Dubai Journals

Searching for Culture in the UAE

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An August 2004 trip to Dubai by HobWahid

al-Ain Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates More Photos
Quote: The United Arab Emirates is a nouveau-riche wonderland, a place of monetary excess. It is the land of towering hotels, indoor ski areas, gigantic malls, and islands shaped like trees. However, that doesn't mean there isn't anything cultural to see--you just have to look.

Searching for Culture in the UAE

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Overview

al-Ain Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
A visit to the UAE, and in particular Dubai, is a visit that will (and should) entail a whole lot of luxury. It's the UAE. Everything there is over-the-top. It would be a shame not to go and splurge on hotels, food, and shopping. I had originally planned to be in the UAE for a week, but because of some circumstances beyond my control, I ended up staying for almost three weeks, so I decided to go on a hunt for all things cultural in the UAE. This is what I found:al-Ain: My favorite of all the cities. A nice oasis town with dry air, a good museum, and a friendly atmosphere.al-Khandaq Fort: While this is technically in Oman, it is right on the border, and since you d...Read More

Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers

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Hotel | "Rotana Beach Hotel and Towers"

Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers Photo, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
I had never heard of the Rotana hotel chain before arriving in Abu Dhabi, and I was originally staying there only because my friend, whom I was visiting, was staying in their extended suites section while working in Abu Dhabi for the summer. But I have to say that I was blown away. The UAE is a land of excess. You do not come to the UAE as a budget traveler; you come to live it up and spend money like you have never spent money before. You come to be treated like a king (or queen) and to lose yourself in lavishness. Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are filled with world-class hotels offering the kind of service that is usually reserved for dignitaries and important businessmen. To not partake in...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 26, 2004

Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers
2nd Street Sector 1-96 Tourist Club Area 45200
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
+971 (2) 644-3000

Hatta Fort Hotel

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Hotel

Hatta Fort Hotel Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
"OK, now just don’t get into an accident…"That was the first thought to cross my mind when I saw the sign welcoming me to the Sultanate of Oman. I was on my way to the town of Hatta, which is actually in the UAE, but because of its place nestled in the Hajar Mountains, it is only accessible by traveling through 20km of Omani territory, and my rental car was only insured for the UAE. Any accident would put a quick stop to this vacation.Then, within moments of crossing the border I looked up at the road to see a huge heard of camels making their way onto the road. I slammed on the breaks, turned on the warning lights, and listened to the tires screech. Where I come from a couple ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 26, 2004

Hatta Fort Hotel
HATTA OMAN HIGH WAY
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
971 4 8523211

Al-Ain Rotana

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Hotel

Al-Ain Rotana Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
You can technically make al-Ain into a day trip from Dubai. What used to be a five-day camel ride is now just over an hour by car, depending on how you drive. If you want to cruise down there at 180kph like the Emiratis, then it’ll be a bit quicker. I made it in about an hour and a half going as fast as my Nissan Sunny rental could take me, which was about 130kph, 140 downhill. The road is well-paved, straight, and tree-lined. Most of it is a rather boring drive through the desert, but as you get closer to al-Ain, the desert comes a little more alive with seas of large iron red dunes dotted with palm trees. If you can hit this part of the drive around sunset, it is absolutely beautiful. However, if yo...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 26, 2004

Al-Ain Rotana
Al-AIn
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai Museum

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Attraction | "Dubai Museum and Souqs"

Dubai Museum Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
Amidst all the skyscrapers, shopping malls, and Land Rovers, it is sometimes easy to forget that Dubai was once a small fishing village with a very distinct culture different from the rest of the Middle East. However, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing of cultural value left in Dubai, and if you want to find them, they are there, even if they have been shamelessly repackaged for tourists by the Dubai government. The first stop on your cultural tour of Dubai should be the Dubai Museum. Housed in an old fort, the Dubai Museum certainly doesn’t have the quality of artifacts that the al-Ain Museum does, but they definitely spent enough money turning it into a visual wonderland. Li...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 26, 2004

Dubai Museum
Al Fahidi Fort
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 4 353 1862

Sharjah

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Attraction | "Sharjah:"

Sharjah Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
The Emirate of Sharjah is usually referred to in guidebooks as "the cultural capital of the UAE," which, well, isn’t really much of claim. That’s sort of like Fargo calling itself "the cultural capital of North Dakota." Basically what this means is that Sharjah, because it doesn’t have the oil of Abu Dhabi and isn’t the center of trade that Dubai is, hasn’t completely lost itself in nouveau-riche glory and excess. It’s louder, it’s dirtier, it’s more chaotic. It is the land where alcohol is forbidden and "decency laws" are enforced, and it is desperately trying to find a unique niche inside the UAE. This niche is as its cultural capital. What this cultural capital really has to of...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 26, 2004

Sharjah

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

al-Ain

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Attraction | "al-Ain: The Real Cultural Capital"

al-Ain Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
Out of all the places I visited in the United Arab Emirates, the city of al-Ain has to be my favorite. Like much of the UAE, al-Ain was little more than a small oasis town until the last 30 years, when the town grew substantially, thanks to money from Abu Dhabi. These days, al-Ain is desperately trying to find its place in the UAE. Knowing that it cannot compete with Abu Dhabi in international appeal, al-Ain has tried to establish itself as a vacation destination for Emiratis, with its greatest attraction being the strikingly dry air that stands as a welcome contrast to the humidity of the coast. In its attempt to turn itself into a summer getaway, al-Ain has undergone large construction of hotels an...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 26, 2004

al-Ain

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Omani Fort of al-Khandaq

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Attraction | "The Omani Fort of al-Khandaq"

Omani Fort of al-Khandaq Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
Located right across the border from al-Ain, the Omani town of Buraimi doesn’t have much to offer itself, but it is home to the very well-restored al-Khandaq Fort, probably the best example of an old desert fortress you are going to see while touring the UAE. Supposedly there are much better forts elsewhere in Oman, but this is the only one you will be able to see without actually touring Oman. In addition to the fort, Buraimi does actually have a small souq, which is worth a visit because it’s a good place to buy silver and khanjars, the curved daggers that are traditionally worn by Emirati men. Also, it’s worth a visit just so you can say that you have technically been to Oman, ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 26, 2004

Omani Fort of al-Khandaq

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Running Away from the Hatta Pools

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Story/Tip

Road Photo, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Quote:
"I have no idea where I am," I thought to myself as I sat inside my Nissan in the middle of a bumpy, two-track dirt road on the edge of a field of date palms. I opened up the Lonely Planet to go over the directions again. "After the sign to al-Bon, the road goes over a steep hill." I had seen the sign and I definitely went over a hill, but if it was what one would consider to be "steep," I don’t really know. I was then supposed to take a "sharp left" at the bottom of the hill. I had certainly done that. The road was then supposed to follow a fallaj (irrigation canal). Well, I was definitely standing right next to a fallaj, so where had I gone wrong? Where in the world were these famous ...Read More