Fast becoming the ‘must-go’ holiday destination for sun, sand and skyscrapers, the United Arab Emirates really does have it all. It stands as the gateway between East and West, promising a fascinating cultural experience for all who visit. Lose yourself amidst a world of luxury shopping, jaw-dropping architecture and burgeoning nightlife in Dubai; take a thrilling ride in a Jeep across the endless sand dunes of the Arabian Desert; or simply relax by the pool or on one of the countless gorgeous sandy beaches that greet the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf.
Holidays in the United Arab Emirates are fast becoming one of the hottest tickets on the global travel circuit. Allow us to take you on the journey of a lifetime.
The Palm Jumeirah,
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Be it the enthralling architecture of Dubai, the deep golden sands of the Arabian Desert or the country’s rich and colourful Bedouin heritage, there’s a wealth of things to see and do on a holiday in the United Arab Emirates. In order to understand this nation’s fascinating journey of growth and development, there’s no better place than the Burj Khalifa. An epic tower of glass and steel, it is not only the world’s tallest building but also boasts the world’s highest observation deck. From up here, you can gaze for miles upon the modern city, ancient markets and desert beyond.
For a taste of the United Arab Emirates’ deep heritage, head to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Here you’ll find one of the Middle East’s grandest places of worship, a spellbinding structure of gold, glass and marble that must be seen to be believed.
For the adventurous amongst you, there’s the Hajar Mountains, the jagged wild heart of the United Arab Emirates. Cruise along winding roads whilst taking in the incredible scenery, or go for a hike through the red rocks and valleys.
As you can imagine, a holiday to the United Arab Emirates promises to unearth some truly exciting culinary delights. The influx of investment and development means that you’re just as likely to be tucking into a Michelin star-standard tasting menu as you are a traditional street side shawarma. Whilst the UAE prides itself on fusing together different flavours, many of the staples have remained the same for centuries. Feast on meat and vegetables cooked over charcoal, tuck into fresh grouper caught off the coast or enjoy delectable stuffed vine leaves.
Non-Muslims are permitted to consume alcohol in designated areas across most of the United Arab Emirates, usually in bars, restaurants and hotels. You’re not allowed to consume alcohol in public, and eating is forbidden in public areas during the month of Ramadan (usually June and July). People are always on hand to offer friendly advice, so don’t let slightly stricter laws than you may be used to deter you from visiting.
With relatively agreeable flight times from the UK, it’s no wonder that many families choose the United Arab Emirates for their holiday. From beaches lined with bars, volleyball courts and play areas to wildlife sanctuaries and water parks, there’s plenty to keep the whole family happy in the UAE.
Jumeirah Beach has soft white sand and shallow waters, perfect for a family day out by the ocean. Head a little further along to Al Mamzar Beach Park and you’ll find 5 sheltered beaches with private chalets for hire, water sports and a pool with a kids’ section.
The nearby Ras el Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 3000 pink flamingos and a number of rare white-collar kingfishers, whereas for something a little more adventurous, the Wild Wadi water park lays claim to a slide on which visitors can reach up to 80km/h!
To get a taste of real action on your holiday in the United Arab Emirates, head inland. Go on a desert safari in a 4x4 and conquer sand dunes, photograph wild falcons and get your hands adorned with traditional henna ink. We’d recommend that you arrange a campsite for the night and enjoy a fireside dinner under the stars. Real thrill seekers can take a supervised parachute jump over Dubai, with a minute of white-knuckle inducing free fall that’ll be captured on camera by your instructor and who could forget of course the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. If you’re lucky enough to grab a ticket you’ll be rewarded with nose to tail Formula One racing amidst stunning surroundings.
You’d be hard pressed to have a holiday in the United Arab Emirates without experiencing one of the nation’s many fine beaches. Hugging the sheltered waters of the Persian Gulf, a mixture of vast expanses of sand and secluded coves, the UAE’s beach life has a little something for everyone.
For a great family day out it has to be Abu Dhabi’s Corniche. Stretching for 8km, the beach is lined with bars and restaurants and boasts volleyball and beach football areas. Thrill seekers will love the aptly named Kite Beach in Dubai, where you can go kite surfing with a view (the famed Burj Al Arab hotel provides the coastal backdrop) and for something a little quieter and more sophisticated, make the journey across to Fujairah and Khor Kalba beach. On this less developed part of the East coast you’ll find wildlife and natural beauty in abundance, not to mention crystal clear waters and beaming white sands.
Most clubs admit guests over the age of 25, however you can drink in bars from 21. Try out the couples-only Planetarium in Dubai for that classy touch, or for a big night out with globally renowned DJs, head to the Peppermint Club. Queues to get in can be long but it’s worth the wait. There’s a three-floored, Moroccan-style club at Trilogy and even a night spot (Lotus One) inside the World Trade Centre, offering pan-Asian cuisine and laid back sounds. Elsewhere across the United Arab Emirates you’ll find the likes of Zenith Club in Abu Dhabi, however other areas are a little quieter, with bars and clubs confined to hotels and resorts.
Dubai is the most relaxed of the Emirates when it comes to allowing unmarried couples to share a hotel room. Many of the modern hotels are welcoming towards all couples, but it certainly pays to do a bit of research before you jet off. Public displays of affection are frowned upon, but again you should be fine within the boundary of your hotel or resort. With a little compromise, the United Arab Emirates is a great place for a couples’ holiday. Just picture driving along a coast road at sunset, or dining high in a skyscraper and gazing out over the twinkling lights below. Imagine snorkeling in calm and clear waters, admiring the exotic marine life on show. And then of course there’s the beautiful desert scenery to tempt romantic hikers, off-road drivers and camel riders.
Steeped in culture and tradition dating back thousands of years, the United Arab Emirates wears its influences with pride. Despite the rapid and modern developments springing up all along the coasts, one can still delve a little deeper to find that real Arabian flavour.
The Dubai Museum is a good place to start and should provide a good insight into the UAE’s journey from Bedouin nomadic tribes to the glitz of the modern day. The ancient Al Fahidi district is a great place to escape the new and get back to the old. Guided tours take you through a myriad of hidden alleyways, bustling courtyards and old wind towers. Adventurous foodies could do worse than take a trip to Deira fish & vegetable market, where you’ll get to rub shoulders with locals bartering for lobster, kingfish and pomfret. It’s best to go either very early, when the produce is at its freshest, or very late in the day, when prices are far cheaper and there are deals to be had.
Check out our top hotels in the United Arab Emirates!