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Anything the rest of the world does, Dubai likes to go that one step further, ensuring that their attractions are as creative, unique and extravagant as possible. A good example of this is the underwater hotel, Hydropolis, which is currently being built. The architecture here is really enough of an attraction in itself, with the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa a landmark of Downtown Dubai and innovatively designed hotels such as the Burj Al Arab and Atlantis Resort sure to make your jaw drop.
The wonderful thing about Dubai is that you can wander the city and always find something to catch your interest. Looking out across at the Palm Islands or The World Islands provides a vision of incredible achievement and scenery that is completely unique to Dubai. It's also free, too! Another thing worth catching a glimpse of is definitely the Dubai Fountains, the waters of which can reach up to 500 feet. Other popular attractions include the vast array of beaches and shops, with a mixture of malls and traditional Souks to explore.
When feeling worn out or wanting to see Dubai from two different perspectives, the old and the new, a visit to the Dubai Creek is truly wonderful. It is here that you can take a boat ride and pass through the city's historic regions or just sit with a drink and admire the charismatic views. If you're feeling adventurous then some dune bashing in the desert is the best way to satisfy any thirst for some adrenaline. If this isn't so much your scene, then a trip into the desert is still very much necessary for getting a feel for the Middle Eastern spirit and perhaps relaxing at a Bedouin Camp under the clearest starry skies you ever will see.
Abu Dhabi, with its exciting architecture, wealth of historical gems and sprawling desert nearby has plenty to offer when it comes to deciding what to do. First and foremost: Ferrari World. This is the ideal place for adrenaline junkies and fast car lovers alike, as well as families. Similarly, there's also Yas Waterworld, which includes beasts like the 'Tornado Waterslide', or 'Hili Fun City', another attraction park that was actually the Gulf's first.
For something a little quieter... Theme parks aren't for everyone, and even if they were, we'd still need a break every so often to do something less stomach churning and more relaxing. This is where attractions like the Al Ain Oasis come in handy, as the atmosphere here is very different to the lively excitement of the above. Here you can wander amongst the palms, drifting between the coolness of the shade and soaking up the unspoilt natural beauty that makes up this area.
Al Ain Zoo is a lovely destination for a day out, with its 900 hectares of wild life, including giraffes and camels, which you can also interact with through feeding. Cars are a big deal over here, and hence why there's not just a Ferrari World, but also a Classic Cars Museum. Visitors can delve into the automobile history of the Emirates and admire a lot of very cool looking vintage cars. Of course, you can't have an attractions page for the UAE and not mention camel rides. These are a quintessential part of the Arabian way of life, and they give riders an idea of what it might have been like to have lived through the pas in this country.
Once the sun goes down and the beaches begin to empty, what is there to do in Dubai? As you can probably guess, there's a lot. Never a place to leave its guests wanting, this is a city with an abundance of activities and entertainment around every corner. As the sky scrapers and Mosques illuminate the skyline, an excitable energy animates the air, inspiring tourists to explore. For a laid back night time activity, how about a trip to one of the many sophisticated and luxurious bars or restaurants that Dubai is host to? The Skyview Bar is particularly renowned for its breathtaking views of the city, and is housed within the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel. While the drinks here are on the pricey side, the scenery outside more than makes up for it.
The 360 bar has a livelier atmosphere than the Skyview, with ambient lighting, a restaurant and yet more spectacular views that will make you feel as though you're floating close to the clouds. If it's a touch of the familiar you want then Biggles English Pub has a cosy ambience, with traditional pub decor and delicious food and drink that will fill you up and warm your heart. Shopping is a big deal in Dubai, and for this reason the majority of the shops tend to stay open until about 10pm, meaning you'll have plenty of time to browse for souvenirs before or after stopping for something to eat. Wandering through the city at night is also just as enjoyable as any attraction, with the strange beauty of the architecture surrounding you and islands like The World creating distances dotted with fascinations.
Abu Dhabi has an exciting and sophisticated night life scene, with a selection of ambient bars and eateries along with shops that stay open late and hotel entertainment. Whether you're looking for a relaxing evening spent with good company and good food, or a lively one spent dancing and drinking, there's something for everyone. Both these atmospheres are confined to their own specific venues also, so those just wanting to stroll through the streets, admiring the scenery as night falls won't have to worry about running into any rowdy club goers. The nightlife scene is kept dignified in Abu Dhabi and lounge bars such as The Jazz n Fizz, which sits within the Sofitel Hotel, are a good example. Here you can browse the champagne menu while unwinding to live entertainment. It's for this reason that the wine bars and lounges are perfect for finding somewhere sociable with a chilled out vibe.
When it comes to the restaurants there's a chance to experience a variety of international and authentic Arabian foods. A particularly popular choice is the famous chef, Gary Rhodes's establishment: Rhodes 44. The food in Abu Dhabi tends to be world class, with charismatic decor within each eatery that enhances visitor's senses and makes their meals even more memorable.
Dubai's mixture of the old and new makes this a city full of treasures to discover (and spend your money on). The traditional souqs sell spices, fabrics and all range of unique souvenirs that allow you to put your haggling skills to the test and mingle with the locals, experiencing an authentic and atmospheric aspect of Middle Eastern culture. These can be found in Bur and Deira, and are an especially immersive part of visiting Old Dubai.
