Tucked into a corner of the traditional, conservative MiddleEast lies the unique, progressive United Arab Emirates. Like mostcountries on the peninsula, the UAE made its wealth from oil andgas. Unlike its more traditional neighbours, it then expanded intotourism. Today it is a modern, trend-setting conglomeration ofhigh-rise cities with state-of-the-art tourist infrastructure,magnificent beaches and a paradise of duty free shopping.
The majority of people in the UAE are expatriates and most ofthem are there to live and work in Dubai. The city is a playgroundof palm-shaped islands, colossal skyscrapers, malls the size ofsmall towns, seven star hotels, supercars, michelin starrestaurants and luxury beach resorts. To the west of Dubai lies AbuDhabi, the capital, where visitors can enjoy large gardens andparks, green boulevards, sophisticated high-rise buildings, moderncommunication services and transport, international luxury hotels,rich shopping malls and cultural centres.
Alongside the two famous emirates sits Sharjah, the worldcapital of Islamic Culture. This conservative emirate plays host tothe best museums and art galleries in the country. Surrounded bymountains and desert oases, Ras Al Khaimah is fast becoming adestination for adventurous travelers. Visitors can also relax onthe beaches in Ajman, visit the fort of Fujairah at the foothillsof the Hajar Mountains, or take a break from the glitz and glammerin low-key Umm Al Quwain.
The modern cities on the Persian Gulf give way to a desertinterior, home to magnificent dunes on the edge of the EmptyQuarter, stunning desert oases such as the Liwa Oasis, and ruggedarchaeological sites in the Hajar Mountains. The UAE presents anastonishing mix of outlandish luxury and remote adventure, whichwill fascinate visitors to this unique land.
Most tourists start their UAE adventures in Dubai. Visitors canscale the heights of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallestbuilding, visit the narrow lanes and preserved Arabian architectureof the Bastakia Quarter, take a sunset cruise on the thetraditional Dhow boats in Dubai Creek, or get lost in the storiedshopping malls or the traditional souks in the Deira district.Sport fanatics will be entertained with events such as rugby sevensand horse racing.
The colossal Sheikh Zayeh Mosque in Abu Dhabi is a crown jewelin the capital city. Visitors can take a day trip out to JebelHafeet, the second highest peak in the UAE, offering stunningpanoramic views out over the desert. The rugged, twisted HajarMountains are also prime territory for road trips, with fantastichiking, trekking and bird watching opportunities.
Sharjah is the cultural capital of the Arab world. The city ishome to the Sharjah Arts Museum, a diverse collection of worksfeaturing many local artists, and the Sharjah Museum of IslamicCivilisation, which traces Islamic history and culture back to itsearliest years.
With 400 miles (650km) of coastline along the Persian Gulf, theUAE is a renowned beach destination. There are numerous beachresorts in Ajman and Raj Al Khaimah. Luxury Hotels in the bigcities often have their own private beaches, which non-residentscan pay to use. Watersports are hugely popular, with many visitorsenjoying jet-skiing, diving and snorkeling holidays.
For the more adventurous traveler, the desert beckons. Intrepidexplorers can experience 4x4 safari's, dune buggy rides, camelrides, sand-boarding and even traditional Bedouin-style dinners.Ancient cities and forgotten civilisations lie hidden in the desertsands, such as the spectacular city of Musandam. Here, the brightlights of Dubai and Abu Dhabi will feel centuries away.
Strap yourself in for the ride of a lifetime at Ferrari World,which opened at Abu Dhabi's Yas Island in November 2010. At over 2million sq feet (200,000 sq m) this is the largest indoor amusementpark in the world. The headline attraction is the Formula Rossarollercoaster, by some margin the world's fastest, attaining speedsof up to 160 miles p/h (240km) and an acceleration of 4.8 G, whichis what a Formula One racing driver experiences at full throttle.The park's many attractions include the largest Ferrari galleryoutside of the brand's headquarters in Marinello, Italy; the Speedof Magic immersive 4-D film experience; the G-Force space shottower; Bell'Italia, which reproduces Italy's main attractions inminiature; and various state of the art racing simulators. Anenormous red-domed roof encloses the facility, creating afuturistic and unique structure that has been nominated for severalarchitectural awards. Ferrari World includes six restaurants,featuring four Michelin-starred chefs.
