Known as a very popular transit hub for most international travellers, majority of us associate UAE and the gulf region with only Dubai. Look deeper and you will be surprised to know that it is more than just camels, sand dunes and tall buildings there. The middle east is not only rich in black gold but proudly boast about their historically rich heritage and is culturally dynamic. From isolated deserts and snowy mountains to a futuristic city map and Michelin star restaurants this region has a lot to offer in order to pacify an explorer’s soul.
The United Arab Emirates is no Europe where a less than an hour’s drive takes you to an entirely different country and culture, but, there are a lot more to explore than you can imagine. If you are travelling to Dubai, do something off beat away from the city or if you are already living in Dubai, you will probably have more to look forward to in the weekends to come after reading this.
TOP FIVE WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM DUBAI
1. ABU DHABI
Standing as the largest city and the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi offers a ton of opportunities for tourists to experience the Arabic heritage as well as the city’s contrasting, futuristic outlook. Everything only a little over an hour’s drive from Dubai.
• Yas Island
This man-made island is a premier entertainment and leisure destination of Abu Dhabi. The island has attractions like the Ferrari World theme park, Water Park, Yas Mall, a number of restaurants and especially celebrated for it’s Yas Marina Circuit where the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held every year. At the circuit one can easily indulge in various sports car driving experiences like the Ferrari, Ashton Martin and even a formula race car for the real feel.
• Heritage Village
To learn more about the traditional desert way of life this little oasis village provides a fascinating glimpse into the UAE’s past. Do not miss the little spice shop selling herbs, spices and handmade goods. Also, watch traditional skilled crafts-men and women at work; weaving, pottery, spinning and metal goods.
• Sheikh Zayed Mosque
This is my favourite part of visiting Abu Dhabi. The serene place of worship stands as the largest Mosque in the UAE and is an architectural work of art. The striking gold and white colours of the mosque literally glows and even stunning when visited during dusk between 4.30pm to 5.00pm; makes for a great photo opportunity.
• Desert Safari
Encounter the adrenaline of dune bashing and sand boarding, watch the dramatic desert sunset, visit a camel farm, get henna done, enjoy a barbecue dinner and belly dance performance under the desert stars or just camp the night in the middle of the desert.
2. RAS AL KHAIMAH
Famous for their terracotta desert planes, breathtaking coastlines and surrounded by the Hajar mountains is another UAE emirate only forty-five minutes from Dubai. A perfect getaway spot for outdoor enthusiasts.
• RAK beach
Not many beaches around UAE permit barbecuing. Only a few beaches in RAK does where one can cook, make a campfire and spend the night under the starry skies by the ocean.
• Jabal Jais
The tallest mountain in the UAE is quite a spectacular drive up the hills to reach. The temperatures up there drop as low as -5 degrees Celsius and is surprisingly very pleasant even on days when it is around 50 degrees Celsius on land. Now, if you are lucky to be around during winter, you can experience snow fall there which happened after many years this year. It is a great Barbecue or picnic spot and to watch the amusing mountain goats flawlessly climbing the sharp boulders.
3. Al AIN
Dubbed as the garden city of UAE, Al Ain is set amongst Oases, natural springs and thick plantations. A one and half hour drive from Dubai tourists also flock to this UNESCO world heritage site for its museums, forts, zoo and drive to the Jebel Hafeet mountain.
• Al Ain Oasis
Is UAE’s first presented UNESCO world heritage site visitor experience. This 3000 acres place’s walkways shaded by palm plantations and cooled by the water in the oasis will transport you to an entirely different world from the noise and heat of the city. All of this in the middle of a dessert.
• Arabian Nights Village
Harnessing the essence and soul of the Arabian past this village lets visitors experience the beauty of Emirati way of life. In a massive dune valley lies this not so humble village with styled watchtowers and accommodation. Guests can indulge in a number of activities here in the desert like quad biking, sand surfing, morning safaris and enjoy the sheer tranquility of the place.
From natural beauty to more wind blown deserts, pristine coastline to picturesque mountains; Oman stands as the perfect country within the gulf region to experience authentic Arabia outside the UAE.
The capital of Oman is a waterside heaven with a beautiful harbour. Visit the Grand Mosque there which, is a magnificent piece of contemporary Islamic architecture. Muscat has a number of detailed museums, souqs like the famous Mutrah Gold Souq and spectacular forts frequented by visitors. Do not miss the beautiful blue and gold Al Alam Palace. Muscat is an hour’s time by flight and almost five hours by road from Dubai.
Many other towns like Nizwa and Sur on the outskirts of Muscat, sitting at the base of Hajar mountains hosts a few luxurious getaway resorts with breath taking views and a more forts to explore.
• Jebel Shams
Highest mountain in Oman known not for it’s peak but the breath taking view of the the deep Wadi Ghul along side the mountain. This rugged beauty is also known as the Grand Canyon of Arabia makes for a great place to take photographs, hike and picnic.
Boasting of a much pleasant climate away from the scorching heat of the city, Hatta is located on the rugged Hajjar Mountains. It is a pretty popular getaway from Dubai city. Known for their smooth rock pools, windy canyons and the green-blue water is a part drive through sandy deserts of Oman to get there. Hatta has other attractions such as their heritage village, activities like mountain biking, a dam and their hill park.