Explore United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates Travel Guide

The United Arab Emirates on the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is a bit of an anathema in the Middle East. This union of seven sovereign sheikhdoms was formed when the British withdrew from the Gulf in 1971, and today it is a modern, trend-setting conglomeration of high-rise cities with state-of-the-art tourist infrastructure, magnificent beaches and a paradise of duty free shopping. Unlike other Arab states the UAE actually courts and encourages tourists, constantly adding and upgrading events and attractions to complement its renown as the shopping capital of the world.

The sun always shines on the UAE and its gleaming cities, the most popular of which is cosmopolitan, wealthy Dubai, which is characterised by a ten-mile long (16km) deep creek that forms a natural harbour. In Dubai resides the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone, which makes the city a must for shop-a-holics. A major attraction is the annual Dubai Shopping Festival.

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and one of the most modern cities in the world. Visitors revel in large gardens and parks, green boulevards, sophisticated high-rise buildings, modern communication services and transport, international luxury hotels, rich shopping malls and cultural centres. The city's airport ranks as one of the finest in the world.

Just in case travellers forget they are actually in Arabia, the UAE also offers a host of experiences and attractions that utilise its historic Bedouin heritage, including camel treks, henna tattoos, desert stargazing, 4x4 trips through sand dunes and cruises aboard a dhow. Hundreds of tour companies offer a variety of excursions and adventure packages to suit all tastes and persuasions.

All visitors to the United Arab Emirates must hold a passport that is valid for six months. Visitors must hold documents and confirmed tickets for their next destination and have a sponsor in the UAE to cover their stay. Holders of passports containing an Israeli visa or stamps need to obtain a clearance issued by the C.I.D. (Crime Investigation Department) before arrival. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Ferrari World

Address: Yas Island, 30 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi

Strap yourself in for the ride of a lifetime at Ferrari World, which opened at Abu Dhabi's Yas Island in November 2010. At over 2 million sq feet (200,000 sq m) this is the largest indoor amusement park in the world. The headline attraction is the Formula Rossa rollercoaster, by some margin the world's fastest, attaining speeds of up to 160 miles p/h (240km) and an acceleration of 4.8 G, which is what a Formula One racing driver experiences at full throttle. The park's many attractions include the largest Ferrari gallery outside of the brand's headquarters in Marinello, Italy; the Speed of Magic immersive 4-D film experience; the G-Force space shot tower; Bell'Italia, which reproduces Italy's main attractions in miniature; and various state of the art racing simulators. An enormous red-domed roof encloses the facility, creating a futuristic and unique structure that has been nominated for several architectural awards. Ferrari World includes six restaurants, featuring four Michelin-starred chefs.

Al Hosn Palace (White Fort)

Address: Khalid bin Walid St Abu Dhabi

The oldest building in young Abu Dhabi is the Al Hosn Palace, known colloquially as the White Fort. It was constructed in 1793 as the official residence of the former ruling family, and was extensively renovated in 1983. Today it houses the Cultural Foundation, featuring a museum of traditional artefacts and historical photographs. The Palace is renowned for the magnificent tile work over its main gate.

Dubai Creek

Address: Dubai

The natural seawater inlet that cuts through the centre of the city is the historical part of Dubai where visitors can take an abra (small water taxi) and view the old trading port and the dhows from the water. A cruise to Al-Maktoum Bridge will pass many of the city's historic, as well as modern, landmarks. A stroll around the wharf offers a picturesque glimpse of Dubai's trading heritage, where dhows bound for distant places dock to unload their goods.

Bastakiya

Address: Dubai

The old Bastakiya district is a step back in time to the days before electricity and air-conditioning, where traditional courtyard houses were cooled by wind towers. Old Dubai was famous for its wind towers that lined the Creek on both sides, and today the narrow lanes festooned with the distinctively Arabian architecture are a popular historical attraction marked for tourist development.

Dubai Souks

Address: Both sides of the Creek, in Deira and Bur Dubai Dubai

Admission: Free Daily 7am-12pm and 5pm-7pm; Fridays 5pm-7pm.

