Mostly barren and sandy, the United Arab Emirates, extends along part of the Gulf of Oman and the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. There are seven emirates — Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwain. Together they are about the size of the state of Maine, so it’s easy to pack in several of the emirates in a short stay.


  • Ascend to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa for a glass of bubbly and panoramic views of Dubai at sunset.
  • Visit the incredible Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, creating a modern interpretation of Islamic architecture by blending modern and ancient styles and techniques.
  • Take a journey through human history at the spectacular Louvre Abu Dhabi.
  • Dune-buggy across the desert for a Bedouin-style dinner under the starlit sky.
  • For sun and sand, choose from the many golden beaches of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, and Fujairah.
  • Watch the Dubai city lights come on from a traditional dhow on the creek.
  • Visit Al-Bidyah, the oldest mosque in the UAE located near Fujairah.
  • Delve into the culture and Islamic history at the Sharjah Museum.
  • Shop at the magnificent Saga World Dubai Mall and explore the Islamic souk of Al Bahar.
Gateway cities: Abu Dhabi & Dubai
Best time to travel:October through May


The largest of the emirates and the capital city, Abu Dhabi is believed to be the richest city in the world, not only from exporting pearls, oil, and natural gas but through its cultural heritage. Through its architectural wonders like the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, historic sites like Al Ain and the Louvre Art Museum, Abu Dhabi, tells the story of the people of Arabia.


The most popular of the emirates, Dubai is a city of incredible marvels, where everything is possible for all interests: from beaches to desert, from the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa to the world’s most luxurious hotel, the Burj Al Arab; from museums to gold souks; from fine dining to dune bashing; from helicopter flips over the world’s largest man-made island, the Palm, to hot air balloon rides over the desert.


Located northeast of Dubai and named by UNESCO as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World, Sharjah has impressively kept its core values and heritage intact, dominated by the Al Hisn Fort, one of the most important heritage buildings in Sharjah’s history.


Ajman is the smallest of the emirates, rich in biodiversity and home to a scenic nature reserve, best explored by kayaking through the tidal creek, turquoise lagoons, and mangroves. Steeped in a culture of exceptional hospitality, this port city offers great shopping, dining and serene escapes.


Ras al-Khaimah is the most northerly of the seven United Arab Emirates, offering a more off-the-beaten-track type desert experience, with Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain, Via Ferrata, the region’s first protected climbing route, Jeep tours and camel racing, and the world’s longest zipline. But that’s not all – Al Jazirah Al Hamra combines a traditional fishing village with the Ice Land Water Park, while Sham is the place to find old wadi homes and ancient rock engravings.


Thriving on a narrow peninsula on the west coast of the UAE, Umm Al Quwain is the least populated emirate, with rich coastal mangroves and islands that are home to Arabian gazelles, falcons, and turtles. If watersports are not your thing, then try some traditional activities like dhow building, falconry, and camel racing. Tour the Umm Al Quwain Fort, a 250-year-old monument that was once the residence of the Royal family.


Nestled between the Hajjar Mountains and the Indian Ocean, Fujairah is a picturesque town with a stunning coastline and idyllic mountain views, and some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities in the UAE. Take a Jeep trip to dry wadis and oases, visit Fujairah Fortress, the oldest fort in the UAE (1670), or the mineral spa in the mountain foothills.