The oldest building in young Abu Dhabi is the Al Hosn Palace,known colloquially as the White Fort. It was constructed in 1793 asthe official residence of the former ruling family, and wasextensively renovated in 1983. Today it houses the CulturalFoundation, featuring a museum of traditional artefacts andhistorical photographs. The Palace is renowned for the magnificenttile work over its main gate.
The natural seawater inlet that cuts through the centre of thecity is the historical part of Dubai where visitors can take anabra (small water taxi) and view the old trading port and the dhowsfrom the water. A cruise to Al-Maktoum Bridge will pass many of thecity's historic, as well as modern, landmarks. A stroll around thewharf offers a picturesque glimpse of Dubai's trading heritage,where dhows bound for distant places dock to unload theirgoods.
The old Bastakiya district is a step back in time to the daysbefore electricity and air-conditioning, where traditionalcourtyard houses were cooled by wind towers. Old Dubai was famousfor its wind towers that lined the Creek on both sides, and todaythe narrow lanes festooned with the distinctively Arabianarchitecture are a popular historical attraction marked for touristdevelopment.
The souks, or traditional markets, are popular with bargainhunters as well as sightseers and photographers. The most famous isthe Gold Souk, where the narrow streets are lined with shopsselling everything golden, from 24-carat bars to rings andelaborate necklaces, and all at low prices. The tiny lanes of thetraditional spice souk are scented with sacks of cinnamon, incense,spices, and dried fruit, while the modern fish souk bustles withactivity and is redolent with smells of a more unpleasant nature.At the heart of the Bur Dubai souk lies Al Fahidi Street, sellingthe latest electronics, photographic equipment and home appliancesat competitive prices. Other streets sell everything from materialsand carpets to traditional coffee pots, loaves of unleavened breadand hubble-bubble pipes.
Boasting the city's tallest minaret at 230 feet (70m), the GrandMosque is a notable landmark with its multi-domed style andimpressive size. It is an important place of worship and canaccommodate up to 1,200 worshippers inside. Non-Muslims are notpermitted to enter the Mosque.
One of the most advanced water theme parks ever designed, thefive-hectare (12-acre) water park at Wild Wadi offers families andthrill seekers hours of fun, relaxation and adrenalin-pumpingaction. Designed like an Arabian wadi (oasis), the park has anArabian folklore theme and features some of the highest and fastestwater rides outside of North America with 24 state of the art,high-adrenaline rides and slides. Rides for thrill seekers includeJumeirah Sceirah, a 108ft (33m) free-fall at 50 miles per hour(80km/hr), Master Blaster slides that are water roller coasterspropelled uphill by high-powered jets, the white-knuckle ride atRushdown Ravine or the high waves at Breakers Bay.
Designed as a living museum depicting traditional Bedouin life,the Heritage Village over the Abu Dhabi Corniche features tents,courtyard houses, an ancient irrigation system, workshops wherecraftsmen ply their trades, a museum and much more.
Numerous local tour operators in Abu Dhabi offer trips from thecity to the famed Liwa Oasis, about three hours drive away along amodern highway. This green, agricultural strip at the edge of theRub Al Khali ('Empty Quarter') is surrounded by desolate desertwith farms abutting towering sand dunes. Visitors enjoy overnightcamel trips to camp in the desert. The oasis, made up of a stringof small towns and villages, is resplendent with pools of freshwater and date plantations, and is the ancestral home of the BaniYas tribe from whence sprang Abu Dhabi's ruling family.
The Jumeirah Mosque is one of the most photographed sights inDubai. A fine example of modern Islamic architecture, thisbeautiful mosque is also one of the city's largest, with a majesticdome and twin minarets, and is one of the few mosques open tonon-Muslims for tours. Non-Muslims may only enter the JumeirahMosque on an organised tour. Modest dress is preferred, howevertraditional attire can be borrowed from the Mosque.
The imposing 19th-century Al Faheidi Fort houses the DubaiMuseum, which has an impressive collection of military and culturalartefacts, as well as working models and life-size displaysdepicting various aspects of Dubai life such as the markets, anIslamic school, the desert, Arab houses and Gulf marine life. Oneof the most interesting exhibits shows the underwater world ofpearl-diving. The fort was built in 1799 to guard Dubai fromlandward approaches, and was once the residence of the city'srulers as well as the seat of government until 1971.