The souks, or traditional markets, are popular with bargain hunters as well as sightseers and photographers. The most famous is the Gold Souk, where the narrow streets are lined with shops selling everything golden, from 24-carat bars to rings and elaborate necklaces, and all at low prices. The tiny lanes of the traditional spice souk are scented with sacks of cinnamon, incense, spices, and dried fruit, while the modern fish souk bustles with activity and is redolent with smells of a more unpleasant nature. At the heart of the Bur Dubai souk lies Al Fahidi Street, selling the latest electronics, photographic equipment and home appliances at competitive prices. Other streets sell everything from materials and carpets to traditional coffee pots, loaves of unleavened bread and hubble-bubble pipes.

Grand Mosque

Address: Al Mussalla Road Dubai

Boasting the city's tallest minaret at 230 feet (70m), the Grand Mosque is a notable landmark with its multi-domed style and impressive size. It is an important place of worship and can accommodate up to 1,200 worshippers inside. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the Mosque.

Wild Wadi

Address: Jumeirah Beach Road, between the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Burj Al Arab Hotel Dubai

Admission: AED 215 (age 13+); AED 175 (children 4-12); reduced admission after sunset. For individuals staying either at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel or Burj Al Arab, access to the Wild Wadi Water Park is free. Open daily from 11am. In January and February it closes 6pm; March to May 7pm; June to August 9pm; and September to December 5pm.

Telephone: (0)4 348 4444

One of the most advanced water theme parks ever designed, the five-hectare (12-acre) water park at Wild Wadi offers families and thrill seekers hours of fun, relaxation and adrenalin-pumping action. Designed like an Arabian wadi (oasis), the park has an Arabian folklore theme and features some of the highest and fastest water rides outside of North America with 24 state of the art, high-adrenaline rides and slides. Rides for thrill seekers include Jumeirah Sceirah, a 108ft (33m) free-fall at 50 miles per hour (80km/hr), Master Blaster slides that are water roller coasters propelled uphill by high-powered jets, the white-knuckle ride at Rushdown Ravine or the high waves at Breakers Bay.

Heritage Village

Address: The Breakwater Abu Dhabi

Designed as a living museum depicting traditional Bedouin life, the Heritage Village over the Abu Dhabi Corniche features tents, courtyard houses, an ancient irrigation system, workshops where craftsmen ply their trades, a museum and much more.

Musandam

Address: Dubai

While Musandam is technically part of Oman, the tiny peninsula is all but surrounded by the United Arab Emirates. The barren mountains that make up most of Musandam are home to a few isolated villages; Khasab is the largest, with a few cultural attractions like prehistoric rock paintings and a 17th-century castle.

But tourists don't come to Musandam for nightlife, they come for the spectacular views and quiet beauty of nature. The coastline of the peninsula is made up of stunning fjord-like inlets, and dhow and boat trips along the coast are a popular activity in Musandam (and a good way to spot dolphis frolicking in the sea). Scuba diving is also popular, especially from the dive centre at the Golden Tulip Hotel, the only major hotel in the region.

Liwa Oasis

Address: Abu Dhabi

Numerous local tour operators in Abu Dhabi offer trips from the city to the famed Liwa Oasis, about three hours drive away along a modern highway. This green, agricultural strip at the edge of the Rub Al Khali ('Empty Quarter') is surrounded by desolate desert with farms abutting towering sand dunes. Visitors enjoy overnight camel trips to camp in the desert. The oasis, made up of a string of small towns and villages, is resplendent with pools of fresh water and date plantations, and is the ancestral home of the Bani Yas tribe from whence sprang Abu Dhabi's ruling family.

Jumeirah Mosque

Address: Al Jumeirah Road Dubai

Admission: Tour fee: AED 20 per person. Tours are on Thursday at 10am; tours are also available on Sundays at 10am in summer.

Telephone: +971 04 353 6666

The Jumeirah Mosque is one of the most photographed sights in Dubai. A fine example of modern Islamic architecture, this beautiful mosque is also one of the city's largest, with a majestic dome and twin minarets, and is one of the few mosques open to non-Muslims for tours. Non-Muslims may only enter the Jumeirah Mosque on an organised tour. Modest dress is preferred, however traditional attire can be borrowed from the Mosque.

