Venture into centuries-old souks and zoom up the world’s tallest skyscraper, exploring the past, present, and future of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as you make your way from the labyrinthine streets of old Dubai to the dunes and oases of the Arabian Desert to the innovation-focused city of Abu Dhabi. 

Starting at: $5,490 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Boats on the bay in Dubai  Downtown Dubai  View of Dubai  Al Fahidi  Sheikh Zayed Mosque  Dubai Marina  Street Market in Dubai  Palm Island  Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Dubai and Abu Dhabi: A Stay in the United Arab Emirates

10 days from $5,490

Venture into centuries-old souks and zoom up the world’s tallest skyscraper, exploring the past, present, and future of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as you make your way from the labyrinthine streets of old Dubai to the dunes and oases of the Arabian Desert to the innovation-focused city of Abu Dhabi. 

or Call 855-330-1542

SPECIAL OFFER

Save $250 per person when you book by May 27, 2022!

No single supplement for solo travelers! (Limited availability. Book early to ensure your place.)

Special Air Rates & Services: As part of our special air program, FlexAir, available with this tour, you can choose from a wide variety of flight options. Visit the Tour Details tab and click on "Special Air Rates/Services" drop down. 

Overview

On the shores of the Persian Gulf, the glittering cities of the UAE have sprung up in just the past few decades, becoming world-class centers of culture and innovation where not long ago there were only Bedouin villages and sandy trading ports. Delve into the past, present, and future of this exciting country on a journey that takes to you to three of its emirates: Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi. 

Highlights Include

  • Old and New Dubai: Venture into enchanting souks where gold and spices have been traded for centuries, meander through the labyrinthine lanes of the historic center, and explore Emirati culture and cuisine with local scholars at the Sheikh Mohammed Center of Cultural Understanding. Then trace the city’s evolution at the Dubai Frame and zoom up to the highest floors of its most famous landmark: the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.  

  • Dubai Desert Conservation Preserve: Spend a night in a stunning resort amid the dunes of the Arabian Desert, and set out on wildlife drives to discover how indigenous animals such as the Arabian oryx have been reintroduced to the ecosystem. Enjoy a scenic sunset drive before a feast under the stars accompanied by traditional Emirati music and dance. 

  • Al Ain: In the World Heritage-listed oasis of Al Ain, step back in time at the 19th-century Al Jahili Fort, visit a palace that once housed the sheiks of Abu Dhabi, and take a walk in the shade of date palm groves. 

  • Abu Dhabi: See exquisite modern tributes to Arabian artistry at the Qasr al Watan presidential palace and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. Enjoy a meal with a family in a private home and take advantage of a free afternoon to discover the city on your own.

  • Cutting-edge Museums: Visit some of the most exciting museums to open in recent years, known for their extraordinary architecture as well as their unparalleled exhibitions. Find inspiration at Dubai’s incredible Museum of the Future, and trace the evolution of the city at the soaring Dubai Frame. Then take a guided tour of the Louvre Abu Dhabi to see a panoramic collection of art from around the world.

Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 — Depart the U.S. / Arrive in Dubai, UAE

Depart on an overnight flight to Dubai UAE, arriving the following evening. Transfer to the Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai, perched on the banks of Dubai Creek just across the water from the city’s celebrated souks. You’ll receive a customized welcome packet with maps and helpful information about Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, and your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will be on hand to offer suggestions for restaurants, tours, and other activities to pursue during your free time. Take the remainder of the evening to settle in.

Day 3 — Dubai

After breakfast, set out to discover the traditional side of Dubai on a guided tour of the old city. Trace the history of Dubai at the Al Shindagha Museum, located in one of the city’s oldest sections. Delve into the fragrant Spice Souk and glittering lanes of the Gold Souk with a guide and stroll a maze of twisting alleys in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, known locally as al Bastakiya. Settled in the 1800s by Persian merchants, the district is home to lovely courtyard houses topped with traditional wind towers designed to capture the breezes off Dubai Creek. Join a local scholar at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for a discussion about the history, culture, religion, and everyday life of Dubai and the UAE. Continue the conversation over a traditional Emirati meal. This evening, gather with fellow travelers at a welcome reception and dinner with your Smithsonian Journeys Expert. (B,L,R,D)

Day 4 — 21st Century Dubai

Step out of the past and into the future today, tracing Dubai’s rapid evolution from an ordinary fishing village to a cosmopolitan center of trade and innovation. Drive by Zabeel Park and see the opulent Zabeel Palace, once the home of the country’s prime minister and known for its resident peacocks. Follow the story of the city’s transformation at the enormous Dubai Frame, then zoom up to the Sky Deck for panoramic views of both old and new Dubai. Travel to the Dubai Marina, stopping to photograph iconic sites along the way, including the Jumeirah Mosque and the stunning, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab. Visit Palm Jumeirah, one of the world-famous Palm Islands—artificial archipelagos shaped like palm trees.

