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The seven Emirates, or monarchies, that make up the United Arab Emirates, are filled with many wonders, from wide open desert to sandy beaches to busy, futuristic cities. If you’re heading to this part of the Middle East any time soon, be sure to visit a few of these fascinating spots.

RELATED: 5 Dubai skyscrapers that are architectural marvels

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Designed with the utmost majesty and elegance that one would expect from a mosque commissioned by and named for the first president of the United Arab Emirates, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is an absolute must-see. This mosque is open to non-Muslims and staff will provide appropriate clothing if needed. Towering domes, ornate columns and decorative crystalline chandeliers welcome visitors and worshipers alike.

Burj Khalifa

Standing at over 828 meters, Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest free-standing structure on the planet. If you can brave the height, you may experience several observation decks, including those at levels 124, 125 and 148. Even if you can’t make it all the way up, Burj Khalifa is stunning even from the ground.

Dubai Miracle Garden

Colorful, whimsical Dubai Miracle Garden is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Take a stroll through flower-covered arches that surround a maze of ivy-covered houses, miniature towers, performance spaces, and even a model of an Emirates commercial jet. Containing over 100 million flowers of roughly 70 different species, the Dubai Miracle Garden is sure to saturate your senses.

Ajman Fish Market

On the shores of the Persian Gulf, the Ajman Fish Market in Ajman bustles with commerce and, well, fish. The market is open every day from 7am–1:30pm and 5–10pm, and and auction occurs at 6pm daily. Feel free to visit and barter with the fishmongers, and as with any market, it’s best to arrive early to beat the crowds. You can even have your catch cooked for you on site.

Al Bidya Mosque

Al Bidya Mosque, also known as Ottoman Mosque, is the oldest mosque in the Emirates and is located in the emirate Fujairah. Without a written history, the mosque is shrouded in mystery; even its exact age is uncertain because its mudstone facade is difficult to accurately date. However, the mosque likely dates back to the 15th century and still stands today for all to come and explore.

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Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

If you’d like to get out of the city and experience the vast desert, take a tour to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The DDCR exists to promote permanent preservation of the desert environment that surrounds the massive metropoles, but also to make sure the public has access to the land. For a rustic and exciting adventure, book with one of the DDCR’s certified tour companies and go dune driving and camping on a vast sea of sand.

Mleiha Archaeological Center

Nestled in the emirate Sharjah is the Mleiha Archaeological Center, a perfect place for travelers who wish to explore the rich archaeological history of the area. In the future, the site will expand to include places to stay, as well as an astronomical observatory. Today, though, it serves as an archaeological exhibit containing spectacular remnants of Paleolithic human life.

Dhayah Fort

Dhayah Fort, located in the hilltops just north of Ras Al Khaimah City, is built into steeply flanked hills that used to provide a natural defense for ancient civilizations. The fortress itself was built during the 19th century on worn foundations, but today it has been restored and is accessible. Not only is the fortress perfectly placed for defense, but the platform also offers stunning panoramic views of the area.

Abandoned Ilyushin IL-76 Plane

Silently decomposing in Umm Al Quwain, an old Soviet airplane stands abandoned. Where did it come from? According to Doug Farah’s book “Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible,” arms dealer and Centrafrican Airlines owner Viktor Bout is to blame. The old cargo craft had been commissioned to be a Soviet war monument, but Bout paid his pilots to park it in the Emirates instead!

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Tagged: Middle East, United Arab Emirates

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Caroline Lupini
Caroline's passion for travel isn't limited to hopping from country to country, but goes beyond the plane and into her everyday life. She's mastered the points and miles arena which has enabled her to travel far and wide, to 70+ countries including Iraq, Myanmar, Brazil, Russia, and many more. From writing for some of the most highly acclaimed travel blogs and news sites, to speaking at travel shows, Caroline's love of exploring the world has lead her to wanting to help others get out there to experience it too. To find out more, visit Caroline on Instagram (@caroline.lupini) and on her site (carolinelupini.com).

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