Each of the seven Emirates has its own distinct culture and history. Wix Squared focuses on Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras-al-Khaimah, regions which offer year-round sunshine and a multitude of activities and experiences for couples and families alike. Learn the art of falconry, ride camels into the desert, visit the mega-malls with a personal shopper, relax on white-sand beaches or enjoy a gastronomic adventure at one of the numerous fine dining establishments.
From the glittering playgrounds of Dubai and Abu Dhabi to the cultural capital of Sharjah and the gorgeous mountain scenery and sun-baked desert of Ras-al-Khaimah, the UAE is a region that will scratch the itch of everyone from the shopaholic to the beach-sloth and the outdoor enthusiast. For many, it’s a handy stop-over before heading further east but it’s worth staying a while longer to really get to know this fast-developing nation.
In a land of superlatives, Dubai and Abu Dhabi boast more than their fair share: the world’s tallest building and the biggest shopping mall to name a few. However, if you know where to look, in amongst the bold, shiny, new architecture the call to prayer still floats among the skyscrapers, shiny boutiques conceal winding souks, and you’ll find ancient minarets and plenty of crumbling forts. Just a short drive away are golden dunes, home to endemic flora and fauna and traversable by camel. For a slower paced, more charming antidote to these super-cities, Ras Al Khaimah offers a healthy dose of traditional culture alongside sandy beaches, rough-hewn villages and adventure activities in the Hajar Mountains. Alternatively, Sharjah – the third-largest Emirate – provides an abundance of history and culture.
Wix Squared has some exceptional guides to get you under the skin of the country including:
- Historians to peel back the shiny facades and delve into the rich heritage of the Emirates
- Local residents to take you to all the trendiest places in town
- Safari guides to accompany you into the desert and reveal its inhabitants
- Personal shoppers with in-depth knowledge of the mega malls
- Modern culture specialists to introduce you to the colourful art scene
- Foodie guides to give you a true taste of the Emirates, from fine dining to a delicious street-side shawarma
- Local Bedouins to show you their traditional way of life
- Fun-loving family guides to entertain you and your children at the many water parks, aquariums and theme parks
Itinerary Starting Price
Itinerary starting price: From £2,500 per person, for 7 days including accommodation and private transfers (not including flights).
Each Emirate of the UAE has its own Royal Family.
Whilst not strictly a festival, one of the biggest, most extravagant events takes place on New Year’s Eve, when each city lights up the sky with fireworks.
What to Eat
Try the addictively sweet Luqaimat, a popular Emirati dessert, consisting of deep-fried dumplings, soaked in a sticky date syrup.
What to Read
The Sand Fish: A Novel from Dubai – a fascinating portrayal of pre-oil boom Dubai, as it transformed from a sleepy fishing port to the affluent metropolis it is today.
What to buy
The UAE has a reputation for excellent textiles: roam the souks for the perfect carpet or have one custom-made.
Dubai’s myriad of luxury hotels include the world’s only seven-star establishment, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, complete with its fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantoms. No less fabulous, in our opinion, is the more boutique-style One&Only The Palm, with only 90 suites. The Ritz Carlton, and its six pools, occupy one of the most sought after stretches of sand the city has to offer and for families, we recommend the famous Atlantis, situated at the top of The Palm with a world-class water park and aquarium.
Abu Dhabi’s hotel scene offers something for everyone. Those with an eye for design will love the showstopping water features at the Rosewood while the Park Hyatt and St Regis, situated on Saadiyat Island’s white sand beaches, are ideal for families. For something a little more private, the stunning Zaya Nurai Island is a short boat ride away with idyllic beaches or Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island offers flamingo safaris and more remote beaches.
Luxury has made its away outside the confines of the city. Head into the desert for a taste of Bedouin life at Al Maha with its lavish tented villas and private infinity pools, or for desert adventure and spellbinding views at Qasr Al Sarab. There is also the more modernised Ritz-Carlton in the Ras Al Wadi and for even more exclusivity, we can arrange private camping amongst the rolling sand dunes, complete with champagne camel rides at sunset and vintage 4×4 experiences.
The big names abound along Ras Al Khamaih’s sandy shores: the Ritz Carlton, which cannot fail to wow with its five-star facilities and prime stretch of beach, is easily a favourite. Nestling in a 247-acre protected forest is Sharjah’s Oberoi, surrounded by lush, green mangroves and azure lagoons while Arabian splendour awaits at The Chedi Al Bait which literally means ‘The Home’.
Striking sand dune scenery is only a short drive away from most UAE cities, as well as ancient fossil beds, natural hot springs and lush oases. Explore the desert by camel or get an adrenaline hit with a ‘dune-bashing’ 4×4 vehicle or quad bike safari, before camping out under the stars and embarking on a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Our guides can also show you the many wadis with their emerald-green pools, varied birdlife and hiking trails through fields of wild-flowers.
Let us take you behind the scenes to show you the traditional architecture, crumbling forts, colourful galleries and vibrant cultural festivals that lie behind the UAE’s shiny facade. Explore the Dubai Museum, which showcases Dubai’s journey from one-time fishing village to cosmopolitan city, experience the traditional Arabian way of life through Abu Dhabi’s impressive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and stop off at Ras Al Khaimah, to marvel at the fact that this up-and-coming emirate has been the site of human habitation for several millennia.
