Where To Travel In Your Downtime In The Middle East

If your expat assignment takes you to the Middle East, why not travel to these recommended places in your time off?

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is a cosmopolitan oasis, a futuristic cityscape that towers over the Arabian Desert. This Travellers' Choice Destination is a city of superlatives, home to the world’s largest dancing fountain; tallest building (Burj Khalifa); only 7-star hotel (the Burj al-Arab); largest artificial islands (the Palm Islands); and largest natural flower garden (the Miracle Garden). Rent a dune buggy for a desert adventure, bargain at the open-air market, or cheer on your favourite humped hoofer at the Camel Race Track.

 

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Looking for a great beach destination? The Red Sea’s warm water is great for swimming, and there are miles of great beaches in Sharm El Sheikh for working on your tan, but if you’re a diver, look no further. We’re talking enormous schools of fish and tons of excellent dive sites. Sure, it’s easier to get here if you live in Europe, but even if you’re farther afield, it’s worth the trek.

 

Tel Aviv, Israel

A youthful, modern metropolis with a diverse population, Tel Aviv dates back to only 1909. Clubs, bars, a thriving arts community, gay life and beaches attract artists, musicians and young professionals to Tel Aviv's more secular scene. Its UNESCO-designated Bauhaus architecture has won the city the moniker ‘The White City’. Walk, drive or take cabs between the cultural exhibition pavilions of Haaretz Museum, historic Independence Hall Museum, bustling Carmel Market and Old Jaffa's boardwalk.

 

Jerusalem, Israel

Religious pilgrims have been travelling to Jerusalem for centuries, yet you don’t have to share their zeal in order to appreciate this city’s profound cultural and historical significance. Plan on seeing the major sights, but also leave plenty of time to walk through the streets and simply immerse yourself in the daily life of such an ancient and revered place.

 

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Atmospheric backstreets paint a very different picture to first impressions of Abu Dhabi. The often slick and modern capital of the UAE presents a fascinating mixture of tradition and progression. Tracing its rich history back to around 3000 B.C., Abu Dhabi maintains a more distinctly Arabian ambiance than glitzy Dubai. Taxis are a safe, reliable way to get around sites such as The Corniche Park, the White Fort, the Heritage Village, which offers glimpses into Bedouin life, and the Women's Craft Centre.

 

Dahab, Egypt

This former Bedouin fishing village is now a popular tourist destination—especially for serious windsurfers, who'll find some of the best conditions in the world off Dahab's beaches. Long known as a laid-back, backpacker-friendly town, Dahab is becoming more developed, yet retains a casual vibe. Finally, Dahab is also home to the Blue Hole, the world's most dangerous dive site. Only very experienced technical divers should attempt passage through ‘The Arch’ here; if you're a novice diver, stay close to the surface.

 

Hurghada, Egypt

Stunning coral reefs and turquoise waters perfect for windsurfing have made Hurghada, on Egypt's Red Sea Coast, a busy resort town. Within easy reach of the stunning Giftun Islands and the Eastern Arabian Desert, Hurghada has seen enormous amounts of development in the past decade—and yes, it does seem overrun with tourists at times. But it’s a relatively easy beach escape for Europeans, and some of the world's best diving and snorkeling sites are just offshore. Walk or catch a cab to explore the old quarter, El Dahar.

 

Cairo, Egypt

Cairo’s an ancient city that also happens to be a modern metropolis—it’s one of the biggest cities in the Middle East and has the traffic and noise issues to prove it. But as long as you’re not looking for solitude, Cairo—the City of the Thousand Minarets—is a splendid place to explore Egyptian history and culture.

 

Luxor, Egypt

Sure there’s The Luxor in Las Vegas but this is the actual city of Luxor, Egypt. Yes the hotel/casino in Vegas might have a beam of light visible from space, but we bet you'll find a hot-air balloon ride over the Valley of Kings much more illuminating

 

Eilat, Israel

Charming Eilat is one of Israel’s most popular resort cities. Nestled at the northern tip of the Red Sea, Eilat’s warm, clear waters are a huge draw for divers, while the reefs of Coral Beach Nature Reserve are perfect for snorkelers. Above sea level, the ancient copper mines of Timna National Park are begging to be explored, as are the shops, bars and restaurants of the seaside promenade.

 

Editor's notes:

- This list was compiled before political unrest prompted many countries to issue travel warnings for Egypt. If you're currently planning a trip to Egypt, please consider the risks and monitor your government's travel alerts.

- Anyone whose passport indicates travel in Israel is likely to be refused entry or re-entry to many Arab countries.

 

Source: Travellers’ Choice Awards 2015, Tripadvisor