One of the city's newest and most interesting attractions is theregion's first indoor ski resort, with real snow and five runscatering to both beginner and expert skiers and snowboarders. Themonumental indoor snowdome can host up to 1,500 people. The longestrun is 1,312 feet (400m), dropping 197 feet (60m), while afreestyle zone and quarter pipe cater specifically forsnowboarders. Ski lifts, snow patrols and professional instructorshelp to create an authentic environment. A Snow Park at the bottomis ideal for children to play in the snow. Slope passes include allequipment and ski clothing except hats and gloves. Guests need topass a minimum skills test to access the main slopes, and those whodon't pass can take lessons.
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum's house dates back to the 19th century,and was built for Dubai's ruler with commanding views over the sea.It is one of the oldest residences in the city and has beenrestored as a museum exhibiting historical photographs andartefacts showcasing Dubai's history and development. Itsarchitecture is also a fine example of the regional style with itswind towers and central courtyard, teak wood doors and windows andwooden lattice screens.
No visit to Dubai would be complete without a trip to the races- the camel races. This is a traditional sport in the UAE andhugely popular among local Emiratis who head to the race tracksearly in the morning to watch these magnificent animals. The racingseason runs from September to March and race tracks can be found invarious locations around the Emirate and on the way to AbuDhabi.
One of the main reasons holidaymakers flock to Dubai is to takeadvantage of the stunning beaches. If visitors aren't stayingsomewhere with access to the sand and sea, and don't want to payAED 100 or more to use a hotel's facilities, then Jumeirah BeachPark is a brilliant alternative. The beaches are clean and safe,and unlike some of the other public areas in Dubai, are notpopulated with 'gawkers'. There are even designated 'women only'sessions. The park section of the beach is equipped with barbecuefacilities and seating areas. There are also showers and toilets onthe beach, and lifeguards on duty at all times.
The Bateaux Dubai Dinner Cruise provides visitors to the Emiratewith a unique and memorable way in which to view the older part ofDubai. The two and a half hour cruise departs from just beyond theAl Maktoum Bridge and makes its way along the Creek past many ofthe city's most famous landmarks. Guests can take advantage ofunobstructed views thanks to the non-reflective glass surround andextensive outside deck area.
A four course a-la-carte meal is served during the cruise(diners with specific dietary requirements are requested to arrangeat the time of booking) and alcohol is available to purchase onboard. Musical entertainment is provided care of the Bateaux Dubaimusicians and DJ. Booking is required in advance through thereservation line.
Opened in November 2008, the Dubai Mall is the world's largestshopping centre and is home to around twelve hundred retailers. Itis the size of more than fifty football pitches and features an icerink, movie theatres, playground, aquarium, hotel, and is thegateway to the Burj Dubai: the tallest building in the world. Themall is home to a number of the world's best known stores includingBloomingdales, Marks and Spencer and Montblanc. Designers such asStella McCartney also have outlets in the complex and world famousjewellers Tiffany & Co. have a branch located there. The mallalso has a number of restaurants ranging from fast food to finedining. No trip to Dubai would be complete without an outing toDubai's latest shopping spectacular.
Located in the enormous Dubai Mall, the recently-opened DubaiAquarium and Underwater Zoo is fast becoming one of the Emirates'most popular attractions. Featuring the largest viewing panel andone of the biggest tanks in the world, visitors have theopportunity to experience the incredible underwater domain ofthousands of creatures of the deep. Highlights include feeding timefor the enormous Sand Tiger Sharks and the majestic Stingrays. Theaquarium and zoo is home to over thirty-thousand types of sea lifeand provides an exciting, educational day out for adults andchildren alike.
With a variety of sports to choose from, Al Nasr Leisurelandoffers facilities to cater to just about every sport under the sun.From an ice rink to swimming pools, tennis courts and a bowlingalley, children will have a great time trying their hand ateverything. There is even an amusement park with bumper cars,rollercoasters, go-karting and much more.
This 82,890-square-foot (7,700 sq-metre) education park islocated in Dubai Creek Park and offers a wide range of activitiesgeared towards kids, making the educational process fun. Childrencan learn all about the human body, science and space and the parkalso features a theatre, café, souvenir shop and wonderful views ofthe creek.
Wonderland Theme and Water Park in Dubai Creek Park is a mustfor children struggling with the heat in this scorching city. TheCaribbean-themed park offers thrilling rides and slides such as theRed Baron, the spinning-coaster, the Action Arm, Lazy River andSurf Hill. The attached water park is low-tech, but provides coolentertainment for the whole family. Wonderland is a great way tospend the day with the family and a must for children of allages.