The UAE boasts 1,318 kilometres of coastline along the Arabian Gulf so for beach worshippers, there are sandy shores a plenty. Family-friendly stretches with excellent facilities and gentle waves, top spots for surfing and water-sports or private beach clubs with champagne on tap are all on offer. Besides the award-winning, Blue Flag city beaches, dedicated littoral enthusiasts can head further afield to find pristine secret coves and largely deserted, naturally stunning azure bays.
The cities of the UAE are what dreams are made of and where anything is possible, a playground for adults and younger visitors alike. From splashing around at the Wild Wadi Water Park, chilling out on the slopes at Ski Dubai and kayaking through the mangroves to the hottest concert and stage shows, epic nightlife, arcades, aquariums and the thrill of Yas Marina Circuit and Ferrari World, this is a destination in which you’ll never be bored.
Pure unadulterated retail therapy lies in wait in Dubai’s gleaming mega-malls, for which the city is famous. In Abu Dhabi, you can bargain hunt everywhere from the Marina Mall to the World Trade Centre Souk. Shop until you drop with one of our personal shopping guides who’ll take you a little further off the beaten track and show you the smaller, hip boutiques and traditional souks to find hidden treasures, bespoke buys and authentic Arabian products.
A surprisingly large number of green spaces abound amongst the mega-cities of the UAE, creating a welcome antidote to the intensity of urban life. Lush, verdant parks fan out along Abu Dhabi’s corniche and the wonderfully silent Khubeirah Gardens spread out from the Arabian splendour of the Emirates Palace. Dubai offers a total of 12 golf courses and the Green Planet – a biodome that’s home to 3,000 species of plants and animals with walkways traversing four levels.
Enjoy the ultimate extravagance in two world class destinations famous for luxury, combining the lavish opulence of city life with the tranquillity of the Maldivian archipelago. Explore glittering metropoles in the UAE before heading to the dazzling white shores of a pristine castaway island.
With direct flights from the UAE into most major Australian cities, breaking the lengthy journey from Europe to the Land Down Under in the Emirates is another popular option with a vast array of activities and experiences in both destinations.
One of our most loved combinations, with the bonus of minimal travel time, links the UAE with the hidden jewel of Oman, Zighy Bay. Just two hours away from Dubai by car and nestled in the Musandam Peninsula, this village-inspired resort is a wonderful contrast to the highly-charged cities of the UAE.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular are great destinations for those who wish to celebrate with friends and family scattered across the world, with direct flights landing here from over 80 countries. Stellar service, a breath-taking new venue cropping up each week and our long list of contacts make event-planning a breeze.
There’s nothing like celebrating a milestone amongst the towering desert dunes in your own private camp or bringing everyone together in an exquisite private space such as the Burj Al Arab Terrace or an underwater restaurant.
Find out more about Events by Wix Squared
Generally, the best time to visit this part of the world is October-April.
It can get a little cooler in December/January.
June-August can be unbearably hot and humid.
- Although it can be a little cooler in UAE in January, it is a lot warmer than Europe. You might decide to time your visit with the Dubai Shopping Festival before jetting off to somewhere a little warmer like the Maldives or Sri Lanka.
- February is peak time for UAE, especially as school half term is during this month and with water parks, theme parks, indoor ski slopes, white sandy beaches, shopping malls and incredible kids’ clubs, it is the perfect safe family getaway.
- An incredible food festival often occurs in Dubai, in March. If you can’t make it work for your dates we can point you in the right direction for numerous Michelin star restaurants, unique dining experiences and street food options throughout the UAE.
- Guaranteed sunshine is normally on the cards for April. Consider splitting your time between the Arabian Desert, Downtown Dubai and a beach retreat.
- The humidity levels start to increase, however everywhere in Dubai and Abu Dhabi has air conditioning… even the bus shelters… and you will experience a sea breeze all along the coast.
- This is one of the hottest and most humid months of the year. Hence spend a couple of days in UAE before flying further east in search of drier and cooler climates in Malaysia and Indonesia.
- Combine a beach holiday in Dubai or Abu Dhabi with flying onto northern India for more predictable weather in Ladakh and an adventurous trekking holiday.
- Catch the end of the Summerfest in the UAE with a few days in urban landscapes surrounded by tall skyscrapers, then continue to south-east Asia for some culture.
- The humidity lessens and it is once again possible to create a more exciting itinerary in UAE combining the mountains, cities, desert and coastline all in one trip.
- October is a wonderful time to visit UAE. Our top tip would be to spend a few nights in Dubai before off-roading into Oman and crossing the border by road for a real adventure.
- Spectate at the Golf DP World Tour Championship in Dubai or swing a club at one of the many golf courses scattering the country, we can pre-book tee times and gain access to exclusive golf clubs. It is also the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November hence we recommend booking hotels with plenty of notice.
- The temperatures drop a little in December so a jacket is needed in the evenings and it can be too cold for camping in the desert. However, the shopping malls and indoor restaurants are well heated, and the Dubai New Year’s Eve fireworks should not be missed.