Safarak Tours Mountain-Picnic-Zipline

Date 15 Dec 2021

The United Arab Emirates is well-known for its year-round sunshine, white sandy beaches, family-friendly resorts and friendly locals. Not many people realise that the United Arab Emirates is a collective of seven Emirates; many think that the country is Dubai. You are in for a treat – there is so much more to this welcoming country. The UAE is a relatively young country, having celebrated its 50th anniversary in December 2021. The seven Emirates are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.

A Supreme Council of Rulers governs the UAE with the seven emirs, who appoint the prime minister and the cabinet. In December 1971, after independence from the British, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujayrah, Sharjah, and Umm al Quwain came together, and in 1972, Ras Al Khaimah joined the federation. Abu Dhabi is the capital city, and Sheikh Zayed Bin-Sultan Al Nuhayyan is the president. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, its Minister of Defence, and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.

Each of the Emirates is distinctive and has unique offerings. 

Family Vacations in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the largest Emirate in the United Arab Emirates and occupies an impressive 84 per cent of the territory. The Emirate boasts a 700 kilometre Arabian Gulf coastline, over 200 islands and Jebel Hafeet, the Emirates highest peak, which rises to 1,240 metres above sea level.  Abu Dhabi is connected to the mainland by the Maqta, Mussafah, Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Khalifa bridges. Abu Dhabi has become the world-class centre for sporting events such as the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the prestigious Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge cross-country rally and the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

For culture vultures, there is so much to discover in the capital. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the world’s largest mosques and the only one that truly captures the unique interactions between Islam and other world cultures. It has the world’s largest concentration of premier cultural institutions, including the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Nature lovers can embrace nature with colourful flamingos, desert antelope, rare oryx, turtles, falcons, and fossils. The landscapes are equally as diverse with some of the largest sand dunes in the world; Sir Banyas Island is occupied with over 13,000 free-roaming animals, the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, which is made up of freshwater lakes, salt flats, wetlands, fossilised sands, and towering dunes. If you are very lucky, you might even find hawksbill turtles on Saadiyat Beach. Further along the coastline is Baynunah and Shuwaihat, ragged cliffs that are home to some of the world’s most awe-inspiring rock formations.

Where to stay?

With so much to do and see in the capital, the Four Seasons, Al Maryah Island is surrounded by water and near the promenade, city centre and the upscale shopping mall Abu Dhabi Global Market Square. The hotel boasts impressive skyline views, an enviable waterfront location and a gorgeous swimming pool. The hotel’s concierge team can help you plan family day’s out or arrange babysitting services. The Four Seasons is renowned for its luxurious rooms and spa-like bathrooms, accommodating couples or families. Outside, the elevated pool has inimitable views of the city and nearby restaurants for a quick bite or leisurely dinner whilst the kid’s dream of Formula One cars and pink flamingoes. The hotel offers personalised services for your kids with cookies and milk on arrival, kids toiletries, buggies and access to the kid’s clubs.

Family Vacations in Dubai

Dubai is the best-known Emirate in the UAE with its iconic sail-shaped building, the Burj Al Arab, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, the showstopping dancing fountain show and endless world-class hotels, modern architecture, entertainment and dining, incredible shows, shopping centres and some major sporting events. The late H. H. Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum ruled Dubai from 1958 to 1990. He guided the Emirate with compassion and understanding. He realised what was necessary to transform Dubai into a cosmopolitan and prosperous city. 2021 has seen Dubai open the Expo 2020, celebrate the 50th anniversary at Hatta Dam and re-launch the Dubai Design Week. 

Dubai is recognised for its off-the-charts entertainment and attractions. Ski Dubai is a one-of-a-kind winter wonderland in the heart of the city. Where else would you find an ice maze, a state-of-the-art penguin enclosure, ski slopes, snowmen and 6000 tonnes of real snow in the desert? Children over 10 years can try their first SCUBA dive in the world’s deepest swimming pool, 60 metres deep and filled with 14 million litres of warm water. The record breaking Deep Dive Dubai allows thrill-seekers to dive into another dimension and discover an underwater world filled with adventure and wonder. The Dubai Aquarium houses over 33,000 marine creatures, including the most extensive collection of sand tiger sharks and a 5-metre Australian crocodile called King Croc. The 48-metre underwater tunnel gives kids an extraordinary view of under the sea. 

Where to stay?

When you have Madinat Jumeirah, what else do you need? The cluster of four resorts and on-site souk collectively house over 120 restaurants, bars, boutiques, a theatre and abra boat rides through the Venice-inspired waterways. Jumeirah Al Naseem boasts picture-perfect views of Burj Al Arab, the resort and the Arabian Gulf. On arrival, you’ll be welcomed with perfectly chilled jasmine-infused flannels and iced tea. The hotel offers a contemporary interpretation of luxurious Arabian nights with cool cream and gold interiors with colonial-style wooden fans, plush furniture, oversized beds and expansive balconies. Jump on an abra or golf buggy and take the kids to Wild Wadi water park or explore the Jumeirah Al Naseem turtle rehabilitation lagoon. The hotel boasts almost 2 kilometres of sandy shores and five lovely pools.

