My Travel Guide to the Arab World
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Map of the U.A.E.

The United Arab Emirates

UAE in Arabic
Flag of United Arab Emirates

Time zone: GMT +4
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Area: 83.600 square kilometres
Population: approx. 4.1 million
Currency: Dirham (AED)
Click for Abu Dhabi, UAE Forecast

The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven emirates, of different sizes and populations. The largest emirate, occupying more than 86% of the total land area of the country, is Abu Dhabi. The other emirates are Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, Umm al-Qaiwain and Fujairah.

The U.A.E. is vigorously promoting itself to become the prime tourist destination of the Middle East. The emirate of Dubai is currently receiving around 6 million people annually. The country is an eldorado for shoppers, and entertainment is particularly geared towards families, with theme parks rivalling those in the West. The U.A.E. also boasts world-class sports facilities.

Road distances in the UAE
From Dubai to:
Abu Dhabi: 157 km Ras Al Khaimah: 104 km
Ajman: 29 km Sharjah: 18 km
Al Ain: 142 km Umm Al Qaiwain: 45 km
Fujairah: 128 km    

Abu Dhabi

A street in Abu Dhabi
A main street in Abu Dhabi.

The city of Abu Dhabi is the sprawling capital of both the emirate of Abu Dhabi and the U.A.E.
This city with its ultra-modern skyline is situated on an island, connected to the mainland by two bridges.

Being the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi houses federal government offices, the parliament and the foreign embassies. The main oil companies are located here, adding to Abu Dhabi’s status as a major business, manufacturing and trading centre.

Not far from the city centre is the beautiful Abu Dhabi Corniche, which runs for 8 kilometres along the island’s white sandy shores. Many of the top class hotels and restaurants are located along the Corniche.

Qasr al-Hosn

Qasr Al Hosn in Abu Dhabi
Qasr Al Hosn in Abu Dhabi.

This is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi, located on Khalid bin Walid Street. The original structure was constructed in 1793 as the official residence of Abu Dhabi’s rulers. Major renovations took place in 1983.

The Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation

is beside Qasr al-Hosn and housed in a modern Islamic-style building. The Cultural Foundation has a library, theatre, cinema, lecture rooms, meeting rooms, an exhibition centre and coffee shop. The centre hosts numerous cultural events, including concerts with international and local artists, classic film festivals, art exhibitions and workshops throughout the year.

Heritage Village/Bedouin Village

This heritage village has an authentic replica of a traditional Bedouin encampment before oil transformed the local society. You can also view a more elaborate mud-brick house and a traditional mosque, shop in a traditional souk, take a camel ride and watch a demonstration of the age-old sport of falconry. Admission is free. The village is located behind the Abu Dhabi International Exhibition Centre on Mussafah Road.

Heritage Village

Mosque in Abu Dhabi
A mosque in Abu Dhabi.

This is a relatively new heritage village run by Emirates Heritage Club. This is a place to experience traditional life in Abu Dhabi before oil transformed local society, economically and socially. There are Bedouin tents, reconstructions of palm- and other houses, old fishing villages and traditional souks. There is a shop for local crafts, a photographic exhibition and a unique collection of the Holy Qur’an. The Heritage Village is situated on a 1600 sq. metre site overlooking the Corniche, near the Breakwater.

Women's Handicraft Centre

The centre displays locally made crafts, and is run by Abu Dhabi Women's Association as an opportunity for local women to display their wares from perfumed oils to local costume and pottery. Some of the items are for sale.


The "dhow" is a traditional vessel still in use in the U.A.E..
The capital city of the emirate of Dubai is the business hub of the Arabian Gulf. This is a place to either make or spend money. Named the “Pearl of the Arabian Gulf”, Dubai grew up as a seafaring settlement. It was a natural harbour for dhow traders, pearl divers and fishermen.

The city’s central business district has been naturally divided into two parts by the Dubai Creek. This is a natural seawater inlet cutting through the centre of the city.

The northern side district is called Deira, and on the southern side is Bur Dubai. The two are connected by a tunnel and two bridges. Each has its share of fine mosques and busy souks, of public buildings, shopping malls, hotels, office towers, banks, hospitals, schools, apartments and villas.

Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai
Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai.

