This is the modern, high-tech, shopping Mecca of the Middle East, for true luxury this is the place to visit. Dubai is known for its beaches, award winning restaurants, nightclubs and home to a mixed cosmopolitan population of foreign visitors and workers, and did I mention the shopping!
To see old Dubai visit the Bastakiya District, for culture the Dubai Museum and for spiritual nourishment the Jumeirah Mosque. There is also the well known Heritage Village. A must see is the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world where you can visit the observation deck. Also the Burj al-Arab Hotel is a beautiful creation. The Dubai coast line and marina is a popular area for taking a stroll.
You don't have to fly from Abu Dhabi to Dubai you could even take a taxi or drive yourself it is so close. If you take the Emirates Express bus it will take 2 hours. If you really want to fly there are seven airlines which fly this route and Saudi Arabian Airways takes the shortest route. A non-stop flight would take 10 minutes.
Where to stay in Dubai
If you can afford it there is no end to the choices of amazing hotels in Dubai, at the top of the list would be the Burj al-Arab. There are budget hotels and in the off season you can find great bargains even at the 5 star hotels along the sea front.
Sharjah is one of the seven Emirate states and the only one bordering on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Sharjah is adjacent to Dubai. The capital is Sharjah City and other areas are Kalba, Dibba Al-Hisn and Khor Fakkan which are along the east coast on the Gulf of Oman.
Sharjah City was settled about 5000 years ago and from 1820 to 1971 it was one of the Trucial States, a group of Persian Gulf Shiekhdoms under a British Protectorate. Lead by Sheikh Khalid III, Sharjah joined the United Arab Emirates in 1971. Today the Emirate is rules by Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi.
Sharjah is home to six universities and colleges including the American University of Sharjah. The people of Sharjah are cricket and football enthusiasts with the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium playing host to many international games. For an English language newspaper in Sharjah you can pick up The Gulf Today.
Getting to Sharjah
If you fly into Sharjah you will arrive at the Sharjah International Airport 10km from Sharjah City and about 15km from Dubai. From the airport you can get the Airport City-Link bus (about $2), a taxi (about 7) or rent a car.
Driving from Dubai to Sharjah City
If driving you have several routes if you are coming from Dubai. You can take the Beirut Road to Damascus Road then from the Caterpillar Intersection go towards Al Khan Bridge and on to Al Wahda Street and the Al Buhaira Corniche. There are other routes going via Damascus Road or via Emirate Road or via Al Ittihad Road. The journey should take between 1-2 hours and you should avoid rush hour as there are usually terrible traffic jams.
Public Transport in Sharjah
There are public buses connecting Dubai and Sharjah and within Sharjah City the Sharjah Public Transport Corporation provides several standard routes. If you prefer there are also taxis but most would recommend renting a car when in the city.
Where to stay in Sharjah
You can find beach resort hotels along Al Khan Beach, Al Buheirah Corniche and towards Ajman with many of the 5 star hotels you are accustomed to seeing in the Emirates. A more economical option is to stay in one of the many rental apartments which come fully furnished, with recreational amenities. Breakfast is not usually included in hotel rates and there is a room tax added to advertised rates. If you are on the east coast in Khor Fakkan a popular hotel is the Oceanic Hotel and Resort.
What to see and do in Sharjah
If you are in Sharjah City for one day perhaps take in the sites in the Heritage Area: Al Hisn Fort, House of Poetry, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization and Sharjah Heritage Museum. If you have more time include the many other museums which have given Sharjah the title of the Capital of Culture of the Emirates. If you are traveling with kids perhaps the first stop should be the Sharjah Desert Park and end off with a ride on the Ferris wheel.
• Sharjah Archeological Museum houses artifacts dating back to the Stone Age and traces human development in the Arabian Peninsula.
• Sharjah Desert Park includes the Natural History Museum learn about the indigenous flora and fauna, there is also a botanical center, kid's farm and Arabian Wildlife Center.
• Sharjah Heritage Museum has exhibits about the social history and heritage of this region.
• Al Hisn Fort is a museum and restored fort.
• Sharjah Aquarium this is a must if you are with kids, it focuses on marine life from the region.
• Qunat Al Qasba in a complex of tourist attractions revolving around culture, art and entertainment. Here you can ride on the giant Ferris wheel.
• Souq Al-Arsah perhaps the oldest Emirate market with traditional stores and coffee houses.