Family Vacations in Sharjah

Sharjah is the third largest Emirate in the UAE. It is well-known for its picturesque landscapes, seascapes, expansive swathes of desert, and the country’s most significant number of nature reserves. It has an impressive architectural heritage and cultural wealth. It is home to almost a quarter of the UAE’s museums, crowned by UNESCO as the World Book Capital. It hosts the annual Sharjah International Book Fair. UNESCO named Sharjah the Cultural Capital of the Arab World. The Heart of Sharjah is the region’s most extensive historical preservation and restoration project. The government is restoring traditional Sharjah architecture, and new structures are forming restaurants, cafés, art galleries, markets and hotels for current and future generations to enjoy Sharjah’s cultural and social fabric. The Emirate of Sharjah is ruled by H. H. Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, continuing the legacy of Al Qasimi rulers since 1600 AD.

The Sharjah Discovery Centre is a great way to encourage learning through fun. Kids can understand the science and technology they encounter in everyday life, 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 that’s home to over 500 exotic butterflies from across the world. 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. 

Where to stay?

The best family-centric hotel to keep your children entertained is probably the Sheraton Sharjah Beach Resort and Spa. The hotel is located on the glorious Sharjah Waterfront and is a stone’s throw from Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club, Sharjah Aquarium and the China Mall. The five-star hotel boasts a private beach, two pools, a supervised kids club with a playground, board games and puzzles, and an indoor play area. Various eateries have international offerings, including the seafood market and international buffet. The hotel provides delicious packed lunches and picnics if you want to explore the nature reserves, enjoy walks or go on an adventure with your children. 

Family Vacations in Ras Al Khaimah

The fourth-largest Emirate in the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah, lies in the north and borders Oman’s Musandam Peninsular. Ras Al Khaimah was named Gulf Tourism Capital for both 2020 and 2021 by the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Emirate has a vibrantly rich history spanning over 7,000 years and was one of the most prominent trading posts in the Arabian Gulf. RAK is fondly nicknamed the Pearl of the Emirates and is world-known for its exquisite pearls. The fascinating Emirate is home to more than 1,000 archaeological sites, four of which are recorded on the ‘UNESCO Tentative List for World Heritage‘. Al Jazirah Al Hamra is one of the finest examples of a traditional fishing village in the region, and Dhayah Fort is the only remaining hilltop fort in existence in the UAE. The Emirate has almost 65 kilometres of glorious coastline, islands, salt flats, flamingo-filled mangroves and endless desert-scapes for you and your family to explore. 

Not only does Ras Al Khaimah possess a fascinating past, but the Jebel Jais mountains give geologists a rare glimpse of the Earth’s history. They are one of the few places in the world where scientists can study these oceanic rocks on land. Jebel Jais soars 1,934 metres above sea level to form the highest, cloud-piercing peak in the United Arab Emirates, attracts thrill-seekers and nature lovers from across the globe. Mountain-inspired adventures, adrenaline-pumping experiences and nature-appreciating activities include Jais Flight, the world’s longest zipline, Jais Sledder, the hair raising toboggan and Bear Grylls Camp, a survival experience where you can learn skills from the ‘Man versus Wild’ star.

Where to stay?

For a unique experience, why not stay at The Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert in the heart of the protected Al Wadi Nature Reserve. The peaceful resort gives guests the chance to experience authentic desert living in the lap of luxury. Surrounded by nature, there is every opportunity to see the rare oryx, cheeky camels, pretty desert foxes, and, if you are fortunate, the painfully shy desert cat. The unspoilt environment gives you the rare opportunity of experiencing the wilds of the desert and its undulating dunes. Stay in one of the Bedouin-style luxury tented villas with spectacular sunrise or sunset views across the desert. The oversized accommodation offers exceptional biophilic living spaces with large lounges, terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows, a free-standing bath and a private swimming pool.

Family Vacations in Umm Al Quwain

Umm Al Quwain is one of the smallest Emirates in the country, with a landmass of only 1 per cent. Fishing is the main contributor to the economy, and seafood is exported throughout the Middle East and into Europe. The Emirate is investing heavily to expand its commercial and investment base and is currently constructing the Ahmed Bin Rashid Port and the Free Trade Zone. Umm Al Quwain has diverse and rich coastal mangroves and many islands lying just off its mainland. The largest island, Al Seniah, is home to regularly returning turtles, falcons and gazelles. There are many recreational activities within the Emirate including, sailing, skydiving, falconry, and camel racing. Dreamland Aqua Park and resort attracts many visitors each year. 