The Dubai Dolphinarium offers guests the chance to interact withthese gentle aquatic mammals and watch them perform tricks withtheir trainers. The Dolphinarium is home to four Black SeaBottlenose dolphins as well as four Northern Fur Seals. Thedolphinarium allows visitors to swim with the dolphins in apre-arranged session, and also features a restaurant and giftshop.
With what seems like an endless lawn, Creekside Park is a greatplace for families and kids to enjoy while on holiday in Dubai.Boasting botanical gardens, an 18-hole mini golf course, anamphitheatre, picnic locations with barbecue equipment and a minitrain and children's play areas, kids will be beside themselveswith the endless amount of activities to enjoy here.
The Fun City at Marina Mall is a great place for kids, offeringan exciting range of arcade games and rides to enjoy. Favouriterides at the amusement centre include the thrashing sharkrollercoaster, the whizzy little bumper cars and the 'ExtremeShock' machine - actually very safe!
Kids in Abu Dhabi will love honing their skills in the bowlingalley at the Armed Forces Officers' Club, or perhaps playing a gameof paintball or table tennis. There is also a large playground andan Olympic-size swimming pool at the club for kids to cool off inafter all that action. The Armed Forces Officers' Club also has aLadies recreation area with massage tables, a swimming pool, steambath, sauna and gym.
A great attraction for children and often called the 'Disneylandof the Middle East', Hili Fun City is the largest theme park in theGulf. Completely refurbished and modernised in 2009, the parkoffers a number of rides and amusements, including a mini traintour, an ice skating rink, a rollercoaster and sky-flyer, and theDynamic Motion Theatre. There are also beautifully landscapedgardens and various picnic spots to enjoy at the park.
The heart of cosmopolitan Dubai is the slick and modern DubaiMarina, a development that continues to add new attractions eachyear. World-class hotels and shopping malls dominate thedistinctive skyline, while the waterline is taken over by luxuryyachts. Some of the best restaurants in Dubai are also locatedhere. Dubai Marina has two walkways (The Walk and Marina Walk) thatmake pleasant places to stroll in the evening, and there are openmarkets on weekends between October and May. Although it is knownas a beacon of over-the-top consumerism, the Dubai Marinatransforms during Ramadan, when locals celebrate in song and dancein Heritage Village.
Belonging to the Hilton Abu Dhabi Hotel, the Hiltonia Beach Clubis an exclusive beach with excellent facilities. Open to non-guestson weekdays for a fee, the beach offers lounge chairs and umbrellasin the sand, and water sports like snorkeling, fishing,windsurfing, water skiing, kayaking and sailing. There is also acafé and cocktail bar, and three swimming pools with waterslides.
Sharjah's Heritage District is set in the old city, and mucheffort has been put into showcasing the city's culture and history.Situated near the Corniche, the area is full of museums andrestored houses that will fascinate visitors. Highlights of theHeritage District include the Al Hisn Fort, Sharjah Museum ofIslamic Civilisation, Sharjah Calligraphy Museum, and the Souqal-Arash (thought to be the oldest souq in the country). The AlNaboodah and Al Midfaa family homes offer a glimpse intotraditional Arabian life. Many museums have special opening timesset aside for women only.
Sharjah Desert Park encompasses three attractions: the SharjahNatural History and Botanical Museum, the Children's Farm, and theArabian Wildlife Centre. The Wildlife Centre is the most popularattraction, with a zoo, aviary, and breeding centre that housesseveral endangered species. The Children's Farm is a fun pettingzoo for children on holiday in Sharjah. The Natural History Museumhas five main exhibition halls: A Journey through Sharjah, Man andthe Environment, A Journey through Time, The Living Desert and TheLiving Sea. Sharjah Desert Park is also home to the Breeding Centrefor Endangered Arabian Wildlife, however this is not open to thepublic.
Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, the UAE has a sub-tropical aridclimate and is warm and sunny in winter, but hot and humid duringthe summer months. The humidity is particularly high in the coastalareas. Rainfall is virtually non-existent, with occasional shortshowers occurring mainly in winter (December to March). Localisedthunderstorms sometimes occur in summer.
