United Arab Emirates
Today we are going to the United Arab Emirates. This incredibly diverse country consists of seven independent city states or emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain – each with their own character and allure. There’s plenty to see and explore – here are some of the country’s best bits!
Our first stop is the capital, Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as the country’s cultural hub with world-class museums, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and the Louvre Art Gallery. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is an art and civilisation museum which was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel and opened in 2017. Its collection highlights humanity’s artistic achievements from the Neolithic period up to the present day. Artworks are grouped by theme and time-frame rather than country or specific civilisation. The result is a globe-trotting journey through human heritage that highlights how cultures from across the world are somehow interlinked.
Next stop is the opulent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Conceived by Sheikh Zayed, and marking his final resting place, the mosque is one of few mosques in the region open to the public. It is a masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture and design with more than 90,000 tonnes of pure white marble used in its construction and 80 marble domes and four 107 metre-high minarets. Despite its architectural references to all the great Islamic empires of the past, including Mamluk, Ottoman, Fatimid, Moorish and Indo-Islamic styles, the overwhelming impression is this mosque is thoroughly of and for the 21st century.
Abu Dhabi isn’t all about its culture and Islamic architecture, but also caters for the thrill-seekers amongst us. Yas Island is home to Ferrari World which has the fastest rollercoaster in the world. Accelerating from 0kph to 240kph in 4.9 seconds, this is as close to a Formula One experience you are likely to ever get.
From here, go to the sci-fi city of Dubai and see the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. At 828 metres tall, you can zoom up to the observation decks on the 124th and 148th floors to get incredible views over the city. This incredible feat of architecture and engineering only took 6 years to build and was opened in 2010.
Next stop is the Burj Al Arab. Completed in 1999, this iconic landmark sits on an artificial island off Jumeirah Beach. This incredibly luxurious hotel was built in the shape of the sail of a traditional dhow boat and has 202 suites each costing around £1,000 a night!
From here, you can visit the tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah island. This artificial archipelago is known for its glamorous hotels, posh apartment towers and upmarket global restaurants. There’s plenty to do including shopping, going on underwater tours and splashing your way around the water park.
One of Dubai’s oldest and most charismatic neighbourhoods, Deira, is home to the Gold Souq. This covered arcade has dozens of gold shops overflowing with every kind of jewellery imaginable. You should treat yourself but be ready to barter!
Our final stop is the UAE’s art and heritage centre, Sharjah. Sharjah is home to some of the best museums and art galleries in the UAE. This emirate is doing more than anywhere else in the country to preserve its heritage and gained recognition for its work from UNESCO in 2014 when it was declared Capital of Islamic Culture.