Dubai Museum

Address: Al Faheidi Fort Dubai

Admission: AED 3 for adults; AED 1 for children (under the age of 6) Saturday to Thursday 8:30am-8:30pm, Friday 2:30pm-8:30pm.

Telephone: +971 4 353 1862

The imposing 19th-century Al Faheidi Fort houses the Dubai Museum, which has an impressive collection of military and cultural artefacts, as well as working models and life-size displays depicting various aspects of Dubai life such as the markets, an Islamic school, the desert, Arab houses and Gulf marine life. One of the most interesting exhibits shows the underwater world of pearl-diving. The fort was built in 1799 to guard Dubai from landward approaches, and was once the residence of the city's rulers as well as the seat of government until 1971.

Ski Dubai

Address: Sheikh Zayed Rd, Mall of the Emirates Dubai

Admission: Various ski packages are available. Check the website for details. Sunday to Wednesday 10am-11pm, closes midnight Thursday and Friday, and 11pm Saturday.

Telephone: +971 04 409 4000

One of the city's newest and most interesting attractions is the region's first indoor ski resort, with real snow and five runs catering to both beginner and expert skiers and snowboarders. The monumental indoor snowdome can host up to 1,500 people. The longest run is 1,312 feet (400m), dropping 197 feet (60m), while a freestyle zone and quarter pipe cater specifically for snowboarders. Ski lifts, snow patrols and professional instructors help to create an authentic environment. A Snow Park at the bottom is ideal for children to play in the snow. Slope passes include all equipment and ski clothing except hats and gloves. Guests need to pass a minimum skills test to access the main slopes, and those who don't pass can take lessons.

Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum Museum

Address: Al-Shindagha Rd Dubai

Admission: AED 3 for adults, AED 1 for children (under the age of 6) Saturday to Thursday 8am-8:30pm, Friday 3pm-9:30pm.

Telephone: +971 04 393 7139

Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum's house dates back to the 19th century, and was built for Dubai's ruler with commanding views over the sea. It is one of the oldest residences in the city and has been restored as a museum exhibiting historical photographs and artefacts showcasing Dubai's history and development. Its architecture is also a fine example of the regional style with its wind towers and central courtyard, teak wood doors and windows and wooden lattice screens.

Desert Safari

Address: Dubai

For a real taste of Arabia, visitors can take a trip into the desert with any number of tour operators into the rolling sand dunes surrounding Dubai. Tours usually include a thrilling 4x4 drive over the dunes, camel riding, a visit to a local Bedouin village, and end with a traditional Arabian barbeque under the stars with a show of belly dancing.

Camel Racing

Address: Meydon Racecourse, Dubai Dubai

Admission: Free Thursday and Friday mornings. Call Meydon club for exact times.

Telephone: +971 04 832 6526

No visit to Dubai would be complete without a trip to the races - the camel races. This is a traditional sport in the UAE and hugely popular among local Emiratis who head to the race tracks early in the morning to watch these magnificent animals. The racing season runs from September to March and race tracks can be found in various locations around the Emirate and on the way to Abu Dhabi.

Jumeirah Beach Park

Address: Opposite Chillis Restaurant on the Beach Road, Jumeirah Dubai

Admission: AED 5 per person or AED 20 per vehicle. Daily 7:30am-10pm. Closes 11pm Thursday and Friday.

Telephone: +971 4 349 2555

One of the main reasons holidaymakers flock to Dubai is to take advantage of the stunning beaches. If visitors aren't staying somewhere with access to the sand and sea, and don't want to pay AED 100 or more to use a hotel's facilities, then Jumeirah Beach Park is a brilliant alternative. The beaches are clean and safe, and unlike some of the other public areas in Dubai, are not populated with 'gawkers'. There are even designated 'women only' sessions. The park section of the beach is equipped with barbecue facilities and seating areas. There are also showers and toilets on the beach, and lifeguards on duty at all times.

Bateaux Dubai Dinner Cruise

Address: Dubai Creek (opposite the British Embassy) Bur Dubai Dubai

Admission: From AED 495 per person for 4-course meal, welcome beverage and cruise. Boarding begins at 7:45pm. Departure from dock 8:30pm.

