A destination with a hundred thousand years of history, they say, but one that has made its mark on the tourist map very recently. Large swathes of barren deserts punctuated with lush, green oasis are what characterizes this young conglomerate of seven emirates. Beyond the glamour and glitter of Dubai, the most well-known of the seven emirates lies a multi-faceted region that’s waiting to be explored.
Abu Dhabi: The richest and the largest
By far the richest and sitting on huge deposits of oil, Abu Dhabi is the richest emirate and the capital city of the kingdom. Mind boggling skyscrapers, each of them an architectural splendor crowd the 14-kilometer long island. It is fascinating and the world’s most expensive hotel, the Emirates Palace should surely not be missed. Even if you aren’t staying there, do drop in for tea, just to soak in the amazing architecture. The finest statement in architecture is perhaps the largest mosque, the Sheikh Zayed mosque, which is also the final resting place of Sheikh Zayed, the visionary and the first president of the emirates that used to be a British colony before 1971. The mosque’s four minarets that rise to 107 meters are visible even from a distance. The 82 domes are an awesome example of the finest in architecture.
Fujairah: Of beaches, mountains, and markets
This young emirate has the most diverse landscapes. Located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman, the white sand beaches are a major draw for tourists. The clear waters also offer great snorkeling and scuba-diving opportunities. Towards the north, the majestic Hajar mountains separate the emirate from Oman. It is an easy day-trip from Fujairah to the beautiful but stark landscapes of the Musandam enclave in Oman. While in Fujairah, do visit the vibrant Friday Market, that’s a spectacle of color with vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to carpets and even antiques. The Friday Market, unlike what its name indicates is open until the wee hours of the morning every day. The Al Bidya Mosque, the oldest mosque in the UAE shouldn’t be missed too.
Sharjah: The Cultural Capital
The emirate is aptly called the cultural capital of the UAE. Museums housed in buildings that have been given a Renaissance look are its biggest draw. Most of the museums are located around the Cultural Roundabout and the Sharjah Art Museum is the biggest in the Gulf. The museum houses impressive pieces of Arabic and Oriental Art. A harbor front is a lively place and the traditional dhows moored on the harbor reflect the importance this emirate holds for trade with Iran. There used to be a souk just beside the harbor, but it has been moved to the town center and houses many shops selling wonderful souvenirs.
The Al Noor Island, an artificial island accessible by bridge from Corniche Street helps you escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The island itself has been wonderfully landscaped with gardens and sculptures. The butterfly house is an obvious attraction for the kids. The Sharjah Heritage Area is where you should head to catch a glimpse of traditional Arab life in these parts. The locality houses multiple museums and the Souk Al Arsah, a traditional styled market.
One of the best-kept secrets in Sharjah is the village of Kalba, an old fishing village and the southernmost village in the UAE. A thriving fish market on the seashore and the Al-Hisn museum are the major draws. The Khor Kalba Conservation Reserve is a natural wonder and is the northernmost mangrove forest in the world. The best time to visit this place is during spring and autumn when you can spot kingfishers, reef herons, and booted warblers as they make their annual migration.
Dubai: The World City
Captivating, enchanting, luxurious, Dubai is a city that many dreams of. A city where business, luxury, entertainment, and culture thrive together. Often called a city of fantasies, Dubai city is a unique blend of the old and the modern. Except for the months between June and August, when outdoor temperatures can reach as high as fifty degrees Celsius, the city does have an enjoyable climate.
Even though, Dubai is one of the most glamorous places on the planet, getting there is pretty easy. Many international airlines fly there, but also low-cost companies that offer cheap flights could be a great option. If you’re already in Saudi-Arabia, you should check out Dammam to Dubai flights to get the best deals with a variety of airlines, such as Sunstate Airlines, Emirates, Flydubai, and Saudi Arabian Air.
Dubai has something that appeals to all ages. Whether you are a business traveler, or a family looking to enjoy the sun and the beach, or one attracted to Dubai’s shopping glamor, the city wouldn’t disappoint you. The Burj Khalifa is, of course, the most well-known and glimpses of the downtown from the top are amazing. A lazy afternoon by the Dubai Creek exploring the shops and the souks or a show at the Dubai Opera is worth exploring when in the city. If you are the one who seeks adventure, a warm air balloon ride in the desert is a must and you could also try skydiving from the Palm Jumeirah. Dubai is also the place where you could savor world cuisine, but do not miss out on the experience of Emirati food at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Do try out the Arabic coffee.