Take a handful of space-age skylines, add a measure of glorious beaches, garnish with centuries-old traditions, and you’ve got the recipe for holidays to the United Arab Emirates.
The seven kingdoms of the UAE
Occupying the southeast horn of the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates – or UAE, for short – is a country made up of seven states, called emirates. Each one tells its own story, but they all share one thing – the climate. This part of the world basks in toasty winters and baking-hot summers.
The runaway winner of the UAE popularity contest is Dubai. It’s down, mostly, to a flashy, futuristic façade – cue the world’s tallest building and a famous manmade island that’s shaped like a palm tree. The country’s capital, Abu Dhabi, comes in a close second, boasting a skyline that’s just as out-of-this-world.
The other five emirates – Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain – often get less attention. But they definitely don’t deserve it. Ras Al Khaimah, for example, puts forward 40 footprint-free kilometres of coast, while Fujairah offers some of the best snorkelling spots along the Persian Gulf.
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Palm Jumeirah (Dubai)
Dubbed the eighth wonder of the world, there’s nowhere quite like Palm Jumeirah. Nearly 100 million cubic metres of sand were used to craft this palm tree-shaped archipelago, with its thick trunk, 16 mile-long fronds and a crescent shaped island as a breakwater. It doubles Dubai’s coastline and is four times the size of London’s Hyde Park – so big it can be seen from space.
Jumeirah Beach Residence (Dubai)
The translation of this place gives you some idea of what’s in store. It means ‘beautiful beach’, and its one-mile strip of cream-coloured sand is a textbook example. The area has cemented itself as one of the most exclusive spots in Dubai, with luxury hotels and restaurants lining the waterfront. Plus, it shares a border with swanky Dubai Marina.
Al Hamra (Ras Al Khaimah)
Dubai’s locals cottoned on to Al Hamra’s oasis-like charms years ago. Its palm groves, unblemished beaches and traditional vibes make it the go-to retreat. The area’s got a handful of luxury hotels, but it’s a far cry from neon-lit Dubai – an hour’s drive through the desert.