For a more grandiose scene the Dubai malls provide a plethora of fashionable shops, eateries and a comfortable setting where there is a lot of choice in one place and most importantly, air conditioning. In such a hot place you probably don't want to be walking around for ages, and so the malls are good for getting a serious dose of retail therapy without needing to hose yourself down every twenty minutes or so. For a mixture of both of the above, the Souq Madinat Jumeirah has all the charm and historical ambience of a Souq, but without the heat and bustle. This is a far more laid back Souq that is surrounded by peaceful scenery and includes eateries, where you can chill out after you've shopped and dropped. As if there weren't enough options already, brace yourself shopaholics. There's also a Dubai shopping festival.
That's right, an entire festival dedicated to seducing you with yet more great deals. There's entertainment and a lively festival atmosphere in general. This is held around January and February. One common dilemma for some tourists is being able to tear themselves away from the tranquillity of the beach or poolside to go shopping. This isn't a problem in Dubai, as the shops tend to stay open until around 10pm, allowing you to spend all day sunbathing before heading out for the evening and exploring what's on offer in between stopping for some food and drinks. There's every opportunity to buy some great mementos while you're here, though you may find yourself needing to lock away your credit card with so much temptation about!
If you like to shop then you'll LOVE Abu Dhabi. There are shops galore, selling everything from high end fashion to jewellery, perfume and electronics. There are even some familiar names such as House of Fraser to be found. The majority of the shops are housed in huge, glossy looking malls that include places to take a break for food and coffee in between. Shopping certainly isn't for the faint hearted here, so you'll need a rest stop now and then. The malls are beautiful to admire, even if you're not buying anything, as their luxurious architecture is mesmerizing. You'll also be very thankful for them when it comes to trying to find some souvenirs for people back home!
For more of a traditional shopping experience with Abu Dhabi you'll want to pay a visit to the Souk's, which specialise in selling delicious fresh foods and exotic textiles. The Souk Al Zafarana is especially useful for finding a bargain or two and even stays open until midnight.
Historic Sites and Attractions
Despite its extravagant appearance, the United Arab Emirates and Dubai is still very much a traditional place. This can be experienced through the scatterings of Souks and natural scenery, though to see some of the city's fascinating history in more depth a visit to the southern district of Bur is a must. One of the most popular attractions to see here is The Grand Mosque. This magnificent building has a mystical presence to it, especially when its domes are lit up at night, emanating a warm glow over the surroundings. If you want to feel like you've stepped back in time, the Bastakiya Quarters is a collection of narrow lanes, old style houses and wind towers that offer a glimpse into Dubai as it once was, while for a range of knowledge and historical artefacts in one place, the Dubai Museum in Bur has a plethora of examples from the city's past, and highlights Dubai's transition into the city you see today. Outside of Bur there is still a lot to see.
The Jumeirah Archeological Site is a spectacular example of historical preservation, dating all the way back to the 6th Century AD in parts. In the northern district of Deira, there's the chance to visit the Burj Nahar, which was built in 1870 and is one of the three watchtowers that casts its protective presence over the city. Due to being surrounded by gardens, visiting this site is perfect as part of a relaxing day trip out. Also in Deira is the Heritage House, where you can experience some of Dubai's traditions, trying exotic foods and taking a tour around the various rooms.
A visit to see the historical dhows at the Dhow Wharfage, along with an expedition around some of the Souks is essential. The Spice Souks, with their aromatic atmospheres are a particular highlight. If you fancy an expedition outside of Dubai, the town of Hatta has some beautiful scenery, including the Hatta Mountains and Hatta Village, which still accommodates mud houses and traditional forts. As with any famous city, there's always much history to be found within the rush of the modern attractions. It is this that gives Dubai its relaxed ambience and cultural character.
Abu Dhabi is rich with beautiful architecture and enchanting historical sites. One of the most famous of these has to be the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The bright white of this marble building, with its shiny tiled grounds and domes outlined by the shadows of the sunset appears strange and enchanting amongst the environment. Everything about its design feels precious and intricate, with notable attributes like the world's largest hand knotted carpet and a 12 tonne crystal chandelier inspiring awe. Whether religious or not, this is somewhere that is iconic to Abu Dhabi, glowing spectacularly in the distance at night and providing a place where peace can be found.
Fort's make up a lot of Abu Dhabi's historical heritage, and the Al Jahili Fort is definitely one to look out for. Its charismatic design of triangle topped walls appears like a multi layered crown. Its setting amongst well kept gardens also makes it a calm and beautiful place to visit. In the direction of Dubai are the Hili Archaeological Gardens, which provide a relaxing ambience through their archaeological finds and vibrant gardens. The Heritage Theme Park has a similar atmosphere to the Gardens, with not just sites but also two theatres, a caf?, and a market so that you can get interactive with the traditional Emirati way of life.
Similar to the Heritage Theme Park, Heritage Village is an imitation of a traditional Emirati Oasis village, displaying various fascinating and integral parts of country's past and its development. You can also pick up some tips on the local craftwork as well as buy a range of goods from the little spice shop. For a dose of education on the history of a place, you can't beat a good museum. In Abu Dhabi there's the Al Ain National Museum, which specialises in showing a variety of unique artefacts, some even dating all the way back to the first millennium BC. Other museums such as the Al Ain Palace Museum make interesting visits also.