Voted Best Thai Restaurant by Time Out Dubai, The Lemongrass inOud Metha serves up traditional Thai food in a relaxed, modernsetting. Decor is subtle and calming and seems designed to keep thechi flowing while visitors savour delicious Thai fare. Seafoodfeatures heavily on the menu and the grilled Red Snapper in redcurry sauce is an alternative to the traditional Thai Green Curry.Also worth sampling is the interesting take on the Pad ThaiNoodles. The Lemongrass is a 'dry' venue; however try the freshlysqueezed juices and smoothies instead. The peppermint smoothie ispopular among return visitors. The Lemongrass offers affordable,appetizing, authentic Asian food. Visitors arriving by taxi, shoulddirect the driver to Lamcy Plaza.
Friday brunch is an institution in Abu Dhabi and this five starhotel sets the bar very high with an epic brunch spread, combiningthe food selection of a number of its restaurants to providecustomers with a dazzling array of culinary choice. Beach Rotana'srelatively high prices are offset by the exceptional food andcomplimentary champagne.
Located within the Le Méridien complex, Casa Mia is thought bymany to be the best Italian restaurant in the city, known for itshome-cooked Italian cuisine. The menu also includes deliciouswood-fired pizzas, and in 2007 the restaurant was also honouredwith an 'Award of Excellence' for its unique and extensive winelist. Open for lunch and dinner daily.
This laid-back venue offers delicious, contemporary South EastAsian fare at surprisingly affordable prices. Diners sit at longcommunal tables and don't need to wait very long for the region'susual favourites to appear, such as spring rolls, noodle soup, orvegetable, chicken and meat dishes served with noodles or rice. Theopen show kitchen allows diners to watch the food being prepared.Reservations are not accepted, and the place is busy, but theturnover of diners is high so the wait shouldn't be long. Opendaily for lunch and dinner.
The signature restaurant of the Burj Al Arab, one of the top 10hotel restaurants in the world, gives diners a unique experience. Amock submarine ride takes guests to the dining area, where tablesare situated around a huge floor-to-ceiling aquarium full of fish.Al Mahara specialises in unforgettable first impressions and freshseafood and was voted one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.Dinner guests will also be serenaded by harpists, adding to theunderwater atmosphere. Jackets are required for men, andreservations essential. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Situated on the 25th floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Al DawaarRevolving Restaurant boasts the best views in the city while youdine. The restaurant revolves giving diners spectacular views ofthe Arabian Gulf, the Creek and the city of Dubai while enjoying avariety of international cuisines. The buffet is the most popularoption, including Chinese stir-fries, spring rolls, sushi and localdishes. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
The award-winning steakhouse is the finest in Dubai with steaksthat 'cut like butter' and the freshest Maine lobsters, Dungenesscrabs and oysters in town. It is popular for business entertainingas well as for romantic dinners. Begin with lobster bisque orseafood chowder, enjoy steaks, chops or seafood as a main, andfinish with New York cheesecake or apple pie. Décor is New Yorkstyle with lots of wood and leather, and the service isexcellent.
The Meat Co. at the Madinat Jumeirah is place to go for top quality steak in Dubai. So far thisSouth-African chain has just the one restaurant in the Emirate butit's never short of patrons and booking is essential on Friday andSaturday evenings.The restaurant prides itself on delivering AGrade Angus beef, 'wet-aged to perfection' and basted to createsucculent melt in the mouth steak. The menu doesn't cater solelyfor meat lovers, other highlights include the skewered grilledsalmon and flame-grilled king prawns. In winter the best tables areoutside alongside the Madinat's man-made canals, where diners canwatch the boats transporting guests along the water.
The Friday Brunch has become synonymous with the ex-patlifestyle in Dubai in the last few years. Endless platters ofseafood, meat, salads and deserts are offered at restaurants acrossthe Emirate but, for really exclusive dining you can't beat thefamous Burj Al Arab Hotel. On Friday 10.00 to 14.30, (Please beinformed that the buffet is open until 16:00 hrs) guests can dinetwo hundred metres above sea level in the Al Muntaha restaurantwhilst taking in the stunning view of the coastline. Withspectacular views over the new Palm Islands and a plethora ofmouth-watering dishes 'Brunch at the Burj' is fast becoming themost sought after venue. The dress code in the restaurant is Smartcasual. Gentlemen are requested to wear a shirt with collar, longtrousers or smart jeans and closed shoes (no trainers). UAEnational dress is welcomed. Guests are advised to book well inadvance.