• Blue Souq A traditional Middle Eastern market with an assortment of fascinating things on sale.
Fujairah is the only one of the Emirates located on the eastern coast on the Gulf of Oman. Since 1902 Fujairah was a British Protectorate and one of the Trucial States and in 1971 it was the last of the Emirates to join the UAE. In contrast to the other Emirates Fujairah is predominantly mountainous and it also has a higher rainfall that the rest of the UAE. The extra rainfall makes this the greenest corner of the UAE.
Fujairah receives financial help from the Abu Dhabi government and the local industry is mainly concerned with mining and the prosperous shipping industry makes use of the well located bunkering port. The Emirate has a Trade FreeZone where non-nationals can own businesses. Fujairah has a blossoming tourist industry with new resorts and attractions popping up along the coastline. One of these new developments is the Fujairah City Center a huge shopping, entertainment and mall complex.
Getting to Fujairah
If you are driving from Dubai you will be taking the Sheikh Khalifa Highway which goes through Sharjah and links the two sides of the UAE across the desert. If you prefer to fly you will arrive at the Fujairah International Airport which is located a little out of the city.
Visitors should probably use taxis, their own vehicle or a rented car to get around. Walking around from site to site is not that easy in Fujairah as the city has wide main roads.
For those on a really tight budget there is an YHA hostel and on the other end of the scale you could stay at the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, Hilton Fujairah resort or Fujairah Rotana Resort and Spa. Ideally you should choose a hotel along the coast and there are 2-5 star hotels to choose from, the better hotels offer water sports as part of the hotel activities.
What to see in Fujairah
The best attraction in this Emirate is the surrounding nature, you can take an off-road ride though the mountains, take a guided excursion of the area or go on a cruise to visit the islands in the Gulf. The capital Fujairah City has little to offer in terms of sites but along the coast you will find cities worth visiting and excellent diving.
In Diba you can visit the beaches and try some water sports and there is excellent diving in this area. There is also an annual power boat world champion race off the coast of Fujairah.
Visit the Masafi Friday Market otherwise known as Souq al Juma 30km from the capital among the stunning scenery surrounded by mountains.
Bull Butting is a traditional ancient sport where 20 bulls are put into an enclosure where they butt each other until the herd is narrowed down to a winner.
The oldest mosque in the UAE is located in Fujairah built in 1446 using traditional building methods. Visit the Fujairah Museum to learn about the Emirate's history.
At the Ain Al Madhab Gardens just outside the city near the Hajar Mountains you can visit the remains of Fujairah Fort, a mineral spa, amphitheatre and the Fujairah Heritage Village where you can learn about the Emirate's traditions and ancient way of life. Bithna Fort constructed in 1735 is one of the oldest and important in the UAE.
Umm Al Quwain, one of the United Arab Emirates is along the west coast on the Persian Gulf just north of Ajman. Although small covering 800km² the terrain of the Umm Al Quwain includes fertile mangroves along the coast and a desert landscape. The main inhabited area is the capital Umm Al Quwain City, and Falaj Al Moalla an oasis town in the desert.
Umm Al Quwain traces its history back about 7000 years and remains have been uncovered in Al-Dour of Hellenistic settlements as well as proof of strong ties with Mesopotamia and a prosperous trade in copper. There is also archaeological evidence of settlements here 2500-2000BC, when circular burial tombs have been uncovered. Umm Al Quwain was one of the Emirates on the trade route to India this brought them wealth and the Emirate was a British Protectorate from 1820 until 1971 when the UAE was formed.
The main draw to this Emirate is the natural wildlife, traditional Emirate sports and life style, beautiful beaches and lately it is becoming the hottest spot in the UAE for extreme sports.
How to get to Umm Al Quwain
Although there is no airport in Umm Al Quwain you can reach the Emirate by flying into either the Sharjah airport (the closest) or the Dubai airport and there are good road connections from both leading to Umm Al Quwain.
If driving from Dubai you will need to pass by the Emirates of Sharjah and Ajman to reach Umm Al Quwain, this is pretty simple as there are major national roads along this route, and basically you would follow the E11 all the way.
Driving in to Umm Al Quwain is probably the best option as there is no public transport within the city apart from private taxis.
Umm Al Quwain Hotels
You can find a selection of hotels along the waterfront ranging from 5-3 stars, many of the cheaper hotels are of low quality but the most popular hotel in Umm Al Quwain (at least according to online reviews) is the 4 star Umm Al Quwain Beach Hotel where you can get a one bedroom villa for €246. For cheaper beachfront accommodation there is the 3 star Barracuda Beach Resort (€53) and the 2 star Palma Beach Resort and Spa (€63).
