The rival to Dubai that’s on the brink of a tourism boom

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Soft white sand covers my toes before I step into the cool, crystal waters of the Persian Gulf. Behind me rise the five-star hotels of the corniche and beyond them modern shops, cafés, restaurants, souks and construction sites heralding more to come. There is one historic building, a clay-brick fort, where the museum offers a fascinating glimpse of the desert kingdom hidden beneath the veil of oil-wealth’s concrete, glass and asphalt.

I’m in Ajman, the smallest of the United Arab Emirates and the latest to join the tourism boom. Though just 25 miles (40km) from the dazzling lights of Dubai – with its 12-lane highways, miles of malls and sky-splitting towers – Ajman is different.

Calmer, quieter,…

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