Bur Dubai has areas of old buildings, alleyways and souks. Dubai’s world-famous Gold Souk is located here, together with the colourful Spice Souk.

The Deira side of the creek is cosmopolitan and bustling, with pleasant gardens and first-class shopping facilities. These range from western-style shops to old-fashioned souks.

Bayt al-Wakeel

This was the first office building in Dubai, built in 1934. The building has been restored, and houses the Museum of Fishing and Maritime Traditions.

Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Museum

For a glimpse at what life in Dubai used to be like in the pre-oil days, the Dubai Museum at Al-Fahidi Fort in Bur Dubai, is well worth a visit. Using advanced sound-and-light effects, the extensive exhibits provide an exciting experience.

Al Bastakiya District

Wind tower in Dubai
Traditional windtowers in Al Bastakiya.
(© Jeffries)

For a flavour of what Dubai used to be in the past, a visit to Al Bastakiya is recommended. This area in Bur Dubai is distinguished by its traditional windtowers, which were used as a means of cooling houses in the pre-electricity era.

Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House Museum

This grandiose example of traditional local architecture dates back to the late 19th century. It used to be the residence of Sheikh Saeed, the grandfather of the present ruler.

The Bedouin Village

The Bedouin Village outside Dubai, offers insights into the traditional life of the Bedouins. The mandatory camels are available for riding lessons.

The Covered Souk of Deira

This area is one of the main souks in Dubai, and specializes in textiles.

Jumeirah Mosque

This mosque, by many considered the most beautiful in Dubai, is an excellent example of contemporary Islamic architecture. This is the largest mosque in the city, and tours are arranged every Sunday and Thursday morning. Information about the tours can be obtained from the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

Burj Al Arab

Burj al-Arab
The Burj Al Arab luxury hotel at Jumeirah Beach.

The spectacular Burj Al Arab, the world’s tallest hotel, stands on a man-made island 280 metres out from Jumeirah Beach. The building is 321 metres high, and opened to guests on the 1st of December 1999. It was designed to resemble the sail of a “dhow”, the traditional Arabian vessel.

Being a top-notch luxury hotel, Burj Al Arab has only suites. Prices start at around USD 1000 per night. The building is crowned by a disc-shaped helipad.

Dubai Zoo

Dubai Zoo, in Jumeirah, is popular with both tourists and locals. Noteworthy is the collection of indigenous Arabian species, in addition to some endangered species, like the Siberian tiger.

Theme Parks

Dubai offers tourists (almost) guaranteed sunshine, a clean environment, virtually no crime, bargain shopping and excellent sporting facilities.

The city has an ever-increasing number of theme parks. Wild Wadi, next to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, is one of the world’s most advanced water theme parks. Wonderland is a family fun park near the Garhoud Bridge. Among the attractions are water rides, bumper boats and roller coasters.

The world's biggest theme- and amusement park is still in the making. Dubailand is a mega project containing six themed areas;

- Attraction & Experience World, featuring theme- and water parks, roller coasters & adventure
- Sports & Outdoor World, featuring a mix of sporting venues and also extreme sports activities
- Eco-Tourism World, featuring nature- and desert-based attractions
- Themed Leisure and Vacation World, featuring spas and fitness- and stress management focused facilities
- Retail and Entertainment World, featuring shopping-, entertainment- and dining facilities
- Downtown, featuring cross-generational retail-, entertainment- and dining facilities.

Dubailand is scheduled for completion in 2015-18.


Dubai is considered the golf capital of the Middle East. The city has three championship-standard golf courses, in addition to numerous others. Dubai hosts the yearly Dubai Desert Classic, which is part of the PGA tour.

Dubai is a heaven for water sports aficionados. Scuba diving, sailing, water-skiing, paragliding, windsurfing and fishing are a few examples. Deep-sea fishing trips on fully equipped boats can be arranged by most sailing clubs and beach hotels.

For those seeking desert sports, there is sand skiing and 4x4 desert driving. And yes, there is more; cycling tours, go-carting, ice skating, horse riding, shooting, jogging, tennis, squash, martial arts – it’s all there in Dubai.


Sharjah skyline.
Khalid Lagoon in Sharjah.

While Dubai is the city for business and shopping, Sharjah is renowned as a city of culture. Keen to preserve its Islamic heritage, while also promoting art and culture, Sharjah offers over twenty museums, several art galleries, and heritage areas.