Telephone: +971 4 399 4994

The Bateaux Dubai Dinner Cruise provides visitors to the Emirate with a unique and memorable way in which to view the older part of Dubai. The two and a half hour cruise departs from just beyond the Al Maktoum Bridge and makes its way along the Creek past many of the city's most famous landmarks. Guests can take advantage of unobstructed views thanks to the non-reflective glass surround and extensive outside deck area.

A four course a-la-carte meal is served during the cruise (diners with specific dietary requirements are requested to arrange at the time of booking) and alcohol is available to purchase on board. Musical entertainment is provided care of the Bateaux Dubai musicians and DJ. Booking is required in advance through the reservation line.

Dubai Mall

Address: Financial Centre Road (Interchange 1), Dubai Dubai

Admission: Saturday to Friday 10am-11pm.

Telephone: +971 800 382246255

Opened in November 2008, the Dubai Mall is the world's largest shopping centre and is home to around twelve hundred retailers. It is the size of more than fifty football pitches and features an ice rink, movie theatres, playground, aquarium, hotel, and is the gateway to the Burj Dubai: the tallest building in the world. The mall is home to a number of the world's best known stores including Bloomingdales, Marks and Spencer and Montblanc. Designers such as Stella McCartney also have outlets in the complex and world famous jewellers Tiffany & Co. have a branch located there. The mall also has a number of restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining. No trip to Dubai would be complete without an outing to Dubai's latest shopping spectacular.

Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo

Address: Dubai Mall, Financial Centre Road (Interchange 1), Dubai Dubai

Admission: Aquarium Tunnel: Child AED 20, Adult AED 25. Aquarium Tunnel & Underwater Zoo: AED 50

Telephone: (0)4 448 5200

Located in the enormous Dubai Mall, the recently-opened Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is fast becoming one of the Emirates' most popular attractions. Featuring the largest viewing panel and one of the biggest tanks in the world, visitors have the opportunity to experience the incredible underwater domain of thousands of creatures of the deep. Highlights include feeding time for the enormous Sand Tiger Sharks and the majestic Stingrays. The aquarium and zoo is home to over thirty-thousand types of sea life and provides an exciting, educational day out for adults and children alike.

Al Nasr Leisureland

Address: Off Umm Hurair Road Dubai

Admission: AED 10 (adults); AED 5 (children). Open daily 9am-10pm.

Telephone: 04 337 1234

With a variety of sports to choose from, Al Nasr Leisureland offers facilities to cater to just about every sport under the sun. From an ice rink to swimming pools, tennis courts and a bowling alley, children will have a great time trying their hand at everything. There is even an amusement park with bumper cars, rollercoasters, go-karting and much more.

Childrens City

Address: Dubai Creek Park Dubai

Admission: AED 15 (adults); AED 10 (children) Open Monday to Friday 9am-8:30pm. Closes 3pm Fridays.

Telephone: 04 334 0808

This 82,890-square-foot (7,700 sq-metre) education park is located in Dubai Creek Park and offers a wide range of activities geared towards kids, making the educational process fun. Children can learn all about the human body, science and space and the park also features a theatre, café, souvenir shop and wonderful views of the creek.

Wonderland

Address: Dubai Creek Park Dubai

Admission: AED 40 (adults); AED 25 (children). Concessions available. Open daily 10am-7pm; Theme Park 4pm-10pm. Closed Sundays.

Telephone: 04 324 1222

Wonderland Theme and Water Park in Dubai Creek Park is a must for children struggling with the heat in this scorching city. The Caribbean-themed park offers thrilling rides and slides such as the Red Baron, the spinning-coaster, the Action Arm, Lazy River and Surf Hill. The attached water park is low-tech, but provides cool entertainment for the whole family. Wonderland is a great way to spend the day with the family and a must for children of all ages.

Dubai Dolphinarium

Address: Al Ain Fun-City and Dreamland Aquapark Dubai

Admission: AED 100 (adult); AED 50 (children); Concessions available. Dolphin and seal shows run Monday to Saturday 11am-8pm. Swimming with dolphins can be arranged daily 1pm-7pm.

