Emirates
- Gaze over Dubai from the world’s highest building (at the time of this writing), the Burj Khalifa, or have high-tea in what is often called “the world’s only seven star hotel”, the Burj Al Arab
- Shop in one of the many malls that Dubai has to offer, including the largest one in the world, the Dubai Mall, or go skiing at Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates
- Stroll around the Old Souk of Dubai to take in a whiff of the past
- Go to Abu Dhabi to see more wealth than you can imagine, visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, or the Formula 1 racing track on Yas Island, and while you are there take a ride on the world’s fastest roller-coaster in Ferrari World
- Visit some museums in conservative Sharjah, the cultural capital of the UAE
- See how Dubai would look without the money in Umm al-Quwain
- Take a dip in a cool mountain spring in one of the many wadis that dot the Hajar Mountains
- Get out into the desert at the Liwa Oasis, go dune bashing, or camp out under the stars
- Relax on one of the many beaches that dot the country
Hints and Tips for United Arab Emirates
- The United Arab Emirates are not a cheap destination. There are several options to save money. You can look into a hospitality exchange service like couch surfing or you can stay in one of the lesser known Emirates, Ajman, or Sharjah are right next door to Dubai and cheaper.
- It is affordable and easy to get around the big cities with public transport, it will save you money to use them. You can also get buses to the other Emirates.
- If you are planning on going to, staying, or even just passing through Sharjah, it is good to know that alcohol is prohibited in Sharjah and there are regular checks.
- To see more of the country than just the cities, you will need your own wheels or have to take a tour. It is worth going into the desert or visiting the Hajar Mountains, if only to get a taste of something different than malls and beaches.
- While you can wear a bikini at most beaches, you might get stares on the public ones, and may find it more comfortable to go to one of the many private beaches. Never go topless!
- The best time to visit the United Arab Emirates is from October to around April when temperatures are agreeable. Outside of these months, be warned, temperatures can reach 48°C (118.4°F)!