Page update - Oct 17, 2022
By the situation of October 2022, the Emirate of Umm al-Queen welcomes tourists. Hotels, stores, restaurants, and beaches are open. Since February 26 and September 28, 2022, the wearing of masks outdoors (since February) and in cafes, restaurants, hotels, stores (since September) is canceled. Tourists fly to Dubai, then travel by road to Umm Al Quwain.
Unfortunately, the emirate's most unusual landmark has disappeared. The famous abandoned IL-76 aircraft began to be disassembled at the end of May 2022 and was completely disassembled in August. Pity.
Umm Al Quwain is the emirate in the UAE with the lowest population - only 86,000 people (as of 2022, estimated figure). In terms of area, it is almost the smallest at 300 sq. miles (777 sq. km.), second only to the Emirate of Ajman (100 sq. miles, 259 sq. km.).
Umm Al Quwain is bordered in the northeast by the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah and in the south and southwest by Sharjah. See map on the right, click on the map to enlarge to full screen. The emirate has about 20 miles (32 kilometers) of the coastline, and it's territory goes in deep to the Arabian peninsula to 31 miles (50 kilometers) from the city of Umm Al Quwain (on the coast) to the oasis and the town of Falaj Al Mualla at southeast.
Despite its modest size, the emirate is extremely interesting. We will tell you all the most important and interesting about Umm Al Quwain on this page.
The name Umm Al Quwain is often abbreviated to UAQ. This occurs even in official addresses, for example, "PO BOX: 655, UAQ, UAE". And even in official names, for example, "UAQ Free Trade Zone".
The name originated from the phrase "Umm al-Quwatayn", which translates as "mother of two elements''. These two elements are earth and water, and the name refers to the rich maritime traditions of the emirate. We will talk about this in more detail below in the history section on this page.
UAQ is often called the anti-Dubai as the people's life there goes slowly. There is not even a single big shopping mall, no noisy beaches, or grand parties in the hotels like in Dubai.
To illustrate this difference, here is a very curious fact. In June 2022, the emirate authorities increased the penalty for the loss of animals by shepherds from 100 to 200 dirhams per day.
It is a real problem for the emirate, that shepherds graze sheeps and camels everywhere, animals get lost and walk on the roads and residential areas. All this leads to the risk of accidents. If an animal is lost, it is taken to a public stable where it is kept until an owner is found. Each day in this public stable will cost the shepherd 200 dirhams.
Now try to imagine such a thing in Dubai or Abu Dhabi! It's hardly possible.
Find your flight
Umm Al Quwain does not have its own international airport. If you fly there on vacation, you will land either at Dubai Airport or Sharjah Airport. It is about 31 miles (50 km) from Dubai Airport and about 25 miles (40 km) from Sharjah Airport.
Nominally, there is an airport there, but it is used only for the members of the local air club. The airport is located in the east of the emirate. There was the body of an IL-76 aircraft (now demolished). It was one of the local attractions (see the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen).
It is very curious, the length of the runway is about 1.5 kilometers. That is, such a large machine can land on the runway, though it is recommended to be 2.5 kilometers long. But there is no way it can take off - the runway is not enough. Who and why landed the plane? It is a big mystery.
There is no public transport system in Umm Al Quwain at all. That is, there are no buses, no streetcars, no subway. But there are cabs, and the prices are even cheaper than in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, read the review "Taxis in the United Arab Emirates" for details.
There are only 6 hotels - 4 are classified as 4 stars, and 2 are 3-star hotels. There is not a single "five". We have to state the fact - Umm Al Quwain has the weakest development of the tourism industry among all the emirates of the UAE.
The cost of vacation in hotels in Umm Al Quwain is higher than in similar hotels in Ajman or Sharjah. It affects the long transfer time and unpopularity of the destination. The beach season lasts the same as in the other emirates, read more in our review "Weather in the UAE by month".
The tourist industry is boosted by the free sale of alcohol. Or rather, it was free until the November 8, 2020 amendments. Before the amendments, Umm Al Quwain had a system of liquor licenses, but only on paper, and in fact no one was asked for a license. After the November 8 amendments, a license is no longer officially required.
