The United Arab Emirates is the perfect place to launch yourself into an incredible past, present and future all at the same time. From ancient forts and wind tower houses to huge sports stadiums, gleaming hotels, man-made islands and indoor ski resorts, you can do and see almost anything in the UAE’s cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Fujairah. See striking modern architecture, multi-hued desert landscapes and lush oases as well enjoy a thrilling dune ride, a dinner cruise on Dubai Creek or wander ancient souks seemingly unchanged across time.
Things to do and places to visit in Dubai and Abu Dhabi (UAE)
• Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – a masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture and design. Over 100,000 tons of pure white Greek and Macedonian marble were used in the construction.
• Dubai Museum – Located in the Al Fahidi Fort, this is an excellent museum built around 1800 and considered the city’s oldest structure. Delight in a walk-through a mock souk, enjoy an exhibit on Bedouin life in the desert and a room highlighting the importance of the sea which illustrates the days before the discovery of oil.
• Burj Khalifa – check out the world’s tallest building, standing at 828m tall, which took over 6 years to construct! The Burj Khalifa is a stunning feat of architecture and engineering! It boasts two observation decks on the 124th and 148th floors and a restaurant-bar on the 122nd.
Best time to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi (UAE)
We recommend visiting the UAE between October and May. Although the weather may still be quite hot in Oct, the skies and clear and blue and evenings are pleasant. Avoid the summer (Jun – Sep) where the temperatures regularly reach the high 40’s with 100% humidity.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with 15 years between visits but of course, Dubai did not disappoint in the “most rapidly changing cityscape” category. While you can still find the flavour of the old fishing village Dubai once was down in the Dubai Creek area, the rest of the city is a glittering, towering, glossy punt towards the future. I felt I had to visit Dubai Mall, the world’s largest, and was quickly overwhelmed by the staggering array of shops (there are over 1,000 including Bloomingdales and Marks and Spencers), a variety of restaurants and other vast leisure activities like the aquarium, an ice rink and the Dubai Fountain, set on a 30 acre lake shooting jets of water 150m into the air in daily performances in time to music. Yes, opulence and decadence can be found everywhere in the extreme. Kate
Top facts about UAE and travel information
Currency United Arab Emirates dirham
Why we love it For most people, the United Arab Emirates means just one place: Dubai, but there’s so much more. In fact, six more emirates, each with its own character and allure are awaiting your discovery! UAE, one of the world fastest-growing regions, we’re impressed with its immaculate city landscaping and breath taking architectural marvels.
Weather We recommend visiting the UAE between October and May. Although the weather may still be quite hot in Oct, the skies and clear and blue and evenings are pleasant. Avoid the summer (Jun – Sep) where the temperatures regularly reach high 40oC and 100% humidity. The hottest months are July and August, when average maximum temperatures reach above 50 degrees on the coastal plain. Average minimum temperatures in January and February are between 10 and 14 °C. During the late summer months, a humid southeastern wind known as the sharqi makes the coastal region especially unpleasant.
Social customs & quirks The UAE began as simple pearling villages, but has evolved into one of the most multicultural societies in the world. The population is predominantly Islamic and therefore many laws are respected. Emirati women wear a full-body abaya according to Islamic practices. Pork is not common, and in Sharjah, alcohol is prohibited. Nevertheless, in most parts of the UAE, tourists will find a liberal stance on Islamic culture. Alcohol can be purchased at licensed venues (mostly inside hotels), but outside of these, a permit must be obtained in advance. A strict dress code is also observed and wearing anything too revealing in public is frowned upon.
Festivals & events In January, everyone is all about the Dubai Marathon with the winners receiving large sums of money. Thousands of participants come to the UAE to join, with an increasing number of runners every year.
For the shopaholics, this two month-long event is heaven! Every mall in the city reduces its prices during January and February, attracting thousands from around the globe. There are concerts and entertainment as a backdrop.
In March, pro golfers will head to Dubai to take part in the Desert Classic. The prize money allures the best of the best and spectators if they can get a hold of the highly coveted tickets.
The Emirates World Series of Horse Racing concludes in Dubai at the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse. Held in April, the Dubai World Cup Horse Race attracts thousands of spectators, along with the best jockeys, trainers, and horses from the globe. The event provides memorable entertainment and a social atmosphere in the UAE.
In May, you could visit the UAE for Abu Dhabi’s International Jazz Festival which spans more than a week. Amazing performances are given by some of the world’s leading jazz artists.
At the end of Ramadan, the cities of the UAE celebrate with parties and feasts. Both visitors and locals can share in the spoils as Dubai and Abu Dhabi throw social events for several days to mark the end of the Islamic fasting period in September.
The Dubai film festival takes place in November and attracts not only thousands of cinema enthusiasts from across the Middle East and Europe, but famous producers and Hollywood stars for screenings all over the city.
Book your trip now for the National Day Festival Commemorating the formation of the UAE and the independence of the region from Britain. It is celebrated across the country in December with performances and events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Health* There are currently no health requirements entering UAE
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.