Telephone: 04 336 9773

The Dubai Dolphinarium offers guests the chance to interact with these gentle aquatic mammals and watch them perform tricks with their trainers. The Dolphinarium is home to four Black Sea Bottlenose dolphins as well as four Northern Fur Seals. The dolphinarium allows visitors to swim with the dolphins in a pre-arranged session, and also features a restaurant and gift shop.

Creekside Park

Address: Dubai

Admission: AED 5 Open daily 8am-10pm. (Wednesday: women and children only)

Telephone: 04 369 082

With what seems like an endless lawn, Creekside Park is a great place for families and kids to enjoy while on holiday in Dubai. Boasting botanical gardens, an 18-hole mini golf course, an amphitheatre, picnic locations with barbecue equipment and a mini train and children's play areas, kids will be beside themselves with the endless amount of activities to enjoy here.

Marina Mall Fun City

Address: Marina Mall, Ras Al Akhdar Abu Dhabi

Admission: Rides range AED 4-12.

The Fun City at Marina Mall is a great place for kids, offering an exciting range of arcade games and rides to enjoy. Favourite rides at the amusement centre include the thrashing shark rollercoaster, the whizzy little bumper cars and the 'Extreme Shock' machine - actually very safe!

Bowling, Paintball and Table Tennis

Address: Al Maqtaa, near the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Admission: Daily 10am-10pm.

Kids in Abu Dhabi will love honing their skills in the bowling alley at the Armed Forces Officers' Club, or perhaps playing a game of paintball or table tennis. There is also a large playground and an Olympic-size swimming pool at the club for kids to cool off in after all that action. The Armed Forces Officers' Club also has a Ladies recreation area with massage tables, a swimming pool, steam bath, sauna and gym.

Hili Fun City

Address: Al Ain Abu Dhabi

Admission: AED 45 (AED 40 Mondays and Tuesdays); free for children under 35 inches (0.89m). Fridays, Saturdays 10am-10pm, weekdays 4pm-10pm. Closed Sundays. Wednesdays are female admission only.

A great attraction for children and often called the 'Disneyland of the Middle East', Hili Fun City is the largest theme park in the Gulf. Completely refurbished and modernised in 2009, the park offers a number of rides and amusements, including a mini train tour, an ice skating rink, a rollercoaster and sky-flyer, and the Dynamic Motion Theatre. There are also beautifully landscaped gardens and various picnic spots to enjoy at the park.

Hatta

Address: Dubai

An ancient village positioned in the foothills of the Hajjar Mountains, Hatta is located about 71 miles (115km) east of Dubai. A popular weekend getaway for residents of the city, Hatta has a mild climate that makes it ideal for escaping the heat of Dubai. The town itself is basic, with an ATM and roadside market being the main tourist infrastructure, which gives it an unspoiled atmosphere that makes it interesting to explore; the 16th-century fort is a must-see.

Hatta also makes a good base for exploring the surrounding region. 4x4 trips and off-road adventures are a popular way to take in the scenery, including the Wadi Hatta gorge with its magnificent waterfall, and a few picturesque rock pools.

Travellers driving to Hatta should keep in mind that the road from Dubai passes through Oman; although there are no border stations, most rental car agreements from the UAE will not cover incidents that happen in Oman.

Kish

Address: Dubai

The beautiful island of Kish is located in the Persian Gulf, off the southern shore of mainland Iran. Sometimes referred to as the 'Pearl of the Persian Gulf', Kish is home to a resort with both modern and ancient attractions.

The luxury resort of Kish offers many family attractions, including the Kish Dolphin and Crocodile Park, Mysteries of the World Zoo, and a giant bird interactive sculpture. The resort takes advantage of Kish's stunning islands to offer water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving, yachting, fishing, parasailing and water-skiing. Unfortunately, women are not allowed in some of the best snorkelling areas, however there are women-only beaches available.

Kish also has a number of historical attractions, including the underground town of Cariz, the ancient city of Harireh, and the remains of a Greek ship wrecked on the shore (a popular picnic site).

Kish is a free trade zone, meaning there are good bargains to be had in the numerous shopping malls on the island. Shoppers should be aware however, that much of the merchandise is fake.

