THE DESERT, DUBAI
The UAE is one of the most luxurious cities in the world. Its hotels and resorts are world class. And yet, as Middle Eastern residents, we don’t often get the opportunity to live like tourists. Why not enjoy a luxury desert escape, reminiscent of the days when Dubai was synonymous with sand, not skyscrapers?
WHAT TO DO & WHERE TO STAY:At Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, you’ll have plenty to do. While day packages are available for those who want a short experience of what the resort has in store, to really soak up the vibe in style, it’s best to make it a weekend destination. Enjoy the infinity pool, savour lunch amongst the sand dunes, take a camel ride or visit one of the hotel’s seven picturesque restaurants and lounges. There’s also a focus on traditional desert activities, including dune bashing, archery and falconry, while for added zen, the hotel offers group and private sunrise yoga. While the resort is family friendly, it’s also a great spot for a romantic getaway, complete with the option of a private dinner beneath the stars with views of the breathtaking sand dunes. The Satori Spa, meanwhile, offers several packages to ease the tension and make your stay completely stress-free. Try the Desert Spa Indulge treatment to leave your body and face feeling moisturized and silky smooth. The hotel’s traditional Arabic interiors are beautifully designed to complement the environment, with the relaxed vibe continuing into the communal areas of the hotel, where fire pits and hidden seating areas mean privacy is always achievable.
HOW TO GET THERE:Bab Al Shams is a mere 45 minute drive from Dubai International Airport. www.meydanhotels.com
SAADIYAT ISLAND, ABU DHABI
Where better for a Middle Eastern staycation than Abu Dhabi’s newest luxury location? Fast gaining an international reputation, Saadiyat Island offers the perfect opportunity to get some vital R&R locally – while feeling as though you’re on the other side of the world!
WHAT TO DO: Simply lounge, soak up the sun and enjoy delicious food! The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort has a variety of options to get as much out of a weekend getaway as possible, whether you’re more comfortable on the private beach or the golf course. For a spot of culture, head to the renowned Manarat Al Saadiyat, meaning ‘the place of enlightenment’, which hosts large-scale art exhibitions throughout the year. Less refined, perhaps, but no less enjoyable, Ferrari World is the place to let loose your inner Formula One fantasies. Experience the fastest rollercoaster on Earth or marvel at Yas Island’s Formula One race track. Those in need of a spot of retail therapy are also well catered for, with both Marina Mall and Abu Dhabi Mall nearby.
WHERE TO STAY: The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort understands luxury. From the sea-view rooms and private beach to the 24-hour butler service, you’ll feel truly VIP from the moment you arrive. With six restaurants and lounges to choose from, your only issue is likely to be fitting into your bikini at the end of the weekend!
HOW TO GET THERE: Saadiyat is a short drive from central Abu Dhabi and there is a complimentary shuttle bus service from Dubai if you’ve flown with Emirates Airlines. www.emirates.com
It’s a mere one hour flight from Istanbul, but Cappadocia feels a world away from city life. The stunning landscape runs the full gamut from verdant hillsides and valleys to spectacular volcanic ruins. Make sure you ditch your heels - to truly embrace the landscape and culture of Cappadocia, hiking is key for outdoor enthusiasts!
WHAT TO DO: The volcanic rock formations which now provide housing for the city’sfamilies are truly intriguing and must be seen while, to really appreciate the spectacular scenery, be sure to take a balloon trip around Cappadocia. An early wake-up call means a beautiful sunrise. Watch it at the suitably named Red Valley, where the whole landscape changes hue as the rays break the horizon. There are several valleys in the area worth exploring, but be sure to check out one of the most popular, Ihlara Valley, where you can enjoy a lovely, peaceful breakfast and hike while embracing the perfect Mediterranean weather.
WHERE TO STAY: Make the most of your surroundings by staying amongst the natural ruins that lie between Cappadocia’s valleys. The Museum Hotel is located on the highest peak of central Cappadocia, in the heart of the village of Uchisar, and is the first luxury boutique hotel in the region. Boasting just 30 Jacuzzi equipped rooms filled with antiques from the Museum of Nevsehir, the property offers a perfect combination of culture and luxury. With its panoramic views of the Red Valley, Love Valley, Mount Erciyes and more, the hotel offers the opportunity to see stunning sunrises without leaving the comfort of your room while the restaurant, Lil’a, offers authentic Cappadocian dishes by award-winning chefs.
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Kayseri Airport with Emirates Airlines from Dhs5,170. The airport is 65km from the Museum Hotel, where rooms cost from Dhs1,126 per night. www.emirates.com
The Middle East may well be home to some of the world’s fastest growing cities, but it’s also home to some of the oldest. Petra, a Unesco World Heritage site, is an archaeological wonder believed to date as far back as 312BC. Recognised the world over thanks to its starring role in Indiana Jones, the once lost city is one of the region’s absolute must-see sites.
WHAT TO DO & WHERE TO STAY: Take an exciting walk through the Siq, a mile long sandstone canyon that leads to The Treasury. Also known as Al Khazneh, the popular tourist attraction is more than 2000 years old. For the adventurous, the area can also be explored on horseback. Mövenpick Resort Petra, situated right beside the historic site, is a spacious and luxurious hotel with seven restaurants and lounges enjoying spectacular views of the hilly Petra city. The resort’s outdoor pool is truly refreshing after the long day of hiking through the historic ruins while, during the cooler winter months, a fireside spot in the charming Baraka Tea Room is hugely popular. Al Ghadeer Roof Garden is beautifully designed to enjoy the sunset with your loved one, while children can head to the Fun Factory for toys and games.
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Amman with Emirates Airlines from Dhs1,580. www.emirates.com