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Sharjah

While Dubai is all about flashy tall buildings and shop-till-you-drop malls, neighbouring Sharjah takes a more subtle approach, forgoing glitz to concentrate on culture and history. Some travellers are put off by its conservative reputation (the emirate is 'dry'; no alcohol is available anywhere), but if you can handle a day or two without a beer, Sharjah is home to some of the best museums and art galleries in the country: the restored Sharjah Heritage Area and the mind-bogglingly vast history of the Mleiha Archaeological Site. This emirate is doing more than anywhere else in the UAE to preserve its heritage – explaining why Unesco declared it Cultural Capital of the Arab World in 1998, recognition reaffirmed in 2014, when it became Capital of Islamic Culture.