There are plenty of places to sell alcohol in Umm Al Quwain compared to other emirates. Every hotel has a bar and more than one where you can drink alcohol. There is a large store, Barracuda, which sells alcohol at Duty Free prices.
Of course, it is forbidden to walk around the city being drunk or drink alcohol in public. You can read about the laws and responsibilities in the reviews "What is not allowed in the UAE" and "Alcohol in the UAE".
There is potential for tourism, because Umm Al Quwain has beautiful beaches, ancient history and ancient sites.
Archaeologists find arrowheads and flint tools on the coast of the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain. However, such items are dug up all along the coast of the United Arab Emirates. But in the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain, archaeologists also find pottery from the Ubeid period, this pottery is from Mesopotamia. Ceramic production did not begin there until the 3rd century B.C., and archaeological finds date back to the 5th century B.C. This is evidence of trade between the regions.
It was probably on the site of the modern emirate of Umm Al Quwain that a major port and center of civilization was located. Where exactly was this port - now it is difficult to say, probably there were even two. The two main sites of archaeological excavations are Tel Abrak on the border with Sharjah and Ed-Dur.
Find your hotel
The climate is thought to have been milder in prehistoric times. Semi-nomadic tribes lived there who mined copper ore and roamed between areas of acacia trees. The wood was essential for smelting copper. It was copper that was the chief export to all the ports of the Persian Gulf. In the few places where there was enough water for irrigation, and wheat, barley and other cereals were grown.
The nomads did not build cities, but centers of trade were necessary for internal trade, exchange, and export. These centers were located in Umm Al Quwain. Already in the period of Umm Al-Nar a fort with towers and other buildings was built there. Most of the tombs have survived. Read more about the culture of Umm Al-Nar in our review "History of the Arab Emirates".
The round shaped tomb from the Umm Al-Nar period is the main historical landmark in Umm Al Quwain (pictured near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen). There are also such tombs in Abu Dhabi, but there tourists cannot see them because the tombs are enclosed between the protected areas - the oil refinery and the military base.
The Umm Al-Nar civilization faded away by the end of the Bronze Age. The climate in the region probably became worse.
The modern history of Umm Al Quwain Emirate began about 200 years ago when there were no emirates and the local Arabs lived in tribes. The Al-Ali tribe relocated their settlement from Al-Sinniyah Island to the site of the present-day city of Umm Al Quwain. The island lacked water. In 1775, Majid al-Mualla founded the independent sheikhdom of Umm Al Quwain.
On January 8, 1820, Sheikh Abdullah I signed a treaty with Great Britain. Umm Al Quwain became a protectorate, and the British fenced off the Arabs from the threat from the Ottoman Empire and Persia. The emirs of Ajman, Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras al-Khaimah did the same.
Umm Al Quwain was a small emirate. In 1903, explorer John Gordon Lorimer described a town of about 5,000 inhabitants. He said that 20 boats a year were produced, while Dubai produced 10, Sharjah only 5. It is the tradition of shipbuilding that has determined the emirate's name - "Mother of Two Elements", meaning land and sea.
On the initiative of Sheikh Zayed, Umm Al Quwain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, and Ajman formed the State of the United Arab Emirates on 2nd December 1971. Later in 1972, they were joined by the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.
The main sector of the economy of the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain is still fishing. Do not think that the emirate is poor, but just that there is a huge marine wealth. Sea bass, plaice, king mackerel, bream, shrimp, and crabs are caught there (pictured next to it, click to enlarge). Umm Al Quwain supplies fish to other emirates and for export.
The second important sector is agriculture. The first poultry farm in the UAE was opened there. The oases grow some of the best dates in the UAE and other heat-loving crops. There are dairy farms and dairy factories in the emirate, including camel milk.
All sectors of the economy are developing in Umm Al Quwain. There is UAQ Free Trade Zone. Businesses in UAQ Free Trade Zone pay no taxes or duties. The state provides premises with all the necessary utilities for trade, production or storage of products.
