To many travellers, the United Arab Emirates mean just one thing: a stopover. It’s a place to endure rather than to enjoy; somewhere to touch down in, scoot through, and take off from ASAP. Truth is however, those who consider the country little more than a proverbial pit stop are missing out. Beyond Abu Dhabi’s skyline and in between Dubai’s shopping malls, a whole range of real world adventures await. Hop atop a camel for a lope along desert dunes…or charter a chopper. Break bread with Bedouins…or dine with the fishes in a restaurant aquarium. Tour an old spice market…or withdraw gold bars at vending machines. This is ancient Arabia with an open cheque book.
UAE Tours & Travel
All our UAE trips
At a glance
|Capital city:||Abu Dhabi (population 363,432)|
|Electricity:||Type C (European 2-pin) Type D (Old British 3-pin) Type G (Irish/British 3-pin)|
Best time to visit UAE
Simply put, the UAE is hot. Very hot. Year-round, daytime temperatures rarely drop below 25.C, and, during summer, roar well into the forties. November to March are the cooler – though by no means cool – months, when tempering sea breezes drift in from the coast. Don’t be too put-off by the prospect of travelling during summer though (July to August), as the cities are covered and air-conditioned.
History and government
About UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Very few countries have had as dramatic turnabouts in their fortunes as the UAE. Prior to the discovery of the region’s vast petroleum and gas reserves in 1958, the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula was a conglomeration of ‘Trucial States’ heavily dependent on a fated pearling industry and British protection against neighbouring powerhouses.
In what was an unusual move given the recent discovery of the 'black gold', 1968 saw Britain decide that the area was no longer worth protecting. The British naval forces withdrew in 1971, and, as Iran and Saudi Arabia quickly started laying claim to Emirati territory, the seven sheikdoms realized they’d stand a better chance by banding together. Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain (and eventually Ras al-Khaimah) all promptly signed into a union called the United Arab Emirates, electing Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as president. The federation is governed by hereditary monarchies, and things have been peaceful, and prosperous, ever since.
Top 5 Ways to keep cool in the Emirates
2. For all its obsession with urbanity, the Emirates is still very much a coastal nation. The country encompasses 650 kms of coastline; plenty of which is warm waters and white sands shaded by palm trees. Better yet, not far from shore sit an abundance of colourful coral reefs teeming with fish. Head out for a snorkel in Sandy Beach, Fujairah, or delve a little deeper still on a diving expedition.
4. No, those photos you’ve seen of people being propelled skywards by two jets of water aren’t the work of Photoshop – that’s the work of flyboarding. And the UAE is as good a place to give it a shot as any. Sign up for a session and give flight to those long-suppressed Astro Boy fantasies.
5. Indoors ski resort
6. Ok, Whistler it ain’t, but being able to hit the slopes inside a shopping mall – let alone in the Arabian Peninsula – is still an impressive feat. Located in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort that includes runs, jumps, rails, lifts, and the world’s very first black diamond run.
7. Desert ice café
8. No matter what the temperature’s doing outside, things are always well chilly inside at Dubai’s Chillout lounge. With the cooling system set at minus six degrees, this restaurant/cafe is the place to rug up in thermals and sip a hot chocolate while moaning about the cold.
9. Dubai surf pool
10. The swell doesn’t roll in all that often in this corner of the globe, but it is possible to score surf in the UAE. Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach is the best bet, but a far more reliable one is Abu Dhabi’s Wadi Adventure park, where the waves are guaranteed no matter what the conditions are doing. Not only that though
they’ll be whatever type of waves you want. Lefts? Rights? Three foot? Six? Simply rock up at the booth, tell the man at the controls, and the barrels start when you tell them to.
FAQs on UAE
Three-course meals for two at a Mid-range restaurant – 150 AED
Imported 0.33 litre bottle of beer from a shop – 25.05 AED
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
UAE Travel Tips
Top responsible travel tips for UAE
1. 1. Be considerate of Emirati customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. 2. The UAE is a country it’s best to dress modestly and respectfully in. Women should ensure they’re covered to the shoulders and knees, while men should steer clear of shorts and singlets. Be sure to remove shoes when entering places of worship.
3. 3. Be conservative in engagements with members of the opposite sex. Even fleeting glances or interactions can be interpreted as bearing flirtatious overtones. Refrain from public displays of affection: people have been arrested for kissing or embracing in public. Homosexuality is illegal, so same-sex couples should exert extra caution.
4. 4. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. The tap water in the UAE is desalinated seawater, so technically it is safe to drink; though the cleanliness of the tank from which it comes can be a health factor. It’s cheapest, safest and greenest to refill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.
5. 5. With the exception, of Sharjah, all the Emirates permit non-Muslims’ consumption of alcohol in designated areas (typically hotel restaurants and bars). Outside of designated areas and private residences, it’s illegal to drink alcohol. Liquor can be legally purchased from bottle shops (identifiable by their blacked out windows).
6. 6. During the month of Ramadan it is illegal to eat, drink and/or smoke in public (even for non-Muslims). Fines for violating this law are hefty and people have been imprisoned. Do your daytime feasting, drinking and smoking out of sight of those abstaining.
7. 7. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
8. 8. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it. Most Emiratis speak English, but a few simple greetings in Arabic are bound to be appreciated.
9. 9. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals. For a while it was in vogue within some Emirati circles to have a cheetah or lion for a pet. Don’t buy yourself a cheetah or lion for a pet.
10. 10. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
|Beyond Dubai: Seeking Lost Cities in the Emirates||David Millar|
|From Rags to Riches: a Story of Abu Dhabi||Mohammed Al-Fahim|
|In a Fertile Desert; Modern Writing from the United Arab Emirates||Denys Johnson-Davies|