Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Exploring The UAE - Beyond Dubai

Starting this post with a quick geography lesson: Dubai is one of seven Emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although you would be forgiven for thinking that Dubai is the UAE / the UAE is Dubai there are actually six other Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain) which have their own laws, ruling families and history.

One of my goals for this year was to explore my new home country and venture beyond Downtown Dubai at the weekends. The UAE is really easy to explore by car, with the other Emirates being a 1-2 hour drive away and each of the offering something different. I haven't ticked them all off of my list yet but if you're in Dubai and want to get a feel for the rest of the UAE then these are my top picks (so far):

Abu Dhabi - For Culture 

As the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi city still has its share of high-rise buildings and five-star hotels along the glitzy Corniche. The city is a network of interconnected islands with strips of sandy beaches, mangroves and clear blue water between them.

Abu Dhabi has become a cultural centre in recent years and your first stop is the Lourve Abu Dhabi, a beautiful gallery which tells the story of human history through comparative art. Next on your list is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - the largest in the world and one which welcomes all with daily tours.

Abu Dhabi's dining options are just as good as Dubai's - start your day with breakfast at No. 57 Boutique Cafe at Al Bateen Harbour and end it with dinner on Al Maryah Island - the business district is home to Abu Dhabi's Zuma and upscale Italian, Cafe Milano.

A Weekend In Abu Dhabi at The Hyatt Capital Gate
Two Contrasting Cafes to Visit in Abu Dhabi 

Fujairah - For Diving 

Located on the Gulf of Oman coast, Fujairah is the place to go for scuba diving and snorkling boasting clearer waters than the Persian Gulf which Dubai is situated on. I did my first ever scuba lesson at the Le Meridian resort, spending an hour in the pool getting to grips with the equipment before hopping on a boat for my first open water dive, where we were treated to the site of a giant sea turtle.

Fujairah has a few beach resorts to stay at which are nestle between a white sandy beach and the Hajjar Mountains and with no high-rise buildings it feels like an entire world away from Dubai (it's really only a 90-minute drive).

RAK - For...Zip-Lining

Ras Al Khamiah (RAK) in Arabic means "top of the tent" - fitting as RAK is the northernmost Emirate. The beach resorts in Al Hamra are the perfect weekend getaway from Dubai, we stayed at the Al Hamra Hilton which had huge bedrooms, beach access and a Trader Vic's Tiki Bar...

The main attraction in RAK is the Jebel Jais zipline - the world's longest (you might have noticed this is somewhat of a theme in the UAE). The zipline is a further 90-minute drive from the resorts in RAK but the drive itself is an experience, the road cutting zig-zagging up the side of a rocky mountain with the satnav route looking like an F1 circuit.

The entire zipline experience takes around two hours - there's quite a bit of safety briefing, getting kitted up, being transferred from car park to the equipment centre and to the actual zip line itself. The world's longest zipline is so fast that it only takes 2-3 minutes to complete, before a shorter zipline takes you back to the mini bus to return all the kit. Ziplining isn't something I ever saw myself being a fan of but it's super fun (far less scary than scuba diving), and means you can definitely justify an afternoon drinking Tiki cocktails on the beach...

Al Ain - For History 

Al Ain city is part of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi but is a separate city, located inland next to the Oman boarder. Not being on the coast gives Al Ain a very different feel - the city is much older, more traditional and a definite insight into life in the UAE before Dubai became "Dubai".

Al Ain is the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed so you can pay a visit to his former residence as well as take advantage of the greenery that we...don't really have so much of in Dubai by visiting the date palm oasis and hot springs.

We also found a little piece of British culture in Al Ain - the M&S in Bawadi Mall has a food court which provided us with plenty of car snacks for the drive back to Dubai...

Have you visited the UAE?


  1. This was interesting! I'd only heard of Dubai and Abu Dhabi before. It looks like such a varied place.

  2. Gorgeous pictures! Abu Dhabi is somewhere I would love to explore one day



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