One of the smallest, richest, safest, scariest, most beautiful, intolerant, entertaining and conservative places in the world. Doesn't make much sense but that's what the Emirates are all about- controversy. Boasting notably low crime rate, the federation in notorious for human rights violation, and poligamy peacefully coexists with not uncommon death penalties for female adultery. Here, the most outstanding architectural pearls of the orient are admired through a dense net of cranes and scaffoldings erected for ever bigger and more luxurious hotels to be built. Tantalizing discotheque beats mix with heart-rending prayer calls from the minarets, and orthodox Bedouin lifestyle is compromised with an unrelenting pursuit of grandeur.
Many consider Dubai the showpiece of the Emirates but also the world's fastest growing city. What was a mere stretch of desert some four decades ago, today is a bustling economic oasis with whizzing Rolls-Royces instead of crawling caravans. The annual influx of tourists gave it a westernized look and made it the most liberal emirate of all, the only thing that reminds you of where you are being the distinctive robes and women letting you go first in the doorway. Dubai, as well as Abu Dhabi, strike with omnipresent pomp and luxury. Yet if you're looking for refuge from the city noise or just can't stand the sight of somebody else's well-being, there are the red-tinged dunes of Al-Ain, mountain-surrounded Hatta, and serene beaches of Ras Al-Khaimah.
Before you get turned off thinking it's beyond your means, we're rushing to inform you that the only thing you'll have to splash out on is a plane ticket. When there's a will, there's a way... and a good deal. Unless you've got the ambition to stay in Burj Al Arab billowing in the Arabian Gulf.