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Driving time: 2hrs 22mins (202km).
The UAE’S tiniest emirate just proves that the best things come in small packages. If you’re desperate to escape the hubbub of big city life, head up to Ajman for a more laid-back vibe. It’s little wonder they’re so easy-going when they have some of the nation’s best beaches to chill out on, one of the Ànest being at the Ajman Hotel (www.hotelajman.com). The Àve-star hotel is at the end of the coastal road, which has a promenade that reminds us of those found in seaside towns in the UK, with something of an old-school charm and cafés and restaurants to refuel in. The drive up takes you on the Emirates Highway, with gorgeous dunes around you. Once there, you must visit the Ajman Museum, set in an 18th century fort and offering a cultural insight into the emirate.
Driving time: 2hrs 35mins (240km).
Head south west of the capital and you’ll Ànd a desert settlement of roughly 50 villages and the former home of the ruling families of both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The high point in the local calendar is the Liwa Date Festival, an event celebrating the various customs, traditions and heritage of the UAE, in particular the date palm tree.
The area contains a number of forts worth visiting, along with the imposing Moreeb Dune, but due to its remoteness, Liwa is ideal for just getting away from it all. If you book early enough, you can get some cracking deals at the luxury Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara (www.qasralsarab. anantara.com), where you can soak up the mystique of the Empty Quarter as you survey your unique surroundings. It’s a real one-off.
Driving time: 2hrs 10mins (166km).
Rightly regarded as the UAE’S cultural capital, Sharjah really likes to go against the grain. Once you navigated the trafàc (we suggest avoiding peak times) and waved hello to the so-called “Smile, you’re in Sharjah” Roundabout, what you will discover is a city well versed in its history and heritage.
There are plenty of museums (www.sharjahmuseums.ae) to quench your thirst for culture in the city including Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah Heritage Museum and Sharjah Maritime Museum. If you want to be at one with nature then you can go for a roam around Sharjah Aquarium (06 528 5288) and Sharjah Desert Park (06 531 1999) where you can pet and feed the animals, as well as ride a camel. Al Qasba (www.alqasba.ae) is also worth a visit where you can enjoya stroll alond a promenade, the Eye of the Emirates, a musical fountain, boat rides and cafés.