Not until you leave it do you realize how unrepresentative Dubai is of the UAE as a whole, and a visit to any of the neighbouring emirates offers an interesting alternative perspective on life in the Gulf. The easiest day-trip is to the nearby city of Sharjah, now virtually a suburb of Dubai, which boasts a fine array of museums devoted to various aspects of the UAE’s traditional religion and culture. A two-hour drive south of Dubai, the “garden city” of Al Ain offers a pleasantly laidback contrast to life on the coast, with a string of traditional mud-brick forts, souks and a wonderful oasis. Heading across country from Dubai, the tranquil east coast of the UAE offers dramatic mountain scenery and a string of beautiful – and still largely deserted – beaches.
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