Situated between Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain is the smallest of the UAE’s Emirates by population and the second smallest by area. The sleepy, laid back atmosphere contrasts sharply with that of Dubai and provides visitors with a taste of what the UAE might have been like if oil hadn’t been discovered.
At the heart of the Emirate is the city of Umm Al Quwain, built along a stunning lagoon dotted with islands and mangrove forests. The surrounding desert is picture-postcard perfect with rolling dunes giving way to the verdant oases of Falaj Al Mualla some 30 KM from the emirate’s capital.
In addition to the raw natural beauty that Umm Al Quwain has to offer, there are a variety of cultural and leisure attractions of interest to the whole family, from visiting the archaeological site of Ed-Dur to crab hunting at one of the beach hotels so whilst it may be small, Umm Al Quwain is well worth a visit!
Top Places to visit in Umm Al Quwain
Visit the Old Town
Start your trip by wandering around the old town and harbour area of Umm Al Quwain where you can see quintessential coral stone houses and shipbuilders at work on traditional dhows. An early morning visit will give you a chance to encounter fishermen tending to their nets as well as allowing you to make the most of the cooler hours.
For a good local lunch pop into the fish market for some fresh fish and have it cooked before your eyes or visit one of the nearby restaurants many of which specialise in South Asian delicacies.
You will also find an aquarium, part of the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Centre within close proximity to the old town. Currently, the aquarium is only open to visitors by prior appointment. For more details call (+971) 06 765 5881.
Discover Umm Al Quwain’s past at the Al Ali Fort and Museum
Located at the entrance to the old town, Umm Al Quwain Fort, also known as Al Ali Fort was built in 1768 by Sheikh Rashid Bin Majid Al Mualla and remained the seat of Government in the emirate until 1969.
The fort’s past is a little grizzly as one of its inhabitants, Sheikh Hamad Bin Ibrahim Al Mualla, was murdered by one of his uncle’s servants in 1929. Following Sheikh Hamad’s death, there was an uprising against his uncle, Abdelrahman, who had made a bid for power. The people of the city set fire to the fort and Abdelrahman and his servant were both killed.
For many years the fort served as a police station before being restored and opened to the public by Sheikh Rashid Bin Ahmed Al Mualla in 2000. The site is now home to the Umm Al Quwain National Museum which contains a variety of ethnographic material as well as archaeological finds from the important archaeological site of Ed-Dur which dates back to before the Stone Age.
The Museum is open daily from 7am – 2pm (except Fridays) and 5pm-8pm. Entry 4 AED for adults, kids free. For more details call 067 650 888.
The Archaeological site of Ed-Dur
Located just off the E11 roughly parallel to Khor Al Jafrah, the site of Ed-Dur (also written as Al Dour and Ed Dour) is rather impressive and includes the remains of a temple dedicated Shamash – the ancient Babylonian sun god – and a fort with round corner towers.
At one point, Ed-Dur was one of the most important settlements on the Arabian Peninsula. Potsherds found at the site prove trade links between the local inhabitants and the Greeks of the Hellenistic period as well as the Romans and Nabataens.
Ed-Dur is currently on a shortlist to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Note that there are currently no visitor facilities at Ed-Dur so be sure to pack all of the essentials if you plan to visit. Visiting is not recommended in the Summer months and small children may find the terrain difficult.
Take a trip to Falaj Al Mualla
Falaj Al Mualla is an inland oasis town 30 kilometres from the city of Umm Al Quwain. The town is known for its magnificent fort (constructed in 1825) and watchtowers as well as the large date palm oasis. The fort has been beautifully restored, and the surrounding area is lovely for an evening stroll and picnic.
There is a large park open from 3pm until 9pm daily which boasts outdoor swimming pools, play areas and bike and cart hire. There’s also the opportunity to explore the dunes that flank the town – a perfect desert day out!
Water based activities in Umm Al Quwain
For thrills and spills spend the day at Dreamland Aqua Park
One of the largest waterparks in the UAE with 30 rides and attractions including slides, a rafting river and a Dead Sea salt bath experience, Dreamland is sure to keep kids of all ages happy! You can even stay overnight in one of the park’s ‘camping’ bungalows or tents.
General admission is 160 AED. Children under 120 cm and adults over 65 can enter for 100AED. Entry is free for People of Determination and children under the age of 2. For more details visit the Dreamland website.
Relax in the sunshine and build sandcastles at Um Al Quwain Open Beach
The sea can get a little rough along the open beach to the west of the city but the big waves are great for any budding bodyboarders and there is an abundance of sea shells for little explorers to collect. Stick around at the end of the day to watch a truly breath-taking sunset.
There is free car-parking available as well as barbequing facilities but note that there are no changing rooms or toilets.
An alternative to the open beach is the beach at the Kite Beach Center which is both child and dog friendly. There is a lovely café offering tasty treats and plenty of comfortable seating. The shallow water makes the beach especially safe for children.
Kayaking, paddle boarding and kite surfing are all available, offering the perfect way for you to explore the mangroves that flank the beach. Entry is 50 AED for humans and 25 AED for furry friends. For more details visit the Kite Beach Center website.
Um Al Quwain Marine Club
You can easily spend a whole day at Um Al Quwain Marine Club. Here you can hire kayaks or laze on the beach by the lagoon, there are also a number of other water sports on offer including wind surfing and banana boat rides.
There’s a large swimming pool and children’s play area including a high rope course for older children as well as spaces to play football, volleyball and table tennis. For more details visit the Umm Al Quwain Marine Club website or call 067 666 644.