After a group lunch on the marina, head to Dubai Mall site of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which reaches a half mile into the air. You’ll be whisked to one of the top floors for breathtaking views.  Meet up this evening for an informal discussion with your fellow travelers and Smithsonian Journeys Expert before dinner at your leisure. (B,L)

Day 5 — Dubai

Enjoy free time this morning to discover the city on your own. You might return to the souks for a leisurely walk through the colorful bustle, or visit the impressive Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. In the afternoon, experience Dubai’s innovative spirit at the Museum of the Future, an astonishing feat of architecture and engineering. Admire the building’s calligraphy-covered steel exterior, and explore inspiring exhibitions on the possibilities of the future, including resource development in outer space, bioengineering, and sustainability. Tonight, gather for a group dinner at a popular restaurant. (B,D)

Day 6 — Arabian Desert

Depart Dubai early this morning and journey into the Arabian Desert to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in the emirate of Sharjah. Covering more than 55,000 acres, the reserve is home to rolling dunes and vast, sandy expanses that harbor unusual flora and fauna. Learn about efforts to reintroduce key native species and encourage the rewilding of the landscape on a wildlife drive with a local guide. Enjoy lunch and time to relax at the pool or under the palms at your desert oasis resort. Then climb into 4x4 vehicles for a sunset drive into the desert. Hear legends of the desert and watch for wildlife, including gazelles and the iconic Arabian oryx, and photograph the evocative landscape in the rich light of the golden hour. Tonight, sit down to a feast under the stars, experiencing the flavors of Arabia along with traditional Emirati music and dancing. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Al Ain / Abu Dhabi

Travel to Al Ain, an ancient trade hub and now a World Heritage site located near the Omani border. Explore Al Jahili Fort, an earthen defense that served as a residence for the sheikhs of Abu Dhabi in the late 19th century. In Al Ain Oasis, visit the Al Ain Palace Museum, once the home of Sheikh Zayed, the founding father and first president of the United Arab Emirates. Stop for lunch, then follow footpaths through date palm plantations laced throughout the oasis. Return to the coast to the capital city of Abu Dhabi and settle into your hotel. Gather for a light dinner this evening. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Abu Dhabi

Home to just 6,000 residents at the dawn of the 20th century, Abu Dhabi sprung up from the desert beginning in the 1960s and is now a world-class capital of culture and commerce. Drive along the seaside Corniche and admire the city’s remarkable architecture—from the opulent Emirates Palace to the elegant cluster of skyscrapers known as Etihad Towers. Encounter an exquisite, modern tribute to Arabian artistry at Qasr al Watan, a presidential palace known as the “Palace of the Nation.” Later, you’ll be welcomed by a local family for a home-cooked lunch and an intimate look at local customs and everyday life. Then visit the 18th-century fort of Qasr al Hosn and its original watchtower, the oldest standing building in Abu Dhabi. Over the centuries, the fort has served as home to the ruling family, the seat of government, a consultative council, and a national archive; it now stands as living monument to Abu Dhabi’s history. Gather for an informal discussion with your Smithsonian Journey Expert this evening before a presentation by a local scholar on the unification of the United Arab Emirates. (B,L)

Day 9 — Abu Dhabi

This morning depart the hotel for Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. Meander amid a thousand gemstone-covered columns and take in views of 82 marble domes at this marvel of modern Islamic architecture. Then visit the celebrated Louvre AbuDhabi, a joint effort between France and the U.A.E. designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winner Jean Nouvel. Browse a riveting exhibition of art from all over the world, grouped so that the viewer can see what Arabian or Chinese artists were creating at the time of Michelangelo or Monet. In the company of a museum guide, encounter rare antiquities from across the Mediterranean as well as Buddhist and Hindu artifacts and the works of Picasso and Miró. The afternoon is yours to discover the city as you wish. Tonight, celebrate your Arabian journey at a festive farewell reception and dinner. (B,R,D)

Day 10 – Depart for the U.S.

After breakfast, transfer to either Dubai or Abu Dhabi International Airport for your onward flight. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)