Thursday, April 10, 2008

What is there to see around the UAE?

Unless spending money is no issue, a holiday in Dubai can probably become frustrating. There are loads of malls and markets as well as luxurious bars and restaurants to choose from, but I knew that my family would be shopped and eaten out by the first day or two.

Of course, Dubai offers many beach options and fun parks, but it is probably not the preferred destination for a beach holiday or go-karting. And while the ski dome in the desert is a must-see, my family are not skiers and a glance through the windows of the Mall of the Emirates was enough to quench their curiosity.

A desert safari is also a something any holidaymaker should experience in the Middle East but it only covers half a day - and so I phoned around to find out what kind of day trips are available in and around the UAE.

First up was a family outing to the wadi in Hatta with Oasis Palm Tours. Now, I thought rock pools in the mountains mean lush green scenery but boy was I disappointed. I had never seen so much rock before and so little life. Somewhere in the middle of this nothingness there is a big pool of clear water that disappears into the rocks.

Sadly, this sight that should have been pristine is ruined by the huge amount of graffiti around there.

The tour begins with some dune bashing and ends with lunch at a lovely resort. Not bad, but I preferred the bus tour with Arabian Adventures which took us out to Fujeirah, a seaside Emirate. We even crossed over into the small town of Dibba in Oman, where I had my best meal in the Middle East up to date. The food that we enjoyed at the Golden Tulip Resort was surprisingly fresh and well flavoured. This would make a great base for a diving trip. Now I just need to sort out my PADI!

The tour was very educational and I got to see my first real oasis. So much green... like a massage for my eyes. The only downside was the attitude of the tour guide. She was so unenthusiastic, I wanted to grab her microphone and go: "Look, there is Snoopy island, it's a great spot for snorkelling!"

We visited the ruins of the Fujeirah fort on the way back to Dubai and I found it quite shocking to learn from the tour operators that these buildings are being rebuilt to resemble their original state on top of the ruins. I guess here people think differently: why preserve the old when it can simply be recreated?

A week filled up pretty quickly and I never even got to take my family to Al Ain (which is also an oasis) or even Abu Dhabi, the island capital of the UAE. So then, there is more to explore around here than I thought albeit not good for a woman to go around alone. I will have to invite my family for another holiday.

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