Exotic, old-world and so out of this world, Umm Al Quwain feels like a whole new emirate totally disconnected from the swanky Dubai or Abu Dhabi. I usually drive up to this place to chill out – when in the mood to see open spaces and low buildings, open deserts and isolated beaches.
A good half hour drives from Dubai on Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (earlier Emirates Road) brings you to this truly remarkable little emirate. As you turn in to the “city” something tugs at your heart strings – and you can never understand what moves you – especially if you are coming from Dubai and its shopping malls!
I love this place – I love its old, low stone houses with bougainvillea bushes surrounding it, I love the broken roads and quaint cafes with plastic chairs – at the end of the King Faisal Road, UAQs lifeline, is the old town (although the entire emirate looks old), dominated by Asians, especially Indians and Pakistanis, hence you get the feeling of being in some Indian/Pakistani town, complete with tea-shops, tandoors, litter on the unpaved roads and loud Hindi music (mostly Bollywood). A walk through the narrow and often unpaved streets however leaves you feeling as though you have stepped back in time.
There are indeed signs of development here – with newer building, banks, showrooms and supermarkets making inroads into the emirate. I was surprised to know that one of the best spas in the region is in UAQ!!
There is another interesting section of UAQ that is some distance from the City Centre – Falaj Al Mualla, characterized by big red sand dunes, ghaf forests and vibrant green farmlands is the “agricultural” area of UAQ.
UAQ swings between two extremes – while one end of the city is characterized by unpaved roads and crumbling houses, the other is surprisingly the hub of adrenaline-inducing sport. Umm-al-Quwain is the fastest growing spot for extreme sports, with Motor Racing and Aero Clubs having set up operations here. It is not unusual to find the parking lots packed with high speed cars on weekends, all anxious to get their hands on the wheels of a race car or bikes. When driving through, do not be alarmed at the sudden screams of delight of people jumping off a plane or the roar of motor gunning to life on the racetracks. It is all a part of life here.