The United Arab Emirates is a land of superlatives with the world’s tallest hotel, largest shopping mall, and one of the wealthiest economies in the world. Deciding to visit the UAE is easy; it’s more difficult to decide just which part you actually want to explore.
Fortunately, the UAE is fairly compact and visitors can easily visit several of the states in one day, although few tourists actually do. Here’s an informative guide to each state’s claim to fame and why you might want to visit.
Dubai’s massive investment in tourism has catapulted this state into the limelight to make it the most famous of all the UAE states. This global city is the main gateway to the UAE and offers beaches, souks, museums, fine dining and unique activities such as dune bashing, sand golf and hot air balloon rides over the desert.
Highlights are the sail-like Burj Al Arab, Deira Clock Tower, Global Village, Wild Wadi Waterpark and the colourful landmark of the Etisalat Tower.
Abu Dhabi is the capital and largest of the emirates by far, accounting for 87% of UAE territory. Believed to be the richest city in the world, it made its money from pearls, oil and natural gas.
Highlights include the newly completed Corniche Road waterfront, the White Fort (Qasr al-Hosn), Abu Dhabi Heritage Village, Al Ain Zoo, roller coaster rides at Hili Fun City and the new Louvre Museum of Art.
Surrounded by Sharjah, Ajman is the smallest of the emirates by area. The main attractions of this port city are shopping, dining and its gorgeous 20-mile white sandy beach.
Discover local history in the 18th century fort which was once the ruler’s palace; tour the old boat-building area of Dhow Yard and visit the archaeological site at Mowaihat.
This tiny emirate borders the Gulf of Oman and offers clean beaches, watersports and some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities in the UAE. Take a jeep trip to dry wadis and oases or attend the weekly Bull Butting (Bull fighting). Fujairah Fortress is the oldest fort in the UAE, dating back to 1670.
Must-see attractions include the Ain Al Madhab Gardens, Heritage Village and the mineral spa in the mountain foothills.
Located northeast of Dubai, Sharjah has become a dormitory suburb for Dubai workers. It has pleasant public architecture, best seen from a boat trip.
The Heritage Area is dominated by the Al Hisn Fort. Other attractions include the House of Poetry on Literature Square, the fascinating Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization and the Souq Al-Arsa where coffee houses offer mint tea and a plate of dates; a truly Arabic experience.
Ras al-Khaimah (R’as al Khayman)
Ras al-Khaimah is the most northerly of the seven United Arab Emirates, near the tip of the Mussandam peninsula. It offers more off-the-beaten-track desert experiences such as jeep tours and camel racing, but its culture and customs should be carefully observed.
Al Jazirah Al Hamra combines a traditional fishing village with the Ice Land Water Park while Sham is the place to find old wadi homes and rock engravings.
Umm al Quwain
Umm Al Quwain is the perfect antidote to Dubai, offering peaceful tranquility and great seafood. Go sailing, kayaking and windsurfing on the lagoon and discover seabirds, fish and flamingoes in the mangrove swamps. Off-dune buggy racing, skydiving and horse riding complement the quieter traditional pursuits such as falconry, fishing and dhow building.