The United Arab Emirates is one of the most advanced, relaxed and welcoming of the Gulf States. The seven emirates of this compact and accessible desert nation reveal a fascinating mix of ancient and modern lifestyles.

Visitors can luxuriate in glitzy seaside hotels next to gleaming skyscrapers, whiling away the time with Duty Free shopping and watersports. Or they can head into the desert on the fringes of the aptly named “Empty Quarter” and get a feel for the traditional Bedouin way of life among the endless dunes and shady oases, not to mention seeing the national sport of camel racing.

Dubai is the best-known tourist destination and is a fascinating bustling city where the new millennium meets centuries old Bedouin tradition. Abu Dhabi is by far the largest and most powerful emirate with a modern capital that glories in its thirty years of oil-made wealth. Most of the rest of the territory is desert, only interrupted by the date palm oases of Liwa in the south and Al Ain in the east, fascinating settlements in this inhospitable landscape.

Of the other Emirates Sharjah is the most strictly Muslim and is an atmospheric region, with a slightly archaic feel. The capital is a vibrant centre, with fascinating museums and shopping in its souks. Its Eastern Coast, shared with Fujairah, is great for snorkelling and diving. Ras al-Khaimah, on the Northern Coast, is a green and mountainous emirate, whose capital has retained the feel of an old fishing port.

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