Treasuring the old, embracing the new
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has two personalities. On the one hand it is cosmopolitan, forward-thinking and consumerist, evident in the sumptuous shopping malls and hotels of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. On the other it is Islamic, traditional and conservative in places such as Sharjah and Ajman. Much depends on the mindset of the Sheikh who oversees a particular emirate, of which there are seven. Dubai’s Sheikh is a modern thinker, while the ruler in Sharjah is conservative and far stricter regarding such things as alcohol and religion. Of the seven emirates, Dubai is tourism’s leading light, pulling in large numbers of visitors who stay in the opulent hotels, relax on the pristine beaches and unleash their credit cards in the designer stores. Abu Dhabi also offers the visitor plenty to do in lovely surroundings, and has a more Arabic flavour than Dubai.
The UAE is an excellent destination for couples, families and friends. With so much money invested, the emirates boast some of the finest hotels in the world. Add to this the sunny climate, the array of water sports, the enticing beaches and numerous activities and excursions, and you’ve got a great holiday.
When to Go?
The best time to visit the UAE is between October and April when the temperature ranges from around 20- 29°C. From April temperatures start to climb, peaking in July and August to around 34°C. Days cool slightly in September and October but it’s not until the end of October that they drop to really comfortable levels.
How to get there
There are direct flights to Dubai Airport (DXB) from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester and Glasgow. Direct flights also operate to Abu Dhabi Airport (AUH) from London and Manchester. It is possible to go to Abu Dhabi via Dubai, and then travel by coach, which takes around 1.5 hours. There are also indirect flights from the UK to Sharjah Airport (SHJ) and Ras al-Khaimah Airport (RKT).
Hone your haggling skills in the souks – gold and jewellery can be particularly good buys. In Abu Dhabi go to Khalifa Park and see the aquarium, museums and gardens. Book yourself onto a desert safari and skim the sands in a 4x4. Take an abra (water taxi) in Dubai and cruise across the Dubai Creek – it’s a hectic stretch of water transporting 15,000 passengers a day, and affords great views of the city. Dive in the stunning corals near Ras Al-Khaimah’s unspoilt beaches.