For most people, the United Arab Emirates means just one place: Dubai, the sci-fi-esque city of iconic skyscrapers, palm-shaped islands, city-sized malls, indoor ski slopes and palatial beach resorts. But guess what? Beyond the glitter awaits a diverse mosaic of six more emirates, each with its own character and allure.
An hour's drive south, oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the country's capital, is quickly gaining a reputation as a hub of culture, sport and leisure. Beyond its borders looms the vast Al Gharbia desert, whose magical silence is interrupted only by the whisper of shifting dunes rolling towards Saudi Arabia.
North of Dubai, Sharjah has the country's best museums, while tiny Ajman and Umm Al Quwain provide glimpses of life in the pre-oil days, and Ras Al Khaimah is busy building up its tourism infrastructure. For the best swimming and diving, though, head across the fierce Hajar Mountains to the emirate of Fujairah, to frolic in the clear waters of the Gulf of Oman.