Growing up in the United Arab Emirates often made me confused when people would oooh and aah about life lived here. It was normal for me. But when I started traveling, I understood that there are so many factors that make UAE different from the rest of the world.
Contrary to what most tourists think, the United Arab Emirates is not just famous for Burj Khalifa. There is so much more to it that can only be experienced once you visit the country. For a brief introduction to what is popular here, read on for a list of 15 things that UAE is known for.
15 things the UAE is famous for
#1 Burj Khalifa
This has to be first on the list, ‘cause who doesn’t know Burj Khalifa? Apart from being the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa has seriously impacted the skyline of Dubai
What many don’t know is that the tower was initially named as Burj Dubai. However, the building of the project required quite a sum of money that led to the ruler loaning financial aid from the ruler of Abu Dhabi. Hence, the name was changed to reflect the name of the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi – His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
#2 Desert Safari
The United Arab Emirates is a large desert. But to make matters “cool”, they introduced a fun activity for locals and tourists alike. Desert Safari is a package where a group of people is signed up to experience dune bashing (driving on dunes on a 4×4), belly dancing, henna painting, and other activities. Some packages even extend staying overnight in the desert which is something to experience!
It is one of the most common activities in the UAE and partly why the country is also famous for. I would, however, recommend checking the best season to visit Dubai as temperatures really soar during the summers and it would not be a nice experience to head to the desert during that time.
#3 Louvre Abu Dhabi
If France is famous for its Louvre, the UAE did not hold back. After getting the approval to have its very own Louvre, Abu Dhabi now houses a famous attraction. Perfect for art lovers and those looking for “instagrammable” places to shoot, the outer design has been inspired by the shadow cast by date palm fronds under the sun in an oasis.
#4 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Built in honor of the late president of UAE and the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has slowly become a tourist attraction that is now making people come to the emirate only to marvel at the beautifully lined marble walls with exquisite designs. Entry to the mosque is free but you need to follow a strict dress code – a long gown with no arms and legs showing for women and head covered with a scarf. A gown is provided in case the visitor is not dressed according to the dress code.
Touted as the famous street food in the UAE, shawarma is like a doner. Soft and juicy meat is cooked on a spit with the shavings put in bread with condiments. Every person has their favorite place to grab a shawarma and it is the cheapest snack to eat when in the United Arab Emirates
Shawarma is usually available during the evenings where you will find cafeterias lined with people just getting back from work if it is a weekday to queue for their shawarma. The most common types in the country are those made by either Lebanese or Indian restaurants. Give both a try to see which one you like the most!
#6 The Dubai Mall
Although a small country on the world map, the UAE often makes the news. If you aren’t living under a rock, you know that the largest mall in the world is located in Dubai. Tourists usually plan their visit to the mall along with the Burj Khalifa as this is where you will find the entrance to the tower (yes, they are both connected). After living here literally all my life, I still haven’t met one person who has completed the entire mall!
Apart from housing all the brands, I can think of, The Dubai Mall is famous for its aquarium and dancing fountains. The aquarium is also one of the largest in the world which gives tourists access to watch marine creatures like sharks and stingray.
Watching the fountains dance to music is also another attraction of the Dubai Mall. It’ss also a very good viewpoint to see the Burj Khalifa and is free of charge for all.
This is not the typical thing you’d see on most lists. But, safety is a very common feature that the UAE is known for. Unlike what some tourists think, the country is very very safe for everyone. A tiny dot on the world map, but the UAE has been ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. You can walk outside at 3 am and not fear being mugged, kidnapped, raped, or pickpocketed…
#8 Luxurious lifestyle
If you’ve heard that people in Dubai live a luxurious life, you are wrong! This is one of the most common misconceptions that I’ve heard from foreigners. Not everyone is rich in UAE and many of them certainly don’t even own a car.
Yes, there does exist a certain percentage of the population that is rich and spends their money on the most incredulous things, but again there are workers here as well as common people who don’t often have the luxury to splurge.
#9 Burj Al Arab
Often called a “7-star hotel”, the structure of Burj al Arab is created keeping the mast of a ship in mind. The name also roughly translates to the “tower of the Arab” and it is currently the fifth tallest hotel in the world. It is not only famous for its structure but also for the luxurious interiors of the rooms. One is certainly made to feel like a royal there!
Entry for non-guests is restricted; however, the best way to look at the building from inside is to have a cup of coffee at the Burj Al Arab café. Alternatively, you can dine at one of the stellar restaurants at Burj Al Arab, all headed by Chefs that are well known in their expertise.
The tower stands on a man-made island very close to Jumeirah Beach. During winters, locals usually pack a picnic and visit the beach with families where there is an unrestricted view of the tower
Anyone wanting to shop for souvenirs while in Dubai should visit the souqs. Not only are the souvenirs sold for cheap – spices, perfumes, and coffee can also be found for a great bargain if haggled wisely. Some of the most popular souqs are located in the Deira area. Old Souq is very famous for selling abayas, traditional clothing, spices like zaatar and sumac, and Arabic coffee
You can also pair the souq trip with a ride on the traditional abra – a small boat made of wood. This was traditionally used as a mode of transport during UAE’s older days to travel short distances through water.
Known for its sweet taste, dates are the fruits of the desert. It is not uncommon to see the roads of the UAE lined with date palm trees heavy with the weight of the fruit. Most tourists take at least one box of fresh dates back to their country and it has almost become a form of souvenir now.
#12 Ski Dubai
Imagine skiing in the desert! Yes, Dubai also has that! Ski Dubai is a large ski resort located inside Mall of the Emirates. The temperature inside is always maintained at around 2 degrees and you will find snow all year round. This is one of the main locations locals head to for a cool and fun time during the hot summers. Inside this attraction are also penguins that can be encountered for a separate fee.
#13 Ferrari World
If you want a thrill, head to Ferrari World! This is most famous for having the world’s fastest roller coaster with a speed of 240 km/h, making it a much-loved amusement park for kids during the holidays.
#14 Palm Jumeirah
The time when UAE really made the news was when the Palm Jumeirah Islands were announced. These man-made islands are in the shape of a date palm tree and also house Atlantis Resorts, another fun attraction for UAE families.
The fronds of the date palm are residential areas, while the outer tree has a stunning resort selection facing the Persian Gulf. The Palm Jumeirah also has a number of dining and retail destinations like the recently opened, The Pointe, where the view of the waters and Atlantis. The Palm is beautiful…
Hummus has recently taken over the world with its delicious variants like Avocado and Beet Hummus. Originally, a rather humble side to Arabic bread, hummus is made of ground chickpeas and a paste of sesame seeds. An Arabic spread cannot do without this appetizer and it is one of the most important foods in Dubai and the UAE.
Sarah grew up in the United Arab Emirates, in a city that most would describe as the most “luxurious in the world”. She is a 20 something girl who wants to tick off every city on her bucket list. You can win her over with a cup of coffee and a thrilling read to go with it! Follow her at hungryoungwoman!