Travel Journal: United Arab Emirates

Seen through the eyes of Matt and Erin Regan

We went because: Matt’s parents, Jim and Kristi Regan, are living there as ex-patriots. His brother Kevin also ventured over from Chicago.


Where to stay: The Khalidiya Palace in Abu Dhabi is a good value for a 5 star hotel and is situated in close proximity to the Emirates Palace (a must see!) and the Etihad Towers (shopping and dining). There is a large pool, with a shallow section for the kids, and a small beach. There’s something to be said for staying where you have a view of the landmark buildings, rather than inside of them. We were fortunate to be there for New Year’s Eve and had an unobstructed view of a stunning fireworks show!

Where to eat: The Origins buffet at the Viceroy Hotel on Yas Island is a high quality balance of Arabic and international dishes with something for everyone. The décor is clean and modern and the restaurant has a view of the Formula 1 race track. For no frills dining, check out the Lebanese Flower. High Tea at the Emirates Palace is a great way to experience the grandeur of the palace and enjoy tasty snacks. In Dubai, we recommend dinner at one of the handful of restaurants at the Souk Al Bahar that overlook the fountain show at the Burj Khalifa; the fountains dance every 15 minutes.

Favorite historic landmark: Go to UAE because of how new it is! We did visit the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum in Al Ain. Built in 1937, this complex of traditional buildings, without modern amenities, is an interesting juxtaposition with the opulent lifestyle currently maintained by the UAE leadership.


Local attraction worth a drive by: the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi: the mosque offers tours and is an incredible sight. (men should wear long pants and women don abayas provided by the mosque). Also, wander the souks in Dubai (gold, spices and scarves). The shop owners can be aggressive, and it’s a memorable way to acquire some unique keepsakes to take home with you.

A great experience off the beaten path: Drive out to Al Ain to see sweeping sand dunes and the city that sprung from an oasis. Stop at the Camel Market to see livestock trading in action. The traders are friendly and interesting (be aware that they may expect some compensation if they offer to take your photo, especially if you go inside the pen).


Worth the splurge: You can take a spin in fast car at the Yas Marina Circuit. It costs about 400 dollars to drive the Aston Martin.

Not worth the splurge: The abra ride at the Madinat Jumeirah resort was 20x the price of an abra taxi ride across the Dubai creek.

Insider’s tips: Consider having cocktails at Atmosphere Lounge in the Burj Dubai, instead of going to the observation deck. There’s very little seating on the observation deck, so a cocktail lounge is a more comfortable place to linger and enjoy the view.

We would suggest this trip to others because: UAE is a safe, welcoming and very multicultural Middle Eastern destination.