x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Top tips for your next staycation in the UAE

Emiratis should leave their passports at home and become tourists in their own country, the Federal National Council heard recently. By doing so, they enjoy their break and gain a deeper understanding of their own country. Here, seven Emiratis from every emirate, pick some of their favourite places on their doorstep.

Fujairah Fort, in Fujairah, UAE, photographed on Friday, November 26, 2010. Considered the oldest fort in the UAE, Fujairah Fort was reportedly built in 1670. Siddharth Siva for The National
Fujairah Fort, in Fujairah, UAE, photographed on Friday, November 26, 2010. Considered the oldest fort in the UAE, Fujairah Fort was reportedly built in 1670. Siddharth Siva for The National

Emiratis should leave their passports at home and become tourists in their own country, the Federal National Council heard recently. By doing so, they enjoy their break and gain a deeper understanding of their own country. Here, seven Emiratis from every emirate, pick some of their favourite places on their doorstep.

Bashayer Mohammed, 34, mother of three

Abu Dhabi’s diverse activities make it one of the leading cities for tourism, Ms Mohammed says.

For those with a love of adventure she recommends Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld.

“Both parks offer an ultimate family experience that can be enjoyed by all age groups,” she says.

For a day by the sea, Ms Mohammed suggests a visit to Saadiyat Island’s public beach.

“People can enjoy the unique white sands of the beach and the clear water colour,” she says. At the Corniche and Al Bateen public beaches there are more sporting activities, as well as playgrounds, restaurants and shops.

“One can reserve lunch or dinner on a boat through Al Dhafra restaurant in Al Mina area and enjoy a special sea trip,” she says.

For Ms Mohammed, the new Galleria Mall on Al Mariyah Island is perfect for a luxury shopping experience.

“Abu Dhabi has a wide selection of shopping malls and the recent one, the World Trade Centre, is worth a visit.”

Festivals such as the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and Abu Dhabi Art in Manarat Al Saadiyat show the capital’s focus on art and literature. “Any tourist cannot conclude his tour without visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque with its magnificent architectural beauty,” she adds.

Nasir Ali, 23, newly graduated from Murdoch University

“Dubai is a role model for cities across countries,” Mr Ali says. “It is a city built on vision and hard work.”

For anyone in a mood for adventure, he recommends sky diving. “You can dive from the sky, reaching 200 miles an hour and touch the ground safely,” says Mr Ali, who admits to being a thrillseeker.

Next stop, he suggests, could be the Dubai Autodrome. “It is a 5.39-kilometre certified track to enjoy karting and laser tagging.”

Next, he recommends the Aquaventure park at Atlantis, The Palm, with a 2.3km river ride and seven water slides, including two where riders pass through shark-filled tanks.

The park also has Dolphin Bay, where visitors can interact with marine mammals.

When it comes to eating out Dubai has it all, says Mr Ali, from Chinese to authentic Emirati. For a taste of local cuisine, he suggests Al Fanar restaurant and cafe in Festival City as the place to go.

But nothing gives Mr Ali the sense of tranquillity that the desert does. For him, “that’s our roots and where we all started”.

To add a touch of luxury to the experience, he recommends the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa in the middle of the dunes.

“The quietness of the desert works as meditation and also helps attain peace of mind.”

Noor Al Yafaei, 28, graphic designer

What makes her city special, says Ms Al Yafaei, is its homeliness, with everything close by.

“Sharjah is traditional and not very cosmopolitan. It is best known for its Islamic architecture,” she says.

In recent years, she says, the city has undergone a dramatic change as a tourist destination with Al Qasba and Al Majaz Waterfront in the centre of new Sharjah. They are Ms Al Yafaei’s favourite places.

In Al Qasba, one can enjoy culture and entertainment and “they also have a few shopping outlets. Al Qasba and Al Majaz combine outdoor children play areas and offer a wide selection on internationally known dining outlets”.

Sharjah is also famous for its museums, devoted to archaeology, natural history, science, arts, heritage, and Islamic civilisation.

Omar Al Ayoobi, 26, a computer engineer and amateur actor

As a starting point to explore the smallest emirate, Mr Al Ayoobi suggests the Corniche.

“About three years ago Corniche Ajman was not a tourist place,” he says. Today, the Corniche is well developed with cycling routes, international fast-food restaurants and coffee shops.

For those looking for a weekend break or longer holiday in a five-star hotel, the Ajman Palace is the best place to go, he recommends.

“I spent two days in the Ajman Palace and it was amazing.” The sea view was stunning, he says. “The hotel is similar to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and you can book it at cheaper prices.”

Ajman is building more tower blocks, including Al Naeymiyah, Al Khor and Falcon, which are strictly for families.

For brides, Mr Al Ayoobi recommends Nour Al Kawthar Mall, which offers more than 40 shops for wedding dresses. “There is also a famous gold and jewellery shop called Al Romaizan.”

And for the latest in abaya fashions, he suggests the collections in shops along Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Street.

Maryam Al Shehhi, 22, student at Zayed University

Ms Al Shehhi likes spending her weekend in Al Awafi desert with her family, especially during the cold season.

“Many families flock to Awafi area after a rainfall to collect the plant sorrel,” she says.

Her family collected a huge pile of fresh sorrel last week. “We add it to salads or sometimes eat it with rice.”

RAK is a place for families, as well as home to mountains, sea and desert, Ms Al Shehhi says.

There are fewer shopping malls so locals spend more time with their families, she says.

But the emirate still has its share of luxury hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, Banyan Tree RAK Beach, Al Hamra Palace beach resort, Al Hamra Fort Hotel and Beach Resort, and The Cove Rotana Resort.

“These are the five-star hotels best known for their great amenities and positions,” she says.

While she has yet to visit it, Ms Al Shehhi also suggests Iceland Water Park for an adventurous day out.

Sarah Al Shamsi, 24, university graduate

Umm Al Quwain is the least populated of the seven emirates, which means it is peaceful and less polluted, Ms Al Shamsi says.

Camel racing is a sport that many enjoy. “Umm Al Quwain has a special track that attracts many fans in the region. It is located next to the road leading to Falaj Al Mualla,” she says.

The emirate is also famous for unspoilt places such as Al Surrah. In winter, Ms Al Shamsi explains, you can collect wild plants, such as the fiqa or desert truffle.

And despite its small size, UAQ has no shortage of recreational centres. She recommends Dreamland aqua park and the UAQ Museum to her fellow Emiratis.

When it comes to beach hotels, she suggests the UAQ Beach Hotel, Flamingo Beach Resort and Pearl Hotel. All of them offer a serene environment, she says, while the Corniche is the best place for those who enjoy the sound of waves and a peaceful evening.

Al Sinaiyah Island is Ms Al Shamsi’s favourite place. “The island has many species of birds, deer and Al Qaram trees. It is well known for its precious mangrove swamps.”

Haytham Alyteem, 33, Ministry of Interior employee

Fujairah is the only emirate overlooking the Gulf of Oman. “The majority of Fujairah residents enjoy the coast,” Mr Alyteem says.

The emirate is well known for the Hajjar mountains, reaching up to 2,900 metres, in which half of the population lives, he says.

For those interested in improving their historical knowledge, Fujairah Fort has a story to tell. Mr Alyteem also recommends Dibba Fujairah beaches and Merbeh city beaches.

For a family trip, there is Ain Al Madhab garden with an outdoor theatre. Folk dances and traditional singing take place there during festivals.

Bullfighting, or butting, is part of Fujairah’s heritage.

“Every Friday people gather, Khaleejis and expatriates, to watch the bull show,” he says.

Just for fun: Take our quiz on exploring the Emirates