Bond with the kids on a fishing trip
Many of the hotels offer organised fishing and crabbing trips which many children report to be the highlight of their stay. Umm Al Quwain Marine Club can also arrange family fishing trips. For more details check their website or phone 067 666 644.
Visit Emirates Motorplex
Thrill seekers and race lovers can’t miss a visit to Emirates Motorplex. All sorts of races take place here. For more details of races or how you can become a member visit the Emirates Motorplex website. Races can get quite noisy and may not be suitable for younger children.
See Camel Racing at Al Labsa
In the cooler months (October – March), a family outing not to be missed is a trip to the camel races. The racetrack at Al Labsa is beautifully situated in the lee of large dunes just off the road to Falaj Al Mualla. It does require a very early start as races usually begin around 6am and are generally over by 8am. Finding schedules can be tricky but the reception desk at your hotel should be able to help you.
Visit Khor Al Beidah for bird watching!
Located on the beautiful Al Sinniyah island more than 420 different species of bird have been recorded in the Khor Al Beidah wetland area. 25 of these are almost guaranteed to be seen from October to April. Most hotels, as well as Umm Al Quwain Marine Club, can provide kayaks or organise boats to the island (which is 19 KM away from the city).
Other points of interest in Umm Al Quwain
Should the weather force you indoors, you can take refuge at Palma Bowling, located in the Palma Beach Resort, which offers ten pin bowling, billiards and table tennis.
One of Umm Al Quwain’s more unusual landmarks is an abandoned Ilyushin IL 76 Plane just off the highway in the direction of Ras Al Khaimah. It’s not really worth making a specific trip to visit as there’s nowhere to park but worth noting as you drive past.
How to get to Umm Al Quwain
Travelling from Dubai take the E311 until you reach exit 90 and then merge onto the E55. By car the journey should take around 50 minutes. A Taxi would cost somewhere in the region of 140-180 AED. Alternatively catch the E601 from Etihad Bus Station in Deira at a cost of around 30 AED.
Where to stay in Um Al Quwain
The hotels and resorts in Umm Al Quwain are more rustic than what you can find in the neighbouring emirates but they do provide you with a place to relax and enjoy a chilled-out, family-friendly holiday.
Here is our pick of the best family accommodation that Umm Al Quwain has to offer.
Barracuda Beach Resort
A long-standing family favourite which has been recently renovated, the Barracuda Beach Resort boasts comfortable rooms, villas and suites, a beautiful infinity pool and direct access to the beach. There is also a children’s play area, volleyball and basketball courts, a cricket ground and an indoor games room. The resort is also conveniently located next to Dreamland Aqua Park.
There are two dining options within the resort – Aquarius which offers international cuisine and Thunder Road Pizza and Grill which has an American-Italian vibe and serves up delicious pizza. Guests are also able to order their own BBQ packs from Aquarius restaurant to cook at the BBQ facilities on the beach or on their own private BBQ if they are staying in a villa.
The Barracuda Beach Resort offers a chilled-out family-friendly escape as well as good value for money. Rooms start at 675 AED based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing a family suite for 1 night*.
Pearl Hotel and Spa
An attractive low-rise hotel with well-designed spacious rooms located on its own private beach. The 4-star Pearl Hotel is at the more luxurious end of the Umm Al Quwain hotel spectrum. There are two swimming pools, a well-equipped gym and spa.
The hotel can arrange a variety excursions and water sports.
The hotel offers a diverse culinary experience with a traditional Bavarian Brauhaus, an authentic Keralan restaurant and a the Barako Grill serving Phillipino cuisine. There is also a beach bar offering food and drink until the early hours.
Prices start at 470 AED based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing an executive suite with a sea view for 1 night.
The Bin Majid Flamingo Beach Resort
Whilst the rooms are not so stylish the hotel is fairly well-maintained, with spacious grounds, direct access to the beach and a nice children’s play area as well as a family pool and children’s pool with slides. There are excellent sea views from many rooms and as the name suggests flamingos can often be spotted in the mangroves near the resort. It’s a shame that the resort backs on to an oil storage facility but if you can ignore this the resort does boast very good value for money especially as its very close to the old town and all of the city’s amenities.
The hotel can arrange crab hunting experiences, mangrove boating, snorkelling, jet skiing and fishing excursions. Any fish or crabs that you catch can be cooked to your preference by the hotel chefs.
Along with serving up your catch, the Waves restaurant offers international cuisine and a dinner buffet is also served on the beach.
Rooms start at 624 AED based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing a premium sea view suite with breakfast included*.
Umm Al Quwain Beach Hotel
A simple beach hotel with a private beach, nice pool area and an excellent Lebanese restaurant. The hotel is clean and well maintained and offers good value for money. Accommodation is provided in spacious, tastefully furnished, air-conditioned villas with private terraces and Barbeque facilities. There is a small children’s play area on the grass by the beach and a variety of water sports on offer.
Prices start at 450 AED based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing a standard suite for 1 night with breakfast included*.
*All prices are based on a 1-night stay checking in on the 3rd July 2020 and do not include taxes.
Looking to explore more of the UAE? Check out these great guides around the Emirates
- Ultimate UAE Staycation Guide
- Fun family things to do in Fujairah
- Exciting things to fo Ras Al Khaimah with Kids
- Historic sites to explore in Al Ain
- Interesting places to visit in Ajman with Kids
- Fun family activities & best places to visit in Sharjah with Kids
- 6 Eco-Tourism experiences in the UAE
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Post contributed by Lynette Fortey-Burnett, writer & classical Archaeologist based in the UAE with her family. You can learn more about our contributing writers here.