Holidays needn’t be dramatic, budget busting, intercontinental expeditions. One of the wonderful things about Dubai is how cheap and easy it is to reach a wealth of culture and fun in neighbouring countries.
Words by Ferdinand Godinez
Please make sure you check entry requirements for your own residency status and passport holding country. Prices for air fares and hotels are based on booking in advance. Happy travels.
Ahhh Bahrain, glowing with modernity yet beset with historical wonders, home to vibrant nightlife and, once upon a time, the seat of the ancient Dilmun civilisation.
Learn more about the history of the island-city-country by exploring the stunning Qal’at al-Bahrain, or Bahrain Fort. This UNESCO World Heritage Site once served as the capital of the Dilmun civilisation and provided a stronghold for later invaders such as the Greeks, Portuguese and Persians. This history of occupation has led to a fascinating diversity of antiques being discovered in recent times.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Bahrain Pearling Pathway, provides a glimpse into the country’s pre-oil, pearling industry past. The Bahrain National Museum, meanwhile, houses archaeological finds such as old manuscripts, burial mounds and artefacts dating back 5,000 years.
The charming Manama Souq carries items produced from local craftsmen; homeware, pottery, perfumes, incense and spices, among others.
Standing on an old camel farm, the new Bahrain International Circuit hosts a couple of motorsport events in the region, including the prestigious Formula 1 race. Visitors can book the VIP tour for BD6 (AED 59) to explore the facilities and get a behind-the-scenes look at the circuit.
Where to stay: ART Rotana Amwaj Islands offers a picturesque view of the Arabian Gulf, making it ideal for guests who love a bit of beach time and being close to city attractions. Al Fanar Avenue Road, Amwaj Islands, Manama. Visit: www.rotana.com
The Ramada Manama City Centre is close to various shopping malls and only a few kilometres away from Bahrain Fort and the airport. Road 4654, Al Seef District, Manama. Visit: www.ramadamanama-citycentre.com
Flights from AED 700 with Gulf Air and AED 1,000 with Etihad Airways.
Beaches, deserts and wadis – the Sultanate of Oman has something for all visitors to love.
The country’s elegant landscape and coastline give rise to some pretty breathtaking beaches. It’s not just a hot travel spot for humans; picture perfect Khalouf is often visited by eagles and flamingos – and they get there without reading our thrilling travel guides. Tiwi features white sand, natural rocks and glinting blue waters.
There’s more for Attenboroughites. Nature enthusiasts will also love Ras al Jinz, a turtle reserve best visited between May and October where you could see turtles nesting in the beach. There’ll be an opportunity to see something that racks up an 11 out of 10 on the cute animal scale – baby turtles making their way to the ocean. **explodes into a million heart eye emojis**
Hidden away in the northern quarter of the country you’ll be able to find the 13th century Bahla Fort, along with a collection of mud brick structures. Bahla holds a UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and is well worth a visit if you want to pepper the ‘gram feed with a few culture shots in-between the beach selfies.
Adrenno-heads and adventurers, if you’re up for some trekking, the towering Jebel Akhdar is the go-to spot for back pack pioneers. This limestone mountain boasts cooler temperatures and is also home to a handful of beautiful resorts.
The capital, Muscat, is where all the action is, with attractions including museums, palaces, markets, restaurants and forts dotted across the city.
Visitors can relax at the harbour and check out some local traditions, a spot of shopping at the antique and spice souks (get your haggling hat on), watch a performance at the stunning Royal Opera House Muscat or visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque to stare in awe at the grand architecture, rugs, marble walls and glistening chandeliers.
Where to stay: Ras Al Hadd Holiday Hotel suits vacationers who want to be close to nature. While by no means fancy, this accommodation takes pride in its beachside base that offers a stunning view of the Arabian Peninsula. It is also close to the turtle haven, Ras Al Jinz. Ras Al Hadd Sur. Visit: surhotelsoman.com
If you prefer staying downtown, the comfy Ibis Muscat allows easy access to commercial and cultural spots including the Muscat Grand Mall, which houses the Museum of Illusions, and the Natural History Museum. Al Azaiba Dohat Aladab Road, Al Khuwair. Visit: www.accorhotels.com
Flights from AED 900 with Etihad and AED 1,000 with Oman Air.
