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A simple roundtrip flight between New York and Dubai in late May can cost up to $1,200 on Emirates, the nation-state's main carrier. Not exactly a bargain, considering you'd be forking over another thousand or two on lodging alone (Dubai's low season doesn't really get going until late June, when the extremely high temperatures cause rates to tumble). On top of everything else, you've probably already crossed Dubai off your list, so why go back if you've been there, done that?
Good thing, then, that Qatar Airways is providing another option for UAE-bound travelers who don't feel like blowing their whole savings on a late spring jaunt. Thanks to a limited-time offer, the airline is offering flights to its newly-launched destination, Sharjah, from $696 roundtrip.
Available until March 14th, the discounted fare is valid for travel from April 1 through early June, depending on where you're flying. Book here.
Seventeen miles north of Dubai, Sharjah is both a convenient hub for folks headed to Dubai, and a worthwhile stop for those interested in exploring lesser-known parts of the region. Sure, Dubai's got the mammoth malls, crazy man-made islands, and celeb-frequented five-star hotels, but up in Sharjah – the UAE's third largest city – a greener landscape and more relaxed pace mean travelers can get a better feel for local culture while still making use of amenities like luxury shops, art museums, and even a London Eye-style ferris wheel.
Here are three things worth checking out on your visit to the 1998 UNESCO "Cultural Capital of the Arab World":
Ride the Eye
As Dubai gears up for the construction of a nearly 700 foot tall ferris wheel, Sharjah's spinning attraction has been open since 2005, and includes 42 air-conditioned cabins offering amazing views over the city (on clear days, you can even spot the Burj Khalifa glistening in the distance!).
Go on the water
The desert is an obvious attraction for most visitors to the UAE, and Sharjah even happens to have its own Desert Park complete with an Arabian Wildlife Center (perfect for daytrips from the city). But without leaving the city, travelers can also spend a day splashing around in the Arabian Gulf at one of Sharjah's many white sandy beaches. Hop on the jetskis at Al Khan Lagoon, or simply take a stroll around the city's scenic 4- mile-long Al Buheirah Corniche.
See incredible art
Boasting a year-long calendar's worth of arts events (the high-profile Sharjah Biennial next takes place in March 2015), Sharjah is the unofficial arts capital of the UAE. Between the Museum of Islamic Civilization, the artists' studio complex known as Bait Obaid Al Shamsi, and, of course, The Sharjah Art Museum you'll get to browse dozens of unique exhibits (contemporary as well as ancient) housed inside dazzling structures that showcase typical Arabic architectural styles.