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Whether you are visiting the UAE or live in one of the breathtaking Emirates, there’s a slew of magical things to do. Wander through galleries filled with exquisite art, appreciate the energy of early morning camel races or explore the fascinating heritage in various museums; here are some of the most diverse road trips suitable for the entire family. You might be a fan of history and want to explore the nomadic life of Bedouins and experience mindblowing adrenaline-pumping activities in the mountains. Download Good Vibes, a great Spotify playlist with epic anthems and happy vibrations; press play and set off on a glorious adventure across the United Arab Emirates.
With the introduction of the Louvre and, later, the Guggenheim and the Zayed National Museum, Abu Dhabi is well and truly on the map for you to discover. The inimitable collection of ancient and contemporary historical works with cultural and sociological interest from around the world. Pritzker-prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel designed The Louvre, which spans 9,200 square metres of galleries. The Louvre permanently houses 700 artworks from prehistoric times to the present day. The collection includes ancient archaeological finds, decorative arts, neoclassical sculptures, paintings by modern masters and contemporary installations.
Take some time to explore Saadiyat Island; it boasts white-sandy beaches which protect the critically endangered Hawksbill turtles, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, an eco-conscious ocean-front golf course and a family-friendly beach club. If you want to make the most of this extraordinary destination, there are various luxury hotels on the island, including the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort and Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort. There’s also no shortage of delicious restaurants serving an array of cuisine.
Ras Al Khaimah is known for its nature and adrenaline-inspired mountain activities. Whilst in the UAE, it’s a must to visit the northernmost Emirate and explore some knee-trembling activities such as the world’s longest zipline, Jais Flight. The zipline allows you to soar over the jagged mountain peaks and swoop through deep ravines at hair-raising speeds of up to 150 kmph. Three minutes of adrenaline-pumping adventure at 1680 metres above the Arabian Gulf will leave you with a once-in-a-lifetime sense of superhero magic. Once you’ve worked up an appetite and exhausted all of the Insta-worthy views, head to the highest restaurant in the region, 1484 by Puro; choose from delicious local dishes or favourites from Italy, Thailand and Korea as you enjoy the spectacular views from the terrace.
Later in the day, take a guided kayak tour through the mangroves that connect the Gulf to the city. Your guide will share the importance of the existence of mangroves within the coastal system. If you are lucky, you might see the rare western reef heron, Kalba collared kingfisher and the greater spotted eagle.
Head to the Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert for a one-of-a-kind experience in the Middle East in The Rainforest, a carefully considered sequence of hydrothermal experiences. There are affusion showers, aroma steam, the brine cavern, a hammam, an ice igloo, a rain walk and sole therapy. There is a range of luxury hotels in Al Hamra Village and Al Marjan Island if you decide to stay overnight. If you manage an extra day, get up at the crack of dawn and check out the camel racing at the Digdaga track, explore the abandoned Jazirah Al Hamra fishing village and have a much-needed cardamon-sweet coffee at Kuwaiti Souq.
Sharjah is well-known for its picturesque land and seascapes, expansive swathes of desert, and the country’s most significant number of nature reserves. It has an impressive architectural heritage and cultural wealth and is home to almost a quarter of the UAE’s museums. UNESCO crowned it the World Book Capital and hosts the annual Sharjah International Book Fair. They also recently named it the Cultural Capital of the Arab World; the heart of the Emirate is the region’s most extensive historical preservation and restoration project. The government is restoring traditional Sharjah architecture and new structures form restaurants, cafés, art galleries, markets and hotels for current and future generations to enjoy. Stay overnight in The Chedi Al Bait Sharjah and enjoy the peace of staying in one of the five heritage houses that local families once occupied.
