Umm Al-Quwain is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It is located in the northern part of the federation between emirates Ras Al-Khaimah and Ajman. The emirate has a population of around 65,000, the smallest in the UAE. Total land area is between 750 and 800 square kilometers.
Umm Al-Quwain began in 1775 when Sheikh Majid Al Mualla established Umm Al-Quwain as an independent sheikdom. Like its four neighboring regions Ajman, Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras Al-Khaimah, Umm Al-Quwain is located along the vital trade route between Asia and India.
The name Umm Al-Quwain is translated as “Mother of Two Powers,” which refers to the tradition of seafaring among the tribes in the emirate.
Geographically, Umm Al-Quwain features lush coastal mangroves on the Persian Gulf, large rolling sand dunes in the interior, and fertile land around Falaj Al Moalla, which is a natural oasis and hinterland town.
Though there is no airport in Umm Al-Quwain, there are airports in nearby Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaimah. Taxis are the main mode of transportation for travelers in Umm Al-Quwain city, because there is no bus service.
The weather in Umm Al-Quwain is very comfortable and pleasant from November to March, with average daytime high temperatures reaching 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit), and nighttime lows reaching 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). From March through October, the temperatures are extremely hot, with daytime highs reaching 40 degrees Celsius, equal to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Though summer humidity levels are high, rainfall is rare, averaging only 42 millimeters per year. The best location during the hot summer months is on the coastline, where cool sea breezes blow in the daytime.
Umm Al-Quwain is filled with natural beauty and manmade tourist attractions, drawing sightseers from bigger regions like Dubai. Dhow building, falconry, camel racing, and fishing are popular sports in Umm Al-Quwain. In the dhow building yard, craftsmen continue to build these traditional boats. Shahin, or peregrine falcons can be seen in the region, as can the Al-Hur light-skinned hunting hawk.
Camel racetracks at Al Labsa host camel races during the winter months on Thursdays and Fridays. Travelers can often see camel caravans crossing the desert on their way from one racetrack to another.
Bird watching is exceptionally rewarding in Umm Al-Quwain. Khor al Beidah, to the south and east of the city is one popular bird watching site, as is Al Sinniyah Island, a marine sanctuary covering 90 square kilometers.
Shallow lagoons and mud flats combine to create the perfect habitats for feeding and nesting for several species of heron and plover, and also flamingos, terns, and gulls. Additionally, during the winter months, large flocks of Great Cormorants can be seen flying from one sand bar to another.
The island of Al Sinniyah shelters enormous colonies of cormorants and other seabirds, gazelles, turtles, and sea cows. Nearby are other small islands, separated by a series of creeks. These islands are named Al Keabe, Jazirat Al Ghalla, Al Sow, Al Harmala, Al Qaram, Al Chewria, and Al Humaidi. The islands are separated by the Madaar creek, which is a navigable waterway used by fishermen. Pink flamingos, turtles, crabs, jumping fish, and rays in their natural habitats can be seen in and around these islands.
The Umm Al-Quwain Museum is a renovated ancient fort which used to guard the entrance to the old town. The museum contains artifacts found at nearby archeological sites. Al-Dur, another excavated site, was a coastal city from approximately 200 BCE until the third century CE. This site also contains many interesting artifacts, some of which are housed in the Umm Al-Quwain Museum.
Umm Al-Quwain provides numerous recreational activities, from the relatively calm, like sailing, to more exciting activities like skydiving. Sailing takes place in the quiet lagoon waters, while other parts of the water are used for water skiing, kayaking, jet skiing, and wind surfing. The area also has a horseback riding club, and the Umm Al Quwain Aeroclub, which is known worldwide for skydiving. Aircraft are also available, including ultralights, Cessna single engine planes, and a plane for aerobatics. Aviation enthusiasts meet every Thursday and Friday at the Aeroclub.
There is also a motor racing club where participants can experience off-road dune buggy racing and motor hiking.
Perhaps the biggest tourist draw however is Dreamland, the UAE’s largest water park. This 250,000 square meter park features a high-salinity pool, a wave pool, raft rides, several enormous water slides, a lazy river, swimming pool, and a spa-like pool with a bar for relaxing. Dreamland also offers overnight camping on the premises. Dreamland is only about an hour and a half drive from Dubai and has enough attractions that short queues are the norm.
Umm Al-Quwain is a smaller, less urban emirate than the others, but its natural and wildlife features make it an exceptionally good place for naturalists to visit. And for those not into bird watching and fishing, there are a number of exciting water and land sports for recreation as well.