The biggest water park in the whole region. It is nearly two decades old but still attracts many visitors as an ideal way to enjoy the outdoors all year round
Beyond the urban sprawl of Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman and along the stretch of the UAE’s glittering coastline is the modest emirate of Umm al Quwain. Although it doesn’t bathe too often in the spotlight, the area should not be overlooked – it hosts some of the most unspoilt beaches and clear blue seas and perhaps surprisingly, it is also home to the Middle East’s largest water park.
Covering 250,000 square metres, Dreamland was built in 1995 – making it the oldest as well as the largest park in the country. It has a huge variety of waterslides and even facilities for overnight camping, meaning it can accommodate thousands of guests in any 24-hour period.
Michel Farhat, the operations manager for the park says that although many competitors have sprung up in recent years, Dreamland is still the best.
‘The other parks might seem like good places to go but in the long run, I think we have the most to offer. We have more space, more variety and not too many restrictions,’ he says.
Whether you want to bob around the Lazy River or power down the Twisting Dragons – water slides winding down the hillside – Dreamland’s rides are all rated on a ‘thrill’ scale, so there is something for all the family. Students Jhanzeb Yassin and Marium Binte Badr were enjoying a day off from university in Sharjah. ‘We come here in the week because it is quiet,’ says Yassin before diving into the wave pool. ‘And it’s much cheaper than the other water parks.’
Binte Badr says she really likes her regular excursions to Umm Al Quwain. ‘It might not be glamourous like Dubai, but it is calm and relaxed. It is nice to come somewhere different.’
The young couple are not alone in their opinion. Jaime Lemmer, a mother of two from Zimbabwe, visits the park regularly with her family because she wants to get away from the crowds. ‘Even in the summer we come here,’ she says. ‘It’s so much better than spending the whole day inside a mall.’
And that is where Umm Al Quwain’s charm lies. It is far behind even its nearest neighbour Ras Al Khaimah in terms of development but there is a lot to do if you want to make the most of the water. Many keen fishermen depart on day trips from the emirate’s long coastline and the unusual sport of crabbing is also practiced in the dead of night along some of its more deserted beaches.
In Dreamland itself they also have their fair share of wildlife. A petting zoo with deer, rabbits and monkeys is situated at the centre of the park and the plastic hippos by the children’s playing area keep many visitors amused.
‘My kids absolutely love it here,’ says Lemmer as her eightyear- old son jumps in and out of the water. ‘And we know they are totally safe to run around as much as they like because there are plenty of lifeguards on duty.
‘There might not be that much to do in Umm Al Quwain – it is a very quiet place – but for us, that is all we need.’