The largest emirate in the UAE borders the Empty Quarter desert wherein lies the world's tallest sand dune, Tel Moreeb. The Abu Dhabi emirate is a must-visit place for those who admire the deserts, oases, wildlife, islands, virgin coastlines and modern cityscapes.
Abu Dhabi city is where the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the opulent Emirates Palace (hotel) stand. You can visit the city for Yas WaterWorld and Ferrari World as well.
Visitors can explore former palaces, forts, museums and many cultural sites. Some of the notable landmarks are:
Some of the natural sites include the Jebel Hafeet mountain, whose peak is the emirate's highest point and the oasis in Al Ain. The date palm oasis has been recognised by United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for its importance as a repository of genetic resources, biodiversity and cultural heritage. It has also been designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS). Al Ain is also home to the UNESCO heritage sites. Additionally, the emirate of Abu Dhabi also has a lot of gardens and parks.
Abu Dhabi has developed many new districts which offer great entertainment and recreational value.
Saadiyat Island is an excellent tourist destination with a cultural emphasis. It houses several museums including Sheikh Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
The new financial district which is located on Al Maryah Island and stands out for its modern architecture, combines a commercial area and many shopping outlets and restaurants.
Yas Island is a venue dedicated to sports and entertainment. It is home to the Formula 1 circuit, Ferrari World theme park and Yas Water World, as well as many hotels and restaurants.
Activities to try in Abu Dhabi
One could cycle, jog, walk or simply watch the world go by along Abu Dhabi's beautiful corniche or try one water sports in the mangroves by the city.
Enjoy safaris, quad-biking, sand-skiing, paragliding etc. in the desert or spend the evening in a Bedouin camp under the starlit skies, enjoying refreshments and entertainment.
Experience a sunset dinner-cruise on a traditional wooden dhow along Abu Dhabi's extensive coastline.
Enjoy the dunes of the Empty Quarter desert in Liwa, a two-hour drive from Abu Dhabi. Enjoy tranquillity in Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort, which has been artfully constructed to resemble a desert fort.
Take a trip by boat or plane to one of Abu Dhabi's offshore jewels, Sir Bani Yas Resort, to explore the rugged island, its spectacular beaches, salt dome and dense mangroves.
Explore Al Ain city, a low-lying green city in an oasis of majestic date palms. Take a tour of its many impressive old forts and archaeological sites.
Children's activities in Abu Dhabi
Following are some fun activities to try for families with children:
- The Fun City/Works/Ville at various locations in the emirate
- Fun Zone at Al Mariah Mall
- Hili Fun City at Al Ain
- Kidoos, Abu Dhabi Mall, Tourist Club Area
- Wanasa Land at Al Wahda Mall
- Whiz Kidz, where your child can try his hand at drawing, painting, arithmetic training, calligraphy, public speaking; located on Defence Road, Al Markaziyah.
Read more about family attractions in Abu Dhabi.
Learn more about Abu Dhabi:
Explore sights in:
Landmarks in Dubai include both historic and modern structures. Some of which are Dubai Museum, Hatta Heritage Village, Burj Khalifa - the tallest tower, The Dubai Mall - the largest mall and Palm Jumeirah - the largest man-made island.
Complete your Dubai experience with:
Activities to try in Dubai
One could relax on the long stretch of clean beaches, visit the various parks in the city or enjoy a drive in the desert.
You could also take a 1.5 hour drive to Hatta where you could spend some time by the natural water pools or bash the pools in a 4WD.
Children's activities in Dubai
Following are some fun activities to try for families with children
- Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo - it is one of the largest indoor aquariums, featuring thousands of aquatic animals and a 270-degree walk-through tunnel
- KidZania- it provides a unique and realistic educational environment for children to experiment with careers through role-playing
- Dubai Ice Rink - it is an Olympic-sized rink and is located in The Dubai Mall
- Children's City - it is an edutainment centre spread across more than 80,000 sq. ft. area in Dubai Creek Park
- Wonderland and Splashland - these are amusement parks with water slides and other rides
- Dubai Safari - it houses approximately 2500 animal species from all over the world.
Refer to the official tourism portal of Dubai, to find out what other activities you can try in Dubai.
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Ajman is blessed with a natural harbour on the Arabian Gulf. It is situated along a central creek with a beautiful 16 kilometre long stretch of white sandy beach. Although fishing and dhow-building are still important aspects of life, it has undergone significant developments, especially in the area named as 'New Ajman' along the Emirates Road.
Some of the major landmarks in Ajman are:
- Ajman Museum
- Masfout Castle
- Masfout Gate
- The Red Fort.
Ajman is famous for its stunning beaches, Masfout mountains, nature reserves and parks, Masfout Castle, Red Fort and the 18th century Ajman Fort which was converted into Ajman Museum. The museum houses an interesting collection of archaeological artefacts, manuscripts, old weapons and reconstructions of traditional life.
Shoppers can find designer brands at the City Centre Mall or could bargain for more traditional ware at the souk.
The stretch of the white sandy beach near the Kempinski Hotel is perfect for a relaxing swim.
Ajman has two rural agricultural enclaves: Masfout to the southeast on the road to Hatta and Manama about 60 kilometres east just off the main road between Al Dhaid and the east coast.
