Exploring The Emirates

The Burj Al Arab Hotel Floodlit At Night,Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The seven Arab Emirates offer a bewitching combination of luxury and exoticism for the traveller. Sophisticated and stylish hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai provide seven star service while shoppers are in heaven at the mall or in the souk. And for those who want to experience the mystery of the Arabian nights, there are desert trips, oases and Bedouin markets to discover.

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Architectural Stock Adcb Headquarters Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The name Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, is literally translated as ‘place of the gazelle’. A surprise perhaps for present day visitors to this cosmopolitan city with its bold architecture and lush urban spaces. On the skyline, minarets and mosques nestle alongside futuristic skyscrapers while those who stroll along the Abu Dhabi Corniche or through its public parks and fountains may well be clothed in a bargain from the Annual Shopping Festival held every March as well as the traditional white (male) dress, the dishdash.

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The Yas Marina Formula One Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Travel agents like to sell the UAE, the seven sheikdoms stretching along the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, as a land of contrasts with its varied geography of mountains, beaches, deserts and mixture of uber-luxe hotels and traditional history. This is the gold tap capital of the world where you will be collected from the airport in a white Rolls Royce, the site of the world’s first seven star hotel (the iconic Burj al Arab), the most innovative water park (Wild Wadi) the world’s tallest tower, the world’s largest dry ski slope and the place for legendary duty free shopping.

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City Center Skyline,United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the new Singapore and Dubai the new French Riviera and the two largest single emirates compete to build the greatest and most beautiful hotels.

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Luxury Hotel Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi

The latest of these is the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi which has 20 kilos of gold on the walls and an entrance hall higher than Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. This kind of excess is a long way from the world of explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger who looked at the vanishing life of the Bedouin in his famous book Arabian Sands. He believed that our greed for personal possessions and how we nurture that greed would be fatal for mankind.

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In the UAE, it is fuelled by oil. Abu Dhabi owns 10% of the world’s oil resources (2.2 million barrels a day) with immense reserves of natural gas but the petrol dollars have been used for the whole country and the smaller UAE states have benefited. These include Fujairah on the east coast at the Gulf of Oman where there are beautiful mountains and valleys and Ras al-Khaimah which borders Oman to the north.

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Dubai Marina At Night, United Arab Emirates

There are traditional fishing villages here (but sadly no fishermen) which are now the scene for many pirate films.

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Dubai Marina, United Arab Emirates

They too are hoping to attract tourism alongside dazzling Dubai while Abu Dhabi invests across the world (its stockmarket has increased five times since 2003) to provide income when its liquid gold runs out.

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Henna body art at the Heritage Festival of Desert Cultures in Dubai

But if the glitz and glamour become too tiring, hop on a boat from Abu Dhabi to Futaisi Island to explore the lagoon, mangrove swamps and fort. Here you can enjoy nature and watch wildlife – eagles, flamingos and…gazelles.

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Dubai city panorama at the Dubai Creek

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