THE near-red sand seems close enough to graze a cheek as the four-wheel drive careers over the edge of razor-edge sand dunes.

It's not like a rollercoaster where you feel relatively safe in the knowledge there are a million safety rules in place.

You are at the mercy and skill of the man driving the car over desert cliffs near Abu Dhabi.

The visible roll bar is some comfort but it never gets less scary as your edge over the precipice down the kind of drop you would never traverse at the wheel yourself.

If you get motion sickness, you might want to pop a travel pill beforehand.

It might all sound a little cliche but watching the sun set over the desert, an obligatory camel ride and then eating an Arabic dinner in a Bedouin camp is worth the photos.

The different worlds of the UAE
The different worlds of the UAE Rae Wilson

Abu Dhabi - the capital of the United Arab Emirates - is fast gaining popularity alongside its cousin Dubai, about an hour away.

Undoubtedly Abu Dhabi's star attraction, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is also one of its most visible.

Sitting on an artificial hill, the place of worship sits above most of the flat capital - though skyscrapers can be seen in the not too far distance.

The white marble marvel, which has lights to create various shades of blue as the moon cycles, is named after the man who united the seven Emirati states in 1971.

The mosque, sporting about 80 gold-topped domes and 100 pillars, turns 20 this year.

Enormous prayer areas both inside and out, stunning Italian glass and stone mosaics create a true place of beauty.

While slightly garish, it's difficult not to be impressed at the multi-coloured crystal chandeliers.

Apart from prayer times, Westerners are allowed to wander freely as long as they dress respectfully. Women must wear headscarves and have arms and legs covered.

The grand Emirates Palace is more than a hotel, it is a destination.

Imagine Crocodile Dundee saying "that's not a hotel, this is a hotel" and you'll get an idea of the size.

Even the loos are impressive.

From the private beach to the first-class restaurants and simply breathtaking architecture, it's definitely worth a gander and for a few pix.

Ferrari World is another big draw card for Abu Dhabi - a car lover's paradise.

Apparently when the Formula 1 vehicles are flying around the track, the hotel rooms rumble.

For views over the emerging darling of the UAE, visit the Tiara revolving restaurant above the Marina Mall.

The mall itself boasts an impressive number of European labels and there is loads for families to do - from ice-skating rink to bowling to cinemas.

But there are glimpses of the more traditional lifestyle if you know where to look.

While the UAE Heritage Village offers an enjoyable, yet contrived, look at the past, the date and fish markets offer genuine insights into daily life.

While you can ask your hotel about tours to see the more cultural gems, download the Visit Abu Dhabi app on your phone and you'll be set.



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