On the road in Dubai
Dubai may provide everything you need from a glamorous city break, but venture a little further afield and you’ll discover there’s so much more to the UAE than sun, sand and shopping. Each of the seven Emirates that make up the UAE offer a different draw, from scuba diving in Fujairah to adventure escapes in Ras al Khaimah and cultural discoveries in Sharjah. Here’s our pick of places to visit beyond the boundaries of Dubai.
Abu Dhabi is like Dubai’s older sister. The capital of the UAE, it’s also more traditional and family-focused, yet equally innovative. While Dubai puts its money into new theme parks, Abu Dhabi is busy developing its art scene, with the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Cultural District and the imminent Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The capital is also home to the annual Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix, the impressive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and a host of incredibly opulent hotels. Adding to the mix a wealth of historical and cultural attractions celebrating the UAE’s heritage, and only an hour’s drive from Dubai, Abu Dhabi is certainly worth a visit.
Located along the Gulf of Oman, Fujairah is an adventure playground with beautiful coastal landscapes and rugged countryside terrain. Whether it’s scuba diving on the coast, hiking in the Hajar Mountains, cultural discovery at the Emirate’s myriad historical fortifications or a lesson in Arabic culture at the bustling souks, Fujairah has a lot to offer.
Ras al Khaimah
Dubbed the ‘rising capital’ due to its hilly landscape, Ras al Khaimah owes its riches to a history of pearl farming. In recent years, the tourism industry here has boomed thanks to its unique blend of coastal, desert and mountainous terrain, and everything that comes with it. There are a number of five-star hotels to tempt luxury seekers, while culture vultures will enjoy exploring attractions such as Dhayah Fort, the only surviving hilltop fort in the UAE, and the RAK Pearl Museum.
Once the party capital of the UAE, Sharjah now has a calmer, more family-friendly temperament. The ‘dry’ Emirate has swapped alcohol for culture and is a goldmine of local heritage that’s relatively untapped by visitors. From the Sharjah Heritage Area, with its life-size replica Bedouin village, to the stunning Blue Souk, featuring more than 600 shops selling all manner of trinkets, there plenty to discover.
Ajman may be the smallest of the seven Emirates that make up the UAE, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. The Corniche is the hub of local life in Ajman and a stroll along the beachfront promenade will take you right through the centre of the action. Visitors can also discover nature at the Al Zorah Nature Reserve, history at Ajman Museum, culture at the Ajman Fish Market and luxury at the Emirates’ five-star hotels.
Offering explorers a relaxing break from the big city, Umm Al-Quwain is a sleepy coastal town with beautiful white sandy beaches, luscious mangroves and picturesque harbours. Umm Al-Quwain isn’t as developed as the other Emirates, but that’s part of its charm. Attractions include the Umm Al-Quwain Museum, located in an 18 th century fort, Al-Dur archaeological site and the Old Town, where fishing boats bob on the Old Harbour.
Take a break from the bright lights of Dubai and follow the locals to Musandam Peninsula, an enclave of Oman that’s popular with road trippers and weekend breakers. Drive for two hours to reach the beginning of the peninsula and embark on a somewhat harrowing drive up the steep Jebel Hareem Mountain, past fertile farmland and small villages, to reach the beautiful mountain ridge and the Grand Canyon-esque Rawdah Bowl. After conquering the dramatic mountain, enjoy a dhow cruise on a traditional wooden boat and spot dolphins frolicking in the waves.