Dubai is inarguably the tourist centre of the UAE. A fascinating city built on the expensive spice and pearl trading routes even before the discovery of oil, it has an almost regal air. Most of the city is surprisingly young, the oldest buildings only date back over the last 200 years, but the old quarters of the city look like living pieces of the desert that stretches away from the city inland.

The best of Dubai is found in the amazing and eclectic souks that litter Deira and the immediate opposite bank of Bur Dubai. The Old Souk transports you back in time, with hawkers and traders selling just about everything you could possibly desire. The dhow trading boats that chug up and down the deepwater creek complete the image.

Meanwhile, Jumeirah beach is a beautiful expanse of golden sand, and the city has an ever growing range of entertainment, nightlife and world class restaurants, all centred on the many international hotels that have sprung up over recent years.


Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is one of the newest and richest cities in the world. Fifty years ago it was an impoverished pearling and fishing village with a population of a few thousand. The mining of the nearby vast reserves of crude oil (beginning in the 1960s) transformed the ramshackle town into a modern city of gleaming skyscrapers, wide roads and five-star hotels.

Abu Dhabi is perfect if you want a luxury holiday with a private beach, blazing sunshine and watersports. If you’re after genuine Arabic history and culture, you’ll have to look a bit harder – there’s almost no building more than 30 years old and the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are immigrant workers. The whitewashed walls of the Old Fort, built in the 19th century, are a rare echo of the past. The Cultural Foundation has interesting exhibits of Islamic art and Abu Dhabi history, while the Women’s Craft Centre is a good, if expensive place to buy traditional textiles and crafts.


Desert Safari

A lot of the territory of the UAE is covered with desert, and taking a desert safari, whether an extensive expedition or an afternoon trip, is a fantastic experience.

Once you’re in the desert proper you’ll find a variety of experiences available, from a sedate couple of hours onboard a camel to noisily revving 4-wheel-drive vehicles up and over sand dunes that tower 100m high. Many people find the desert landscape surprisingly varied, and a typical trip may take in scrub grassland and rocky mountains as well as the familiar oceans of sand. Enjoying a Bedouin barbecue far into the desert is a great way to round off a day’s safari.

Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

Ferrari World is a Ferrari themed amusement park on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The park is situated under a 200,000 square metres (2,200,000 sq ft) roof making it the largest indoor amusement park in the world. The state-of-the-art rides at the Park provide a unique experience which brings Ferrari’s spirit to a wide audience, exemplified by family friendly attractions such as Speed of Magic, one of the most technically advanced 4-D attractions in the world and the adrenalin pumping Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster.

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