Date of Trip: March 2014
The UAE or United Arab Emirates broke ties with Britain and became independent in 1971. They
are absolute hereditary monarchies or sheikhdoms, each emirate is governed by a emir or sheikh
and one of them is selected to be the President of UAE. The land borders are Oman and Saudi
Arabia and sea borders along the Persian Gulf are Qatar, Iran and Pakistan. Although Arabic is the
official language, English is widely used. The discovery of oil in 1958 led to development and the
the vast richness we associate with the country today.
DUBAI is indeed dazzling! Modern glitzy, glittering skyscrapers shimmer and shine and have
attracted world attention for their innovative designs. It’s a skyline like no other, higher than any
other city “in the world”. This “in the world” is a phrase that is used over and over but to me it
should be “out of this world”. It’s truly over the top and the crowning centerpiece of the city is the
Burj Khalifa, completed in 2010, it is the tallest building in the world at 828 meters or 2,716 feet, it
sparkles like a diamond in the sunlight. The Dubai Fountain uses this building as a backdrop as it
shoots water up to 500 ft and is the world’s largest musical performing fountain. It’s right outside
the Dubai Mall, the largest in the world with 1200 shops, 120 restaurants and cafes in 5.9 million
sq ft and estimated to have cost $20 billion to build. It attracts more visitors in a year than New
York City does tourists. It also features one of the largest Aquariums, a 22 screen Cinema, a larger
than Olympic size skating rink, and an 82 ft high waterfall.
The world’s only 7 star hotel, the Burj Al Arab is constructed on a man made island and resembles
Dubai has diversified from an oil reliant trade based city to that of a service and tourism one since
the economic downfall in 2008-2009. Despite this major financial setback, Dubai is still ranked as
one of the world’s richest cities and the fastest growing.
Some say it’s charmless and soul-less. Is it worth seeing? I say yes, you have to see it to believe it
– only in Dubai…..it’s a brand new city still in the making, ever onwards and upwards.
ABU DHABI is about a 2 hour drive from Dubai and the Capital of UAE and the wealthiest emirate.
It is spread across many natural islands.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest in the world and probably most certainly the
grandest. In it’s white marble simplicity I found it to be the most beautiful mosque I’ve ever seen.
It has the world’s largest chandelier and the world’s largest hand knotted carpet. There is a strict
dress code and I was required to wear the abaya (outer cloak) and shayla (head scarf) to enter.
My day tour bus had these garments available to use.
The Emirates Palace is actually a hotel, the most expensive hotel ever built at $3 billion. You can
actually get gold out of the ATM.
Ferrari World is the world’s largest indoor theme park and the roller coaster with Ferrari cars goes
out through the roof and back down at 240 km or 150 miles per hour, making it the world’s fastest.
The President’s Palace here is being rebuilt to be even larger and his yacht is the largest in the
We also visited the Heritage Village and Museum that showed the traditional Bedouin lifestyle that
existed long before the discovery of oil. I also got the most wonderful chocolate covered dates at
SHARJAH may seem like just a suburb of Dubai but is the 3rd largest emirate. It is far more
religious and it is “dry” – forget about having a beer here as alcohol is strictly forbidden and
punishable by law. The mosques here have more of an Arabian design.
The UAE is more than just opulent shopping centers and flashy skyscrapers and I was able to take
day trips from sandy desert to the oasis and more. The Northern Emirates have a lot of natural
beauty with mountainous terrain and historic points of interest.
AJMAN is the smallest emirate by area, just 100 sq. miles.
UMM AL QUWAIN is the least populated emirate at 62,000 in 750 sq. km or about 465 sq. miles.
RAS AL-KHAIMAH mean “Top of the Tent” and is the most northern emirate bordering Oman’s
I passed through these three emirates on my way to a dhow cruise entering Oman at Dibba and
going through passport control. The Musandam Peninsula juts into a narrow entry of the Persian
Gulf and although it is part of Oman, it is separated from the rest of the country by UAE. The
Omani wooden dhow had Bedouin style pillows and carpets to lounge on and we drifted through
fjords flanked by mountains. There was a chance to go out on the banana boat, use snorkel
equipment and fishing gear but even just hanging out on the dhow was a wonderful relaxing 5 hours
and lunch was cooked on board.
FUJAIRAH is the last emirate I visited and the only one in the east on the Indian Ocean. This was
another day trip drive through the lush oasis of Al Dhaid, known for it’s fruits and vegetables. We
stopped at the Souq al Juma also known as the “Friday Market” even though it’s open every day.
We also visited the oldest mosque, built in 1446 and the Fujairah Fort. It’s a beautiful coastline
with fishing villages and we had lunch at the Sandy Beach Hotel Bar. Fujairah is a sea port and
services ships to and from the Persian Gulf but it also could export oil off the East Coast by way of
a pipeline across UAE.
The reason I was in Dubai was because it is a gateway city to Africa and I was on my way to
Johannesburg, but I was very happy I went there and spent a week to get to know all 7 of the Em’s.
I used Rayna Tours and got a package deal with 7 nights at the Cassell’s Hotel (near the Emirates
Mall) and the day trips. I would have much preferred to be in the Marina area perhaps, but the
price I got for all of it was very good.