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United Arab Emirates honeymoon

Sun, sand, sea, sports, unbeatable shopping, and an intriguing culture.

The United Arab Emirates, one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations, has all the right ingredients for an unforgettable holiday, sun, sand, sea, sports, unbeatable shopping, top-class hotels and restaurants, an intriguing traditional culture, and a safe and welcoming environment.

When to visit

The best time to visit the UAE is from October up until May. In October the weather may still be quite hot (up to 35C), blue skies are the norm and the evenings are warm. At this stage the tourist season is well under way.

Daytime temperatures are ideal during November, December, January and February (around 24C) although the evenings may be a little cool (13C). North-westerly winds (shamal) sometimes blow during these winter months, bringing choppy seas. Most of the annual rainfall occurs between December and March, but this tends to be in the form of short heavy downpours that rapidly clear away. Indeed some winters are totally dry.
By March–April, temperatures are beginning to rise during the day (early 30s) but humidity is still low and the evenings are warm. May can be quite hot again (late-30s).

June–September are to be avoided, especially the July–August period which is very hot (high 40s) and humid (100 per cent). However hotels and golf clubs and other facilities offer very good deals during the summer months and it is worth remembering that hotels, shops, in fact all buildings, cars, buses etc are air-conditioned.

photo Ismail alghussein

Weather

Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, the UAE is warm and sunny in winter and hot and humid during the summer months. Winter daytime temperatures average a very pleasant 26°C, although nights can be relatively cool, between 12–15°C on the coast, and less than 5°C in the depths of the desert or high in the mountains. Local north-westerly winds (shamal) frequently develop during the winter, bringing cooler windy conditions. Summer temperatures are in the mid-40s, but can be higher inland. Humidity in coastal areas averages between 50 and 60 per cent, touching over 90 per cent in summer and autumn. Inland it is far less humid.

Rainfall is sparse and intermittent. In most years it rains during the winter months, usually in February or March, but occasionally earlier. Winter rains take the form of short sharp bursts, which, if occurring in the Hajar Mountains, run off rapidly into wadis and onto the downwashed gravel plains. Localised thunderstorms occasionally occur during the summer. Generally appearing over the mountains of the south and east of the country, these rumbling cloudbursts can give rise to severe flash floods.

Some years are totally dry and it is only through the regular formation of dew that vegetation and wildlife can survive. This applies even to those places that experience a relatively high annual rainfall: at the Hajar Mountain town of Masafi, for example, 350 mm may fall in a ‘wet’ year, whereas as little as 30 mm may be recorded in a ‘dry’ year.

Getting around

Most tourists visiting the UAE on all-in package tours will base themselves at one or more hotels in the UAE, using the ubiquitous and inexpensive taxis for sightseeing and shopping, and local tour companies for more extended trips. However, it is worth remembering that cars and four-wheel drives are readily available for hire, the road network is excellent and there are intriguing places to visit far from the cosmopolitan cities.

Food and Drink

Visitors from many parts of the world along with a multi-ethnic resident community have ensured that a sophisticated and innovative food culture has developed in the UAE. Almost any type of food is available, from classic European to Pacific Rim. You can eat Mexican, Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, Persian, Italian and French cooking, and more, at some of the finest restaurants in the Middle East. International fast-food chains, serving the standard fare of hamburgers, chips, pizzas etc (McDonalds’s, Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, Hardee’s, Wimpy, Dunkin’ Donut) are also located in the larger cities. Kentucky Fried Chicken seems to be a particular favourite. International theme restaurants such as TGI Friday’s, Planet Hollywood, Fashion Café, Hard Rock Café and Henry J Bean’s are all represented in the Emirates. If you cannot find anything to suit in that list, small ethnic cafés and corner stalls are ubiquitous. Shisha cafés offer an opportunity to smoke a shisha (hubble-bubble pipe) and serve food, coffee, tea and fruit juices and corner stalls serve sharwarmas and other sandwiches.

Gulf and Middle Eastern food is also available in a wide variety of venues, from expensive restaurants to local cafés. Fresh fish from the Arabian Gulf is always good – try lobster, crab, shrimp, or grouper, tuna, kingfish, red snapper, grilled, stuffed, or fried with spices. But it is not just a question of variety, make no mistake the food is generally good and the standard of service is high.

Night Life

There is ample opportunity to pursue an active nightlife in all of the major urban centres in the UAE, except for Sharjah which does not have any bars or discos. The choice of night-time activities is obviously more limited in the rural areas.

Bars range from sophisticated cocktail lounges to informal traditional British and Irish pubs and Western style saloons. In addition, there are numerous piano and jazz bars. Clubs and discos host both local DJs and big international names. You can also visit local nightclubs with Arab singers, belly dancers and musicians. World famous groups and individual stars from the the West, the Arab world, the Indian subcontinent and the Far East are frequent visitors.

The hotels, in particular, vie with each other to stage the best live shows. Cabaret is standard fare in the hotel nightclubs, but it is during the winter season and on national holiday weekends that the hotels come alive with food festivals, stage shows and themed nights. Talented groups from countries such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka have wide-ranging repertoires featuring African beat, salsa, country and western, rock, R’B, reggae, jazz. Close your eyes and you could be listening to the original artists.

If it is a more cultural experience that you require, plays, ballets, classical music and operas are also perfomed by visiting groups on a regular basis. Music festivals, jazz, rock and pop are also common.

Browse websites such as www.timeoutdubai.com, www.timeoutabudhabi.com, www.dubaicityguide.com and www.sharjah-welcome.com, for an up-to-date list of the live bands and gigs taking place during your stay. Check in local newspapers and entertainment magazines (What’s On and Time Out) on your arrival, or ask your destination tour provider for details of events taking place during your stay, so that you can plan in advance. Both Abu Dhabi Explorer and Dubai Explorer give a detailed rundown of all the venues.

Museum and Heritage Centres

The people of the UAE have seen dramatic change in the few short years since the state was established, change that has provided them with all the benefits of a modern, developed society. At the same time, however, both government and people are determined that their heritage shall be preserved, in line with the late Sheikh Zayed's belief that 'a people that knows not its past can have neither a present nor a future'. To act as repositories of this heritage and a source of information for both visitors and the younger generation who have not experienced a traditional lifestyle, museums and heritage centres have been developed throughout the UAE.

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