Find out more about tourism in Ajman on its official tourism website.
Umm Al Quwain
Umm Al Quwain is the most ancient emirate in the country. Archeological traces show strong evidences of the emirate's relations with Mesopotamia that existed during the 3rd millennium B.C. The tiny emirate of Umm Al Quwain is about 20 minutes' drive north of Ajman.
Umm Al Quwain has beautiful beaches. Windsurfing, waterskiing and sailing can all be enjoyed at Umm Al Quwain Marine Club on Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Moalla Rd. The Club also has a popular horse-riding centre.
Umm Al Quwain Fort, which was home to the Ruler of the emirate, guarded the entrance to the old town. Later it became a museum. The emirate boasts of 6 other forts.
Dreamland Aqua Park, a water park and a recreational resort is another landmark in the emirate.
Ajman is distinguished by its several islands: Al Sinniya, Jazirat Al Ghalla, Al Keabe, Al Sow, Al Qaram, Al Humaidi, Al Chewria and Al Harmala. The most famous is Al Sinniya, which is about 90 sq km from the city and is blessed with several environmental privileges.
An air tour from Umm Al Quwain Aeroclub will give you a bird's-eye view of these locations.
Falaj Al Mu'alla, an enclave of Umm Al Quwain, is an attractive natural oasis, about 50 kilometres southeast of Umm Al Quwain City on the road E55 to Al Dhaid. It has a camel racetrack as well.
The emirate is also home to a number of archaeological sites such as Tell Abraq (dating from the Bronze Age), Alokaaab Island and Ed Dur, a site with significance in the first century AD.
Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah has excellent hotels, great beaches, golf courses and spas. Some of the top hotels include Al Hamra Fort Hotel and Beach Resort (with a golf course within the complex), the Waldorf Astoria, Cove Rotana Resort, Banyan Tree Al Wadi.
Ras Al Khaimah's beaches and hotels offer a variety of activities while the desert and mountains are ideal for safaris and nature trails. You can also try falconry, horse riding, camel riding or wadi adventures.
The old town of Ras Al Khaimah has the National Museum, which used to be residence of the ruling family until the early 1960s. The museum houses a collection of archaeological and ethnological artefacts. A visit to the museum will give you a real sense of time and place, particularly the maritime past of the region, its role in the pearling trade and the Qawasim who had built up a fleet of over 60 large vessels.
You can visit the Pearl Museum on the shores of the creek and learn about Julfar, which was a major medieval trading centre in the region where merchants from east and west came to purchase the precious pearls that were harvested locally.
About 25 kilometres from the city, a new road, which is the UAE's most scenic road, runs up the Jebel Jais mountain cluster, which rises to 5,700 feet. The road is popular amongst enthusiastic drivers, sightseers and extreme athletes.
About 15 kilometres from the city is Dhayah Fort, a strategic military fortification that played a major role in the history of the UAE. The fort overlooks the village of Shimal, also the location of a significant archaeological site.
Hot springs at Ain Khatt are very popular with the local population.
You can explore the ruins of partially restored abandoned stone houses at Jazirat al Hamra, on the coast between Al Hamra Fort Hotel and the Cove Rotana.
Visit Ras Al Khaimah for Awafi desert, the Marjan island and Iceland Waterpark.
Find out more about tourism in RAK through the official tourism website of Ras Al Khaimah
Fujairah's historical importance goes back to 3000 B.C. when the area was inhabited by herders and fishermen. It was then named as the Land of Titans or 'Ard Al Jababerah'. It is unofficially called 'the Jewel of the Middle East'.
Wadi Al Wurayah waterfalls and Ain Al Madhab Gardens are major touristic attractions in Fujairah. Wadi Wurrayah, a 31,000-acre nature reserve, lies between Khor Fakkan and Bidiyah. The site is the UAE's only waterfall. Other sites include the UAE's oldest mosque Al Bidya Mosque and the Heritage Village.
Fujairah has many beaches and beach-side resorts including the five-star Le Méridien Al Aqah and Fujairah Rotana.
It does not have a desert; it is mostly mountainous, covered by Al Hajar Mountains which separates the emirate from the rest of the country.
Fujairah is cooler than the rest of the UAE. It is popular for water sports like swimming, sailing, jet skiing, fishing.
Along the road to Fujairah from Dubai, vendors and buyers thrive the Friday market. It is a good place to buy locally produced fruits and vegetables and other ethnic items such as pottery, rugs and even some Chinese goods.
Travel south passing the magnificent restored fort at Bithnah, one of the many forts and watchtowers that once protected these routes through the mountains, to the mainly low-lying Fujairah City.
Take time to explore Al Hayl Palace, which was once the summer residence of the ruling family of Fujairah.
Fujairah Fort, reputedly 360 years old, stands on a slight incline at the edge of date gardens in Fujairah city. These forts are often identified as Portuguese but many were older in construction.
Fujairah Heritage Village has a good selection of traditional houses ('Arish) and fishing boats (Shashah) made from palm fronds, providing an interesting backdrop to its living reconstruction of traditional life in the mountains and on the shores of the east coast.
On weekends in winter, you can witness bullfights, practised as a recreational sport.
Find more about tourism in Fujairah.
Updated on 28 Nov 2019