In the late 70s UAE was viewed as a sand pit. In less than 40 years, UAE sees a plane land every three seconds; like a virtual phoenix the country arose from its own humble beginnings. A land of hope built by its visionary monarchs, it now boasts of the tallest, the biggest, the most glam and truly secular and multicultural population. We share the spectacular hidden gems behind the scenic landmarks of the 7 Emirates which form UAE.
1. The Desert and the Dunes – Stepping into the cement skylines of UAE one can often forget that at the core it is a desert. Go right to its heart, where dunes can rise and dip to 100 meters. Dune dipping and driving is a pre-occupation of both tourists and locals alike. One of the most intriguing spots is Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve which forms a large land bank to preserve the indigenous nature of this myriad land. Take a scarf along as the deserts can get cold in the evenings.
2. The Mystical Wadis of UAE- Through the dry summer months, you can see dry river beds. This becomes a hot spot for drivers to go wadi bashing or skidding in 4x4 vehicles, whilst enjoying the dramatic and natural scenery of greenery, rocks and pools. It is advisable to go with an experienced driver as it can be quite dangerous.
3. Pristine Beaches- UAE is known for its white sands, pristine blue oceans filled with vibrant sea creatures. Our favourites are Sadiyaat Island Beach, Jumeriah Beach, Fujairah Beach or Baharani Beach, where you can simply charter a boat and go fishing, or deep dive or then again just swim in the beautiful waters.
4. The Hajjar Mountains Ranges which guard the nation also offers great trekking and biking trails on the highest mountain range in the Eastern Arabian Peninsula.
5. Bull Fighting-Every Friday afternoon, you can witness the most beautiful, yet NOT BLOODY Bull Fighting in Fujairah Corniche. Often crowded it is an informal makeshift area where you find bulls inside and outside grounds with drums and fun crowd. A nice evening with a local and expat crowd and obviously giant bulls, a very family oriented day!
6. Scenic Islands- Nearly 200 islands fall under the UAE territory on Persian Gulf, including Das Island which is rich in Oil, Delma Island which is rich in pearls, Umm Al Nar Island, Saadiyat Island, Hamra Island near Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Moosa Island, Greater Tunb Island, Lesser Tunb Island. Now joining them are the man-made islands which offer rather spectacular views- like the Palm Island, the Yas Island.
7. The Burj Khalifa – if you want a Bird’s Eye View of all this beauty, just take a ride to the viewing deck of the tallest building in the world. Or simply have a nice meal at Atmosphere on the 122nd floor or experience uncharted heights at the newly opened Level 148 and Level 125. Not for the faint hearted!
8. A City which boasts of being the shoppers delight, UAE goes beyond just providing retail therapy; it offers a destination for the full family, creating unique experiences. Large well designed venues, offering great stores, entertainment, food halls, there are malls to suit everyone’s needs and budgets. Besides the grand Dubai Mall, MOE, A must try is the Outlet Mall for bargain hunters. However our favorite new destination for 2015 is Dubai Design District.
9. Small Souqs- Besides the grand malls, UAE offers the very traditional experiences of the Souqs. These are swift trading hotbeds for both wholesalers and consumers. The textile market, the Gold Souq, the Blue Sharjah Souq, the Naif Market are connoisseurs delights.
10. Diving with the Dolphins -UAE is home to a vast variety of sea creatures, but one of the finest experiences it offers is diving with the dolphins at Atlantis Hotel’s Dolphin Bay in Dubai. This is one of the finest interactive experiences one can have.
11. Dubai’s Craft Clusters- beyond the blitz lies true talent. A hub of craftspeople from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Arabia, UAE is home to many unique crafts- like the steel Quargore Weavers of Fujairah, the embroidery artisans in the back-alleys of any city in UAE, the potters of Sharjah, the gold smiths and bearers of Deira offer the rarest talents –all handmade and unique pieces.
12. The Art zone – Experiencing a cultural renaissances, UAE is home to many art clusters which offer creative contemporary art and a wealth of creativity- our favorites Bastakiya, Al Serkal, DIFC, these areas come alive during the period of Art Weeks, Design Weeks etc.
13. UAE’s Museum: A wealth of historic information can be found in the many museums of the UAE. Besides the city’s own museums – like the Dubai Museum, Sharjah Museum etc, there are a lot of private museums; we are keenly looking forward to the launch of Guggenheim and Louvre which is undercover in Abu Dhabi.
14. UAE boasts of many fine dining but there are twice as many small eateries offering an excellent selection of street food which offers a range of multicultural cuisines – from Lebanese, Filipino, Greek, Indian, Pakistani, Italian, Turkish, Iranian etc.
15. The Majlis: or meeting places are often found at Bastakiya, or the Ramadan Majlis in Sharjah etc. UAE hosts several such Majlis to stir intercultural dialogues in maintaining stability and enhancing cultural communication between its many visitors and are tolerant places which are open to many topics of cultural and traditional discussions.
By Soniya Kirpalani
Images: Saurabh Vishwakarma & Genoveva
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