Dubai Marina

Address: Dubai

The heart of cosmopolitan Dubai is the slick and modern Dubai Marina, a development that continues to add new attractions each year. World-class hotels and shopping malls dominate the distinctive skyline, while the waterline is taken over by luxury yachts. Some of the best restaurants in Dubai are also located here. Dubai Marina has two walkways (The Walk and Marina Walk) that make pleasant places to stroll in the evening, and there are open markets on weekends between October and May. Although it is known as a beacon of over-the-top consumerism, the Dubai Marina transforms during Ramadan, when locals celebrate in song and dance in Heritage Village.

Hiltonia Beach Club

Address: Hilton Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi

Belonging to the Hilton Abu Dhabi Hotel, the Hiltonia Beach Club is an exclusive beach with excellent facilities. Open to non-guests on weekdays for a fee, the beach offers lounge chairs and umbrellas in the sand, and water sports like snorkeling, fishing, windsurfing, water skiing, kayaking and sailing. There is also a café and cocktail bar, and three swimming pools with water slides.

Sharjah Heritage District

Address: Al Merraija Sharjah

Sharjah's Heritage District is set in the old city, and much effort has been put into showcasing the city's culture and history. Situated near the Corniche, the area is full of museums and restored houses that will fascinate visitors. Highlights of the Heritage District include the Al Hisn Fort, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation, Sharjah Calligraphy Museum, and the Souq al-Arash (thought to be the oldest souq in the country). The Al Naboodah and Al Midfaa family homes offer a glimpse into traditional Arabian life. Many museums have special opening times set aside for women only.

Sharjah Desert Park

Address: 16 miles (26km) east of central Sharjah towards Al-Dhaid Sharjah

Admission: Adult: AED 15, Children (12–16 years): AED 5, Children (under 12): Free. Sunday to Thursday 9am-5:30pm, Friday 2pm-5:30pm, Saturday 11am-5:30 pm. Closed Tuesdays.

Sharjah Desert Park encompasses three attractions: the Sharjah Natural History and Botanical Museum, the Children's Farm, and the Arabian Wildlife Centre. The Wildlife Centre is the most popular attraction, with a zoo, aviary, and breeding centre that houses several endangered species; while the Children's Farm is a fun petting zoo for children on holiday in Sharjah. The Natural History Museum has five main exhibition halls: A Journey through Sharjah, Man and the Environment, A Journey through Time, The Living Desert and The Living Sea. Sharjah Desert Park is also home to the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, however this is not open to the public.

The Lemongrass

Address: Oud Metha, Nr Lamcy Plaza Dubai

Food Type: Thai

Voted Best Thai Restaurant by Time Out Dubai, The Lemongrass in Oud Metha serves up traditional Thai food in a relaxed, modern setting. Decor is subtle and calming and seems designed to keep the chi flowing while visitors savour delicious Thai fare. Seafood features heavily on the menu  and the grilled Red Snapper in red curry sauce is an alternative to the traditional Thai Green Curry. Also worth sampling is the interesting take on the Pad Thai Noodles. The Lemongrass is a 'dry' venue; however try the freshly squeezed juices and smoothies instead. The peppermint smoothie is popular among return visitors. The Lemongrass offers affordable, appetizing, authentic Asian food. Visitors arriving by taxi, should direct the driver to Lamcy Plaza. 

Beach Rotana Brunch City

Address: 10th Street, Al Zahiya Area Abu Dhabi

Food Type: Brunch

Friday brunch is an institution in Abu Dhabi and this five star hotel sets the bar very high with an epic brunch spread, combining the food selection of a number of its restaurants to provide customers with a dazzling array of culinary choice. Beach Rotana's relatively high prices are offset by the exceptional food and complimentary champagne.

Casa Mia

Address: Le Meridien Hotel Dubai

Food Type: Italian

Located within the Le Méridien complex, Casa Mia is thought by many to be the best Italian restaurant in the city, known for its home-cooked Italian cuisine. The menu also includes delicious wood-fired pizzas, and in 2007 the restaurant was also honoured with an 'Award of Excellence' for its unique and extensive wine list. Open for lunch and dinner daily.

