The Middle East's exotic aura attracts history buffs and adventure seekers looking to expand their cultural horizons. Egypt's pyramids and Jordan's lost city of Petra are must-see landmarks, while souks (markets), breathtaking mosques and desert safaris also make for great exploring. Arabian Gulf cruises to the United Arab Emirates and Oman provide a look at the modern-day Middle East, with the world's biggest buildings and malls.
The Arabian Gulf is back in fashion, with more cruise lines than ever operating out of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Fresh investment and innovative cultural attractions have really broadened the appeal of the region. There's a terrific buzz about Dubai, while Abu Dhabi is inordinately proud of its beautiful new Louvre museum. Meanwhile, the opening of Sir Bani Yas as a semi-private beach resort has added a whole new dimension to Gulf cruises. True, most lines seem to offer the same set of shore excursions, but the scope is certainly getting broader -- there's much more emphasis now on food, adventure and culture than merely shopping. You could organize a lot of the following tours yourself but with the usual caveat of timing; the traffic in Dubai, in particular, is extremely busy, so getting to your destination can take ages and getting back to the ship on time can be stressful. The tours are all guided, too, so convenience aside, you'll learn more. Here are some of our favorite shore excursions on a cruise to the Middle East.