The Palm Jumeriah’s ‘fronds’ offer many miles of white-sand beach to laze on. Stay at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, where all the rooms have beautiful views of the skyline or The Palm itself. Take afternoon tea in the light-flooded cafe, Peacock Alley.
North from The Palm, Jumeriah Beach is a series of powder-white beaches, with views of the Burj al Arab, many of which are hotel-owned, although JBR open beach and the Kite Beach are free to visit. Styled like an Arabian palace, with pointed arches and ornate latticework, One&Only Royal Mirage – Arabian Court has sea-facing views and a kilometre of private beach.
Jumeriah Beach Residence (nicknamed JBR) claims to be the biggest residential complex in the world. While the super yachts moored in the huge nearby marina are impressive, the rest of the area is very visitor friendly. Stroll along The Walk and enjoy the scene. There are two storey’s worth of shops all along the seafront. The new Dubai Eye, the world’s largest Ferris wheel, is currently cartwheeling into existence on nearby Bluewater Island.
Hilton Dubai The Walk provides a comfortable base for exploring this lively area. It has a lovely sky lounge and you can make use of the pool and restaurants at the adjacent Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort.
Dubai Creek is the gatekeeper of the city’s origins. Here you can see the longshoremen at work or take an abra boat down the coast for a few Dirham. The historic Al Bastakiya neighbourhood hosts the stunning Jumeirah Mosque and Dubai’s oldest building, the Fahidi Fort. The facade of the modern Grand Hyatt Dubai curves like an IMAX cinema, while there’s a great mix of restaurants within, including a lovely jazz bar.
Away from the seafront in Downtown Dubai, the fountains at the base of the Burj Khalifa and the monstrous malls are the biggest tourist attractions, but hipsters might want to look up D3, Dubai’s new up-and-coming design district, and Boxpark Dubai. The Fairmont Dubai, in the heart of the action and linked directly to a metro stop, plays host to The Theater, an innovative entertainment and dining complex.
If you’re prepared to stay further out, in another emirate, you’ll be richly rewarded with gorgeous views and stunning resorts. Why not hire a car with Avis to explore more?
Abu Dhabi - The UAE’s capital has a reputation for being more traditional and slower paced than Dubai, yet things are changing including its skyline, which is filling with mega-architecture projects. Major sights include the extravagant Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the super-opulent Emirates Palace Hotel, while the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the largest art museum on the Arabian peninsula. Elsewhere there are modern souks, a traditional Heritage Village and a skyscraper-lined corniche.
Ras al Khaimah - Ras al Khaimah makes a peaceful escape from Dubai and appeals to budget-conscious travellers thanks to its all-inclusive hotels. RAK’s 64 kilometres of coastline is ripe with white-sand beaches, lush mangroves and terracotta sand dunes. You can enjoy authentic desert camps, head to the Hajar Mountains for a hike up to the UAE’s highest peak Jebel Jais and whizz along the world’s longest zipline. The three-minute Jais Flight takes you 1,680 metres above sea level for 1.76 miles at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. Look out also for Al Jazirah Al Hamra, a supposedly haunted abandoned village. The Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert is a luxury desert hotel styled around a series of seriously lavish Bedouin tents. The palatial Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah boasts extravagant architecture, amazing restaurants, great golf and the beach to end all beaches.
Sharjah - The UAE’s third biggest city is a key cultural hub full of family-friendly attractions. Lounge about on the 3.5km-long Al Heera Beach, soak up some contemporary art at the Kalba Ice Factory, make a splash at Pearls Kingdom water park, go wreck and reef diving along Khorfakkan Bay or shop at City Centre Al Zahia. Visit the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization and the Sharjah Art Museum, dine beside the dancing Al Majaz fountain and then wander around the vibrant Blue Souk. Be sure to sample some kunafa, a delicious Arabic dessert. Sharjah is a dry city, so the consumption of alcohol is banned.
Ajman - The smallest of the seven emirates has plenty to recommend it, including ancient forts and luxury resorts. Spot around 60 species of birds at the Al Zorah Nature Reserve, go hiking in the rugged foothills of the Hajar Mountains or tee off at Al Zorah Golf Club. Enjoy the tiny town’s small, sandy beaches and stroll along the corniche. Ajman’s 18th-Century fort has been transformed into a small but captivating museum housing archaeological finds and artefacts. The Dhow Yard has an impressive row of carefully crafted wooden boats. Modern and elegant, Oberoi Al Zorah is a beach-facing resort with excellent views. It lies between mangroves and an 18-hole golf course.