The term Middle East was first coined by British military strategists in the 19th century to give a definitive identity to a region including West Asia and north-east Africa. Whether it was intended as a geographical identity or one with political connotations, or both, is a matter of conjecture.
The countries that make up the Middle East include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Many would dispute the inclusion of Egypt and Azerbaijan but generally, they are considered to be part of the Middle East.
With the kind of development this region has seen in the last couple of decades, most of these countries, with their ultra modern cities with lavish hotels and resorts, modern skyscrapers, world-class transportation networks, tallest hotels and buildings, artificial islands, corniches, clock towers, souks, shopping malls and much more, are excellent tourist destinations.
People on shopping holidays invariably head for Dubai, those looking for some history and ancient culture make a beeline for places like Oman, Israel, Egypt and Jordan, and so on.
However, of late the region has been in the news, not so much for tourism related to modern cities, big-name hotels and multi-million-dollar man-made tourist havens, but more for its adventure scene that is catching on thick and fast among visitors. Suddenly, it’s all about rugged mountains, walking trails, hiking, dune bashing and the likes.
Here’s a look at some of the places in the Middle East that are worthy adventure destinations.
A city of magnificent gardens and parks, lush boulevards, international luxury hotel chains lavish shopping malls, and glitzy skyscrapers, Abu Dhabi is also the capital and the largest city in the United Arab Emirates.
Here are some of the best outdoor activities you can undertake if you are of the adventurous ilk.
Abu Dhabi, being a desert city that it is, has some incredible natural destinations like gushing waterfalls, freshwater lakes, and fossil-lined cliffs. Wikitravel recommends Weekenduae, “a blog that freely shares ideas, routes, and plans for weekend adventures with all trip details including description, GPS track, interactive map, and photos.”
Desert Safari/Dune Bashing
Hire a specialist Desert Driver and head out to the desert for a gut-wrenching but thrilling SUV ride over sand dunes. With the help of the driver, who doubles as a guide as well, you can view the sunset from the best vantage point and then enjoy a sumptuous spread, with music and dancing to end a perfect day of adventure.
Alternatively, you can purchase or rent a 4×4 and join the numerous 4×4 clubs in the UAE like the emarat4x4, the uaeoffroaders, the arabianoffroader , the 4X4 dune ride and several others who offer free training to newcomers scheduling trips according to the level of driving skills of the members.
Mangrove National Park
Tired of too much desert around you? No worries. Not far from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the Mangrove National Park, a 7-square-mile forested area where you can go heron and flamingo spotting in the mangroves while kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding.
Arabian Wildlife Park-Sir Bani Yas Island
This 1,400-hectare of wildlife sanctuary is home to more than 13,000 animals of different species like Beisa Oryx, Arabian Rock Hyrax, Ostriches, Giraffes, Striped Hyenas, Cheetahs, and many more that you can have the pleasure of viewing.
The Park offers some exciting activities like guided Nature and Wildlife Drives or Walks, Horseriding or Mountain Biking giving you the “opportunity to traverse the varied landscape of the Arabian Wildlife Park and see these animals in this unique open environment.”
A lot has been written and said about Dubai’s status as the most modern and fast developing emirate in the U.A.E. but the Dubai we wish to discuss is kind of different – a rather rustic kind of Dubai.
Let’s take a look at what this Dubai has on offer for adventure lovers.
Dubai, being a desert city that it is, has some incredible natural destinations like gushing waterfalls, freshwater lakes, and fossil-lined cliffs. Wikitravel recommends Weekenduae, “a blog that freely shares ideas, routes, and plans for weekend adventures with all trip details including description, GPS track, interactive map, and photos.”
Camel race is a winter attraction with two days (Thursday and Friday) dedicated to the sport when visitors can watch the races and even visit the paddocks for a closer look at the animals and how the jockeys saddle up.
In addition to banana boat rides and parasailing, there are many other water sports activities one can enjoy in Dubai.
Attraction World’s Sunset Safari & BBQ Dinner
Attraction world has a great ‘Sunset Safari & BBQ Dinner’ package that includes dune-bashing, sunset in the desert from strategic vantage points, belly dancing, and henna applications.
Hot-air balloon flight
Take to the air in a hot-air balloon for a bird’s eye view of the city and its surroundings. The local operator, “Balloon Adventures,” can even arrange a mid-air falcon show for additional thrill.
Shark dives can be booked at the Dubai Aquarium for a face-to-face encounter with the largest collection of sand tiger sharks in the world.
Once an under-developed and introverted nation, unwelcome to visitors, Oman has seen continued progress in infrastructure, education, and tourism since 1970 when Qaboos bin Said exiled the previous Sultan.
Omanis are, basically, friendly and helpful people especially towards guests in the country and expect visitors to respect their ways and tradition in turn. Not only are they proud of the progress they have made in the last 50 years but take great pride in their country’s heritage as a sea-faring nation as well.
Oman is home to over 500 forts and towers, some dating as far back as the early 16th century.
The scenery around the country’s rugged mountains is simply stunning and can be enjoyed while driving in the dry wadis.
The seemingly endless sand dunes stretch right up to the horizon.
Oman’s beaches are the main breeding grounds for different turtle species. Masirah Island is easily the most favored breeding space for at least four turtle species including the largest gathering of leatherbacks in the world.
Excursions by Alila Jabal Akhdar
- Leisurely walks through traditional villages of Al Aqr and Al-Ayn
- Level five graded trek across a via Ferrata.
Intrepid Travel offers an eight-day adventure termed the ‘Discover Oman’ tour which takes you on a journey through the unadulterated landscape of Wahiba Sands, the different forts along the route, and an awe-inspiring canyon at Jebel Shams.
Rich in oil and natural gas and the revenue they generate makes Qatar one of the richest countries in the world with a per capita income at par the leading industrial countries in Europe.
Here’s what a desert safari in Qatar has to offer.
- Dune-bashing may not be unique to Qatar, but dune-bashing across the undulating dunes in a 4×4 with a view of the sea definitely is.
- Go sandboarding
- Drive a quad bike up to Khor Al Adaid, the Inland Sea
- Falcon Tours Safari Rates:
- Half-day desert safari – £83 and up
- Overnight Safari + BBQ at the water’s edge – £284 and up
There is plenty to do in Israel to keep the adventurous types occupied. Here’s all that adventure seekers can look forward to in Israel.
- Hike up the rugged ancient fortress of Masada at sunrise
- Swim with dolphins
- Take a 4×4 drive through the Ramon Crater
- Sleep under the stars in the desert
Features of Israel Highlights Tour package by Cyplon
- Eight-day tour
- Take a cable car up to the Masada fortress
- Swim in the Dead Sea
- Pass through the Jordan Valley and stay in a kibbutz overnight.