The UAE is a playground for international travellers - it has Dubai as a main airport hub and Abu Dhabi as another. This means many travellers turn their stop-over in the country into a mini-break; so if you are one of these travellers, here are some of the best features of the country to see.
1- An absolute must-do is a desert safari. These are run daily and you get to select a pick-up and drop-off of your choice in Dubai which eliminates transport issues. The safari begins with a Land Cruiser extreme four-wheel-drive to transport you through the sand dunes to a desert camp in outback Dubai.
The drivers are speciality trained in the skill of dune bashing and the car frames are reinforced, so it's an exhilarating adrenaline rush, but is totally safe. The car gets you to the camp within an hour generally, which then allows you to meander though the camp and enjoy all the best tourist activities before sunset.
Most camps provide henna and camel rides as well as traditional dress for photos. Shisha is best sampled while sprawled out on a floor cushion. Buffet dinner is offered, to be enjoyed while entertainment is provided.
The Tanoura dancing is a sight never to be forgotten - men whirl around in traditional dress and in some camps, the ladies in the audience get to have a go of this spectacle. It is one of the most worth-while experiences to participate in.
2- Boasting the largest shopping centre in the world, this country's shopping opportunities seem to be endless. Dubai Mall is the largest of the centres- it's best to be there in the evening for the dancing fountain show; Ibn Battuta is the largest themed mall; Mall of the Emirates has a ski field (definitely worth a go) and Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi is the biggest in its Emirate, is seemingly never-ending.
If it's bargains you seek, Dubai Outlet Mall is a little out of town but 30-90% off retail prices of over 1200 brands makes it worth the trip. Dragonmart is 1.2kms long and is the largest distributor of Chinese goods outside.That's just to name a few. There is also Wafi Mall which is an Egyptian themed mall in Dubai; Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi sits on the beautiful bay side under a rotating restaurant; while Dubai Marina Mall features an open-air ice rink.
3- The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is a sight worth seeing. If you are stopping in Dubai, there is a bus that runs between the two cities, it takes about an hour and a half and only costs AED$25 (about USD $7). The Mosque is the largest in the UAE and accommodates over 40 000 worshippers.
Daily tours run for free and will educate you on the design and creation of this most beautiful architecture and presentation. You will learn the history of this awe-striking monument. The Mosque dress-code requires ladies to wear the Shayla and Abaya as Muslim ladies do, which the Mosque provides complementary and can be somewhat of a novelty for visitors to the nation.
4- Al Karama Souqs are a must do for the ladies- that is if you haven't quite had enough shopping. This is the capital for 'designer' hand-bags. Imagine Sex and the City's second movie, where you are lead to apartments full of beautiful bags and sunglasses and watches.
It's quite a different picture to that in the movie, however the idea is similar. It's quite safe and good fun, although come prepared with your bartering skills at the ready, mark-ups are generally nearly double.
5- Admiring the architecture is an experience in itself in the UAE, the tallest building in the world- Burj Khalifa, the iconic 'seven star hotel'- Burj Al Arab, the sprawling and opulent Emirates Palace Hotel, tourist attraction Atlantis the Palm hotel and water-park even the Aldar Desert Disk are all worth a look.
The world's tallest building costs AED100 to visit when you pre-book online, AED400 if you don't book so it's well worth being organised. There are many other impressive buildings across the emirates- there are city tours available in both capitals to ferry tourists around the towns.