Travel & Places Other - Destinations

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Fabulous cultures, wild memories

Tales of Arabian Nights, Lawrence of Arabia and countless Hollywood movies are powerful influences on incentives in Dubai and increasingly, today, right across the United Arab Emirates. From ancient forts to mysterious souks, virtually every vestige of ancient Arabic culture and lifestyle, both real or perceived, helps to produce storybook parties and wild memories. Al fresco feasting with a traditional Bedouin theme is particularly popular. So are the parties that include falconry, archery, camel trekking and camel racing.

The UAE's abundant natural resources of sun, sea and vast tracts of sand have been put to optimum use by incentive organisers in concert with oil-rich governments eager to diversify and exploit rewarding new seams of revenue. Thanks to the development of general tourism, efficient intra-regional transport networks and top-of-the-range resort hotels, city-based or culture-led incentives are frequently combined with desert safaris, beaches and water-sports.

Blessed with an open, cosmopolitan demeanour, Dubai leads the way – not just in the UAE, but across the entire Middle East. As venue for a growing number of major international sporting events, Dubai focuses on activity incentives with sports of all kinds including powerboating, yachting, jet-skiing, ice-skating, ten-pin bowling, sand-skiing, beach Olympics, clay pigeon shooting, archery, horse and camel riding. Golf is a major draw with three main courses and another two under contractions constructions, plus a variety of smaller resort courses. Sophisticated local DMCs like Arabian Adventures provide ready-made programme variety and choice. And new luxury including the Ritz-Carlton, Hilton Beach Club and architecturally stunning Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Arabian Tower, provide world-class facilities. Neighbouring Sharjah, rich in Arabic heritage, is excellent for shopping, dining and beaches. Among the other emirates, Ras Al-Kaimah and Fujairah are growing in popularity as quiet beach and water-sports venues. Also attracting international acclaim, the Sultanate of Oman is historic, tasteful and largely unspoiled Specialities include hot-air ballooning, rock-climbing and top-class dive sites along with desert safaris, camel trekking, dune driving in 4WDs, beaches and water-sports.

The first thing to strike you in Abu Dhabi is lush greenery set against clear turquoise waters. Then the stunning modernity – a sea of sky-rise glass brilliantly sparkling in baking hot sun. It's hard to imagine that just 30 years ago this was a clutch of huts on a scrawny desert headland. Today, it's visually stunning and mind-boggling, a rare and richly-rewarding incentive in one.

Depending on your viewpoint, the unbelievable prosperous capital and undisputed driving force of the United Arab Emirates is either an insult to nature or a glowing tribute to the ingenuity of man. Where once there was scorched sand and rock, there are now 130 million trees, 250,000 acres of self-sufficient fruit and vegetable plantations, fountains, flower-filled streets and palm-lined highways carrying stretched limousines.

Strictly Muslim it may be, but Abu Dhabi no longer frowns on foreigners drinking alcohol outside the holy month of Ramadan. And visitors are now offered water-sports, dhow cruises, diving, desert safaris, dune-bashing, camel racing and bird-watching, alongside desert forts, museums and more serious heritage pursuits. Together with extended duty-free shopping, Abu Dhabi has plans for multiple theme and leisure parks plus a number of new international hotels and recreation centres. All going to prove that, you don't need rain to make the desert bloom with uniquely-memorable incentives.

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