United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is situated at the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula, sharing its borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia and having a maritime border with Qatar and Iran in the Persian Gulf. The Emirates is a wonderfully dynamic with iconic skylines, famous beach resorts and major tourist sites such as Abu Dhabi's modern Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Dubai's towering Burj Khalifa. The country has branded itself as a luxury destination, however there is a lot more to explore outside of these two big cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Sharjah is known as the cultural and educational nucleus of the country. This lovely University City has numerous museums including the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation, which is one of the best museums in the country focussing on the full extent of Islamic history and culture. Many of the displays feature rare manuscripts and religious documents and visitors will find them easy to understand thanks to the excellent information boards throughout. The Sharjah Arts Museum is another important place dedicated to the arts of the Emirates. It is home to the most diverse art collection in the United Arab Emirates. The museum is recognised for its collection of works by Arabic artists and also for its important pieces by European artists who specialised in painting the Arab world.
Lying in the north of the country on the east coast is the only Emirati capital of Fujairah, known for its beaches and relaxation. Fujairah offers hiking trails with views over the surrounding mountains as well as scuba diving and snorkelling with many striking sites available in this region. Thought to date back to 1446, the Al-Bidyah Mosque is the oldest and most important historical sites in the Emirates. Uniquely built due to the fact it has fewer domes than other Mosques, it is located only 35 kms from Fujairah. Although modest in size, this building was beautifully designed, with its original ventilation shaft patterns in the walls still visible. The entire surrounding area is an archaeological site, where many pottery and metal artefacts have been excavated.
Ras Al Khaimah is another historical and ancient city located in this northern region. It has unspoiled camping and hiking trails for those who are a little more adventurous. Jebel Jais is the highest peak in the United Arab Emirates and has become much easier to access in recent years thanks to the switchback road that twists and turns all the way up the mountainside. At the top there is a series of landscaped terraces with viewing platforms offering some great mountain vistas that roll right down to the sea.
The small town of Al Ain is situated in the south, a place to go and relax while enjoying the vast desert and oasis of the Emirates. Al Ain is home to natural springs where you can soak in its natural mineral waters and to lush green gardens. The vast mountain near the town of Al Ain, Jebel Ali, has the perfect view over the surrounding countryside. Here visitors can enjoy spectacular sunrises and sunsets, under vivid skies and colours against the stark desert landscape. Jebel Hafeet is on the must do list for anyone who wants to photograph some of the great desert landscapes. This is the 2nd highest peak in the United Arab Emirates and is a favourite day trip from both Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
Where the cities end the desert begins, the Hajar Mountains slice through the desert, creating the jagged and remote heart. With its rollercoaster roads and remarkable scenery along the way visitors can connect with the region's tiny villages. There is also plenty for the nature lovers with hiking, trekking and even bird watching opportunities. There are also a vast amount of picturesque Wadis “dry riverbeds and valleys” to explore in the area as well. To enhance your stay, why not observe the country’s Bedouin past on a clear starry desert night, before exploring the many forts that defend the country’s coastline.