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The United Arab Emirates is a thriving hub of modern Arabic culture, and is one of the most vibrant countries in the world, with a mind-boggling number of picturesque and opulent locations spread across cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It is no surprise that the jewel of the Middle East is a hot location for tourists and travelers as it serves up a multitude of wonders and experiences.
Known as the city of superlatives, Dubai is an incredibly diverse city with inspired, ultra-modern architecture and a kaleidoscope of attractions. It is the epitome of luxury, and home to the rich and famous, but you don’t need a lottery win to enjoy everything that it has to offer. The Big Red sand dune is ideal for adrenaline junkies with quad bikes and basking in the tranquility of the desert during the late afternoon and evening. Those with a head for heights can visit the Burj Khalifa, which is a stunning feat of engineering and architecture, and is now the tallest skyscraper in the world standing at more than 2,700 feet. The most popular ticket in town is for the 148th floor, where onlookers can enjoy a hosted VIP experience while taking in the breathtaking views.
Dubai is also home to the largest shopping center in the world. The Dubai Mall has a staggering 1,200 retail outlets and department stores and hundreds of places to eat and drink. It is not your typical mall, however, as you will also be able to visit an Underwater Zoo and Aquarium with a huge viewing panel. This stunning location is topped off with the incredible Dubai Fountain, which has 6,600 lights and 25 color projectors and is the largest of its kind in the world.
The United Arab Emirates is perhaps best known for its luxury hotels, and there are many in Dubai. Billed as the “world’s most luxurious hotel”, the Burj Al Arab is located on an independent island off the coast of Dubai, and is a testament to extreme decadence and luxury, with two-story suites featuring stunning seaside views, a butler service, and 24-carat gold-plated iPads being a favorite of businesspeople with bottomless expense accounts. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel is more centrally located but just as eye-catching with its curved, wave-like, and colorful structure. There are also beautiful Dubai vacation apartments for those on a more modest budget. The InterContinental Dubai Festival City is a sleek and spacious hotel located in the heart of Dubai’s shopping hub, while the Manzil Downtown Dubai is a great option for families with its reasonable year-round rates and contemporary Arabian style.
Abu Dhabi – the capital of the United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and provides another treasure trove of exciting locations and landmarks for tourists. The city offers a more authentic slice of the Middle East, but is no less exciting with its dazzling array of buildings, sand, and blue waters. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the biggest mosque in the country, opening in 2007 after 20 years of construction. It is a colossal landmark with Fatimid, Mamluk and Ottoman design influences and stunning Macedonian marble. Guided tours are available and entry is free all week. Visitors should also frequent the astonishing Al Ain Springs, which is a lush green park located in the middle of the desert. There is a bustling nightlife, which largely centers on performing arts, cinema, intellectual pursuits, and fine cuisine.
If you are looking for the best place to stay, then look no further than the Emirates Palace, which features 114 large domes, 85 hectares of garden space, and a range of plush suites with butler service. The Emirates Palace is the most expensive hotel in the Middle East. Budget hotels are more difficult to find in Abu Dhabi, but there are a number of mid-range locations that offer steep discounts. The most popular and more-affordable options include the Hilton Abu Dhabi, the Holiday Inn, and the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the only places to visit in the United Arab Emirates, but there is more! The Liwa Forts are a lovely collection of forts created from straw and mud bricks, which are up to 300 years old. The least populous and lesser known sovereign emirate of Umm al-Quwain in the north of the country is also home to Dreamland, the world’s largest aqua park, with a wide selection of slides and rides. Other wonders include the Islamic Museum of Civilization in Sharjah, and Snoopy Island, named after the cartoon character, which is ideal for scuba diving.