United Arab Emirates Holidays
"For stunning beaches, days of endless sunshine and the ultimate in luxury, the United Arab Emirates ticks all the boxes..."
The United Arab Emirates, most commonly referred to as the UAE was founded in 1971 and consists of a federation of 7 Emirates (states); Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah,Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. The UAE is located in the east of the Arabian Peninsula and borders Oman and Saudi Arabia. The UAE’s oil reserves are the seventh largest in the world and while the region’s economy relies heavily on oil revenues, there has been significant investment in infrastructure, commerce and tourism, resulting in one of the most luxurious, glamorous and exclusive tourist destinations in the world, for anyone looking for a luxury holiday.
The UAE is a place of extremes: the vast sandy heat of the desert; the stunning turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf and the massive skyscrapers that dominate its city’s skylines. It is the ideal marriage of spectacular natural scenery and manmade wonders that will inspire awe and wonder in equal measure. Its two most famous cities are Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which combine mesmerizing architecture and a bustling culture to create the perfect holiday package. They have more shops than anyone could ever ask for, luxury hotels and an incredible nightlife. A surprising and enchanting destination that everyone should see at least once.
United Arab Emirates Travel Guide
At A Glance:
A series of seven kingdoms (emirates) located along the Persian Gulf, many of them have become fabulously wealthy due to the discovery of oil in the 1950’s and 60’s. Each kingdom is ruled by its own royal dynasty and has slightly differing rules, meaning that all visitors should check on local laws and customs. Its capital is Abu Dhabi, an island located in the Gulf, which is renowned for its massive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. While the largest city Dubai, has become an international centre for commerce and contains the biggest building in the world. The UAE has a total of around 10 million inhabitants, who almost all live in the coastal areas.
History & Culture
The first known human settlement in the city dates all the way to back 3,000 BC but the real turning point for the UAE wasn’t until oil was discovered around the 1950’s. Prior to the first oil discoveries, the region of what is now known as the UAE thrived off the pearl trade and fishing. The pearl industry was in its prime for many years, with the first ever pearls from archaeological sites dating as far as 7,000 years. In 1962 oil was first exported and the fortunes of the region were changed indefinitely. The UAE’s important location between Europe and the Far East, meant that it became an important trading hub from the time of the Arab conquests in 630 AD. This dramatically increased in the 19th century when a series of agreements with the British, made the ‘Emirates’ one of the pearl trading capitals of the world and they all thrived. However, the Wall Street Crash and subsequent depression dramatically diminished demand and they became relatively poor in the early half of the 20th century. Oil was first discovered in the Gulf in the 1930’s, but vast new supplies were found in the 1950’s and 1960’s, which swiftly made them some of the richest countries in the world. This led to a building boom, where cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi invested huge amounts in infrastructure. The rulers of the 7 emirates then reached an agreement in 1971, becoming seven united kingdoms, under one flag, although the ruling families retain their influence over their individual provinces. Given the region’s long history, the UAE has a rich cultural heritage that has been influenced heavily by its unique terrain comprising desserts, oasis, coastline and mountains. Prior to the regions modernisation, the harsh conditions meant that a resourcefulness and resilience was required to survive, which came through a tribal structure where family, respect, honour and a selfless hospitality, as well as Islam, were at the forefront of culture. These attributes are still strongly prevalent in today’s Emirati culture. Whilst the UAE is considered to be the most liberal country on the Arabian Peninsula, social norms and customs should still be observed.
Emirati cuisine blends together the flavours of Asia and the signature ingredients of the Middle East (which focus heavily on meat, grain and dairy). Some typical Emirati dishes include Al Jabab Bread, Falafel, dishes using kebab meat, dishes using camel meat, and a mixed rice dish called Kabsa. But with all the traditional food on offer, the city is probably most famed for its many global dining options; visitors will often find everything from Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, American, British, French, Italian, Spanish and many more. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are also particularly popular destinations for celebrity chefs and high end restaurant chains. If it is fine dining that you like, you will not be disappointed here. Camel meat is considered to be the height of luxury and it is usually reserved for special occasions. Like many Middle Eastern Countries, breakfast is absolutely vital and is usually consists of eggs, cheese, vegetables and bread. While almost every dish is accompanied by mint infused red tea or Arabic coffee (a bit like expresso).
Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are wonderful places to take children, thanks to the many incredible facilities that have been specifically built for the younger members of the clan. The best of these are found in Dubai, with the Wild Wadi Waterpark offering aquatic fun for people of all ages and the vast Kidzania: a city designed specifically for children to play in. Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is also excellent, containing several great rides, including the fastest rollercoaster in the world. Families will also find a load of great facilities in the huge malls of both cities, with things like ice-rinks and cinemas common.
Tours & Attractions
No trip to the UAE would be complete without a visit to Dubai’s pair of massive skyscrapers, known as Burj al Arab and Burj Khalifa. The former is an architectural wonder shaped like a sail boat in the middle of the Persian Gulf, while the latter stands 830 metres above the city, making it the biggest building in the world. The Jumeriah Beach in Dubai is also an excellent place to visit, thanks to its golden sands and cool atmosphere. Abu Dhabi is equally good, with the desert area that surrounds it ideal for thrill seekers and the famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque an absolute must.
The UAE is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to nightlife, with wild parting hot spots like Dubai and to a certain extent Abu Dhabi, and the other Emirates, where alcohol is frowned on. All visitors should note that the legal drinking age is 21 and any crimes committed like drink driving are likely to be punished more severely than in the west. The best nightlife is found in Dubai, where cool clubs and chic bars are the norm and internationally recognised entertainment acts regularly perform. Abu Dhabi is slightly more relaxed, offering a chilled-out party atmosphere that is generally centred around the 5-mile Corniche that runs along its seafront.
A shopper’s dream, it has some of the largest and most impressive shopping centres in the world. This combined with the smaller and more traditional souks, ensures that there is something for everyone to enjoy there. The biggest mall in the county is the Dubai Mall, which hosts more than 1200 stores and sells pretty much everything. While the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi is also large and has more than 400 shops. Dubai’s famous gold souk is also well-worth a visit and contains more than 300 jewellery stores.