Al Fateh Grand Mosque

A Dubai cruise itinerary

If you’re looking for something a little different, where the ancient and exotic meets the ultra modern, then we think a 10 day dubai cruise around the Arabian Gulf might be just the thing for you.

With a hallmark for high quality, the United Arab Emirates boasts some amazing destinations that are fast becoming tourist hotspots rather than just business centres. There’s a lot to see and do in the region and plenty of Dubai Cruises to get you started too.

I’ve picked one of my favourite cruises to give you a taste of whats possible.

Fly to Dubai

Firstly lets start with you leaving your country of origin. Dubai is a super hub for aviation these days and is officially the worlds busiest international airport. This means plenty of competition and great deals for you on long haul flights to the UAE. Flight time from London is around 7 hours and you’ll find plenty of flights to Dubai every day. The airport is only 3 miles from the city centre too so jump in a hotel shuttle bus or taxi and you’ll soon be at your hotel.

Dubai airport

Watch this video to see just what landing at Dubai is like and the arrivals area of Terminal 3.

Start in Dubai

The self proclaimed ‘Pearl of the Arabian Gulf’ Dubai boasts a fantastic mixture of traditional Islamic architecture and some of the most impressive modern buildings in the world.  Dubai’s climate is hot all year round with temperatures really hotting up in the summer months, November – February is probably the best time to visit with temperatures a bit more bearable.

There’s plenty of festivals here both by locals on traditional, often religious dates, with lots of other western influences thanks to a big expat community. Highlights of Dubai include a trip to the Burj Khalifa, a 829 metre tall skyscraper with 154 floors and a great observation deck on the 124th floor.

Burj Khalifa Dubai

I can also recommend a visit to the very impressive Atlantis Aquarium which is great for a family day out. For the more adventurous you really can’t go wrong with a 4 wheel drive excursion across the sand dunes of the nearby desert. Its an experience unlike any other.

Watch this video for a taste of the 4WD desert experience

Once you’ve had your fun in Dubai its time to board your cruise ship at the Cruise Terminal in Port Rashid. Settle in to your room and enjoy the views as you depart this sparkling city where the desert meets the coast.

Manama, Bahrain

Bahrain is one of the smallest countries in Asia but has no shortage of wealth and culture. Manama is the capital city and a trip to the National Museum is a must t get a real sense of what Bahrain is about. The mosques are well worth seeing too with beautiful Islamic architecture and traditional art. The Al Fateh Mosque being arguably the biggest and the best.

Al Fateh Grand Mosque

Here’s a fantastic documentary on the Al Fatech Mosque

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lr1M6v-95k

For the best in Islamic art head to the Beit Al Quran. All buildings in Bahrain are striking, whether they’re ultra modern or ultra traditional.

Beit Al Quran Manama

If your cruise has a culture tour be sure to join it, Manama has an interesting history and its own culture that an expert guide will be able show you during your short excursion in Bahrain.

Abu Dhabi

From the small to the big! Abu Dhabi is the 2nd largest city in the Emirates. Its seemingly endless array of ultra modern buildings, malls, skyscrapers and business centres would at first lead you to believe thats all there is here, but delve a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of heritage here too. I’d recommend a city tour to make the most of your time there which will highlight some lesser known areas worth exploring.

I highly recommend you visit Al Ain which is around 90 minutes from the city centre. Al Ain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements. Surrounded by beautiful fort buildings built in 1891, the city is a colourful and vibrant preservation of the past and a place you’ll really understand what is beneath the glits and glamour of Abu Dhabi.

Check out this great video on Al Ain from FlyingToWorld.

Other fun excursions include speed boat rib rides or a slow and steady Dhow Cruise at sunset if time allows.

Muscat, Oman

The capital city of Oman has a ambience and quality quite unlike any other you’ll find in the region. Maybe its the perfect Arabian recipe of stunning mountains as a backdrop, perfect beaches, a busy and colourful city surrounded by rolling desert dunes.

Muscat is also the place where global cultures mix and blend. With trade from Africa, Asia and its Arabic neighbours, while the city modernises its roots will always remain visible. A great place for a guided tour and a spot of shopping.

I love this video on attractions in Muscat and plenty of amazing dishes to try!

Khasab, Oman

On the Musandam peninsula Khasab is the place to go, nicknamed the “Noway of Arabia” as its landscape is strikingly different to other countries in the United Arab Emirates. Expect dramatic mountains along the coast line with rocky inlets dotted along the way. The feel is quite a contrast to the ultra modern cities you’ve experienced so far on this itinerary. A breath of fresh air and one to look out for on any Dubai cruise.

Khasab, Oman

SIR BANI YAS ISLAND, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

While mainland and peninsulas are the order of the day for much of the trip there are islands that you can visit too One of which is Sir Bani Yas Island. The entire island is actually the top of a huge dome of salt created millions of years ago. Sir Bani Yas was originally home to Arabia’s largest wildlife reserve covering 87 km2 (34 sq mi). This is the one place to go for wildlife as decades of conservation work have greatly helped the thousands of large free-roaming animals and several million trees and plants that now grow here. You’ll also find a bird sanctuary within the wildlife reserve so a great place for bird watchers too. Activities here include wildlife safaris, kayaking along the coast, mountain bike tours, hiking and some great snorkelling options too.

