Sharjah was also recently voted the International City of Culture, probably due to the high concentration of museums and traditional architecture. A modest monument (a needle) was built out in the desert on the opposite side of the intersection from the Sharjah Natural History Museum and Breeding Centre... though I'm the only person I know who was ever bored enough to climb up the dune and see what it was all about. I have to say it was in pretty poor repair - the sand had been allowed to blow over and form drifts against the pedestal - I had to kick some out of the way to read the plaque. I'm surprised they hadn't gone for any landscaping and grass-on-life-support, as is usual in these circumstances.

However, I can say that in my opinion at least, the award was well-deserved. While it never struck me as quite as 'polished' as Dubai, Sharjah is an intriguing, captivating city full of unexpected beauty and charm by the bucket.

A word of warning if you ever decide to pay a visit: I recall many frustrating hours in the car trying to find my way to such places as the Science Museum. Obtaining a decent map (or better yet, coercing somebody into acting as your guide) is probably a smart move.

As an afterthought, I feel I should mention that the housing in Sharjah is considerably cheaper than it is in Dubai. As such, a fair few of my friends lived in Sharjah, yet attended school and spent their weekends in Dubai where (they claimed) there was more to do. Sharjah's residential areas also suffer notoriously bad flooding during the one or two days each year when the heavens open, and since most buildings in the United Arab Emirates aren't built to deal with airborne water, everything gets pretty soggy.