For shisha and cocktails QD's (Quarterdeck's) at Dubai Golf& Yacht Club is place to be seen. This super chilled out,funky venue is hugely popular, particularly with young Emiratis whoflock here on Friday and Saturday night to enjoy the vibe. Guestscan choose to sit on the raised deck by the waters edge or, tooccupy their own personal shisha tent, complete with couches andbeanbags, and order their favourite flavoured 'hubbly bubbly' fromthe menu. Flavours include apple, grape, strawberry and mint.Shisha waiters are constantly on hand with more hot coals to keepthe pipes bubbling and the air filled with the sweet smoky smellthat has become synonymous with Dubai at night. Guests can also buyshisha pipes and tobaccos to take home as a memento
Trader Vic's has become something of an institution among expatsin Dubai. The vibrant atmosphere, exotic menu and interestingcocktails remain popular with diners making 'TV's' one of theEmirates best-loved eateries. Guests can feast on a wide variety ofdishes including the famous Trader Vic's fish and chips, succulentduck wantons and delicious platters. The potent TV Mai Tai is alsosomething of a legend in Dubai. There are currently two TraderVic's outlets in Dubai the original branch at the Crowne Plaza andthe immensely popular Souk Madinat Jumeriah location.
One of the best-loved restaurants at the Wafi Mall, Cartersoffers diners great food, in a relaxed cosmopolitan atmospherewhilst enjoying fantastic, friendly service. Decor is classic andstylish, reminiscent of a smoking lounge, and in winter months theambience extends out onto the large terrace. The menu features oldstandards such as Chicken Caesar salad, Chargrilled US Angus RibEye steak and hand cut fries, alongside alternatives to traditionaldishes; marinated duck satay with honey glaze. The mouth wateringMars bar cheesecake is a firm favourite. Carters also offers a goodselection of wines.
For Asian tapas with a twist the popular choice in Dubai isGinseng at Wafi City Mall. Nasi Goreng, Pandan Leaf Chicken andDuck Satay are firm favourites, as are the platters which areperfect to share. The speciality cocktails are hugely popular atthis funky hangout thanks to the fantastic deals on offer mostnights; firm favourites are the Lychee Martini, Envy ChampagneCocktail and the Gingseng Summer Punch.
Al Mina is a relaxed restaurant on the harbour servingtraditional Iranian cuisine, with a special focus on local seafoodlike lobster and squid. Try one of the starter platters,overflowing with hummus, tabbouleh, and dolmades. The restauranthas both an Arabian-style indoor section and an outdoor patio withwaterfront views. Open daily from 4-11pm.
These restaurant chains offer a good local variety of fast foodat a low price. They do shawarmas (roast meat rapped in pitabread), hummus, falafels and roast chicken. The mouth-watering fareand local cultural inspiration makes them a must try.
This popular Pakistani restaurant in Dubai is famous for itsgood food and relaxed atmosphere. A cheap and cheerful takeawaywith outdoor tables attracts both locals and tourists, rich andpoor for its excellent slow-cooked beef nihari, lamb haleem, andfresh, buttery naan bread. There's also a family room andcafeteria. Ravi is open daily from 5am to 3am.
Considered the best place to eat Persian food in Abu Dhabi, ParsPalace is tucked away in a small backstreet behind Corniche Towers,near the marina. A wide selection of authentic Middle Easterndishes, including saffron chicken and spicy kebabs, is accompaniedby complementary fresh loaves of flat bread with sheeps-milkcheese. One of the best-value restaurants in Abu Dhabi, Pars Palaceis busy for lunch and dinner. Open 11am to 3:30pm and 6pm tomidnight.
This elegant French patisserie is popular over lunch for itsexcellent people-watching and relaxed environment. Linger over acup of coffee and a petit four, or indulge in a leisurely meal ofFrench fusion cuisine. Located in the Marin Mall, Hediard is opendaily from 9am to midnight.
The currency of the United Arab Emirates is the Dirham (AED),which is divided into 100 fils. There are no currency regulationsin the UAE and all major currencies are readily exchanged at banksand large hotels. The Dirham is fixed against the US Dollar. Thebest exchange rates are found at private moneychangers who operatethroughout the territory, particularly in the more popular souks(markets) and shopping centres. Most major credit cards areaccepted. ATMs are common throughout the UAE. Banking hours aregenerally Saturday to Thursday from 8am to 3pm, but some are alsoopen until 8.30pm, after a midday break.
Arabic is the official language of the Emirates, butEnglish is widely used.
Electrical current is 220-240 volts, 50Hz. The mostfrequently used plugs are the flat, three-pin type.
United States citizens require a passport valid for 6 monthsafter date of arrival. No visa is required for tourist stays under30 days.