Top Umm Al Quwain Attractions
Dreamland is UAE's largest water park covering 250,000m² and including beautiful gardens and more than 30 slides and rides.
Umm Al Quwain Fort has been home to the ruler, a protective structure, police station and museum.
The Old Harbor area in the Old Town has quaint coral stone houses along the shore and you can see the dhow boats being crafted in the dhow building yard. From the Old Town you can see the many small sandy islands with the Mangrove forests off shore and the Madaar Creek.
Explore the area of Al-Dour where the remains have been found of a thriving port functioning from 200BC to 200AC. You can see old tombs and a fort with four towers in this area.
Bird watching is popular here with the Al-Sinniyah Island just off the coast of Umm Al Quwain being home to a colony of over 15,000 pairs of Socotra Cormorant birds.
The mud flats off the mainland are also populated with waterfowl. Other animal life in the area is the blacktip reef sharks, green turtles and incredible marine life off the coast of Umm Al Quwain.
Ajman lies between Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain on the Persian Gulf coast and is the smallest of the United Arab Emirates (460m²). The capital of this Emirate is also called Ajman.
Like many of the Emirates Ajman has developed fast in the 20th century moving from a British Protectorate since 1820 to a member of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. With little industry Ajman is dependent on aid from several Persian Gulf Countries.
Ajman's property boom was primarily due to it being the only Emirate where non-nationals can freehold property however after much planning and investment a financial crisis from 2007 to 2010 caused the various projects to come to a standstill. Large developments were planned with residential apartment buildings, villas, malls and hotels, most were canceled and others postponed.
Many first time investors lost their life savings as they invested intending to receive a residential visa, the law was subsequently changed making their investment worthless. Only in the past two years has Ajman risen from the ashes and is now on the way to becoming a popular tourist destination.
Ajman can be a good choice if you want to stay outside of Dubai or Sharjah and travel into those cities daily. Dubai is only 10km away and easily accessible but avoid rush hour.
Getting to Ajman
The Ajman International Airport is scheduled to start operating in 2015 so for now access to the Emirate is from the Sharjah Airport (11.4km away) or by sea and over land.
Driving from Dubai you would take the S113 and then the E11 past Sharjah and at the roundabout take the 4th exit onto Al Qasimi Street, right onto Sheikh Khalid Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Street, left at the fork, at the roundabout take the 3rd exit onto Sheikh Mohammed Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Street, keep go through two roundabouts at the roundabout take the first exit onto Al Sharq street and keep going straight towards Ajman.
Where to stay in Ajman
One of the most popular of Ajman hotels is the 5 star Kempinski Hotel Ajman spread along the coastline with a 500 meter private beach, the Landmark Suites Hotel is also considered a luxury hotel with 4 stars and the best value for money in Ajman City.
If you are on a tight budget you can find a few 3 star hotels like the Habib Hotel Apartments or the Ajman Beach Hotel as well as a few rental apartments. Some of the local hotels have received terrible reviews on Trip Advisor, Al Rayan Hotel was even called "the worse hotel in the world" but the Kempinski gets top marks in every category although a deluxe sea view room costs €369.
Ajman has less to see and do than other Emirate travel destinations and the tourist industry is not as developed but this can be a good thing if you are looking for a quiet getaway.
The city has wide tree lined avenues as well as the beautiful beachfront area. The biggest draw to Ajman is the 16km of fine white sandy beaches along the Persian Gulf and this is where visitors spend most of their time. The old waterfront area includes the Beach Rock Road and Khor Shoal. You can also visit the Dhow Yard where traditional dhow vessels are made.
The Etisalat Tower is painted with blues and pinks and designed in the traditional Arabic style resembling a mosque with a large ball on top.
In the center of Ajman City is the 18th century old fort now functioning as a museum, the building once protected the Emirates from enemies then it was the ruler's palace and later a central police station. In the museum you can see artifacts from Ajman's history including ancient weapons and manuscripts.
The classic look of the Muslim architecture of the Sheikh Zayed Ajman Mosque is exquisite with huge domes and white stone walls but non-Muslims cannot enter.
On the outskirts of the city is the Mowaihat, an archaeological site and if you want to see the local fishermen selling their wares visit the traditional fish market