In the UAQ Free Trade Zone, it is possible to establish a company with 100% foreign capital, which is prohibited in the rest of the UAE. The only thing you have to pay for is a license for a certain type of activity. Hundreds of manufacturing and trade companies have already found their branches in this zone.
Find your transfer
Umm Al Quwain is also called the eco-emirate. Near the capital is Al-Sinniyah Island where migratory birds such as gulls, terns, and flamingos stop to rest. The island is home to a large colony of Socotra Cormorant (pictured below, click on photo to enlarge), estimated by ecologists to be the third largest colony of these birds in the world. The island is home to Arabian gazelles and has mangroves.
The island has remained a corner of untouched nature, although officially there is no national park or reserve, that is, no official protective status is set over the territory. The coastal area of the emirate is rich in flora and fauna. There are reef sharks and green turtles.
Umm Al Quwain Fort. It used to be the residence of the rulers of the emirate, became a police station later and now is a museum. The fort has a great view of the sea, and the museum offers a view of archeological finds from Ed-Dur and a rich collection of weapons from different eras. The fort is well recognized by its round towers. It is at the entrance to the Old City and the Masjid (Mosque) Al Taqwa and bazaar are located nearby.
Dreamland Aqua Park. This is the largest water park in the UAE (by territory square) - 2,150,000 square feet (200,000 square meters). Although there are no unique and exciting attractions as in Wild Wadi or Atlantis, you do not have to get bored. There are around 30 water slides and attractions.
The Dreamland Park is open year-round with a capacity of 10,000 visitors. Why was it necessary to make such a big water park in the small Emirate of Umm Al Quwain? It's a mystery. Photo from the water park near, click on the photo to enlarge.
Read our detailed review "DreamLand Waterpark".
Ed-Dur Excavations. It is the largest ancient center of civilization on the Persian Gulf coast. There was an important trading and fishing port. There are hundreds of best preserved tombs there. In addition to the tombs, there is an ancient fort and a square temple dedicated to the Semitic god Shamash.
We can say that now Ed-Dur is the most important and interesting historical site in all the United Arab Emirates.
Old Harbor. Located in the Old City. You can see the traditional manufacture of Dhow boats there. Around the shipyard you can see the coral stone houses in the traditional style.
Umm Al Quwain Islands. You can look at the mangroves and watch birds there. The largest island is Al Sinniyah, which we told you about above. The other islands are Jazirat al-Gala, al-Kibe, al-So, al-Karam, al-Humaidi, al-Chevria, al-Harmala.
The Aquarium. Located in the New Harbor. This is not even a tourist attraction, but a research center where tourists are allowed. You can see interesting inhabitants of the Persian Gulf: stingrays, sea snakes, corals.
Happyland Children's Center. Amusement rides, inflatable slides, video games and a lot of other fun for children.
Camel Races. On Thursday and Friday mornings during the winter months. The track is near the road to Falaj al-Mualla, 22 miles (35 kilometers) from the city. Admission is free.
Palma Bowling Club. This is not only a bowling alley, but also billiards, restaurant, video games, hookah bar and more. The club is decorated in the style of Ancient Egypt, and feels close to the Egyptian pyramids.
Wadi Al Neel Seafood Restaurant. A great fish restaurant where you can enjoy all that the Umm Al Quwain coastline has to offer.
Abu Shakra Restaurant. Considered to be the best traditional Arabian cuisine restaurant in the emirate. Do not believe, try it for yourself. Located near the Hotel Royal Residency.
- If during your holiday in Umm Al Quwain you want to go to see Dubai, read our detailed review "How to get from Umm Al Quwain to Dubai and back".
- All 5 major hotels in the emirate are right on the beach, but their prices are higher than the first-line hotels in Sharjah or Ajman. Read about the problem of choosing a first-line hotel in our review "UAE hotels with their own beach".
Have a great holiday in Umm Al Quwain, and read our interesting reviews about the United Arab Emirates (see the list of the pages below).
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