While the United Arab Emirates (UAE) these days appears to be little more than a stage for Dubai to strut its increasingly crazy stuff, there’s far more to this fabulous little federation than Disneyesque dioramas. The UAE is a contradictory destination, an Islamic state where the DJs’ turntables stop spinning just before the muezzins’ morning call to prayer can be heard, and where a traditional Bedouin lifestyle and customs continue alongside a very Western version of rampant consumerism. While many visitors marvel at the fantastic (in the true sense of the word) hotel and real estate projects, the real wonder is how the savvy sheikhs manage to harmonise such disparate and seemingly opposing forces.
For Western visitors, the UAE is a very safe Middle East destination, with the comforts of home and a taste of the exotic. Here you can max out those credit cards at designer clothes shops, laze on a gorgeous beach and sip a cocktail as you plan which fine dining restaurant to book and which international DJ to dance to until the early morning. On a less hedonistic stay, you can soak up the atmosphere of the heritage areas or the magnificent mountain scenery of Hatta, haggle over souvenirs in the souqs of Sharjah, head out to Abu Dhabi's desert sands for a camel ride under a star-filled sky replica watches, or dive the coral-filled waters of the Gulf (the beaches near Ras Al-Khaimah are as unspoilt as you'll anywhere in the region). Or simply mix up a blend of everything; after all, that’s what makes the UAE unique .