Once the exclusive terrain of nomadic Bedouin tribes, today the desert lands of the UAE are known for glittering gold souks, luxurious hotels, and a flourishing economy based on oil. Located on the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, The Emirates has attracted travellers since the Bronze Age. By the 16th century, Portuguese, Dutch and English added to an Arabian culture influenced by Persia, India and East Africa.
A journey to the seven emirates offers an opportunity to explore ancient crossroads transformed into cities of the future with soaring skyscrapers and traditional buildings topped by the ancient Persian barjeel. Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, offers panoramic views from two observation floors. The past is never out of sight, and travellers visiting the UAE delight in exploring the monarchy’s history at the 19th-century Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House or testing their haggling skills while wandering through Deira’s famous Gold Souk.
To see how the past shapes the present, the UAE offers mesmerizing museums and historic mosques. Fujairah is home to the 15th-century Al Bidya Mosque, said to be the oldest mosque in the UAE. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with its stunning Italian marble pillars and giant chandeliers studded with Swarovski crystals, calls the faithful to worship in the capital city of Abu Dhabi. The 18th-century Al Fahidi Fort welcomes visitors with narrated dioramas at Dubai Museum. Modern museums include the Louvre Aub Dhabi and the 17 museums of Sharjah, named a cultural capital twice by UNESCO.
Visitors interested in an urban getaway find UAE hotels in the heart of of Abu Dhabi and Dubai within minutes of world-class shopping and dining. And in the UAE, shopping means megamalls with indoor skiing, spectacular aquariums and endless shops. For a more low-key shopping experience, take an Abra water taxi to cross Dubai Creek for a trip to the Old Souk in Deira, the oldest part of Dubai.
The sparkling waters of the gulf lure holiday seekers to the beaches and islands of the UAE, such as Al Aqah and Snoopy Island, where divers and snorkellers enjoy the colorful marine life. Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island has multiple theme parks, include Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World Theme Park.
When visiting the UAE, remember to respect local culture; the specific rules differ throughout the seven emirates, but in general, visitors should dress conservatively and limit alsohol consumption to licensed restaurants and hotels.