4 Underestimated United Arab Emirates: When you think of the United Arab Emirates, the richest and most futuristic cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi come to mind.
Dubai has an indoor ski resort in a mall, the tallest building in the world, stunning fountains, and some of the finest hotels and restaurants on the planet.
The capital city of Abu Dhabi is best known for its Grand Prix circuit and Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest roller coaster. Exciting museums, including the Arab Louvre and the soon-to-be-opened Guggenheim Museums on Saadiyat Island (which means the Island of Happiness), have firmly established themselves on the map of the cultural world.
But glitz and glamor are only a small part of the country’s overall picture.
In addition to 16-lane highways, luxury brunches, helipads, and Lamborghini police cars in the largest areas of the country, there are five other, lesser-known emirates of the country, each of which is strikingly unique and charming in its own way.
Each of the seven emirates has its own rulers, retains a large degree of autonomy in many respects, and offers travelers the opportunity to experience the region’s diverse history, culture, and natural resources.
An hour and a half drive from Dubai is the emirate of Fujairah, known for its beaches and great scuba diving and snorkeling spots.
It is the only emirate that is almost entirely mountainous, which means it is ideal for off-road travel. Fujairah has a very laid-back atmosphere, unlike Dubai and Abu Dhabi. With beaches along 70 km of coastline, it shares its northern border with Musandam, an exclave of the Sultanate of Oman.
It is home to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque with towering white minarets and the restored Fujairah Fort, believed to be the oldest fort in the UAE and now part of the so-called “Heritage Village” that gives a glimpse of how life used to be.
In the capital city of Musafi, you will find the Friday Market (actually open daily), which has retained the atmosphere of the ancient bazaar, selling fresh local produce, carpets, and ceramics.
The cultural heart of the UAE. Here you will find a wide variety of museums in Sharjah, as well as an amazing wildlife park, which is the largest home to rare animals in the Arabian Peninsula.
The emirate is famous for its strict Sharia law, which applies to tourists and hotels, it is forbidden to buy and drink alcohol here.
But despite the stricter regulations, this is a very family-friendly region, located just 30 minutes by car from Dubai.
Sharjah Science Museum, with interactive displays and experiments on the laws of nature, thermal physics, physiology, and aerodynamics, is a must-see.
It also has an aquarium, an antique car museum, an art museum, and a museum of Islamic civilization.
- Ras Al Khaimah
Thanks to its large airport, the emirate has become a popular holiday destination for tourists and locals who love luxury hotels such as the Waldorf Astoria, DoubleTree by Hilton, and the Ritz-Carlton.
Ras Al Khaimah is just an hour from Dubai. This is a wonderful place with magnificent landscapes and a beautiful coastline. Here you will find the real Arabia.
Thrill-seekers can enjoy the world’s longest zipline, Jebel Jais Flight (2.83 km long), the region’s first commercial Via Ferrata, and golf enthusiasts can choose from two professional championship courses.
Dhayat Fort is the only military tower that has been preserved in the UAE. You can climb the hill and enjoy the view of the palm gardens, the Persian Gulf, and the Jebel Jais mountain range.
- Ajman and Umm al-Quwain
Rounding out the seven emirates are these two, little known but definitely worth a visit.
Ajman, located 30 minutes from Dubai, is the smallest of the seven and boasts the Ajman Fort – once a defensive structure. Now it is a museum that houses historical weapons and tools. And the Al Zorah area is home to a new slew of luxury hotels nestled amid a protected mangrove forest.
In Umm Al Quwain, a 45-minute drive from Dubai, you will find Dreamland Water Park, which has been delighting tourists for years.
Al-Ain Fort, which was the seat of government in the emirate until 1969, now houses a national museum, including artifacts from Ed Dur, described as “one of the most significant lost cities in Arabia.”
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