United Arab Emirates travel guide
Ajman is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It's the smallest and one of the poorest - well, as poor as you get by being an emir in this part of the world. The capital of Ajman is to no surprise also called Ajman. Compared to Abu Dhabi and Dubai - yes, even Sharjah - Ajman is way behind in terms of... well, everything. Maybe that is the reason to drop by, even just for a quick peek, to see how the big boys might have looked like decades ago. However, developments are springing up and the waterfront is already taken by hotels and what-soon-will-become hotels. Since Ajman is only 10 km from Sharjah, you can easily do both in a day-trip from Dubai, even if you take public transport.
Burj Khalifa is ridiculously tall, 828 m (plus a small tip) to be more precise, making it the tallest building in world. It's so tall that every other building in Dubai, even other super-tall skyscrapers, look tiny compared to this sleek shiny tower which seems to disappear into the sky. From the air the tower looks like a symmetric Y, a design apparently inspired from a lily, but from the ground it resembles an elegant sci-fi rocket. The 163 floors - where the top one is at 621 m - are used for both corporations, residences and hotels. Yes, here you can stay in an Armani suite. At first, during the construction, it was called Burj Dubai, but when completed it changed name to Burj Khalifa, probably in honor of Sheikh Khalifa, emir of Abu Dhabi, as he bailed out the project when it was badly needed.
Dubai is probably what most people think of, when the United Arabic Emirates are mentioned. And true, it has propelled itself as the figurehead for the region and is where you find all the famous iconic sights like 7-star hotels, the world tallest building, giant malls for the super rich, and luxury beyond comprehensions - where else than Dubai is there a shopping festival. But that said, Dubai is more than expensive air-conditioned comfort and theme parks (though those are fun as well). There are interesting traditional souqs, cheap eateries, beautiful (free) city beaches and Dubai is a great base for further exploration into the other Emirates. So come to Dubai with an open mind and just indulge yourself in this wonderland of contrasts.
When you are a rich oil sheik, you can have everything... even snow in the desert. Fitted inside the second biggest mall in Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, is an artificial plastic-fantastic winter wonderland with real snow, ski slopes (including a 400-metre-long run and a black run), snowboard funpark, toboggan runs - yes, even live penguins. The snow park at the base is a bit of a mayhem of kids in all sizes and concerned parents. All equipment, clothes and boots are of course included, and there are even special jackets for those wearing a traditional kandura or abaya. For observers the whole hullabaloo can seems tacky and stupid, but Ski Dubai is very popular and everyone is having a blast.
The seven emirates which form UAE are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain - and then Sharjah. The capital of Sharjah is also called Sharjah and lies just a bit north of Dubai. Though it's a real city, it's nothing compare to decadent big brother Dubai in terms of impressive skyscrapers and posh malls. Sharjah is just an ordinary Arabic city, some might even say a bit boring. That said, changes are on their way. The corniche is having a facelift, a couple of the souqs have been polished up or even rebuild, and the heritage area, with traditional houses, is undergoing a total restoration. A very welcome transformation for Sharjah, which is considered to be the cultural capital of UAE. If the 'real Arab' is more what you are after, head to the animal and pet market. A great place to wander around (if you are not too fuss about animal rights) and you might even see a few falcons for sale.
Umm Suqeim Beach is the public beach right below the iconic 7-star hotel Burj al Arab. It's a shade-less stretch of white sand with crystal-clear turquoise water. A tranquil spot perfect for a splash in the water or a laze about in the sun. It seems to attract mainly residents from the surrounding posh neighbourhood of Jumeirah, including a fair share of expats. Since the views of the Burj al Arab are sublime, tourists and locals alike come by to snap a photo of the Burj al-Arab - and, if they can get away with it, sunbathing girls in bikinis.