United Arab Emirates, Desert
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A desert in the United Arab Emirates iStock.com / Hydromet
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Souk
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Souk in Dubai iStock.com / mwellis
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Skyline
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Dubai Skyline iStock.com / alan64
Dubai Creek, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Dubai Creek iStock.com / vanbeets
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Golden Market
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Gold Market in Dubai iStock.com / swisshippo
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi iStock.com / paocca
Downtown Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Downtown Dubai iStock.com / TaYa294

Middle East

Agra, India, Taj Mahal Taj Mahal iStock.com / obeonline

From ancient souks and old European forts to modern skyscrapers and beautiful beaches, this diverse region has a lot to explore. For the most part, these itineraries are offered while ships are repositioning between seasons. For example, some cruises call on several cities in the Persian Gulf, as well as ports in India and/or Sri Lanka, on their way between Southeast Asia and Europe. The area may also be included as part of a world cruise, while still other cruises visit Persian Gulf ports from bustling Dubai.

What We Love

Food: From delicious fish curry and hoppers (a type of pancake) in Sri Lanka to the lamb dishes of the Persian Gulf — including kebabs, shawarma, and al harees (a wheat-based dish) — eating should be a main pastime on these itineraries.

Best Known For

Mosques and Mausoleums: White marble, towering minarets, classic domes, and scalloped archways define the striking architecture of mosques in Oman and Dubai, and also of the famous 17th-century Taj Mahal, a mausoleum dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan’s favorite wife.

Shopping: Explore the ancient souks for incense, spices, and silver jewelry that have been sold for centuries. Then head to glitzy modern malls for the latest fashions and gadgets.

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Best Ports

Dubai, United Arab EmiratesIts towering skyline and indoor ski slopes are well-known, but you’ll also want to check out the ornate mosques and traditional dhows (wooden boats) being loaded and unloaded along Dubai Creek, the heart of the old town.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: The beaches and the desert scenery are amazing — if you can stand the heat.

Kochi, IndiaSee the large sail-like fishing nets the Chinese introduced centuries ago, Portuguese churches, Indian temples, and Jewish synagogue in this city that is a historic melting pot of European, Asian, and Middle Eastern influences.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

You May Be Rerouted: As the geopolitical situation in the Middle East continues to be volatile, ports or whole itineraries are often changed or scrapped completely.

You'll See Destitution: The extreme poverty in ports like Mumbai and Colombo, Sri Lanka, can be hard to take.

Heidi Sarna

Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.

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