The Arabian Peninsula is known for its vast deserts, lush oases, Bedouin tribes people, and in recent years, some of the most exciting and luxurious holiday resorts in the world. Larger-than-life Dubai is a cosmopolitan metropolis, known for its skyscrapers shimmering in the desert and its ambitious man-made islands rising out of the sea. Ras Al Khaimah, just 45 minutes’ drive from Dubai with its mountain back drop is a great place to relax by the sea or take in some of the 7,000 years of rich history and sights. Culture vultures might want to consider a 5-star holiday to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirates, every bit as luxurious, but with its own vibrant cultural scene, mixing contemporary western and traditional Arabic history and art. Or perhaps opt for a luxury holiday in Oman. Less flashy than its neighbours but with its own fascinating blend of desert and maritime influences, its capital Muscat is an attractive city with low-rise buildings in the traditional Omani style. It is also home to some of the most romantic and luxurious holiday resorts in the region.
Get out on the water
The region has a profusion of impeccable and unspoilt beaches where you can dive, snorkel or simply lounge in the shade. Many have water sports facilities and party animals will enjoy Dubai’s beach bars where you can dance the night away. Or perhaps take a boat trip out into the gulf of Oman for some deep-sea fishing, or a city skyline tour in Abu Dhabi, or a traditional dhow boat from Ras Al Khaimah’s marina for an Abrabian dinner under the setting sun. For a more authentic taste of the Middle East, why not take a traditional wooden boat or ‘Abra’ to the souks in Deira, where you can buy silks, spices, jewellery and souvenirs to take back home.
Explore the desert
For an exciting day out, book a desert safari in a 4 x 4. This brilliantly exhilarating drive over the dunes is the ultimate experience for thrill seekers. It’s also a great day trip for all the family, where after a spot of ‘dune bashing’ you also get to try a camel ride, henna painting, or let the kids don some traditional Arabic dress. There are performances from colourful whirling dervishes and the evening is rounded off with a delicious barbecue feast under the stars.
Sample how the other half live
Whether it’s a drive around Abu Dhabi’s Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit or a sun downer on the deck of a super yacht, Holidays in the Middle East give you the opportunity to experience a little of how the glitterati live. Start with some fabulous window shopping in the designer boutiques, then rent a supercar to drive around the city for a day, and finish off with a luxury pamper session at one of the region’s 7-star hotels. With impeccable service and a real taste for the high life, a Middle East holiday is the perfect place to spoil yourself rotten.
Where to go
Dubai is a city where so much is possible. You can ski in the morning, go on a desert safari in the afternoon, and shop till you drop. Not forgetting to dance the night away at one of the luxury hotels! Abu Dhabi is fast becoming a sport fanatic’s paradise with its world-class golf, tennis and motor racing facilities. For less overt glitz and glamour, opt for Oman, where life is more traditionally Arabic. In Ras Al Khaimah you won’t find any cloud-piercing skyscrapers here, picture a city surrounded by rugged mountain, sprawling deserts laced with mangroves and line with golden beaches, stepped in history waiting to be explored. With world-class hotels and a host of excursions, this is a very different, but exciting, face of UAE. Admire the Omani architecture of the Grand Mosque and get lost in the souk before enjoying a sunset cocktail back at your luxury resort.
Middle East Destinations
Best time to go...
Summers are long, hot and dry with temperatures reaching the mid 40’s C. At this time, locals take to the air-conditioned shopping malls, hotel lobbies and indoor facilities, as it’s simply too hot to be outside. At other times, particularly in the winter, the average temperature hovers around the mid 20’s and humidity is low, making for ideal holiday conditions.