The United Arab Emirates is spread out over desert and coastline and it is comprised of seven emirates. Ranked fourth in the world for oil resources, the UAE has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and one of its cities, Dubai, is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world. As with many up and coming places, the UAE is a mashup of old traditions and modern culture.

This results in astounding feats of architecture that cost millions upon millions of dollars towering over old-world souks (outdoor markets) that have gathered in that spot for centuries. Once you travel outside city limits and get into the countryside, you’ll find archaeological digs and old fishing villages that exist much as they always have. In the United Arab Emirates, somewhere in the middle of the old and the new, a strong, unified and interesting country has emerged that’s just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.

Popular cities & regions

Dubai

Dubai is a unique destination. It is both a dynamic business centre and a tourist paradise, offering more attractions, shopping, fine dining and quality hotels than virtually any other destination on the planet. From the timeless tranquillity of the desert to the lively bustle of the outdoor markets, Dubai presents an infinite choice of attractions and activities for visitors. The emirate offers a wide variety of scenery in a relatively small area. In a single day, you can experience landscapes from rugged mountains and breathtaking sand dunes to white sandy beaches and beautifully lush green parks. You’ll go from old, dusty villages to luxurious residential districts, and from ancient houses with traditional wind towers to ultra-modern shopping malls.

Check out Cover-More's YouTube channel and our Destination Dubai playlist for more information and tips about what to do during your holiday in Dubai:

Abu Dhabi

The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is a prime example of a modern Gulf petro-city: contemporary, wealthy and calm. In just the past thirty years Abu Dhabi has transformed from an obscure fishing village into a modern city-state and tells the story of what oil-driven transformation can look like. While the city’s endlessly chic high-rises and bustling multi-lane highways can seem fairly uninspiring on first acquaintance, locals take understandable pride in the city’s remarkable growth. For the casual tourist, modern Abu Dhabi is mainly interesting for how it contrasts with its more famous neighbour, Dubai.  Specific tourist attractions are limited and a lot of the joy from visiting Abu Dhabi comes from wandering around the newly developed city centre and along the beautiful waterfront.

Food

Traditional meals of the UAE are very rich and have a unique taste. There are a lot of spices like what you’d find in Indian food, and the dishes often include rice, fish and meat as main ingredients. The meat will most likely be sheep or goat and on special occasions, there will often be camel used in traditional dishes. When you travel to the UAE try these 5 traditional dishes.

  • Stuffed Camel – This dish is often served as a part of a wedding ceremony/reception. A whole camel, a lamb, 20 chickens, boiled eggs, fish and rice all come together to create this meal. It’s called a stuffed camel because the main ingredients are stuffed inside the camel and then cooked over fire together.
  • Al Harees – Made of meat and wheat, it is a simple dish with few ingredients that has a truly unique flavour. This dish is commonly served during Ramadan, weddings and Eid festivals. When you cook the meat, wheat and a pinch of salt together for hours, it becomes a smooth paste that is then served with other spices to enrich the flavour.
  • Shawarma – This is the most popular dish in the UAE. It can be made with lamb or chicken and then garlic sauce, pickles, fries and tomatoes are added and wrapped into an Arabic Roti. It is similar to kebab and remains a favourite of locals and tourists alike.

Seasonality

In terms of temperature, there are really only two seasons in the UAE: hot and even hotter. Winter months (November-March) are ideal for beach weather with bearable temperatures and blue skies for miles. This coincides with the peak tourist season so you’ll be jostling for space on the coast with others. If you want to avoid the crowds, head to the UAE during the summer months (April-Oct), but be prepared for incredibly high temperatures and high humidity.

Important Travel Info for Aussies

When you are in the UAE, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. The UAE is a Muslim country and local laws reflect the fact that Islamic practices and beliefs are closely applied. Emirates are like states, and as such the laws can and do vary from emirate to emirate due to different governing styles and cultural norms. You should familiarise yourself with local laws, and their impact on your personal circumstances, before you travel. The UAE also has a zero tolerance policy towards illegal drugs. Penalties can include the death sentence or life imprisonment. Medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal in the UAE.

Be a smart traveller and before you head overseas to explore the vast UAE, be sure to register your travel details with Smarttraveller and to double check the travel advice to stay up to date. Another important part of travelling abroad is finding and purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance policy that will cover your activities, your health and more. Check out Cover-More Australia’s Travelsure travel insurance plan to have peace of mind when you head out for the UAE.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Paolo Margari.