Today marks exactly 5 years since I first arrived in the land of glitter and gold, the United Arab Emirates, and so I am very pleased to share with you my own personal kaleidoscope of this beautiful country.
For those of you who have not had the opportunity to visit yet, the UAE is formed of 7 emirates which include: Abu Dhabi (and Al Ain), Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Umm al Quwain, Ras al Khaimmah and Fujairah. In just 43 years, this majestic gem has gone from a spark in the desert to a world leader in many fields including design, technology, transportation, medicine, science, tourism and hospitality.
Having lived in the capital city, Abu Dhabi – I have had the pleasure of watching the towers and most luxurious hotels rise above the desert. As a true hotelier and passionate traveller, I have spent a lot of time over the years exploring all the Emirates. While Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the pioneers of the country, there is definitely more that meets the eye to every city, each with its own unique beauty- forming a united charm to this desert jewel.
Al Ain – an oasis in the desert which is home to the country’s founding fathers. Luscious date palm trees and cool walkways transport you to a place of tranquility. I love visiting Jebel Hafeet, a 1,240 metre mountain which gives you an eagle eye view of Oman on one side and the emirate on the other. While driving back to Abu Dhabi, it always makes my heart glow to catch a glimpse of the camels – they are adorable!
Abu Dhabi – the capital city and my home – I have only the best of memories here and too many favourite places including a visit to the Grand Mosque, spending a day on Saadiyat Island for a dip into the Arabian Sea; exploring the sand dunes, riding camels, getting henna tattoos while on a desert safari, walking on the Formula 1 race track, and of course – indulging in the culinary collection of award winning international restaurants.
Dubai – Home to world famous attractions including the tallest building and largest shopping mall in the world, luxurious hotels, and plenty of activities for thrill seekers – Dubai is the city of the future. While this city truly does shine very brightly, I love to hop on an abra (traditional boat) whether to visit the souk and buy fabulous authentic shoes and spices at Dubai Creek; or to ride through the canals of Madinat Jumeirah – admiring the Burj al Arab and indulging in an al fresco dinner. Oh and how could I forget – watching the most impressive dancing fountains!
Ajman – home to Al Zorah natural reserve where you can admire countless species of wildlife, including pink flamingos- imagine! Ajman is now home to the most opulent resorts nestled on pure white sand, allowing you to live in luxury, even if only for a weekend.
Sharjah – the nation’s culture and heritage capital. There are many museums and art galleries worth visiting here, however my favourite spot is Al Qasba where you can enjoy wonderful restaurants and cafes and take a ride on “Etisalat Eye of the Emirates” for beautiful views of the city. You can also find authentic Turkish ice cream here, served exactly as you would find in Istanbul – how fabulous!
Umm al Quwain – offering a combination of treasures, this emirate is a great escape from city life as it is filled with old castles, forts, an impressive 2,000 year old archaeological site, and if that’s not enough – how about enjoying the crazy water slides of Dreamland Aqua Park while overlooking the desert?
Ras al Khaimmah – known as the “horn of the emirates”, this city is known for its red desert sand, rugged Hajjar mountains, and beautiful resorts overlooking the Arabian Gulf. This is my absolute favourite place in all of UAE to escape the city for the perfect relaxation break. I have witnessed the most beautiful sunsets here as the blue water and golden skies form a mosaic of colours – simply breathtaking.
Fujairah – what’s fascinating about this emirate is that it is completely surrounded by majestic mountains and overlooks the glimmering Indian Ocean with its natural beaches. I love catching a glimpse of the 7 different mountain colours while driving into the emirate as well as passing through the Masafi Friday market. As it borders Oman, a visit to Musandam is a must do – where you can enjoy a beautiful day cruise on a traditional dhow and marvel at the natural fjords – you might even spot a dolphin or two!
I am always in awe of how much the country has changed in those short 43 years; of how much it is growing and developing every single day thanks to the vision of its innovators and leaders, and am very proud to be able to play a part in shaping its story.
I have shopped in the world’s largest mall, marveled at the world’s largest fountain show, dined in the world’s most luxurious hotel, attended famous events, kissed a camel, hosted celebrities, indulged in award winning restaurants, celebrated new year in the world’s tallest building, stood in awe of the most beautiful sunsets, met people from every corner of the world, formed everlasting friendships… and made priceless memories to last me a lifetime.
A picture is worth a thousand words – however these, will leave you speechless 🙂
This post is dedicated to those who share the same love for the UAE as me, and who have left footprints on my heart forever – you know who you are <3