Middle East

Explore our most popular destinations
  • Bahrain

    Bahrain literally means “two seas”, referring to the fact that the island once had a source of sweet water, giving anchorage, over the centuries, to fables, myths and mysteries. Legend has it that Bahrain was the Garden of Eden; fact or fiction, Bahrain has been proven to be the site of one of the oldest civilisations in the world, the Dilmun, who flourished about 2000 BCE. And while some of the country’s history still remains beneath the sands, what’s above ground is quite remarkable, starting with the city’s small and easy-to-manoeuvre layout. Its people are some of the best-educated and friendliest in the region, most of whom speak English. For a tiny country of 780 sq km, Bahrain has a fantastic way of welcoming visitors. Come here once and you’ll be back; make friends and they’ll be friends for life. There’s so much to do, that you will never have enough time before the sun sets. Enjoy world-class golf, beach resorts, five-star hotels, boating, antiquing and designer shopping as well as exploring many unique dining opportunities. Worth noting is one distinct difference between Bahrain and neighbouring countries (where alcohol is permitted in the first place): Bahrain allows independent restaurants – and not just hotels – to serve the hard stuff, making a night out at a restaurant here more “normal” (and economical). Much of Bahrain and its shores are aesthetically magnificent. Expect to be blown away by the aquamarine and opalescent tints of the bays, the deep blue of its skies and the fresh swaying green of the palms groves. HIstorical sights give way to modern skyscrapers and massive shopping malls, but there are still opportunities to visit the ancient souks and pick up souvenirs. You could also leave with a strand of Bahrain’s famous pearls – a keepsake of a lifetime.
  • Jordan

    An Arab nation on the banks of the Jordan River, Jordan is a safe and fascinating destination that offers the best of the old and the new in the Arab world. It’s a small county, territory wise, with five world heritage sites – the famous of which is the Nabatean “Rose City” of Petra – and many more on the waiting list. Expect luxury resorts on the waterfront, historical monuments on a grand scale and natural reserves that are worth exploring if you wish to see Oryx in their natural environment and so much more. For many people, of course, Jordan is a place of Christian pilgrimage. Sites resonating with spiritual significance abound, including the site of Jesus Crist’s baptism by John the Baptist, in present-day Al-Maghtas. For others, it’s a chance to embrace the culture, meet and mingle with the friendly locals and explore the underwater world off the lively shores of Aqaba, where there’s world-class diving options and snorkeling for the less adventurous. Amman, the capital, is a lively city where modern-day living, a lively nightlife and a burgeoning modern art scene contribute to its popularity, along with excellent hotels and restaurants. Come here for sightseeing and adventure – including a night in the desert in a tent under the stars – but don’t leave without spending a few nights in one of the deluxe resorts on the Dead Sea. Floating on the water with its dense salt content (you cannot sink) is a fabulous experience. The spas here in the 5-star properties are some of the best you’ll ever experience, and the food and service are legendary. Just don’t buy any of the Dead Sea mud products that you’ll find on sale everywhere you go, most of which are pretty gruesome when you get them home.
  • Lebanon

    Listen to any native Beiruti, or Beruit resident for that matter, regale you on how fabulous life in Lebanon can be, and one thing you’ll always hear is that if you come here in the winter, you can go skiing in the morning and hit the seaside in the afternoon. And it’s true, if the weather holds up, that is. Ski resorts are generally an hour’s drive from Beirut, the capital city on the Mediterranean, which has some pretty awesome beaches as well. Summers, here, are hot; winters are mostly mild. In a country once billed as the Switzerland of the Middle East, Lebanon has faced hard times in its history, but if you are lucky enough to find yourself here when things are good, there’s a lot to fall in love with: the history, the culture, the food, the wine and above all else, the Lebanese people. Known for their love of a great meal, a good time and an evening to remember, if you have a Lebanese friend or two, you know you’ll never drink alone, dine solo or miss a party. And when you get to this beautiful country, you’ll find the spirit of the locals is infectious. Take it all in with a smile. Start your journey in Beirut; we recommend using it as a base for your stay. There are some superb hotels, and almost everything you’ll want to see is a car ride away. Book a leisurely lunch at one of the famous wineries in the Beqaa Valley (we dined – and sipped – like royalty at Chateau Kefraya, but there are others) which isn’t far from Baalbek’s Roman ruins. There’s a long list of activities to enjoy, from mountain sports to fantastic shopping, a casino, ancient sights and some of the best meals you’ll have ever eaten in some pretty special venues. One visit and you’ll be hooked, and no doubt be planning the next.
  • Oman

    Arguably one of the most under-rated countries on the planet, Oman combines spectacular scenery, a glittering coastline and sprawling wastes of golden-hued desert, along with an atmosphere of quiet contentment. Don’t come expecting Dubai; Muscat is a low-rise, whitewashed city that goes about its business unassumingly. Beyond the capital, Oman offers glimpses of authentic Arabia, from ghost-villages clinging to the mountainsides above dry river beds, to majestic forts rising up from the empty land. This is a country to explore; the excellent – and quiet – road network is easy to navigate, meaning you can mix inland adventures and lazy days on the beach in one trip.
  • Qatar

