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 beyond the glitter awaits a diverse mosaic of six more emirates, each with its own character and allure.
Oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the UAE's capital, is positioning itself as a culture and leisure hub. Beyond looms the vast Al Dhafra region, home to the northern reaches of the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) desert's rippling dunes. Its magical silence is interrupted only by the whisper of shifting sands rolling towards Saudi Arabia.
North of Dubai, Sharjah is the UAE's art and heritage centre while Ras Al Khaimah is all about the beach – with a dash of adventure-activities thrown in. Head east into the jagged embrace of the Hajar Mountains to experience a side of the UAE far removed from Dubai's gloss.