From historical sites, award winning hotels, dramatic landscapes and crystal blue waters, there is plenty to celebrate in the United Arab Emirates. Whether you’re a resident or have only called this place home for a few years, the growing cultural, culinary and innovative buzz throughout the cities is undeniable.
We wanted to celebrate the regions personality, all seven of them, with a closer look at the Emirates that make up this diverse, bold and exciting part of the world. The best part? You can appreciate them all in just 24-hours.
Nobody can visit the capital of the UAE and not stop to admire the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. You don’t have to go inside, though it is spectacular, instead head there early morning with a cup of coffee and a pastry from the The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and watch the golden sun rise over the peaks. Walk over to the North Gate to grab some breakfast at The Coffee Club before jumping in the car for 90-minute drive to Dubai.
You can spend 24 hours in Dubai exploring various sites but we suggest driving straight to the Atlantis Hotel where a helicopter tour will await to show you everything that the city has to offer in no more than 25 minutes. Afterwards whizz past the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa towards 19th century Bastakiya Quarter to see traditional Old Dubai.
Known as cultural capital of the UAE a visit to the Sharjah Art Museum is a must as well as the Blue Souk that has close to 600 shops offering all types of gifts. The dining scene focuses on high-quality Middle Eastern and Indian fare meaning that eating out is an authentic experience and one of our top picks is Shababeek that offers a glimpse into a Middle Eastern world of luxury and fine dining beside the Al Qasba Canal. If it’s relaxation you’re after then make sure to come back for when the new Sharjah Beach, an area of sand that’s 3.3 kilometres long, is complete.
Next stop on your journey is the smallest emirate of the seven, Ajman. You may have to skip some of the prettiest beaches in the UAE as you head to the historical parts with plenty of museums and a Bronze Age archaeological site. Immerse yourself in the region’s last dhow building yards, where artisans construct the vessels using traditional methods.
Umm-Al-Quwain is home to ancient city Tell Abraq, as well as one of the largest pre-Islamic sites in the UAE, Ed-Dur, but it’s the Seneyah Island that has captured our attention. The nature sanctuary is home to native Al Qaram trees, as well as nesting birds including flamingos, herons and plovers. Make sure to pack a picnic for the trip from gourmet deli Finer Things that offers cheeses, relish, crackers and biscuits among other items.
A lot of effort is going into making Ras-Al-Khaimah the lead destination for luxury adventure holidays, including the world’s longest zip line in Jebel Jais which circumstantially is the tallest mountain in the UAE. The rugged beauty feels far from the glitz and glamour of Dubai or Abu Dhabi and if adrenaline boosting activities are not your thing, you can enjoy natural therapy in the mineral-rich waters of Khatt Hot Springs.
Lastly, the road leads you to Fujeirah which sits on the shores of the Indian Ocean surrounded by mountains. You have two options, either explore the history such as UAE’s oldest mosque Al Bidyah built in 1446 or Fujairah Historic Fort where the the ruling family also used to live. Or, dive into the rich marine life around Snoopy Island where among the colourful fish you might also spot turtles and white tip reef sharks. Whatever you decide, make sure to grab dinner at Swaad, an elegant restaurant offering the finest authentic Indian cuisine based in Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort.
By Diana Bell-Heather