Exploring the UAE: 7 must see destinations
In recent years, the UAE has become a popular destination for overseas teachers and aspiring world travelers, but many people still don't realize what the UAE has to offer. There are so many things to do that you'll never run out of places to visit and things to see. The UAE has countless popular tourist attractions, but there are also many lesser-known places to check out!
Wait...how does this relate to teaching?
Well, many teachers are moving to the UAE, because it boasts nearly 600 English medium international schools. On top of that, the UAE has the highest enrollment of international school students in the world. Thanks to the country’s competitive pay and benefit packages, you’ll be able to take advantage of the large assortment of entertainment options the country has to offer. Whether you've been teaching there for years or have just landed your first job in the area, you'll always be able to find something new to see.
Although you may already know that Dubai holds the record for the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa), the world's largest indoor theme park, and the world's first rotating skyscraper, you'd be missing out if you didn't take the time to see what other attractions exist in the UAE. No matter which emirate you live in, you'll be able to find an assortment of things to do.
Not sure where to start? Take a look at our list, and you'll be ready to hop on a plane to visit all of these places!
1. Dubai's man-made Archipelagos
Courtesy of Expedition Crew 22/NASA
Dubai's man-made islands are designed to look like a palm tree (Palm Jumeirah) and a world map when viewed from above. Enjoy the views while sky-diving nearby or explore up-close on a kayaking tour along the Palm Jumeirah Island.
Wondering how the islands were created? The process is called land reclamation: they pulled sand from the gulf floors and then sprayed and compacted it into the unique shapes that you see today. For precision, they used GPS technology. Millions of tons of rock have been placed around the islands for protection.
To access these islands, travelers can take a monorail from mainland Dubai. There is also an underwater tunnel that connects the crescent to the topmost frond. Creating these islands isn't cheap, and if you want to learn more about why they were created and how much they cost, check out this article.
For a unique aquarium experience, visit the Lost Chambers Aquarium (found in the crescent of the palm), which is modeled after the lost city of Atlantis. There, you can explore and view thousands of aquatic species in a shipwreck setting, as well as take a yoga class surrounded by the serene waterscape.
2. Al Bastakiya
Courtesy of Lykos Terzis/Culture Trip
Located in Dubai's Old Quarter, Al Bastakiya is the oldest surviving neighborhood in Dubai. It was created in the 19th century by pearl traders from Bastak, Iran. Although Dubai is known for being a rich, glamorous city, it used to be a very different place. This neighborhood came into existence before the tourism boom, and it's a great place to visit to understand what Dubai used to be like.
Stroll along the narrow, winding alleyways, and admire the coral stone buildings and wind towers (an old form of air conditioning). The neighborhood is filled with Arabian tea shops, art galleries, and museums, so there is plenty to see and do while you're there.
You can also take an abra (a traditional boat made of wood) along the creek, and view the Bastakiya quarter from a different perspective. If you like going to contemporary art galleries, be sure to check out the artistic side of Bastakiya. The galleries in this area showcase many Arab artists, as well as artists from all over the world, depending on which gallery you stumble upon.
Every city in the UAE has its own souk district. These street markets feature all sorts of items – local handicrafts, food, jewelry, and home goods. Some of the most notable include Dubai's gold, fabric, and spice souks, Abu Dhabi's carpet souk, and Al Ain's camel souk.
Even if you're not interested in buying anything, souks offer a lively, bustling atmosphere that anybody could enjoy. You can observe the traditional way of doing business, browse the goods that are being offered, and maybe even end up buying a traditional Arabian item that will impress your friends, family, and houseguests.
4. Hajar Mountains
Courtesy of Desert Safari Dubai
Although they're only partially in the UAE, the Hajar Mountains make for a nice day or weekend trip within the Arabian Peninsula. The mountains provide a nice change of scenery for those who enjoy rock climbing, hiking, and off-road exploration. The Hajar mountain range is the highest in the Arabian Peninsula, and if you decide to go, you'll find breathtaking views throughout your entire hike.
The roads winding along the mountains go through the area's tiny villages, allowing for some interesting pit stops at modern Bedouin and fishing villages. That being said, don't forget to pack well, as you won't be able to purchase food and water once you're there! With some preparation, you’ll be ready to enjoy your weekend in the mountains, and soak in the spectacular views while wandering around or weaving through the wadis (dry river beds).
To read more about what you can do once you're in the mountains and how to camp there safely, check out this guide!
5. Sir Bani Yas Safari Island
Courtesy of My Custard Pie
Sir Bani Yas was once home to the Bani Yas tribe, until they abandoned it due to lack of trees and freshwater sources. The UAE's Founder, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, visited the island in the early 1970's and decided to transform it into a nature reserve, providing a sanctuary for the endangered animals of the UAE, Africa, and other countries.
Today, the island is home to 16,000 animals – providing the guests at the resorts an African safari-type experience. Sticking to the theme of preservation, the resorts also plant a mangrove tree for every overnight guest. Popular activities here include snorkeling, diving, archery, horseback riding, and of course, a wildlife safari drive.
6. Desert Excursions
Another great day or weekend trip option is to go on a desert excursion. You can plan a trip from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Fujairah. Common activities are sandboarding, camel riding, and driving dune buggies.
For a truly unique experience, go with a guide to the Singing Sand Dunes of Liwa where you'll hear a deep roaring tone coming from the sand. After your daytime adventures, catch a belly dancing performance, get a henna tattoo, or try some Arabian shisha. If you're staying overnight, the Bedouin camps are great options to check out too.
7. Al Jazirat Al Hamra
Courtesy of Kemal Kestelli/Flickr
This small abandoned fishing village in Ras Al Khaimah is a great destination for history buffs. Built from mud and coral stones, the buildings are remnants of typical pre-oil era UAE structures.
The village swelled to over 2,000 inhabitants until they all abandoned their homes in the 1960s. The reason for abandonment is unclear and shrouded in rumor – some say it was due to a tribal dispute while others claim it was the lure of prosperity in nearby Abu Dhabi that drove the villagers to leave. Either way, they seem to have left in a hurry, leaving behind most of their possessions – including a car and boat.
What are you waiting for?
Although we've gone over 7 amazing places to visit in the UAE, there are so many other things to do and see – including some that you just have to discover and see for yourself! Learn more about what living in the UAE is like here.
If you think you're ready to take the plunge and start teaching in the UAE, you van view our current job openings here: