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Sharjah, the “Pearl of the Gulf,” is the third largest emirate and the only one to enjoy coastline on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. UNESCO designated this city close to Dubai as the Arab Capital of Culture in 1998, and it lives up to the title by offering visitors a range of rich cultural experiences, from ancient souks to modern art museums.

Most visitors start their explorations of Sharjah in the Heritage Area, located near the Corniche. In the Heritage Area, you’ll find the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, the beautifully restored Al Hisn Fort and the Souq al-Arsah, thought to be the oldest souk in the United Arab Emirates. If you’re in Dubai to shop, Sharjah is worth a visit for the Al Markazi Souk, or Blue Souk, alone. This multistory market contains more than 600 stalls selling all sorts of clothing, souvenirs and housewares, and it’s considered one of the best places in the region to buy Arabian rugs.

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