    As one of the safest countries in the world (and as the wealthiest), Qatar has a lot to offer just about everyone. Doha itself is your destination, and in recent years the city has become a major player in the tourism sector in the Gulf. Certainly, if you’re catching a connecting flight here at the airport, take the chance to spend a few nights in this captivating destination, and let Doha work its magic. The city is a cosmopolitan destination – a lot of fun and adventure awaits. Starting with major sporting events: motorsports, tennis and (in 2022) the FIFA World Cup add to the more local lure of camel racing, falconry and equestrian events. The Pearl area, a destination unto itself, has many places offering watersport activities as well as a large dock, restaurants and shops. Head to the desert and go dune bashing in a 4-wheel drive if you’re the adventuresome type, or spend the day at the impressive Museum of Islamic Art if you’re not. The furthest thing from a musty, old museum, it was designed by I.M. Pei and sits on its own island off the city’s corniche. Beautiful items on show, some from as far back as the 7th century, include jewellery, textiles and calligraphy. There’s a lovely outdoor cafe here, MIA, as well as Idam, Alain Ducasse's first restaurant in the Middle East if you’re up for something more formal. The hotel scene in Doha is pretty dazzling: The Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, and The Ritz-Carlton, to name a few. So, if time spent lolling poolside is important to you (with several escapes to the spa), you’ll find your nirvana here at one of the five-star properties. Don’t leave town without a visit to the Souq Waqif for the chance to dip into life here in days gone by. There are also several dazzling shopping malls, but if you don’t get the time to visit them, the airport in Doha has some pretty good shopping options too.
  • Saudi Arabia

    Although not for the faint-hearted, the novelty of a holiday in Saudi Arabia may eventually lure the intrepid traveller to consider a visit to the kingdom, perhaps as part of a combined visit to other Gulf countries or destinations like Jordan as well as – recently by direct flight – Israel. E-visas for tourists are another recent addition to the conservative country’s tourism efforts, and unmarried couples can now share a hotel room as well as time behind the wheel of a rental – if you decide to rent a car while you’re here – as women are now permitted to drive in KSA. That took a long time in coming, and it makes planning a visit here, where there are huge distances between cities and tourist attractions, all that much easier if you choose to travel alone and not as part of a group. Start your visit in Jeddah on the Red Sea or in Riyadh, both of which have old towns that boast beautiful examples of traditional architecture. See how early city dwellers adapted to the challenges of life here before mods cons. Today, luxury hotels, superb shopping and dining opportunities abound but note that alcoholic beverages of any kind are prohibited in the country. The local coffee may make up for the lack of booze; it’s prepared with a delicious hint of cardamom to be enjoyed along with a fresh or dried date to nibble. Also try the country’s yummy national dish, Khabsa, prepared with chicken or lamb. There are several World Heritage sites to visit, including the hidden city of Madain Saleh, a large architectural site of Nabatean tombs and monuments – the same civilisation that occupied Petra – and the Al-Ahsa Oasis with its historical buildings, water and gardens. Two cities you will not be welcome unless you are Muslim are Mecca and Medina. Bypass them and head to a souk or a camel market if you can find one.
  • United Arab Emirates

    Futuristic Dubai and neighbouring Abu Dhabi (the capital) are two destinations everyone’s heard of and probably visited once or twice for some sun and the chance to experience some of the world’s biggest and best of everything. But few of even the savviest travellers will know the names of the other five emirates which make up the seven United Arab Emirates: Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain, all of which warrant a visit for some added adventure. The statement ‘build it and they will come’ never held truer than here in the UAE, in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi specifically, home to all things extreme, bold, fantastic and downright awe-inspiring. The tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, is well worth the US $40 ticket price to get to the top (although those with even the slightest touch of vertigo should stay away). The city’s Burj Al Arab has been welcoming the rich and famous for twenty years and continues to boast the most awesome experience in town, especially with the recent addition of its 10,000 sq m “terrace”, which combines swimming pools, cabanas, a bar and restaurant into one fantastic facility. The 5,000-ton wooden structure was constructed in Finland and brought over by ship in eight pieces. Yes, wow. About an hour’s drive from Dubai (traffic’s an issue) is Abu Dhabi, where culture is king. The Louvre boasts an outstanding collection of art and civilisation housed within a building by Jean Nouvel resembling a giant silver spacecraft. The Frank Ghery designed Guggenheim has yet to open, but a visit to the Ferrari-owned indoor theme park in Abu Dhabi should get your adrenalin pumping. The rollercoaster, the Rosso, is the world’s fastest, reaching 150mph in 5 seconds. Of course, there are many fine places to stay in town, but a night or two at the Mandarin Oriental’s Emirates Palace Hotel is something you’ll never forget. There are opportunities to dip into the heritage of the land, although you won’t see much unless you make it your business to do so. There are museums and a few restaurants that offer a glimpse into life before oil. A drive to Fujairah, for example, will take you through glorious mountain ranges and some little towns and villages. There are some decent hotels on the beach here, but Ras Al-Khaimah, on the other side of the peninsula, has more posh options when it comes to places to stay. Wherever you head in the UAE, watersports and beaches are a focus, as is shopping, desert adventure and some of the best dining options the world has to offer. Beware, however, that while you’ll be able to get a drink everywhere you go (except in Sharjah), alcohol is only served in 5-star hotels and is, to boot, eye-wateringly expensive.