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To most of the world, the United Arab Emirates is synonymous with Dubai. However, Dubai is just one of the UAE’s seven emirates and there is a lot more that the country offers. The UAE is primarily a commercial and business hub while also boasting of a rich history and culture. Located in the Middle East, it has a multi-cultural population and is also one of the most liberal countries in the region.
Dubai is hands down the most popular destination in the country. Huge shopping malls, luxury hotels, vibrant nightlife, and dramatic skyline are words that perfectly define the ultramodern city. Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest tower is one of the most recognised landmarks in Dubai. The city has no shortage of luxury hotels – Burj Al Arab and Atlantis the Palm are the best examples. While Burj Al Arab is the world’s seventh tallest hotel, Atlantis the Palm is located in one of the largest man-made islands in the world – Palm Jumeirah.
Dubai boasts some of the world’s largest and best shopping malls. Some of them are so vast that it feels like a small town – the Dubai Mall is a perfect example. But if indoor malls aren’t your thing, you can always explore the vibrant souqs. The Gold Souq is the most popular and as the name suggests, this is the best place to buy gold jewellery. The UNESCO world heritage listed Al Fahidi Historic District is a refreshing contrast from the downtown’s glitz and glamour. The restored and protected area contains buildings with traditional architecture and museums. For some stunning views of Dubai’s majestic skyline, you can go on a dhow cruise. Desert Safari and Hot Air Ballooning in the outskirts of Dubai and Indoor skiing in Ski Dubai are other popular activities the city offers.
UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi lacks the scale of Dubai’s grandeur, but it is one of the world’s wealthiest cities. Abu Dhabi’s prime attraction, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a treasure in Islamic architecture and welcomes everyone irrespective of their religion. The modern skyline of the city is made up of many shopping malls and skyscrapers. In late 2017, The Louvre Abu Dhabi was inaugurated and like its French counterpart, is an art and civilization museum. Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island is known for holding the annual Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Ferrari World amusement park. Abu Dhabi’s Mangrove National Park is another major attraction that has over 60 species of birds and offers water activities like kayaking and canoeing.
UAE’s third largest city, Sharjah, is labelled as the cultural capital of the country. The Sharjah Heritage Area is home to several museums and Emirati architecture. Sharjah Mosque, Al Noor Mosque and Sharjah Fort are popular landmarks and Mleiha Archaeological Centre in the outskirts of Sharjah city is an important historical site.
Located in the eastern part of the UAE, the oasis city of Al Ain is known for its bustling souks and camel market. Al Ain’s prime attractions are the Al Ain Palace Museum, Al Jahili Fort and The Jebel Hafeet Bronze Age tomb ruins.
Located in northeastern UAE, mountainous Hatta village is a great escape from the hustle-bustle of city life. Kayaking in the picturesque Hatta Dam, mountain biking and hiking in the mountains are popular activities.
On the edge of the Rub’ al Khali desert, the vast Liwa Oasis stretches for almost 150 km. The oasis features a cluster of villages, farms, a few forts and monuments and offers a great desert safari experience.
In the northern edge of the country, around 100km away from Dubai, lies the quiet city of Ras al Khaimah. The city’s traditional culture and sandy beaches are the main points of interest. From here, you can go on a road trip to the summit of Jebel Jais – the highest peak in the UAE.
Contrary to popular belief, there are certainly more experiences in the UAE than Dubai and deserts. To get a perspective of the true picture of the country, exploring all of its seven emirates is highly recommended.
Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest tower is one of the most recognised landmarks in Dubai.