The UAE’s Hidden Gems

Lindsay Judge   |   04 - 12 - 2020

We discover some of the destinations in the UAE that allow you to escape, get closer to nature and explore the beauty of this country.

Courtyard, Dubai



Nestled within the busy streets of Al Quoz you will find Courtyard. This artistic destination houses an art gallery, theatre coffee shops, gift shops, boutiques and photography studio. With a welcoming atmosphere, the Courtyard is the perfect place to take the whole family for a day of escapism. Mirroring the quaint streets of Europe this street of boutique destinations surrounded by greenery and unusual architecture is perfect for creative types, looking for a break from busy life.



Designed by architect Dariush Zandi in 1998, Courtyard was created as a community centre that would bring together people and allow them to engage in the worlds of art and culture. Zandi created the buildings by repurposing materials and components that were found around the UAE. He carefully preserved objects found on building sites or art auctions and brought them to their new home where they would be cared for. The result is a beautiful courtyard-style space, with each building façade inspired by a different country or region. The Courtyard which now regularly sees gift markets, yoga classes, art lessons and more taking place behind its gates, has become a home to many boutiques and creative businesses in the UAE over the last 22 years.


Al Ain Oasis


Al Ain Oasis is a 1,200-hectare area of lush greenery. This vast oasis became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011 and the recent construction of an educational Eco-Centre and the addition of an extensive system of shaded pathways has allowed it to become a perfect place to escape the stress of our busy lives. Miles of forest and lush green walkways Through a series of immersive interactive exhibits, the Eco-Centre highlights the measures being taken to preserve the delicate oasis ecosystem and celebrates the invaluable contribution that Al Ain’s oasis farmers have made to agriculture through their traditional farming methods.



There are many crops to be found growing within the oasis including thousands of date palms of 100 different varieties as well as mango trees, orange, bananas and figs. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization recognises all of Al Ain’s oases for their importance as repositories of genetic resources, biodiversity and cultural heritage.


Hatta Dam



Located in the Hajer mountains of Hatta, the not-so-secret Hatta Dam area has become a destination of choice for UAE residents looking to be at one with nature. As a result of the Dam, a large blue lake has become a destination for water sports and sightseeing.



The picturesque location has become home to activities including kayaking, boating and more. The winter months are the perfect time to visit the lake and its incredible mountain backdrop make it one of the most Instagrammable destinations in the UAE.


Sharjah Art Foundation



Sharjah has long been known for its commitment to art and culture and was recognised as the UNESCO cultural capital of the Arab World back in 1998. The Emirate has been rapidly growing it’s dedication to the cultural sector in recent years thanks to the Sharjah Art Foundation and the extensive programme of events, exhibitions and attractions that take place throughout the year. Located in Sharjah’s historic Art and Heritage areas, Sharjah Art Foundation activities and events take place throughout the year and include exhibitions featuring the work of Arab and international artists, performances, music, film screenings and artist talks as well as extensive art education programmes for children, adults and families.



There are dozens of museums and galleries to be explored with in the area and the Foundation hosts the annual Sharjah Biennial every two years which has become a central event within the Arab world. This is truly one of the best places in the country for those looking to immerse themselves in the worlds of art and culture and support the local art communities.


 Al Zorah Mangroves, Ajman



Spanning over 5.4 million square metres the lagoons and mangrove forests of Al Zorah are home to an incredible variety of marine and plant life. The site was carefully developed to protect its rich natural heritage as well as inviting visitors to enjoy its beauty. The site has been recognised as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.



For visitors there are hundreds of miles of pathways and waterways through the mangroves, allowing guests to explore the beauty of its nature. One of the main attractions is the tidal lagoon; an inland creek that extends over 2 square kilometres of biologically and ecologically rich wetland. All of the districts of the mangroves are easily accessible to visitors with promenades and walkways inviting gets to get even closer to nature. There are a number of activities including kayaking and bicycle trains to be explored.



Jubail Mangrove Park



Abu Dhabi’s Mangroves have long been a feature of beauty in the city but until the opening of Jubail Mangrove Park in 2018 there was no self-contained centre, allowing visitors to get even closer to the protected beauty of the mangroves.



The aim of the park is to enhance the awareness appreciation and understanding of the important ecological function of the mangrove habitats as well as protecting the Abu Dhabi coastline and supporting biodiversity. Visitors will discover a meandering boardwalk that will take them through the mangroves and allow them to get closer to this cherished naturally occurring elements.