Adventurous families can explore the eight-kilometre Seniya Island, just east of Umm Al Quwain. The island will give you an incredible insight into the Emirates’ natural beauty and history. It’s characterised by extensive mangroves, ghaf trees and other desert flora and fauna, including the Socotra cormorant and the Arabian gazelle. Impressively, there are 65 archaeological sites of interest, including graves and towers. Sporting activities feature heavily in this Emirate, including kitesurfing at eponymous Kite Beach, and a Flintstones-inspired gym called Tarzan’s, where the equipment is novelly made from wood. If you are popping into Baracuda to purchase essential deli-wares, you’ll spot the Russian cargo plane that was abandoned over two decades ago. 

Where to stay?

The Vida Beach Resort Umm Al Quwain is a contemporary beach resort that will allow you to disconnect from the world and recharge your batteries. The boutique-style hotel happily accommodates families. There are some rooms for people who want to travel with their pets. Head to the beach, one of the four dining spaces or take some time out in the spa and enjoy one of their signature massages or rituals. The hotel also has a fully equipped gym, a temperature-controlled adults pool and a dedicated kid’s splash pool.

Family Vacations in Fujairah

On the eastern coast of the UAE lies Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman, which has an expansive coastline of around 70 kilometres. Its strategic location gives access to the Indian Ocean, making it a major shipping route and connection to the world. Fujeirah 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 equally impressive with colourful reefs and shipwrecks that teem with little critters, sea turtles and the occasional whale shark cruising through. Have you ever heard of the fictional character Snoopy? There is a namesake island that you can explore by kayaking or snorkelling the crystal clear waters. 

Whether you visit Fujairah for a weekend from one of the surrounding Emirates or have an extended stay, there are lots of activities to keep you busy. The daily Souk Al Jumais is a vibrant and energetic market bursting with Arabian charm. You can find 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. Wadi Al Wurayah is a protected area with cooling waterfalls, inviting pools and an exciting 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. 

Where to stay?

The Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort nestles amongst the hidden valleys of the Jebel Jais mountains in Dibba, the northernmost area of Fujairah. The contemporary resort showcases a striking modern interpretation of Arabesque design and furnishings. Each room has a private alfresco balcony where you can take in the awe-inspiring views. There are four restaurants and bars with seasonally inspired menus to satisfy any craving. The Little Sailors Kids Club is for children between 4 and 8 years. It offers an extensive array of activities, including rock climbing, arts and crafts, whilst tired parents escape to  Willow Stream Spa for a pamper session and one of the blissful signature treatments. For balmy days, you and your family can enjoy splashing around in the temperature-controlled pools.

Family Vacations in Ajman

Ajman is the baby Emirate with less than 1 per cent of the country’s land. Ajman is characterised by the rugged mountains and the modern Ajman city that still possesses an original charm. The tiny Emirate lies on the Arabian Gulf nestled between Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Head to Ajman Museum and discover thousands of artefacts that have been unearthed since the Mowaihat archaeological site was discovered on the fringe of the city in the mid-1980s. You’ll find perfect examples of copper implements and painted Umm al-Nar ceramic vessels. If you prefer nature, why not take a leisurely paddle around the Al Zorah Nature Reserve, which brings you up close and personal with an abundance of bird and marine life. The reserve has a peaceful series of meandering mangroves and channels. You can see over 60 different bird species, including many pink flamingoes. 

If you have a fascination with water and sailing, you should visit the traditional Ajman Dhow Building Yard, one of the largest dhow boat builders in the world. You should find between 20 and 30 boats under construction at any one time. You’ll be impressed with the craftsmanship that goes into building such a traditional boat. To see the boats in action, pop over to the Ajman fish market.

Where to stay?

The Ajman Saray Resort sits proudly on the soft white sandy beaches of the Arabian Gulf. The locals love this stretch of the beach and corniche for a stroll around sunset. There are many cafés, homegrown restaurants and souqs to pop into for a super-strong Arabic coffee and a potter to the historic fort. The modern hotel incorporates Islamic arches, lamps and mashrabeya detailing throughout. The Crown Prince owns the hotel and successfully blends East-meets-West design. Accommodation is spacious and family-friendly, with double-ended baths and roomy showers in each en-suite. The rooms all have spacious balconies with lovely views of the resort, beach and sea. There is an endless array of delicious food to keep you full, from breakfast to sunset cocktails. Try Vista, the international buffet, seafood and steak in Safi, or Mejhana’s Arabic specials. If you need some pampering, book a session at the GoCo Spa whilst the children check-in to the kids club for some playtime. 

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