The Arabian Wildlife Center

The Arabian Wildlife Center houses over 100 species of Arabian fauna, displayed in safe, spacious and natural surroundings. The center demonstrates the diversity of the fauna found in the Arabian Peninsula and promotes awareness of the species that are facing – and those that have already faced extinction.

Sharjah Natural History Museum

The Sharjah Natural History Museum and Desert Park provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of the Arabian Desert, while at the same time having a relaxing and fun time.

A children's farm provides kids of the city with a chance to experience close contact with farm animals. The facility also includes a Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Animals.

Sharjah Archeological Museum

This high-tech museum offers an attractive display of locally found antiquities and artifacts including jewellery, coins, pottery, tools and ancient weapons fashioned by people of past eras.

Sharjah Islamic Museum

The Islamic Museum is a witness to Sharjah’s roots in Arab and Islamic culture. The museum exhibits a range of important Islamic artifacts and manuscripts. It also exhibits silver and textile handicrafts as well as ornamentation tools, jewelry and various Islamic mints, dating back to the Abbasid and Omayad eras. Major attractions at the museum include the Shamsi House, the Holy Kaaba Hall, the Islamic Mints Hall, the China and Pottery Hall, the Arabesque Hall, the Manuscripts Hall, the Archaeology Hall, the Science Hall and the Metallic Handicrafts Hall.

Ras Al Khaimah

The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah has an impressive archaeological heritage and a very rich history. Archaeological excavations and finds show that the history of Ras al-Khaimah dates back to 5000 BC.

The Old Souk

Ras Al Khaimah's old souk has a distinctive feel of the past. It has played a very important role in the country’s trade and commerce. A variety of traditional shopping, ranging from spices to carpets, can be enjoyed here.

The National Ras Al Khaimah Museum

The National Museum is in the heart of the city, offering insights into this emirate’s past.

The museum was established in 1987, in the Al-Husen Fort, which used to be the residence of the Sheikh of Ras Al Khaimah, back in the early 19th century.

One of the most interesting sections of the museum is the upstairs Al Qawasim Room. It contains historical manuscripts and documents as well as the arms that belonged to the ruling family. It also displays the treaties signed between the ruling family and the British government. The other main section is the one set aside for antiques discovered from all over the emirate. Many of these monuments and antiques date back to the 5th millennium BC and some belong to the early Islamic era.

The Ostrich Farm

The Ostrich Farm is located along the road leading to Ras Al Khaimah Airport. The huge birds are bred and taken care of by experts. There are opportunities to view the birds at close quarters.

The Camel Farm & Race Track

Camel racing is part of the U.A.E.’s rich legacy passed on from generation to generation. An excellent 10 km racetrack has been built in Ras Al Khaimah for this purpose. It is also possible to visit the camel farms where the animals are bred and taken care of by the local Bedouin tribes.

Khatt Springs

Located to the west of Ras Al Khaimah’s mountain ranges, this oasis is famed for its hot springs of sulphuric water having relaxing and therapeutic properties.

The Khatt Springs consist of three natural springs keeping a temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius. They are considered to have medicinal and curative properties. Framed by lofty mountains and encircled by palm trees, which add to the beauty and charm of the place, the Khatt Springs have become a pleasant tourist attraction.

Eco-tourism tours

Ras Al Khaimah has plenty to offer for hiking enthusiasts; areas of great scenic beauty that are uncrowded and unpolluted. These treks respect the environment and local population.

The environment friendly camp is committed to the use of renewable resources such as solar energy, comprehensive recycling of organic waste, nature friendly waste disposal, and the use of local environment friendly transportation such as donkeys and promotes environmental education.


On the Gulf of Oman, Fujairah is a paradise for water sports-enthusiasts of all kinds. The warm crystal waters harbour a marine life rich in variety making it particularly good for diving and fishing.

For the more adventurous, off-road driving through desert and boulder-strewn wadis provides vistas unrivalled in the country.

One of the most important activities and attractions is the Power Boat Racing World Championship, hosted in Fujairah every year in October and organized by Fujairah International Marine Club. The Bull Butting, which is another major attraction in Fujairah, can be seen every Friday.
Did You Know This About Camels?