Check out this video guide on Sir Bani Yas Island.

Back to Dubai

Time sure flies when you’re having fun and its all too quick that you’re returning to Dubai for your flight home. If you want to extend your stay in the region why not  check out one of the many amazing resorts in Dubai. There’s plenty of activities in the city and a never ended opportunity to shop as well!

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to cruise Dubai and the surrounding area. We’d love to know your thoughts on twitter @travelwithamate.

what to see in Abu Dhabi

A short trip to Abu Dhabi – How many…

Having lived in Abu Dhabi for a number of years – many people often ask me why they should visit Abu Dhabi?

Well the reasons, I could write a book! So let’s start with a short two-day trip and make sure we make the most of it shall we!

From water parks to gold souks, Abu Dhabi truly has something for everyone. The question is, how do you fit it all into a short trip?

Whether you’ve just popped in because of a stop-over flight or you’re hanging around for a couple of days on a business trip, I’ve planned out the best way of spending two days in Abu Dhabi so you don’t have to! You can easily stretch this to 4 days in Abu Dhabi if you want to. Maybe a long weekend or mid-week trip.

So here we go…

Where to stay in Abu Dhabi

First things first…after your long flight you will most likely want to check straight into your hotel to freshen up and relax for a bit.

Problem is, there are so many to choose from because Abu Dhabi is home to so many fantastic hotels, accommodating every budget! Here are a few of the best to make things easier for you…

If your requirement is one of ultimate relaxation, look no further than the [tp_link hotel_id=”hotelId=1924615″ text_link=”Shangri-La Residence Qaryat Al Beri” check_in=30 check_out=32 type=2 subid=””]. Self-described as an ‘Arabian Oasis,’ the Shangri-la entails nothing but breathtaking views, beautiful architecture, spas and private beaches.

It also has an amazing view of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque that must be enjoyed at night!

If it’s elegance and luxury you’re after, [tp_link hotel_id=”hotelId=874″ text_link=”the Yas Viceroy is the place for you” check_in=30 check_out=32 type=2 subid=””]. It’s intricate design, exquisite food, large range of bars and even its own art gallery makes it one of the most stylish and sought after hotels in Abu Dhabi.

For me it’s the fact that it lights up and changes colour at night that makes it that little bit more appealing, that and of course the fact it sits directly on top of the Abu Dhabi F1 track.

How long to stay in Abu Dhabi

Set in a convenient location, close to beaches, a golf course and the Yas Marina Circuit (aka the F1 track – if you’re a petrol head check it out). The Park Inn is one of the busiest hotels in Abu Dhabi and draws in a very interesting crowd, so it’s also a great place to meet a range of different people. In short – if it’s adventure you want, the Park Inn is probably the perfect place for you!

If it is business that has brought you to Abu Dhabi, [tp_link hotel_id=”hotelId=1925366″ text_link=”The Nehal hotel may be exactly what you’re looking for” check_in=30 check_out=32 type=2 subid=””]. It’s comfortable, affordable and located in the heart of Abu Dhabi, (unlike the Yas Island hotels above) – it couldn’t be more convenient!

[tp_hotels_selections_discount_shortcodes city=”25484″ title=”The latest Abu Dhabi hotel discounts” paginate=false off_title=false type_selections=”tophotels” number_results=”8″ subid=”” city_label=”Abu Dhabi City” type_selections_label=”Top hotels” link_without_dates=true]

What to see in Abu Dhabi

Now that you’re unpacked and settled in, it’s time to start exploring…

what to see in Abu DhabiThe breath taking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque should be first on your list and once visited will surely never be forgotten. Not only is it one of the world’s largest mosques but its breathtakingly beautiful and has become famous around the world! I won’t ruin the tour but there are a few world records broken in the Grand Mosque.

After being truly amazed by the beauty of the Grand Mosque, you might fancy having a rest and getting some coffee and cake. How about doing exactly that but in a palace?

The Emirate’s Palace no less! Enjoy a cappuccino with a real difference – you can choose camels milk and every cup comes with gold leaf (real edible golf leaf). If that’s not enough – you can even pick up a gold bar from the vending machine on your way out.

Of course I must add that if budgets permit you might want to consider staying the night – but if not the coffee, cake, afternoon tea and spa are all unbelievable and worth experiencing.

There is certainly no shortage of shopping opportunities in Abu Dhabi (whilst I am writing this I imagine a new mall is being opened) each with its own vast array of café’s and restaurants. The Marina Mall is particularly picturesque in its setting close to the corniche and with some impressive water features inside. The shops aren’t too bad either (but of course I would know less about that).

Check out this awesome video for a guide to things worth seeing in Abu Dhabi

More adventures in Abu Dhabi

For the more adventurous of you, Abu Dhabi has some fantastic experiences to offer…

Fancy a dip? How about a big one…Abu Dhabi is home to Yas Waterworld, which is sure to be an experience you wont forget! Just make sure you have enough sunscreen on, remember where you are.

things to see in UAEBut if water rides aren’t really your thing there’s always the world’s largest indoor theme park, Ferrari World, instead… Yes, you read right a Ferrari themed theme park – home to the fastest roller coaster in the world.

