The United Arab Emirates are made up of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Fujairah, Ajman and Ra's al-Khaimah. What was once rolling sand dunes, old forts and quiet fishing villages, now makes up one of the world's most successful conglomerates. Its economic value is known the world over. A trip to the UAE is generally represented by luxury goods, opulent accommodation and thrilling experiences.
The UAE will delight you from the moment you land. It may lie across the Arabian Desert but it's far from an endless expanse of sand. The topography is incredibly diverse, with the rugged Al Hajar Mountains punctuating the landscape in the North. With impressive landscape architecture forming the coasts of Abu Dhabi and Dubai that couldn't seem farther from the desert. The states boast a variety of indigenous flora and fauna, and beautiful acacia and eucalyptus trees span the vast oases.
Emirati cuisine is a melting pot of colour and flavour. Meat, fish, and rice are common staples, along with lamb and mutton as meat options. Dishes are hearty and regularly infused with local spices such as cinnamon, saffron, and turmeric. Since the tourism boom, the food scene in the UAE has been influenced by some of the best flavours and dishes from around the world. Whether you're seeking a foray into traditional Emirati gastronomy, or a sample of the best world's delicacies, the UAE will tantalise your tastebuds.
In the 1950s, oil was discovered in the UAE which subsequently transformed the economy and the country became an export giant. Before the oil boom, most of the UAE was dependant upon the fishing and pearl industry. More recently, investments abroad and the booming tourism industry have solidified the UAE's standing as one of the most successful and wealthy countries in the world.
Shopping in the UAE
Shopping is a favoured pastime in the UAE. Whether it be inside the glitzy malls or lost among the alleys and corners of the souks. Where perfecting your bargaining is a fine art and you can come away with many a treasure. Abu Dhabi and Dubai even see organised shopping festivals throughout the year. You'll find intricate jewellery, textiles, carpets, lamps, perfumes or even spices. If your heart's desire can fit in your suitcase, you'll find it in the UAE.
Know Before You Go
The UAE is a Muslim country, so being culturally aware can keep you out of sticky situations. Dressing modestly is expected in public areas, but strutting around the pool in a bikini inside the resort is allowed. The UAE takes its PDA and moral decency laws seriously and kissing in public is a no go zone. It's considered highly offensive and extreme cases can get be trouble. It's common for unmarried couples to even be unable to share a hotel room. Some states are more conservative than others, such as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. So definitely, check the rules before travelling to ensure you have the best vacation possible. Respect the laws and traditions and you'll be perfectly fine.
Don't expect a bar crawl on your trip to the UAE. Alcohol is only permitted to be sold to tourists inside of hotel complexes. You're allowed to eat and drink in the complex restaurants even if you're not staying at the hotel, so you won't be stuck for choice.
To experience the best of the UAE, hire a car. It's super affordable and beats the frankly drab public transport network which can be a nightmare trying to connect between the states. It will also give you a chance to get out to see the dramatic mountainous regions of the country and the incredible coastlines. In the city, taxis and the metro are a great option for short trips.
Best Time To Visit the UAE
June to September gets hot. 45 degrees celsius hot. Burn your feet on your flip flops hot and pass out in the humidity hot. Most travellers are not accustomed to this kind of unbearable heat, but it's also the cheapest time to go and you could score an amazing deal at some of the world-class hotels.
From October to April is the ideal time to visit. Temperatures are much more comfortable to enjoy the full sites and sounds of the cities.
Try to avoid visiting in Ramadam. The country realigns itself to adhere to the religious holiday and eating and drinking is not permitted from dawn till dusk. Most restaurants are closed until after dark and even clubs and bars are down for the season. Check the Ramadam calendar before you go as it changes yearly.
Planning a coveted birds-eye view from the top of the tallest building in the world? Book your tickets for the Burj Khalifa early if you're travelling in the peak season. Last-minute tickets are more expensive.
What To Expect
The UAE is a diverse place that begs to be discovered. Here are a few tips to help you plan your stay.
Currency - The official currency in the UAE is the Dirham, but the US dollar is also accepted in many places.
Language - The official language is Arabic. English is also spoken widely, as well as Persian, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Chinese.
ATMs - ATM's are widely available in the cities. Especially Dubai as it's an international financial centre.
Plugs & Sockets - The UAE uses the Type G style plug with 3 rectangular pins. The standard voltage is 230v and 50Hz frequency.
Safety - The UAE is considered very safe and all crimes including petty theft are low. Pickpocketing is the most common but usually not a worry.
Climate - The UAE sees two distinct seasons of summer and winter.
It has a desert climate, causing extremely hot daytimes with cold nights in the height of summer, and mild winters.
In the hottest months from June to September, humidity from the Persian Gulf can make the heat unbearable and reach peaks of 50 degrees celsius.
Rain is uncommon across the country and falls mostly in winter.