The Sharjah Discovery Centre is a great way to encourage learning through fun. Kids can understand the science and technology they encounter daily, including the water world, airports, sports, and television-centric activities. Venture to Al Noor Island and discover beautiful gardens interspersed with art installations and sculptures and the prettiest butterfly house home to over 500 exotic butterflies worldwide. All kids love science, so a visit to conduct experiments in aerodynamics and astrophysics in the Sharjah Science Museum is a must. Your children will also learn mysterious secrets about space. If you are a family of nature lovers, head to Wasit Nature Reserve and explore the diverse ecosystem of sand dunes, salt flats, ponds and lakes. It’s a pioneering project that transformed a wasteland into a thriving environment for nature.
On the eastern coast of the UAE lies Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman, which has an expansive coastline of around 70 kilometres. Fujairah shares the Jebel Jais mountains with Ras Al Khaimah; the rugged peaks, valleys, waterfalls, wide beaches, hot and cold natural springs, and peaceful oases afford the Emirate a natural charm. The underwater world is just as impressive with the colourful reefs and shipwrecks that teem with little critters, sea turtles and the occasional whale shark cruising by. You’ll have heard of the fictional character Snoopy; you can explore the eponymous island by kayaking or snorkelling the crystal clear waters. There are many activities in the Emirate, whether you choose to parasail over the Gulf or prefer to be on solid ground hiking or climbing through the mountains. If you are a peace-seeker, join a paddleboard safari to Dibba Rock.
Pop over to the daily energetic Souk Al Jumais or the Friday Masafi markets that are bursting with Arabian charm and plenty of haggling opportunities. You’ll find a hullabaloo of traditional items like handmade crafts, pottery made of Fujairah clay, intricate weaving from date palm fronds, rugs, antiques, plants, old-fashioned toys, and fresh fruits and veggies from local farms. Wadi Al Wurayah is a protected 12,700-hectare biosphere reserve with cooling waterfalls, inviting pools and a beautiful array of wildlife. The Ain Al Madhab Gardens is in the foothills of the mountains and has ample space for families’ to BBQ and picnic in the late afternoon, take leisurely hikes or swim in one of the three temperature-controlled swimming pools. If you enjoy history, a visit to Al Bidya Mosque and the Heritage Village should be on your bucket list. Take an overnight trip so that you can enjoy the spectacular sunrise. Try the Intercontinental Fujairah Resort, a stunning beachfront hotel on Al Aqah Beach or the upmarket haven of conservation, the Kingfisher Retreat.
You can’t come to the UAE and not experience the glitz and glamour of world-famed Dubai. Whether you visit the iconic sail-shaped Burj Al Arab for a fancy afternoon tea, get carried away on a shopping frenzy in the Dubai Mall, journey above the city in the world’s tallest observation wheel Ain Dubai or have a bite to eat in the tallest restaurant, Atmosphere in the Burj Khalifa, you’ll enjoy your road trip to Dubai. One of the oldest areas of Dubai is around the pretty neighbourhood of Al Bastakiya, which dates back to the 19th century. The maze-like streets lead you to Dubai Creek, where you can jump on board one of the many traditional abra boats that flit up and down the river. Get off on the other side of the water and explore various souks that sell gold, textiles and a colourful array of spices. Al Bastakiya has a different vibe than anywhere else in Dubai.
During your road trip, the Dubai Fountains are an absolute must! The five-minute choreographed show is at the foot of the Burj Khalifa, so book your front-row seats at one of the many restaurants that overlook the spectacle. Endless terracotta deserts surround Dubai, and a desert safari, dune buggying, quad bike rides or even sandboarding for the brave at heart are the best ways to explore this extraordinary landscape. If you would like a charming adventure, take a step back in time and experience a 1950’s Dubai in a classic Land Rover with a professional conservation guide. The vintage cars were the first motorised vehicles used in the Dubai desert. You’ll spot native wildlife like the Arabian oryx in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, stop at a Ghaf tree forest hidden in the dunes, and learn about unique desert ecosystems. If you decide to stay overnight, the EDITION is in the bustling downtown neighbourhood of the city and close to Dubai Mall and the spectacular fountains.
Whilst in the UAE, you must find time to try some of the local Emirati dishes. You’ll find many a hidden gem across the country.