The beach is one of the most important points in tourist life (next to shopping). The waters of the UAE, although much murkier in recent years due to intensive coastal development, are still remarkably warm, clean and beautiful for those from less hot climates. There are long stretches of white sand beaches that range from completely undeveloped to very touristy (even in cities like Dubai). Snorkelling and diving can be wonderful, especially on the east coast (Indian Ocean). Vast desert areas lie south of the major urban areas and offer spectacular views and scary rides on fast safaris. The mountains are steep and spectacular cliffs, and a visit to these mountains (e.g. the town of Hatta) is rewarded with breathtaking views. Women in swimming costumes will attract unwanted attention on public beaches; it is advisable to pay for a day pass to a private beach in a hotel.
There are also many man-made wonders to enjoy. Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is the largest indoor amusement park in the world and, as the name suggests, focuses on experiencing the world of Ferrari. It is located right next to the Yas Marina racetrack, where the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix is held. Yas Marina is widely recognised as the most technologically advanced racetrack in the world and hosts Formula 1 as well as various national and international racing series, including the GP2 and GP3 series, V8 Supercars and the now defunct FIA GT1 series. It opened its doors in 2009. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world and visitors can climb it to a viewpoint near the top of the building for stunning views of the city and beyond. Wild Wadi and Aquaventure are two world-class water parks for the whole family. In addition, those seeking proper retail therapy can visit the Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in the world and also the location of the world’s largest dancing fountain, with several shows starting after sunset, and one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world, the Dubai Aquarium.
Ski Dubai in the Dubai Emirates Mall opened in 2005. It is the third largest indoor ski slope in the world, measures 400 metres and uses 6000 tonnes of snow. The Dubai Ski Mall is the first indoor ski slope to open in the United Arab Emirates, with more planned. All equipment, except gloves and a hat, is provided – skis/snowboards, ski suits, boots and socks are included (socks are disposable). The nearby ski shop sells equipment, including gloves. A ski slope in Ra’s al Khaymah is also in preparation.
Desert safari trips can be a fun experience for tourists. They can be booked in advance, but it is often possible to book them the day before and most hotel receptions can do this for you. The rides usually start in the late afternoon and end in the late evening. You will be picked up at your hotel and driven into the desert in a 4×4 vehicle. Most packages include a dune walk with a heart, a short camel ride, an Arabic buffet and a belly dancer. Another option would be to rent/buy a 4×4 and join the many 4×4 clubs that are developing in the UAE, which are diverse and each has its own flavour: ad4x4 [www], uaeoffroaders [www], arabianoffroader [www], me4x4 [www], emarat4x4 [www], etc. They provide a free learning experience for all novices with weekly scheduled rides for all levels of driving skills. Some of them have more than 2,000 members of many nationalities.