Dubai skyline

At a glance

  • Explore the glitz and glamour of Dubai
  • Visit the capital of Abu Dhabi
  • Relax in Ras Al Khaimah

United Arab Emirates insider review

Language:

Arabic. English is widely understood.

Passport and Visas:

Visas are not required for UK passport holders

Events & Festivals:

January
Dubai Shopping Festival
Snap up cut-price items and enjoy entertainment including fashion shows, film festivals, firework and laser shows and lavish prize draws.

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship
This great golfing event takes place at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, and there's a spectators' village with lots to keep kids busy.

February
Dubai Jazz Festival
Listen to the rousing rhythms of jazz artists and bands from all over the world.

Dubai Tennis Championships
Top players from around the world head to the city for this $1million tournament.

March
Dubai World Cup
This is the world's richest horse race meeting as thoroughbreds compete in various races.

Desert Rock Festival
Rockers should head to Dubai Festival City for this musical extravaganza, as local and international artists entertain the crowd.

March-April
Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Festival
Join in the fun at this two-week extravaganza with ballet, art and contemporary classical music.

May
Vertical Marathon
Cheer your support for up to 200 runners as they race up the 52-floor Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai. Proceeds go to the charity Medecins Sans Frontières.

June
Dubai Dance Festival
Watch student and professional shows, take part in workshops and show off your moves at parties.

May/June
Ramadan - the holy month
During this period there may be restrictions on alcohol consumption, restaurant facilities and entertainment.

December
Dubai International Film Festival
Watch features, short films and documentaries submitted from across the globe.

Eating / Drinking:

•   Try mezze, a selection of starters that's as filling as a main course. It includes:
    o   Tabbouleh (a salad of chopped parsley, cracked wheat, tomatoes and mint)
    o   Hummus (chickpea and sesame seed dip)
    o   Moutabel (aubergine puree)
    o   Waraeinab (stuffed vine leaves with rice)
    o   Tahini (sesame seed paste, yoghurt and lemon dip)
    o   Arabic bread
•   Main dishes include:
    o   Machbous (spiced lamb with rice)
    o   Hareis (simmered wheat and tender lamb)
    o   Meshwi (a mixed grill of various types of meat and sausage)
    o   Locally caught fish or shellfish.
•   For a snack, try shawarma - slivers of grilled lamb carved from a vertical spit and served with salad in a pocket of Arab bread.
•   For desert try esh asaraya (cheesecake) and umm’ail (bread pudding with cinnamon and nutmeg).
•   The middle east is famous for its sweet pastries, although fruit is the usual dessert.

Shopping:

•   Browse souks, malls and popular shopping streets.
•   Malls are spacious, modern and air-conditioned.
•   In Dubai the latest fashions are available in designer shops. There are lots of boutiques and tailors, who can custom-make outfits in just a few days.
•   You'll find electronic items, carpets, and good value gold jewellery in Dubai and silver jewellery in Sharjah.
•   Souvenir shops sell rosewood tables, boxes and backgammon boards inlaid with intricate bone and mother of pearl mosaic patterns. You’ll also find brass coffee sets, hand-carved wooden dhow models and ornaments set with turquoise, lapis lazuli and other semi-precious stones.
•   Department stores, boutiques and supermarkets operate on a fixed price basis, but of course haggling is essential in the souks. Carry cash to get the best bargains.

Tipping:

In most cases, a service charge of 15–18 % will be added to your bill.