For most people, the United Arab Emirates means just one place: Dubai. The glitter on the world's most famous city state may have faded a little recently, but the mix of ambition, money and outright hubris has created a 21st-century playground that has become impossible to ignore. But what lies beyond the hotels and the high-rises? For a start head out of Dubai and there are six other emirates to explore, each with their own sheikh and each determined to establish a different identity from the others.
In a world where money really is no object, Abu Dhabi has built the most expensive hotel in the world, The Emirates Palace, www. emiratespalace.com - it's well worth dropping in for a cuppa, just to get a look. The cultural emirate has got to be Sharjah with the Sharjah Art Musuem, an impressive fort and the souk for odd purchases. A quick round up of the remaining emirates gives you a pick of Fujairah - the youngest emirate, Ras al Khaimah - guaranteed sun without the bling of Dubai, and the pocket-sized emirates: Ajman & Umm al Qwain.