Jordan is undoubtedly one of the travel destination jewels of the Middle East. Teaming with archeological wonder, cinematic landscape and areas of outstanding natural awesomeness.
Petra in Wadi Musa seems like the most obvious place to start. This ancient city awes with its structures carved in the red sandstone mountain, including Al Khazneh, also known as The Treasury, which is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Plus I mean look, it is super badass, and features in several brilliant movies.
Next pack your bags – there’s no time for slacking on the Dubai Week escorted tour. The city of Jerash boasts inspiring Roman architecture. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Umm ar-Rasas is about an hour 45 minute drive away (via Amman), and showcases humbling examples of Byzantine and early Muslim architecture.
Another favourite tourist spot is the Dead Sea. Known for its high salinity level, which makes it look and feel like you can legit levitate in liquid. Mud and water collected from the area has many purported health benefits attributed to it – ranging in credibility from being a handy rejuvenative skin mask to the ability to regrow limbs. It’s also surrounded by resorts, restaurants and bars.
Desert wanderers should visit Wadi Rum, also called the Valley of the Moon, for camping, hiking, rock climbing and star-gazing. STOP. Movie trivia time: because of its remote, mesmeric, otherworldly vistas this spot has long been ‘shoot location goals’ for Hollywood Blockbusters – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and The Martian to unashamedly name drop but a few.
Don’t miss the capital Amman either, offering ancient relics of its own like the Neolithic archaeological site Ain Ghazal and Amman Citadel, home to various civilisations as shown by the ruins and structures.
Where to stay: The Movenpick Resort Petra is a luxurious option for those who don’t mind spending more on accommodation. With 183 rooms and suites, this five-star property gives guests instant access to the historic Petra and its surroundings. Visit: www.movenpick.com
The no-frills Jordan Tower Hotel is a popular option for those on a budget. The hotel features a roof terrace with views of the Citadel and the Roman Amphitheatre. Its city location also means that guests can easily visit popular tourist spots. Visit: jordantowerhotel.com
Flights from AED 1,000 with Gulf Air and Royal Jordanian.
An old Kuwaiti proverb states “movement has good fortune in it and good luck needs a jump” – so why not make the hop over to Kuwait and seek out some fortune of your own?
While not short on modern developments, this small state has maintained its timeworn charm. For a quick tick of photo ops, swing by the Kuwaiti Towers (pictured) and The Liberation Tower which stands as a monument to Kuwait’s fight for freedom during the Gulf War.
Then make like sepia and take a step back in time to the old Dhow Harbour, marvel at the intricately assembled wooden boats and soak up those vintage feels. If you head down to Doha Village, you can see where they construct most of the local fishing boats and dhows.
Not done with history lesson yet? Step into the veritable time capsule that is the Kuwait National Museum. Meander amongst a treasure trove of curious artefacts, old photos, tools and ornaments dating back to the Bronze and Hellenistic eras.
If you love nature then visit Al Kout Beach to enjoy a scenic view of the Arabian Gulf complete with white sands. Special play areas cater for families and there are cafes in the vicinity too.
If you have children in tow, Entertainment City, dubbed the Disneyland of Kuwait, features amusement rides and attractions that are perfect for your little ones and even teenagers. If they can put the electronic devices down for more than five minutes.
Where to stay: The Gulf Rose Hotel suits those who are looking for a comfortable place to stay without breaking the bank. Located 20 minutes from the airport, this modest hotel features 90 rooms, a scenic view of the city and proximity to cultural attractions including Souk Al Mubarakiya and Sadu House. Abdulla Al Mubarak Street. Visit: gulfrosekuwait.com
The Symphony Style Kuwait, a Radisson property, boasts trendy rooms with a touch of Arabian aesthetics. The hotel is close to Al Fanar Mall and the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre. Arabian Gulf Road. Visit www.radissoncollection.com
Flights from AED 700 with Kuwait Air and Gulf Air.