The closely-knit nature of the seven United Arab Emirates, makes day and weekend tripping feasible. A network of buses (called Emirates Express) connects Dubai with all major cities in the UAE as do budget airlines such as FlyDubai. Whichever way you go, you’ll have amazing views of the desert terrain that blankets the Gulf States along the way. Sharjah is the third largest city in the UAE (after Dubai and Abu Dhabi) but with the largest mosque—the King Faisal Mosque. Slightly rough around the edges yet charming all the same, Sharjah is located less than an hour away from Dubai by bus. Major attractions include the Fort of Sharjah (dating from 1820), the Islamic Museum and a Children’s Farm at the Sharjah Desert Park. Muscat, the capital of Oman (so not part of the UAE but on the extreme east of the peninsula) is another great option though flying is the best way to get there (FlyDubai have a regular service, as does Emirates from Sharjah’s airport). Attractions in Muscat include the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (the third largest in the world and open to non-Muslims) the Al Jalali and Al Mirani forts and the charming Corniche quarter. Afterwards chill out on the beach at Bandar Jissah or explore the labyrinth-like Mutrah Souk, considered one of the best in the region. Located on the border of Oman and a mere 90 minutes from Dubai by bus is Al Ain, known as the ‘Garden City of the Emirates’. Children will delight in the camel souk, which takes place daily, and the Al Ain oasis, which holds thousands of date palms. | Since 2006 Holiday Velvet offers apartments in Dubai.