Increasingly, the Middle East is becoming a natural stopover hub for long-haul flights between the East and West. So sit back, strap yourself in, and enjoy a quick tour of some of the best cities in the region—and choose one to explore during your next stay-over:
One of the many wonders of the Middle East, Dubai is packed with all kinds of attractions, cultural and modern, while being well-known for its luxury shopping malls and throbbing nightlife. And if that wasn't enough, you're more than likely to get neck ache admiring the skyscraper architecture, such as the Burj Khalifa. And don't forget the many other attractions, such as Ski Dubai, The Palm and Dubai Aquarium that will leave you wanting more from a city that rarely sleeps.
Whether it's the Corniche Park, the Heritage Village, which offers glimpses into Bedouin life, Al Jihili Fort or the fascinating Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi is one that remains under the radar, thanks to near neighbour Dubai. However, it packs a punch with a city-to-desert jeep safari, boasts the stunning Louvre art museum that opened in 2017, plenty of glitz and glamour.
Thanks to the rise of Qatar Airlines over the last decade, Doha, Qatar's capital is fast becoming a business person's favourite stopover. Doha still retains a lot of the Islamic culture of the region and yet happily co-exists with the mass of modernism flowing through the city. There are souks to explore, such as Souq Waqif, the fascinating Museum of Islamic Art designed by I.M. Pei, or if the time allows, soak up the city over dinner at one of the many top hotel restaurants with views.
You'd think the financial muscle of Saudi Arabia, which is Riyadh, wouldn't offer much for a Wise Traveller member, but you'd be surprised with the diversity of attractions available. From the Al Masmak Fort and the Sky Bridge at Kingdom Center to quad biking at the Red Sand Dunes, Riyadh is one of those cities that remains off the mass-tourism radar. Pay a visit to the Al Faisaliah Centre, with its a glass-globe summit or appreciate the swanky hotels and fine restaurants with stunning views of the city.
Oman's capital is another one that is slowly emerging on the tourism scene but remains relatively low-key. Take time to chill on Oman's beaches, or swing by its cultural scene at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House. If you have more time on your hands, consider a trip to the ancient city of Nizwa, and take a step back into the authentic Middle East.
Although slightly off-kilter from the Middle East hubs, Jordan is a country that offers an ideal short hop into for the renowned red-hued ‘Rose City’, the historically rich Petra and the trendy neighbourhoods of Amman. The city is packed with markets, cafes and a welter of memorable moments, from the Souk el-Joumea to the Florhmakt market.
Andy Probert left the British rat race after a 25 year as a journalist and PR specialist to live in Turkey and now Cyprus, a compulsive traveller his favourite places include Vietnam and India among many. Among the travel Andy continues to write freelance and still maintains a PR client base.