From Egyptian pyramids to the stunning mosques in the UAE, there is something for everyone. The United Arab Emirates’ two main cities are Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Both cities have the highest rated hotels in the world as well as glitzy shopping malls. Dubai has become the major travel hub in the Middle East.
With its vast air connections across the globe, Dubai is the most convenient destination for visitors to transit to other Middle Eastern countries.
In Abu Dhabi, visit the colossal Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The mosque, clad in Macedonian marble, mosaic tiles, intricate carvings on both the interior and exterior, took nearly 20 years to complete. The mosque is able to hold 40,000 worshippers and is the biggest in the UAE. For a more historical site, visit the Al-Hosn Palace which is also known as the Old Fort. Muscat, the capital of Oman is completely different from the rest of the Emirates on the Arabian Gulf. It is conservative, restrained and magical. Traditional architecture of the city stand in sharp contrast to its rugged terrain and natural beauty. Hemmed in by terracotta-coloured mountains which gradually turn pink in the early morning sunshine when the call to prayer reverberates across the rooftops. The city has been a thriving port for centuries.
Visiting the world’s tallest skyscraper Burj Khalifa with its high speed lifts that stop at the 124th floor public platform for visitors to get a dizzying bird’s eye view of the amazing city. If you like to shop, there’s Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping mall packed with designer labels, affordable shops and plenty of family entertainment including an aquarium. The gold and spice souks are laden with traders selling a dazzling array of 22-carat, ornately-designed gold bangles and necklaces which the locals adore. But most tourists find the heady perfumed oils and fragrant spices irresistible.
Best for: families and couples with a sense of adventure.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and is the biggest and richest of the seven emirates nations. Together they occupy the eastern rim of Saadiyat Island, surrounded by sea. “Saadiyat” in Arabic means happiness. The island will eventually be turned into a high-brow cultural park with a performance space designed by the London-based architect, Zaha Hadid and will include a marina and gold course.
Best for: family holidays and curious tourists who want a taste of the Middle Eastern culture and history.
The old walled city has ancient alleyways, museums and the vibrant Mutrah Souk, Muscat’s oldest market on the waterfront where you can haggle for frankincense, silverware, fridge magnets and even a khanjar, the traditional silver dagger of Oman. Khasab, a small port at the tip of Oman’s Musandam’s peninsula is where you board traditional dhow cruises to the fjords where you can watch dolphins, go kite-surfing, snorkel or scuba dive in the clear but chilly waters.
Best for: Family holidays, young and mature adventure seekers who want to discover the charm of Oman, Muscat and Khasab.