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Essential Guides

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The United Arab Emirates is home to the luxurious Dubai, with its lavish hotels and glamorous city life that is a buzz with restaurants, bars, shops, and beaches. Alongside such modernity the UAE also has much tradition to offer, preserving its heritage amongst the new in places such as Old Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This takes the form of architectural fascinations like the Old Watch Tower in Bur, and the unspoilt landscapes of the beaches and desert dunes, which define a large part of the country's character and inspire a sense of freedom and adventure to those that visit. 

 

Direct Traveller tailor made holidays in the United Arab Emirates incorporate a vast range of possibilities, including private guided tours, beach holidays and multi centre holidays. Combine private guided tours, self drive tours, beach holidays, desert safaris, desert camps, and city breaks. 

 

Twin centre options within UAE, and Oman, Sri Lanka, and Istanbul. Non-stop direct flights available with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Royal Brunei. Other carriers include Qatar, Turkish Airlines. Holidays are fully flexible to your desired duration. Complimentary transfers with all package holidays. We can arrange any variety of exciting excursions, from balloon rides and golf, to city tours, charter boats and desert dune rides along with much, much more. 

 

Direct Traveller can arrange your holiday to be as down to earth as you wish to as luxury as you wish. There's even an exclusive Merhaba service, where we will pick you up from the aircraft, and deal with luggage collection and immigration queues.

 

Annual Events

 

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have many exciting events that take place each year, and the following times of year that these happen around are good to know in case you wanted to co-ordinate your visit with one in particular.

 

 

Dubai Events

  • February-March - Dubai International Jazz Festival
  • February- March - Dubai Tennis Championships
  • February-March - Dubai Desert Classic Golfing Event
  • March-April - Dubai Art Fair
  • March-April - Dubai World Cup
  • March-April - The UAE Desert Challenge (this is a car/bike race that starts off in Abu-Dhabi and ends in Dubai)
  • April-May - Festival of Taste (this lasts for a week and is a definite must for any foodies)
  • June-August - Dubai Summer Surprises
  • September - October - Motexha Textile Show (a trade fair)
  • November-December - Dubai Rugby Sevens
  • November - December - Dubai International Film Festival
  • November- December - National Day Festival (this is a festival that celebrates the Emirates independence)

 

Abu Dhabi Events

 

  • Late October - early November - Abu Dhabi Film Festival
  • November - Abu Dhabi Art Fair
  • Late November - early December - Al Ain Aerobatic Show
  • December - The Life & Style Show
  • December - Al Dafrah Camel Festival
  • December - Mubadala World Tennis Championship
  • January - Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
  • February - Red Bull Air Race
  • March - Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
    The religious festivals of Ramadan and Diwali also take place once a year, their exact dates depending on the Lunar Calendar.

Arabic language

 

Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates, though Dubai's multicultural society means that you may find some locals speak a variety of languages. Here are some key phrases in Arabic that could be handy to jot down for your holiday. 

 

  • Good morning - Sabah el khair 
  • Good evening - Massa el khair 
  • Sorry - Asef 
  • Thank you - Shukran-Lak 
  • Yes - NaAm 
  • No - La 
  • Please - MinFadlak 
  • Goodbye - MaAa es-salama 
  • Do you speak English? - Hal Ta TaKalam alanglizia 
  • How much? - Kam ath-thaman 
  • How do I get to? - Kaeef yomKanany El Hosool ala? 
  • Where is? - Ayna.? 
  • I need a doctor - aHtaj ela Tabib

 

Cuisine 

The food in the United Arab Emirates is just as exotic as the city's scenery. Each dish takes inspiration from a mixture of cultures, with Lebanese and Arabic cuisine most popular. Just like the innovative architecture here, there are plenty of innovative dishes to try also, such as a stuffed camel, if you're feeling brave enough! It can be a bit nerve wracking going away somewhere if you have specific dietary needs or are just a bit fussy when it comes to trying new things.

There's such a mixture of foods that there should be something to suit everyone. For vegetarians both hummus and falafel, which is made out of chickpeas and spices, are popular and used in a variety of dishes, while meat lovers will want to tuck into a Shawarma, which is a wrap of chicken or lamb with vegetables, pickle, garlic sauce and a side of fries. If you like kebabs, you'll like this! Lamb in particular is a much loved meat here. It features in several popular dishes, and these are often skewered between vegetables or served with vegetables and rice, like Matchbous for example. When it comes to pudding prepare yourself for some deliciousness, with dishes that are diverse with sweet flavours.

