It's hard not to admire Dubai and Abu Dhabi for their indefatigable verve, gutsy ambition and ability to dream up and realise projects that elsewhere would never get off the drawing board. This is a superlative-craving society that has birthed the world's tallest building, an island shaped like a palm tree, a huge indoor ski paradise, the world's fastest roller coaster and – soon to come – starchitect-designed art museums of international stature. With many more grand projects in the pipeline for World Expo 2020, visiting here often feels like a trip to the future – to two cities firmly in charge of writing their own narrative. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are a stirring alchemy of profound traditions and ambitious futuristic vision. With Emiratis making up only a fraction of the population, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are bustling microcosms peacefully shared by cultures from all corners of the world. This diversity perfumes the culinary landscape and expresses itself in fashion, music and performance. Although rooted in Islamic tradition, this is an open society where it’s easy for newcomers and visitors to connect with myriad experiences, be it eating like a Bedouin, dancing on the beach, shopping for local art or riding a camel in the desert.