Passports must be valid for 6 months after date of entry.British passport holders can get a visitor's visas on arrival for amaximum of 30 days.
Canadian passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyondthe date of entry. Canadians entering the UAE as tourists mustobtain an entry stamp at the port of entry. This entry stamp isfree and valid for 30 days. It's renewable for a further 30days.
Passports must be valid for at least six months from thedeparture date. Australians are eligible for a free 30-day visitorvisa-on-arrival.
South African nationals require a passport valid for six monthsfrom the departure date. A visa is required.
Irish nationals require a passport valid for six months from thedeparture date, and can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum of30 days.
United States citizens require a passport valid for 6 monthsafter date of arrival. No visa is required for tourist stays under30 days.
Passports must be valid for at least six months from thedeparture date. New Zealand nationals are eligible for a free30-day visitor visa-on-arrival.
All visitors to the United Arab Emirates must hold a passportthat is valid for six months. Visitors must hold documents andconfirmed tickets for their next destination and have a sponsor inthe UAE to cover their stay. Holders of passports containing anIsraeli visa or stamps need to obtain a clearance issued by theC.I.D. (Crime Investigation Department) before arrival. It ishighly recommended that passports have at least six months validityremaining after your intended date of departure from your traveldestination. Immigration officials often apply different rules tothose stated by travel agents and official sources.
No vaccinations are required for entry to the UAE, however acertificate is required for cholera and yellow fever if arrivingfrom an affected area. Tap water in the major cities is safe todrink, but elsewhere only bottled water should be drunk. Medicalcare is excellent in the main cities, but extremely expensive,while medicines and medical care are not always available in theoutlying areas. Health insurance is essential; in Abu Dhabiparticularly a health insurance law has been implemented that makesit mandatory for all travellers to Abu Dhabi to have healthinsurance. Dubai has just recently taken on the same approachmaking it mandatory to have health insurance. In general,travellers who require medical treatment will have to cover thecost of any medical fees incurred.
Tipping practices are similar to most parts of the world. Whereno service charge is included, 10 percent is adequate and manyhotels and restaurants add a service charge, so it is best to checkthe bill.
Most visits to the UAE are trouble free. Crime is not a problem,but there is deemed to be a threat of terrorism against Westerninterests and gathering points, particularly entertainment venues.It is therefore wise to be vigilant when frequenting these. It isalso wise to avoid political gatherings and demonstrations. AlQaeda continues to issue statements threatening to carry outattacks in the Gulf region, including references to attack Westerninterests, such as residential compounds, military, oil, transportand aviation interests.
The Emirates states are all Muslim, therefore alcohol is notserved except in hotels. It is an offence to drink or be drunk inpublic and penalties are severe. Some prescribed and over thecounter medicines from outside the country may be considered to bea controlled substance within the UAE and will not be allowed intothe UAE without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of HealthDrug Control Department (DCD). A passenger arriving with suchmedication without permission may be subject to prosecution. Dressand behaviour should be modest, particularly during the month ofRamadan when it is disrespectful to smoke, drink or eat in publicbetween sunrise and sunset. Women's clothes should cover the topsof the arms and legs. Cohabiting, adultery and homosexual behaviourare illegal in the UAE, and it is an offence to swear or make rudegestures, or show a public display of affection. In general, thecountry has a tolerant approach to Western visitors, but local lawsand sensitivities should be respected.
The United Arab Emirates, although a very warm country, requiresformal business attire from both men and women. Women should dressconservatively, being careful to cover up as much as possible. Itis unlikely that visitors will come into contact with local womenin business, as it is an overwhelmingly male-dominated society.Punctuality is not always observed and it is not uncommon to bekept waiting on occasion. With interruptions in meetings quiteprevalent, patience is expected.
The Arabic greeting of 'Salaam Aleikum' is advisable instead of'Hello' and politeness helps to build strong relationships. Shakinghands is common, but men should only shake the hand of a womanafter she offers it, otherwise a simple bow of the head willsuffice. Often agreements are verbal and will be acted upon. Datesin documents should be detailed in both Gregorian dates and theHijrah date. Gifts are appreciated but not necessary, however besure to avoid anything involving alcohol or pig-related products,as the UAE is a Muslim country. Friday is the day of rest and mostlikely very little business will occur on this day. Generalbusiness hours are 9am to 5pm Sunday to Thursday. During the holymonth of Ramadan businesses may halt in the middle of the day andonly continue after the fast has been broken in the evening.