You’re definitely going to want to take a trip into the desert. A desert safari offers a fantastic opportunity to do exactly that…even on the back of a camel if you choose!

There are a wide variety to chose from and having experienced most of them the only thing I would highly recommend is – a) if you have a sensitive stomach

I suggest some travel sickness pills in advance and b) make sure you go on one where you can enjoy dinner and evening entertainment, it’s amazing.

Where to eat in Abu Dhabi

After all of this you’re going to pretty hungry. Not to worry, Abu Dhabi is definitely not lacking in places to eat! If you wanted to venture further afield than the food courts in the malls, you will not be disappointed (but I am not knocking the food courts – my favourite is at Yas Mall)!

where to eat in Abu DhabiSontaya, a South East Asian restaurant located at the [tp_link hotel_id=”hotelId=910″ text_link=”St. Regis Sadiyaat Island Resort” check_in=30 check_out=32 type=2 subid=””] is the ideal place to go for ambience, views and exquisite food. It is a great place to go with a large group of friends and when you step inside it literally feels like you have ventured to another country. I recommend everything on the menu…

This boutique café has a completely unique and mysterious feel to it, with décor unlike anything else in Abu Dhabi. As you only have two days you could just go here for coffee and cake – it really shouldn’t be missed.

For award-winning food, embroidered furniture and caviar, Hakkasan promises a night you won’t forget! It’s a completely different experience to Hakkasan London and well worth the visit.

For the ultimate family dining experience with food from all over the world – Vasco’s is a must visit. Situated on the corniche with an amazing outdoor space it’s fun all round. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a course from 3 different continents.

You HAVE TO watch this amazing video showing you the kinds of cuisine you’ll find in Abu Dhabi.

Finally – one that’s a bit more off the beaten track is Mirage Marine. It sounds like I really like eating around the Marina Mall and the corniche, but seriously this place delivers the most exquisite Lebanese food. I strongly recommend not eating for a few hours before and after – everything is prepared to perfection and you will get a true sense of local culture.

So, I didn’t say you would have time to sleep!

Whatever the reason you’re flying from London to Abu Dhabi, one thing is for sure – you won’t have time to be bored!

Flights to Abu Dhabi

I found some great flight deals going to Abu Dhabi from all over the world. Take a look through the pages to find one from your country.

[tp_in_our_city_fly_shortcodes destination=AUH title=”” limit=50 paginate=true stops=0 one_way=false off_title=true subid=”” currency=”USD”]

Abu Dhabi Map

I’ve pinpointed a few of my favourite restaurants worth checking out.

what to see in Jordan

Backpacking in the Middle East – Travel advice

A backpacking holiday is the one of the best ways to travel and see the world. You’ve got everything you need strapped to your back and you can go as far as your wits, and your budget will take you.

While Europe is a top destination for backpackers, the Middle East, offers a truly unique experience for every backpacker. With such a rich religious history and a culture, it’s a trip that can last a lifetime. Here are some tips to get you started on a backpacking tour around the Middle East.

Before you go

Planning your trip beforehand is extremely important, as each country in the Middle East may require a visa, or have restrictions on where you’re coming from. For instance, if you’re looking to go to Israel, make sure it’s the end destination. Some countries do not allow you to enter if they see an Israeli stamp on your passport, so find out what restrictions and precautions you will have to be aware of before you fly.

What to see in Israel

 

Where to go

With no solid rail system, travelling around the Middle East can be a little bit more difficult; however, it’s not impossible. Start off in a centralised hub, like Dubai, where you can easily travel to other destinations.

Flights to Dubai are relatively inexpensive, and it’s a great introduction into the cultures of the Middle East. Just make sure you don’t spend all your money there, which is surprisingly very easy to do, thanks to all the great shops, bazaars and markets in the Emirate!

With so many sights to see, where you go depends on what experience you’re looking for. From visiting the pyramids in Egypt to the various and influential historical sites of Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities on the planet, the Middle East truly has it all for every traveller.

what to see in Jordan

Safety concerns

This may be the biggest barrier to people traveling to the Middle East. In reality, it’s actually a very safe place to be, as long as you use your common sense. When travelling in the region, remember basic personal safety tips, such as keeping your personal belongings, such as your cash and your passport close and keeping photocopies of your travel documents as back up, in case you lose the originals.

It’s important to remember that Ramadan (June 28th-July 27th), is the holiest month for many in the Middle East and it’s when Muslims abstain from smoking, eating, or drinking until sundown. Unless you are Muslim, you won’t need to follow this, but be aware that many cafes and shops will not be open during the day.

What to see in Egypt

Cost

The low cost associated with travelling in the Middle East is another huge benefit for backpackers. One thing to remember are the visa fees you will have to pay, as these can add up depending on how many countries you plan on visiting. Expect to pay around £25 a day for basic accommodations and food, which actually works out cheaper than Western Europe.

So this year, why not try backpacking in the Middle East? It could be the best decision you’ll ever make.