The Noodle House

Address: Emirates Towers Hotel Dubai

Food Type: Asian

This laid-back venue offers delicious, contemporary South East Asian fare at surprisingly affordable prices. Diners sit at long communal tables and don't need to wait very long for the region's usual favourites to appear, such as spring rolls, noodle soup, or vegetable, chicken and meat dishes served with noodles or rice. The open show kitchen allows diners to watch the food being prepared. Reservations are not accepted, and the place is busy, but the turnover of diners is high so the wait shouldn't be long. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Al Mahara

Address: Burj Al Arab Dubai

Food Type: Fish

The signature restaurant of the Burj Al Arab, one of the top 10 hotel restaurants in the world, gives diners a unique experience. A mock submarine ride takes guests to the dining area, where tables are situated around a huge floor-to-ceiling aquarium full of fish. Al Mahara specialises in unforgettable first impressions and fresh seafood and was voted one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Dinner guests will also be serenaded by harpists, adding to the underwater atmosphere. Jackets are required for men, and reservations essential. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Al Dawaar

Address: Hyatt Regency Dubai

Food Type: International

Situated on the 25th floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Al Dawaar Revolving Restaurant boasts the best views in the city while you dine. The restaurant revolves giving diners spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf, the Creek and the city of Dubai while enjoying a variety of international cuisines. The buffet is the most popular option, including Chinese stir-fries, spring rolls, sushi and local dishes. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

JW’s Steakhouse

Address: JW Marriott Dubai Dubai

Food Type: American

The award-winning steakhouse is the finest in Dubai with steaks that 'cut like butter' and the freshest Maine lobsters, Dungeness crabs and oysters in town. It is popular for business entertaining as well as for romantic dinners. Begin with lobster bisque or seafood chowder, enjoy steaks, chops or seafood as a main, and finish with New York cheesecake or apple pie. Décor is New York style with lots of wood and leather, and the service is excellent.

The Meat Co.

Address: Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Shop 148, Jumeirah Beach Road Dubai

Food Type: International

The Meat Co. at the Madinat Jumeirah is place to go for top quality steak in Dubai. So far this South-African chain has just the one restaurant in the Emirate but it's never short of patrons and booking is essential on Friday and Saturday evenings.The restaurant prides itself on delivering A Grade Angus beef, 'wet-aged to perfection' and basted to create succulent melt in the mouth steak. The menu doesn't cater solely for meat lovers, other highlights include the skewered grilled salmon and flame-grilled king prawns. In winter the best tables are outside alongside the Madinat's man-made canals, where diners can watch the boats transporting guests along the water.

Al Muntaha at The Burj Al Arab

Address: Burj Al Arab, Beach Road, Dubai Dubai

Food Type: Contemporary European Buffet

The Friday Brunch has become synonymous with the ex-pat lifestyle in Dubai in the last few years. Endless platters of seafood, meat, salads and deserts are offered at restaurants across the Emirate but, for really exclusive dining you can't beat the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel. On Friday 10.00 to 14.30, (Please be informed that the buffet is open until 16:00 hrs) guests can dine two hundred metres above sea level in the Al Muntaha restaurant whilst taking in the stunning view of the coastline. With spectacular views over the new Palm Islands and a plethora of mouth-watering dishes 'Brunch at the Burj' is fast becoming the most sought after venue. The dress code in the restaurant is Smart casual. Gentlemen are requested to wear a shirt with collar, long trousers or smart jeans and closed shoes (no trainers). UAE national dress is welcomed. Guests are advised to book well in advance.

