Umm al-Quwain translated as the ‘Mother of Two Powers’ refers to the strong heritage of oceangoing among the tribes in the emirate. Umm al-Quwain is located in the nothern part of the federation between Ajman and Ras al-Khaimah and is the smallest out of the seven emirates with a population of approximately 65,000. It is also the only emirate where the female population outnumbers the males. 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.
Geographically, Umm Al-Quwain features lush coastal mangroves that line the shores of 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 that lies 50km from Umm al-Quwain city. Umm Al-Quwain is filled with natural beauty and manmade tourist attractions, drawing many sightseers and tourists from bigger regions like Dubai.
The history of Umm Al Quwain dates back to remote antiquity. The earliest settlements in Umm Al Quwain had strong Hellenistic traits; some of these are more than 7,000 years old. Traces of these ancient communities are still distinct in Al Dour, near the town of Umm Al Quwain. Al Dour was an important trading port approximately in the period 200 BC to 200 AD. The site is interesting not only due to its fort and cemeteries but also because of the discovery, of a temple which has been attributed to the sun god.
The modern history of Umm Al Quwain can be traced back to some 200 years ago, when the Al Ali tribe moved their capital from Al Sinniyah Island to its present location in the mid 18th century. Umm Al-Quwain began in 1775 when Sheikh Majid Al Mualla of the Al Ali tribe established Umm Al-Quwain as an independent sheikdom.
Dhow building is a popular activity in Umm Al-Quwain. In the dhow building yard, craftsmen continue to build these traditional boats. These wooden dhows are widely used for inshore and long-distance fishing as well as for tourism and recreation. It is for the strength of the basic designs that dhows are still in much use and there is still considerable demand for new wooden dhows.
Falconry is an integral part of desert life which has been practiced in the UAE for centuries. Shahin or peregrine falcons can be seen in the region of Umm al-Quwain, as can the Al-Hur light-skinned hunting hawk.
To witness the fascinating sport of Camel Racing, the Al Labsa race tracks is the best place to be. It is set amidst large dunes offering picturesque views. During the winter months, the camels race early in the morning on Thursdays and Fridays. Camel caravans are a familiar site crossing the desert from one race track 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. The landscape which features 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.
The Umm Al-Quwain Museum is located in 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 important historical coastal city which was excavated contains many interesting artifacts.
For recreational activities, Umm al-Quwain has numerous options from sailing in quiet lagoon water to more daring activities such as skydiving, water skiing and windsurfing. Jet skiing and and kayaking are also popular watersports in Umm al-Quwain. 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. There is also a motor racing club where participants can experience off-road dune buggy racing and motor hiking.
Perhaps the biggest tourist attraction in the city 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.
Umm Al Quwain also has great shops like the Lulu Hypermarket offering garments, grocery, foodstuffs, perfumes and electronics, the Salma Market – although small is known for cheap clothes, Al Manamah Hypermarket – is good to shop and offers garments, groceries, foodstuff and perfumes and electronics.
Any tour of Umm al-Quwain will remain incomplete without a visit to some of the popular restaurants and bars. Though being the smallest emirate, there is no shortage of options for mouthwatering recipes. Most of them specialize in Middle Eastern and Lebanese cuisine while also offering a rich selection of international options.
At the restaurants and Bars in Umm al-Quwain, you can ask for Arabic Mezze, hot mezzes with chicken shawarma, falafel, spicy aubergines and Kebab Kashkash which are some of the most popular dishes in UAE.