The Mehalabiya for example includes rosewater and pistachios while Esh Asarya is a cheese cake style dessert with a thick creamy topping. The wide selection of restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that serve everything from authentic Arabian cuisine to international allows visitors to try something new and different every day amongst unique atmospheres. One particular Middle Eastern cuisine tradition is the Friday Brunch, which varies from place to place but essentially has the same concept In that it's a chance to enjoy a buffet spread.

 

Currency 

 

The currency used in the United Arab Emirates is the Dirham, the notes of which come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 Dirham's. The conversion rate between the Great British Pound and the Arab Emirates Dirham is around 6.02. Note: this conversion rate was checked on the 9th December 2013.

 

Emergency Contact Numbers

  • Police - 999
  • Ambulance - 998
  • Fire Department - 997
  • Coast Guard – 996

 

Public Transport

 

In both Abu Dhabi and Dubai you'll find that you can access a lot of the attractions just by walking if you're staying in the centre of the city. For exploring further afield though, or just saving the trouble of getting lost, public transport can be a lot easier. Here's what you can get within each city. 

 

Dubai - The Dubai Metro (this consists of a Red line and Green line, though has planned extensions. It is known to be very efficient, though note that it runs from 5.50am until 11pm and is closed until 1.30pm on Fridays). - Public buses - Ferries - Water taxis - Abras (for carrying people from one side of the creek to the other) - Road taxis - Car rental 

 

Abu Dhabi - Buses - Taxis and 7 seated mini buses (most popular form of public transport) - Emirates Express (goes to Dubai) - Car rental Note that it's always a good idea to have a map on you, just to be able to clarify that you're heading in the right direction when in a taxi, or to assist you in knowing when to get off at bus stops. Other useful bits of information about UAE public transport is that taxis become more expensive after 10pm, and buses start at around 6.30 am and end at midnight.

 

 

Representative Offices in the UAE

The representative offices of the UAE are made up of Embassies and consulates. The Embassies are based in Abu Dhabi, while the Consulates are in Dubai. They are there to represent foreign travellers and able to help with visa and passport requirements, informing of any regulations and helping to resolve any problems. There is a British Embassy in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

 

 

Climate 

The United Arab Emirates has a tropical desert climate and maintains a sunny appearance throughout most of the year, with temperatures peaking in heat and humidity during the summer months. Winter and the months from December to March in particular are seen as a good time to visit due to cities such as Dubai still being warm, though not uncomfortably so. Rainfall is rare.

 

 

Emirati People

Due to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai being within the United Arab Emirates, the local people are usually known as Emiratis. The fact that Arabic is the most commonly spoken language means that people here can also be known as Arabs. You'll find that Emiratis are friendly and welcoming people who are happy to introduce others to their country and culture.

 

 

Haggling

There's plenty of opportunity to test out your haggling skills in Dubai due to the vast amount of Souks to be visited here. You'll find one's that sell everything from gold to spices and range in atmospheres. Most will have a lively bustle to them and this is all part of the fun of visiting such a place. As long as you keep your belongings close and make sure to stay well hydrated you'll be able to really throw yourself into this traditional activity. There's no need to stress over haggling either, it's really fun when you've got the basics down! Here are some tips. 

 

1. Don't be too enthusiastic. It might sound strange, but if you play hard to get, they're more likely to try and win you over with lower prices. 

 

2. Know when to walk away. If the shop owner isn't budging on the price any further and you still feel it's too much don't feel pressured to accept, unless you really, really want whatever it is that you're haggling for. Sometimes if you walk away there's also a chance that the shop owner may lower the price again before you leave. 

 

3. Explore the market. If you browse a bit and check the prices of things that you're interested in before haggling for one particular item, then you can ensure that you get the best price possible. 

 

4. Know that every shop owner is different. Some may be easier going than others, and you should be able to gather this pretty quickly. Also, prepare to be assertive with some that might hassle you. 

 

5. Enjoy it! This is an opportunity to experience a great tradition of the UAE and grab some great bargains. 

 

6. Lastly, stop for refreshments in between to refuel your haggling energy. 

 

 

Tips 

Tipping can be a tricky one to figure out. You don't want to tip someone and to receive a bewildered look in response because it's either too much, not enough, or just not even necessary. So, who should you tip in Dubai, and how much should you tip them? In the case of the usual services that you should tip, here is a guideline for the amount you should give. For taxi drivers it's best to round up to the nearest note. 

 

Waiters and waitresses usually have around fifteen percent of the total bill so long as you're happy with the service and hairdressers about ten percent. There are some extra services that you'll find offered too, such as a bag packer at the supermarket. For this a few coins is usually sufficient and shows gratitude. Don't be afraid to check how much with the individual if unsure.

 

 

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