The United Arab Emirates is a traditionally conservative Arab country of unusual culture and values, one of the most liberal in the Gulf region. A country from an oriental tale - it is ruled by the Supreme Council of Rulers, consisting of seven emirs. The state is located in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula, washed by the waters of the Persian and Oman Gulfs (Indian Ocean).
Prior to the discovery of oil in the 1950s, the economy depended on fishing and pearl mining, but since the start of oil exports in 1962, the UAE has changed. Cities have grown in the middle of the desert, the latest technologies have made it possible to grow gardens and create islands, to build the highest skyscrapers, an aquarium, a ski resort where there was once only sand and water.
The country unites 7 emirates: the largest is Abu Dhabi, the smallest is Ajman. All emirates are located on the coast of the Persian Gulf, except for Fujairah, located on the shores of the Gulf of Oman.
The UAE is constantly changing, striving to build more and better than before, competing with themselves, attracting tourists with fabulous entertainment, attractions, shopping centers, parks, hotels. The country cherishes its Islamic roots, but leaves room for other cultures - a rare quality for the conservative Arab world. Dubai is a cosmopolitan metropolis that is turning into a global melting pot, business and cultural center of the Middle East.
- Dubai is the most famous emirate among tourists: they are attracted by the largest shopping centers, Dubai Marina, Burj Khalifa, and the Palm archipelago. Hotel prices are higher here than in other emirates, budget options are located far from the sea.
- Strict Sharjah attracts tourists with low prices for accommodation, and the ban on alcohol and strict adherence to Muslim traditions made Sharjah an ideal place for a quiet, relaxing holiday for families with children. Noisy, more open Dubai is located nearby: you can go on excursions, shopping, and have fun.
- Abu Dhabi is the largest and richest among the emirates, the capital of the country. Abu Dhabi is visited by businessmen, fans of exotic entertainment - Formula 1, camel racing, beach lovers - to sunbathe on one of the best beaches in the world, Public Beach.
- Fujairah is famous for its sandy beaches, mountainous headlands, developed diving and snorkeling. Fujairah is the "greenest" emirate: there are many oases and mineral springs.
- Ajman - the smallest emirate has a good location within the emirate of Sharjah, making it convenient to visit Sharjah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, staying in an inexpensive hotel on the seashore.
- Ras al-Khaimah, Umm al-Quwain are at the stage of development of the tourism sector and are not very popular among visitors.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in the UAE
UAE city hotels offer accommodation of all levels: quality service starts with 3 * hotels. The elite area of Jumeirah on the coast is distinguished by upscale hotels. Sharjah, Ajaman - hotels with average service, exceptions - Ajman Kempinski, Coral Beach. Abu Dhabi has built hotels on the coast, but due to lack of land, they are distinguished by small beaches. The hotels are old but good. Northern Emirates Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah offer average quality accommodation, with the exception of Le Meridien al Aqua, the demand for them is low.
TOP-10 hotels in the UAE
- Jumeirah Al Nasim is a trendy Gulf resort with 5 beautiful pools, 2 km from the sandy beach. Offers access to all Madinat Jumeirah amenities including spa, fitness center, tennis courts, water park, waterways served by abra boat taxis. From 272.57 $.
- Four Seasons Resort Dubai on Jumeirah Beach overlooks the soothing waters of the Arabian Gulf, the sparkling Dubai skyline, 2 swimming pools (1 adult), 11 restaurants, lounges. From 287.57 $.
- Taj Dubai is a blend of contemporary luxury and local tradition. The hotel has abandoned the standard beige color scheme - it's a carnival of flowers! A variety of restaurants with unique service creates a fun atmosphere in the business district. From 97.52 $.
- Four Seasons Hotel Dubai, the International Financial Center has a variety of restaurants and bars with stunning views of Dubai, a world-class spa, a rooftop glass pool that draws a lot of people for Instagram footage. A bar, jacuzzi, exercise bike, massage chairs add to the charm of the local lounge. From 172.54 $.
