Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Three bridges link the island capital of the Arab Emirates to the Persian Gulf shore. Once renowned for pearls and piracy, today it is the richest place on earth. The corniche is the city's showplace, with a walking park along the beachfront, but it gets hot! The huge white Sheikh Zhayed mosque is a must-see site for visitors. Built to exquisite standards, it boasts the largest hand-made Persian rug on earth. Its gleaming marble spaces with mesmerizing crystal chandeliers can welcome 41,000 worshippers. Modest dress is a must, and even so, women may be asked to don a provided cover-all abaya during their visit. The impressive Emirates Palace hotel is another exercise in sumptuous elegance, seemingly dedicated to the appreciation of decorative gold and crystal. A visit to the city's unique Falcon Hospital is both entertaining and educational. For a lesson in Emirati history, the multi-media Qasr al Hosn museum is a good choice.