Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque © mattharvey1
Tucked into a corner of the traditional, conservative Middle East lies the unique, progressive United Arab Emirates. Like most countries on the peninsula, the UAE made its wealth from oil and gas. Unlike its more traditional neighbours, it then expanded into tourism. Today it is a modern, trend-setting conglomeration of high-rise cities with state-of-the-art tourist infrastructure, magnificent beaches and a paradise of duty free shopping.
The majority of people in the UAE are expatriates and most of them are there to live and work in Dubai. The city is a playground of palm-shaped islands, colossal skyscrapers, malls the size of small towns, seven star hotels, supercars, michelin star restaurants and luxury beach resorts. To the west of Dubai lies Abu Dhabi, the capital, where visitors can enjoy large gardens and parks, green boulevards, sophisticated high-rise buildings, modern communication services and transport, international luxury hotels, rich shopping malls and cultural centres.
Alongside the two famous emirates sits Sharjah, the world capital of Islamic Culture. This conservative emirate plays host to the best museums and art galleries in the country. Surrounded by mountains and desert oases, Ras Al Khaimah is fast becoming a destination for adventurous travelers. Visitors can also relax on the beaches in Ajman, visit the fort of Fujairah at the foothills of the Hajar Mountains, or take a break from the glitz and glammer in low-key Umm Al Quwain.
The modern cities on the Persian Gulf give way to a desert interior, home to magnificent dunes on the edge of the Empty Quarter, stunning desert oases such as the Liwa Oasis, and rugged archaeological sites in the Hajar Mountains. The UAE presents an astonishing mix of outlandish luxury and remote adventure, which will fascinate visitors to this unique land.