- Bulgari Resort & Residences Dubai is a private island resort located just off the coast of Dubai, bringing elegant Italian flair to the Middle East and confronting the ubiquitous urban skyscrapers with Mediterranean design, luxury spa, marina, Bulgari Yacht Club. From 373.84 $.
- Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is the only seven-star hotel in the world. Incomparable luxury furnishings, its own Rolls-Royce Phantoms fleet, duplex suites, Hermès bathrooms, widescreen TVs, pool-side air conditioning - all this attracts lovers of luxury relaxation here. From 1163 $.
- Edition is a stylish 198-room waterfront hotel, acclaimed by the famous British chef Tom Aikens, who created three concepts of the culinary arts.
- Qasr Al Sarab is located among the dunes of the largest sandy desert in the world: it has received the status of the most instagram hotel on the planet. Location, service, grandeur make it one of the most attractive establishments in the emirate. From 200 $ / day
- Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai is a stately property on the Palm Jumeirah, inspired by 18th century European palaces. The Emerald Palace offers 391 luxurious rooms, suites, villas, eight restaurants, including the Alain Ducasse restaurant, 500-meter beach, luxury spa, private cinema. From 180.04 $.
- Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf is the coziest , most exclusive property in Madinat Jumeirah, comprised of 29 low-rise summer houses overlooking winding waterways, gardens or the ocean, complemented by 24-hour service. From 256.31 $.
UAE law prohibits same-sex relationships and sex outside of marriage, so cohabitation of an unmarried man and woman is prohibited.
There are 3 types of outlets: C (European), D (Indian), G (British). Each hotel chooses which outlets to install - you can find out in advance by calling or writing a letter. Most hotels issue adapters.
Food in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates offers a wide variety of dishes, but traditional cooking has stood the test of time, experiencing the country's rapid modernization and gaining an almost mythical status in the local community.
Chefs of national cuisine, with the help of government initiatives, strive to preserve this symbol of the Emirates. They quickly became celebrities, created restaurant chains, recreated their own versions of their favorite local dishes: rice kabsa , sweet onion (dumplings), haris (boiled wheat porridge).
The chefs help to restore the status of the national cuisine as an everyday food product, and offer the best examples of it in restaurants.
Must-haves to try in the UAE:
- Kabsa is a national dish: a fragrant mixture of basmati rice, lamb or chicken, vegetables, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, nutmeg, bay leaf, cooked in one pot, served in a slide in the center of the table.
- Popular throughout the Middle East, but viewed by chefs as a local dish - shuwaa: slow roasted lamb with nuts, raisins, wrapped in date leaves and cooked in an oven. Served over rice, often with a bowl of simmered steamed, chopped wheat.
- Favorite sweet dish - lukaimat: deep-fried balls of dough, crispy on the outside and airy on the inside, topped with super- sweet date syrup. Served with sweet sauces, a cup of karakai (black tea masala).
- A typical breakfast includes bread chabab, Hameer bread, pancakes, sweet dish made from dates and Habis, porridge of wheat and dates.
- Machba with fish, chicken or lamb is a popular dish prepared on important days - Eid, National Day, Friday, wedding ceremonies. Machbu is similar to habsu or pilav made with Arabic spices.
- A popular seafood dish is jashid: finely chopped fish, usually a young shark, is served with rice.
- Other popular dishes: hare - porridge made from whole wheat and meat, mahammar - sweetened rice with fish, umm ali - bread pudding, esh asayaya - sweet cheese pie topped with cream, samak maleh - salted fish.
Public transport is underdeveloped: almost every resident drives a car, and labor migrants or tourists use buses and metro. There is a regular city bus service in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The cost is about 0,4 $.
Tourists use taxis: cars are equipped with meters, the average cost of a trip is 5,4 $. For crossing the "border" of the emirates and travel on toll roads, an additional amount is added (no more than 5 $). Private taxis are cheaper, especially if you know how to bargain. Local taxi drivers are emotional, they like to swear at other drivers. They are familiar with key attractions, hotels, shopping centers, they can easily get lost, if the place is not very popular, wander around the city for a long time. It is better to agree on the fare in advance, otherwise there is a risk of overpaying.
