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Have you ever wondered what makes the United Arab Emirates one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world? If so, you are definitely in the right place. Located on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula, on the shoes of the Persian Gulf, there's more to this desert oasis than just Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

1. Burj Al Arab

Known (erroneously) as the only seven-star hotel in the city of Dubai, the Burj Al Arab is not only an excellent choice of accommodations but also a must-see attraction - even if you aren't staying there. This hotel is shaped like a sailboat, and you can appreciate its artful silhouette from the beach. Visit around sundown, and watch as the refracted light seems to set fire to this 56-story yach on the Gulf coast.

Burj Al Arab hotel, Dubai
Burj Al Arab hotel, Dubai. Unsplash / Christoph Schulz

2. Sharjah Museum Of Islamic Civilization

If you want to learn about the full breadth of Islamic culture and history (not just the local history), then you should make plans to visit the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization. Here you will find a vast array of well-laid out and fascinating exhibits, which trace the history of Islam from the earliest days of the Prophet, to the expansion of the first Caliphate, to the conversion of North Africa and Asia, right up until today.

During your visit, you will have the opportunity to view and encounter rare religious documents and manuscripts, and you will also find that understanding their significance is a breeze, thanks to the information boards plastered throughout the museum.

3. Al Jazirat Al Hamra

If you are into unique day trips, then visiting the small, abandoned village of Al Jazirat Al Hamra might be your cup of tea. The village is rumored to be haunted by jinns. Jinns, or ghost-like creatures found in Islamic folklore, often appear to humans in the shape of animals, according to local legends. They can be either demonic or angelic: the word genie derives from jinn.

The town, which is also referred to as Ghost Town, dates all the way back to the 14th century. This makes it an interesting destination for history buffs or anyone looking for a little oddball desert adventure.

Sharjah Museum Of Islamic Civilization, UAE
Sharjah Museum Of Islamic Civilization, UAE. Wikimedia Commons

4. Souks

Many people visit the UAE to shop. In fact, the high life is one of the main appeals of this small confideracy of Emiractes. If shopping is your thing, but you want an authentic local experience, then you can't beat spending time at the souks. (Souks is Arabic for 'bazaar' or 'marketplace.'

If you are in Dubai, head to the Deira district, which offers the world-famous gold souk and the more down-to-earth fish souk. However, you will find that all cities in the Emirati area have unique souk districts for you to explore. As you peruse, you will quickly discover that you can get some amazing deals on local goods and other products that would cost you far more at one of the nearby malls.

Arab marketplace shelf

5. Bastakia

Have you ever dreamed of visiting Dubai, but wanted to see what it looked like before modern technology and innovation rebuilt it? The Bastakia quarter is the last remaining fragment of that past, and it's something you shouldn't miss.

Here, you can get a glimpse of a gentler, simpler time in the history of a city that has now been overtaken by skyscrapers. You can stroll down narrow lanes lines with amazingly preserved buildings in earlier Arabian architectural styles, many with wind-tower features.

Along the way, you will find various museums where you can see traditional Arabian interior design, and even a small surviving segment of the original Dubai city wall.

6. Emirates Palace

This is considered one of the most luxurious attractions in the entire UAE. It's one of the most expensive hotels ever built, with construction clocking in at three billion dollars. If you want to check out this monument to affluence, be sure to make a reservation to eat at Le Café; you won't get into the Emirates Palace unless you have reservations.

During your visit, make sure to try the famous gold cappuccino. To answer your question: yes, the café actually serves drinks with real gold in them.

Emirates Palace, UAE
Emirates Palace, UAE.Qasim Al Khuzaie/Flickr.

7. Ski Dubai

Surprisingly, you can ski in the desert. Ski Dubai is one of the most popular attractions for tourists. Here you can enjoy the full snowboarding and skiing experience, and even get up close and personal with penguins. All equipment and clothing are provided by the venue, so you don't have to worry about packing your winter gear when you head to the UAE on vacation.

If you are planning a trip to the Emirates, make sure you put a few of the must-see attractions on your list!

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