The international code for the United Arab Emirates is +971.Local mobile phone networks provide wide coverage throughout thecountry. Guest starter packs, including a SIM card and credit, canbe bought on arrival at the airport, providing three months ofcellular access. Internet cafes are widely available, and mosthotels have high speed internet access. The internet is censored tofilter out any material and websites deemed undesirable by theauthorities.
Visitors to the UAE do not need to pay customs duty on 400cigarettes, 50 cigars and 500g tobacco; and goods to the value of3,000 dirhams. Alcohol allowances vary. Dubai: 24 cans of beer or 4litres of any other alcohol; Abu Dhabi and Fujairah: 4 litres ofalcohol provided traveller is not Muslim; Sharjah: 2 litres ofalcohol and 1 case beer. Fruit and vegetables from cholera infectedareas are strictly prohibited.
Dubai Department of Tourism: +971 4 223 0000 orwww.emirates.org
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Washington DC, UnitedStates: +1 202 243 2400.
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, London, United Kingdom(also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7581 1281.
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 5657272.
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Pretoria, South Africa: +27(0)12 342 7736.
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Canberra, Australia (alsoresponsible for New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6286 8802.
United States Embassy, Dubai: +971 (0)4 309 4000.
British Embassy, Dubai: +971 4 309 4444.
Canadian Embassy, Abu Dhabi: +971 2 694 0300.
South African Embassy, Abu Dhabi: +971 2 447 3446.
Australian Embassy, Abu Dhabi: +971 2 401 7500.
Irish Embassy, Abu Dhabi: +971 2 495 8200.
New Zealand Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible forthe United Arab Emirates): +966 1 488 7988.
While Musandam is technically part of Oman, the tiny peninsulais all but surrounded by the United Arab Emirates. The barrenmountains that make up most of Musandam are home to a few isolatedvillages; Khasab is the largest, with a few cultural attractionslike prehistoric rock paintings and a 17th-century castle.
But tourists don't come to Musandam for nightlife, they come forthe spectacular views and quiet beauty of nature. The coastline ofthe peninsula is made up of stunning fjord-like inlets, and dhowand boat trips along the coast are a popular activity in Musandam(and a good way to spot dolphis frolicking in the sea). Scubadiving is also popular, especially from the dive centre at theGolden Tulip Hotel, the only major hotel in the region.
For a real taste of Arabia, visitors can take a trip into thedesert with any number of tour operators into the rolling sanddunes surrounding Dubai. Tours usually include a thrilling 4x4drive over the dunes, camel riding, a visit to a local Bedouinvillage, and end with a traditional Arabian barbeque under thestars with a show of belly dancing.
An ancient village positioned in the foothills of the HajjarMountains, Hatta is located about 71 miles (115km) east of Dubai. Apopular weekend getaway for residents of the city, Hatta has a mildclimate that makes it ideal for escaping the heat of Dubai. Thetown itself is basic, with an ATM and roadside market being themain tourist infrastructure, which gives it an unspoiled atmospherethat makes it interesting to explore; the 16th-century fort is amust-see.
Hatta also makes a good base for exploring the surroundingregion. 4x4 trips and off-road adventures are a popular way to takein the scenery, including the Wadi Hatta gorge with its magnificentwaterfall, and a few picturesque rock pools.
Travellers driving to Hatta should keep in mind that the roadfrom Dubai passes through Oman; although there are no borderstations, most rental car agreements from the UAE will not coverincidents that happen in Oman.
The beautiful island of Kish is located in the Persian Gulf, offthe southern shore of mainland Iran. Sometimes referred to as the'Pearl of the Persian Gulf', Kish is home to a resort with bothmodern and ancient attractions.
The luxury resort of Kish offers many family attractions,including the Kish Dolphin and Crocodile Park, Mysteries of theWorld Zoo, and a giant bird interactive sculpture. The resort takesadvantage of Kish's stunning islands to offer water sports likesnorkeling and scuba diving, yachting, fishing, parasailing andwater-skiing. Unfortunately, women are not allowed in some of thebest snorkelling areas, however there are women-only beachesavailable.
Kish also has a number of historical attractions, including theunderground town of Cariz, the ancient city of Harireh, and theremains of a Greek ship wrecked on the shore (a popular picnicsite).
Kish is a free trade zone, meaning there are good bargains to behad in the numerous shopping malls on the island. Shoppers shouldbe aware however, that much of the merchandise is fake.