QDs

Address: Dubai Creek Golf Course, Deira, Dubai Dubai

Food Type: Local

For shisha and cocktails QD’s (Quarterdeck's) at Dubai Golf & Yacht Club is place to be seen. This super chilled out, funky venue is hugely popular, particularly with young Emiratis who flock here on Friday and Saturday night to enjoy the vibe. Guests can choose to sit on the raised deck by the waters edge or, to occupy their own personal shisha tent, complete with couches and beanbags, and order their favourite flavour ‘hubbly bubbly’ from the menu. Flavours include apple, grape, strawberry and mint. Shisha waiters are constantly on hand with more hot coals to keep the pipes bubbling and the air filled with the sweet smoky smell that has become synonymous with Dubai at night. Guests can also buy shisha pipes and tobaccos to take home as a memento

Trader Vics

Address: Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Al Sufouh Road Dubai

Food Type: Creole

Carters @ Wafi Mall

Address: Wafi Mall Dubai

Food Type: Gastropubs

Ginseng

Address: Wafi City Mall Dubai

Food Type: Asian

Al Mina

Address: Al Dhafra, Dhow Harbor Abu Dhabi

Food Type: Local

Al Mina is a relaxed restaurant on the harbour serving traditional Iranian cuisine, with a special focus on local seafood like lobster and squid. Try one of the starter platters, overflowing with hummus, tabbouleh, and dolmades. The restaurant has both an Arabian-style indoor section and an outdoor patio with waterfront views. Open daily from 4-11pm.

Automatic and Lebanese Flower

Address: Near the corner of Hamdan & 4th Streets, Al-Manhal, Khalidia Abu Dhabi

Food Type: Middle Eastern

These restaurant chains offer a good local variety of fast food at a low price. They do shawarmas (roast meat rapped in pita bread), hummus, falafels and roast chicken. The mouth-watering fare and local cultural inspiration makes them a must try.

Ravi

Address: Al-Satwa Road, Satwa Dubai

Food Type: Pakistani

This popular Pakistani restaurant in Dubai is famous for its good food and relaxed atmosphere. A cheap and cheerful takeaway with outdoor tables attracts both locals and tourists, rich and poor for its excellent slow-cooked beef nihari, lamb haleem, and fresh, buttery naan bread. There's also a family room and cafeteria. Ravi is open daily from 5am to 3am.

Pars Palace

Address: Al-Khalidiya Abu Dhabi

Food Type: Local

Considered the best place to eat Persian food in Abu Dhabi, Pars Palace is tucked away in a small backstreet behind Corniche Towers, near the marina. A wide selection of authentic Middle Eastern dishes, including saffron chicken and spicy kebabs, is accompanied by complementary fresh loaves of flat bread with sheeps-milk cheese. One of the best-value restaurants in Abu Dhabi, Pars Palace is busy for lunch and dinner. Open 11am to 3:30pm and 6pm to midnight.

Hediard

Address: Marina Mall, Ras Al Akhdar Abu Dhabi

Food Type: French

This elegant French patisserie is popular over lunch for its excellent people-watching and relaxed environment. Linger over a cup of coffee and a petit four, or indulge in a leisurely meal of French fusion cuisine. Located in the Marin Mall, Hediard is open daily from 9am to midnight.

No vaccinations are required for entry to the UAE, however a certificate is required for cholera and yellow fever if arriving from an affected area. Tap water in the major cities is safe to drink, but elsewhere only bottled water should be drunk. Medical care is excellent in the main cities, but extremely expensive, while medicines and medical care are not always available in the outlying areas. Health insurance is essential; in Abu Dhabi particularly a health insurance law has been implemented that makes it mandatory for all travellers to Abu Dhabi to have health insurance. Dubai has just recently taken on the same approach making it mandatory to have health insurance. In general, travellers who require medical treatment will have to cover the cost of any medical fees incurred.

The Emirates states are all Muslim, therefore alcohol is not served except in hotels. It is an offence to drink or be drunk in public and penalties are severe. Some prescribed and over the counter medicines from outside the country may be considered to be a controlled substance within the UAE and will not be allowed into the UAE without prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health Drug Control Department (DCD). A passenger arriving with such medication without permission may be subject to prosecution. Dress and behaviour should be modest, particularly during the month of Ramadan when it is disrespectful to smoke, drink or eat in public between sunrise and sunset. Women's clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs. Cohabiting, adultery and homosexual behaviour are illegal in the UAE, and it is an offence to swear or make rude gestures, or show a public display of affection. In general, the country has a tolerant approach to Western visitors, but local laws and sensitivities should be respected.

Tipping practices are similar to most parts of the world. Where no service charge is included, 10 percent is adequate and many hotels and restaurants add a service charge, so it is best to check the bill.

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