The calm and warm waters of the Arabian Gulf have traditionally been the home of ancient Arab dhows and vast merchant ships, plying between its oil rich nations and the rest of the world. It is only in the last couple of years that there have been regular cruises within the area. Such is the popularity of the Arabian Gulf itineraries that Costa Cruises has decided to allocate two ships to the region and other operators will be basing vessels in the area in the near future. Dubai is the main turnaround port in the region and ships tend to offer overnight stays at the modern, purpose built terminal pre and post cruise. This buoyant and progressive city, like its neighbours, is relatively crime free, spotlessly clean and home to some of the world's finest shopping opportunities. The warm weather of the Gulf region provides ideal cruising conditions on calm seas from December until April and many people find the opportunity to escape the British winter for a couple of weeks too good to miss. Linking a one week cruise with a week at a five-star hotel in Dubai is not unusual. Culture and history are the pride of the Gulf states and there are eye openers in each of the popular ports of call. Many of the extravagant mosques are open to non-Muslims and the ancient markets are full of colour, charm and atmosphere. The holy month of Ramadan is strictly respected in the Arabian Gulf and some visitors may prefer to avoid this period. Spice, gold and textile souqs provide a style of retail therapy that has not changed for decades, whilst the modern air-conditioned malls rival any to be found in Europe. Prices are much lower than in most European cities but sizes are often targeted at the rather petite frames of Asian shoppers. Dune safaris, mountain trips and dolphin watching are also on the agenda as well as cultural trips which offer an insight into an area that is fairly new to tourism.