Everybody knows of Dubai and Abu Dhabi which are the main two Emirates (like states or provinces for my Canadian friends) that make up the United Arab Emirates but it sure would make a great Jeopardy question for 99.9% of people to name one of the other five. The other Emirates are Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. I spent the majority of my day today driving and stopping in all of them and let me tell you that there is probably a reason that most people haven’t heard of them. It’s because there really isn’t much to see or do in any of them. There are a few exceptions of course…
Fujairah is actually where I spent last night and home to some of the best beaches in the UAE and is sandwiched between the main part of Oman and its two enclaves. It has a very nice coastline and some cool little beach towns and some ridiculous resort areas including a killer Le Meridien resort just north of Fujairah.
Ras al-Khaimah (RAK), which turned out to be my 150th country visited on the TCC list is the northern most Emirate of the UAE and is the gateway to the amazingly spectacular Musandam Peninsula in Oman. Besides being a stopoff to get insurance for Oman and to change money, there is really not too much to see, it is very industrial with some OK beaches but nothing to write home about. You have a decent view of the hazy mountains in the background that you see very clearly from Oman, but that’s really it.
Umm al-Quwain (UAQ) is the Emirate south of RAK and is being groomed to be the next big development area as many huge coastal land deals have been struck with signs of upcoming construction everywhere. It is right on the water and looks to have a lot of potential but right now its just a dusty, sleepy fishing village and one of the smaller Emirates.
Ajman is the smallest Emirate and the poorest and really has nothing to offer. It has a few shops and buildings of course but really nothing too exciting, in fact I can’t even write anything about it because it was so boring and ordinary that I’ve already described it as much as humanly possible.
Sharjah is the Anti-Dubai because it is extremely conservative and doesn’t allow any type of alcohol consumption or any type of racy attire whatsoever. It prides itself on being the cultural capital of the UAE. It is a bigger Emirate than the other smaller Emirates and is very wealthy. A lot of workers from Dubai are moving into Sharjah to take advantage of cheaper prices because believe me, Dubai is out of control expensive and in my opinion-way overrated! Sharjah has enough to keep you occupied for a few hours checking it out but again unless you are really into Arabic museums and cultural centers, there isn’t so much of interest. Although, Sharjah does have a few enclaves on the east coast that have some nice beaches.
So to summarize, the other five Emirates in the UAE really aren’t that exciting-not that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are great either. If you’re trying to complete the TCC list as I am then by all means, rent a car or hire a driver as I did because these people drive like complete maniacs and you need a maniac to drive like them and check them out. Otherwise, just spend a day or so in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to check them out because they are cool to see but then just head to Oman.