The United Arab Emirates – So Much More Than a Stopover…

Landmarks & Icons

Woman Photographing Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The last time I visited Dubai was over 15 years ago. In fact the famous Palm Island had not even been built as yet, never mind the World Islands, Burj Khalifa, or the Dubai Mall, so it was definitely time for me to return to the sunny Arabian shores of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

This time around, I decided to include the capital city of Abu Dhabi in my travels. Whilst not as flashy as Dubai, it still has an impressive skyline and so much to offer visitors. Abu Dhabi has a slightly more laid back atmosphere and is probably more suited to families. No stay in Abu Dhabi is complete without visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is the largest in the UAE. I had heard tales of how exquisite the architecture, design, and décor was, but nothing could prepare me for the visuals laid before my eyes. Modest and conservative dress is required when visiting the mosque, as it is still a place of worship. It holds records as being home to the “World’s Largest Carpet” as well as holding the largest chandelier – both extremely impressive.

Kirsty Perring - Inside Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Inside Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

I then did a tour of the Yas Viceroy Hotel, which overlooks the Yas Marina Circuit, which is the venue for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Not only is it the natural choice of accommodation for motorsports fans – with close proximity to Ferrari World and the option to take part in the Racing Experience on the track – but a fabulous property for families as well. With its state-of-the-art kids zone and complimentary transfers to Yas Beach, children won’t want to leave, unless it is to spend the day at the nearby Yas Waterworld!

Kirsty Perring - View of the Racetrack from the Yas Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
View of the racetrack from the Yas Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Thereafter, I popped into the Emirates Palace Hotel, our Stay of Distinction property in Abu Dhabi, and it is no small wonder why. The whole hotel is literally dripping elegance and splendour, and absolutely no detail has been spared. During the festive season, the lobby is adorned by one of the most elaborately beautiful Christmas trees, decked with jewels and glass ornaments.

Suggested Itineraries:
3-Day Kempinski Emirates Palace – Stay of Distinction

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring on foot and walking along the corniche, which was relaxing – albeit very hot!

Kempinski Emirates Palace Stay of Distinction, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Kempinski Emirates Palace stay of distinction, Abu Dhabi

The next morning I was transferred to Dubai, which took approximately one and a half hours. Dubai truly is one of the most progressive cities in the world, with its sights firmly set on the future at all times and seems in a constant race to be bigger and better.

Kirsty Perring - View of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
View of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

My view for the next 2 nights was of the current tallest structure in the world, The Burj Khalifa. It is 380m tall, and is beautifully lit up at night and overlooks the Burj Lake, with the world’s tallest performing musical fountains. I tried to navigate around the Dubai Mall, which is of course the world’s largest shopping, entertainment, and leisure destination. It houses the Dubai Aquarium and an Olympic-size ice rink, just in case you get bored of browsing the more than 1200 shops!

After all the glitz and glamour, a traditional night out in the desert under the stars was definitely what was needed. I was collected at 3:30 pm for the “Desert Safari” extravaganza. The experience starts out with a bit of “dune bashing” in a 4×4 vehicle through the desert, before stopping off at a vantage point to watch the sunset. Vehicles then proceed in convoy to a Bedouin camp where you are welcomed with Arabic coffee and dates. The next few hours are spent enjoying the hypnotic rhythm of a belly dancer, feasting on a sumptuous barbeque dinner, taking selfies with the local camels, and having your hands or feet adorned in henna by a professional artist. I have to admit I did it all. These safaris are available in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Suggested Itineraries:
3-Day Abu Dhabi Stopover
3-Day Dubai Stopover 

Suggested Day Tour:
Dune Dinner Safari in Abu Dhabi

Kirsty Perring - Inside the Dubai Mall, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Inside Dubai Mall
Kirsty Perring - Kirsty and Guide at Desert Safari, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
My guide and I on the Desert Safari, Dubai

Although I decided to “stopover” in the United Arab Emirates, due to flying on Emirates, I realized that 4 nights is not enough to experience either city. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are fully fledged destinations in their own right, and in order to truly experience all they have to offer, I would recommend at least a week in either. But with the amount of activities to partake in and attractions to see, even 2 weeks would not cover it all, so I guess next time I will have to stay a bit longer!

Suggested Itineraries:
7-Day Best of the Emirates