The Dubai Metro is popular with locals and tourists alike: it is fully automatic and has 2 lines connected by a tram line. There are 3 categories of metro tickets:
- "Gold" - with a panoramic view, a guarantee of a seat in the head / tail carriage, cost twice as much as usual
- Women's and children's (separate section of the carriage)
Tickets cost from 0,5 $ to 3 $.
There is a tram line in the Dubai Marina area, a monorail railway on the Palm Jumeirah, the price is 4 $.
Water buses, taxis, traditional water taxi boats - abras run on the waters of both bays. Most hotels offer their own buses that take their guests to the city center or to the beach.
Double-decker tourist buses travel around Dubai, there are day and night tours. Having bought a day / night ticket, you can get off at any stop on the route and continue on the next bus. The cost is 70 $ / day (adult ticket). There are special offers for families, children and students.
All types of transport are paid by cards:
Red: up to 10 trips, valid for 90 days, price - 1,6 $
- Blue: Personalized card, 5 years old, 19,05 $ (5,4 $ - non-withdrawable balance)
- Silver: 5 years, price - 6,8 $ (5,2 $ on the account)
- Gold: card for travel in Gold class, 5 years, price - 6,8 $ (5,2 $ - reserve), replenishment is not limited.
Rent a car in the UAE
To rent a car, you will need an international driving license and a credit card. When renting on a bank card, 205-544 $ is frozen. Fines for traffic violations are high: for example, driving through a red light - 816 $. There are 5 highways built in the country: E 11 (Sheikh Zayed Road), E 311 (Emirates Road), E 44 (Dubai-Hatta Highway), E 77 (Dubai-Al Habab Road), E 66 (Oud Metha Road).
Buses run between the emirates, between the most popular - every 30 minutes, the price is 1,4-13,6 $ (depending on the distance). Tickets for intercity buses are sold at stations.
Entertainment and attractions in the UAE
The Emirates cannot boast of many historical sights, like cities in Europe or Asia, but the lack of ancient ruins and old houses is more than compensated for by ultra-modern skyscrapers, luxurious amusement parks, beautiful embankments, oriental bazaars, high-tech and cool shopping centers.
- Burj Khalifa tower 828 meters high - a whole world with parks, hotels, residential complexes, shops, swimming pools, restaurants. The tower has broken many records: tallest building, fastest elevators, tallest mosque, highest number of floors - 166. After 6 pm, the performance of the singing fountains of Burj Khalifa, located nearby, begins.
- Palm Jumeirah is a famous man-made island, shaped like a palm tree, consisting of a trunk, 16 “leaves” built up with hotels, villas, shops, and an 11-kilometer breakwater. On the island there is the Atlantis hotel, the highlight of which is Dolphin's Bay, where you can swim with bottlenose dolphins.
- Burj Al Arab is an architectural masterpiece that has become a symbol of Dubai, built in the form of a sailing ship on an artificial island. This is the only 7-star hotel in the world.
- If you want to certainly touch the history and culture, pay attention to the beautiful mosques, the Bastakiya district (Dubai), where clay houses, a fort building, and the atmosphere of an Arab village have been preserved.
- Picturesque oases are scattered throughout the emirates. Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah offer curative mineral springs, a unique mangrove reserve, a zoo, and the Sheikh's palace in Al Ain (Abu Dhabi).
- An evening cruise on Dubai Creek on an antique-styled boat or on a modern yacht. The cost of the program includes dinner with alcoholic drinks, belly dancing.
- Jeep safari in the hot desert with a visit to a Bedouin village.
- Airplane flights with an experienced instructor: stunning views of pink flamingos, golden beaches, blue lagoons.
- Dubai World Cup racing, golf competition, camel racing.
- Visit to the neighboring Sultanate of Oman
- Hot air balloon flight.
- Serving the finest local cuisine at Al Fanar Café, the Festival City Mall has a rustic setting with coral-adorned walls, an old blue Land Rover, heavy wooden tables around a date palm, balconies with carved Arab gates.
- Al Makan (Souq Madinat) offers views of the Souk amphitheater, changing colors on the towering Burj Al Arab, local cuisine.
- Dubai Heritage and Diving Center is the best place to try lukaimat, with top chefs serving it with date pasta
Dubai - what to see, what prices, where to stay, shopping
Dubai offers quality shopping - there are many multi-storey shopping centers, markets. The most famous: Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Souk Madinat Jumeirah next to Palm Jumeirah, Gold Souk (Dubai's Deira district), Abu Dhabi Mall. The malls here are similar in size to small towns, with theaters, amusement parks, art galleries and even mosques located right inside the malls. Exclusive designer stores, branded footwear, cosmetics, accessories, boutique supermarkets, huge bookstores, cinemas, theaters, gourmet restaurants are just some of the local entertainment! If you want to see something more colorful, take a walk in one of the many bazaars in the city.
- The Dubai Mall is the largest shopping mall with an area equal to 50 football fields. The Fashion Avenue gallery has been opened, where seventy boutiques of elite brands are located, and the indoor “Gold Market”, which unites 220 stores of jewelry, spices, and essential oils, operates. On the territory of 1,2 million sq. meters built an artificial waterfall with an aquarium, a large skating rink, a complex of cinemas with more than 20 screens.
- The Mall of the Emirates brings together local and global brand stores, gaming venues, cinemas, a bowling alley, Ski Dubai (3 football pitches in size).
- The Gold Souk and the Spice Souk invite you to walk around the benches, to see the exposition of the Dubai Museum, located in the building of an old fort. A visit to the market is profitable: the prices of products made of gold with precious stones and furs are the lowest here, it is customary to bargain.
- The annual shopping festival, or DDS (Dubai Shopping Festival), is held in January.
The most popular souvenirs among UAE tourists are chocolate, camel milk sweets, amazing dates with and without filling, soft toys, seven sands - a bottle of colored sand from different emirates, small carpets, hookahs, jewelry, and jewelry.
A five-star hotel in Dubai will cost from 200 $ / day, per room for 2, four-star - 50-150 $, prices for 3 * accommodation - from 40-50 $ / day.
Abu Dhabi - what you need to know about the capital of the UAE
The capital of the Emirates, away from the bright lights of neighboring Dubai, with a more measured pace of life, offers its own Louvre, opened in 2017, the breathtaking Sheikh Zayed Mosque, examples of Islamic architecture. It hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - the F1 race stage, theme parks, Ferrari World, but the best entertainment is slow: an oasis of tranquility in the second city of Al Ain, Jebel panoramas, endless desert dunes of the "Empty Quarter" - Rub al Khali.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a triumph of Islamic architecture for the modern world. Architectural hints of all the great Islamic empires of the past, from Fatimid Egypt to the Mughal dynasty of South Asia, are presented among the dazzling white marble façade. This is the only mosque in the city where non-Muslims can access.
Dubai or Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi is the government center of the UAE, Dubai is a large international center for business and tourism. The Emirates are an hour and a half away from each other, so you can visit both cities in one vacation. Which city looks best depends on what you expect from your vacation.
- Guests interested in big city life will prefer Dubai: it is the most populous emirate with the tallest buildings, popular attractions, fiery clubs, and many expats. It has a world-class tourist infrastructure.
- Abu Dhabi is a more conservative emirate: people come here who want to get acquainted with the authentic Muslim culture. This city is visited less by western tourists.
- The popularity of Dubai among tourists makes it possible to find affordable hostels and hotels. But both cities are very expensive.
- Abu Dhabi's beaches are not inferior to those of Dubai, and the beach of Saadiyat Island (Abu Dhabi) will give odds to many beaches in the UAE.
- Both are considered the safest cities in the world. The average homicide rate is 0.3% per 100,000 inhabitants, robberies are extremely rare.
- The best time to visit cities is in winter. The most successful months for a trip are December-February.
- From Moscow to Dubai there are direct flights by Aeroflot, Emirates, FlyDubai and others, to Abu Dhabi only Etihad airlines operate direct flights.
The optimal solution is to combine a visit to both cities, getting acquainted with the culture of a more open Dubai and traditional Abu Dhabi, seeing how wealth makes life bright, technological, comfortable where there was once only a desert.