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Bahrain Sea View

This Isn’t Your Typical Island Getaway

Is Bahrain on your bucket list yet?

A five-day Eid break is headed our way, but not everyone is keen on the idea of long-haul travel. And that’s understandable. Still looking to explore a new destination and satiate your wanderlust? One word: Bahrain.

Not only is it the only archipelago in the region, but it’s only a mere 70-minute flight away. And between its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, trendy eateries, old-school souks, cultural institutions, and endless island-hopping opportunities, it’s also seriously underrated – especially if a quick getaway is all you can manage.

Sleeping In

By now, many of the major luxury hotel groups have landed in Bahrain – Sofitel, Four Seasons, and Ritz-Carlton included. But we’re slightly biased towards boutique hotels, preferring to stay at properties that have an entirely distinct personality of their own. Enter: The Merchant House, an ultra-contemporary property that boasts 46 beautifully appointed suites, a lush rooftop terrace, a library curated by The Ultimate Library of Oxford, and an eclectic collection of artworks by emerging and established artists. Another plus? Location, location, location. The Merchant House is ideally placed in the always-vibrant Bab Al Bahrain area.

Bahrain mall view

Stepping Out

Speaking of which: a stroll through Manama Souq is part retail therapy, part cultural experience, so skip the malls and head here instead. The main entrance is the historic Bab Al Bahrain, taking you back in time as you browse shops specialising in everything from jewellery and antiques to calligraphy, handpainted room dividers, embroidered poufs, perfumes, and more. It’s not just kitschy souvenirs, we promise. Oh, and keep an eye out for the art installation inspired by the traditional Bahraini necklace ‘martasha’ while you’re around. Strategically located at the entrance of Manama Souq, it is composed of 20,000 gold-plated coins that are attached to seven-metre strings suspended from the ceiling. 

All that walking around will leave you famished, and no trip to Manama Souq is complete without pausing at Haji’s Cafe, where time has essentially stood still 1950. Sitting on those bright-blue benches surrounded by vintage photos and platters of delicious food in a narrow alley is such an unadulterated joy. Bahrain’s tolerance of all faiths is well-documented, so try to visit the Shri Krishna Temple, even if it’s tricky to find at first. Not only was it built in 1817 – making it a whopping 204 years old – but it has also recently been renovated and decorated in the traditional Mewar style of art that originates in Rajasthan. 

Take a couple of moments to appreciate the colourful detailing before stepping into Manama Post Office. No ordinary post office, this museum houses an archive of photographs from the postal service since its inception, an extensive catalogue of stamps from Bahrain and all over the world, and a collection of vintage scales and franking machines. As for its claim to fame? It was designed by none other than interior designer Ammar Basheir.

Food Matters

Bahrain is an island beloved amongst foodies, and it’s easy to see why. A district by the name of Block 338 is where everything from Nikkei cuisine hotspot Clay and patisserie Café Lilou to Japanese restaurant Mirai and Mexican eatery Calexico reside. Elsewhere, rustic-chic Italian restaurant L’ORTO is still the hottest ticket in town, bringing a taste of the Tuscan countryside to Manama – after all, everything chef Susy Massetti touches turns to gold.

Another firm favourite is Fusions By Tala, a dynamic eatery where Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi – the poster child for culinary experimentation – captures the essence and flavours of local cuisine while transforming it into lighter, more elevated fare. But if an entirely unexpected experience is what you’re seeking, make a beeline for Japanese teahouse Chawan. Here, a Bahraini tea master by the name of Budoor Steele hosts traditional tea ceremonies, celebrates Japanese festivals such as Tanabata and Tsukimi, and serves intricately crafted nibbles like onigiri, mochi, and nerikiri.

A visit to Bahrain

Culture Quest

The island’s art and culture scene is constantly evolving, but Muharraq is where it’s at if you’re pressed for time. You don’t have to go looking for its charm either – it’s there in spades, especially if you’re guilty of Golden Age thinking. And the best way to discover the neighbourhood? A walk down the Pearling Path, a 3.5km trail that snakes through its storied alleyways, rehabilitating this urban center of yesteryear while introducing contemporary infrastructure to match modern-day lifestyles. It’s especially suited to those interested in street photography, public art, street food, and coffee pitstops. 

Most people don’t realise that Pearling Path includes 17 public squares that are dotted along the different neighbourhoods that the path crosses, with strategically placed lamp posts guiding visitors through the streets. For an optimum introduction to Bahrain’s pearling era, start at the Pearling Path Visitor and Experience Centre, which sits at the entrance of Qayssareyah Suq and hosts rotating exhibits on pearling history alongside a café and an auditorium. Alternatively, you can begin at the trail’s southern starting point, Bu Mahir Fort (from where boats used to set off for oyster beds) and its glass-walled visitor centre. 

While you’re around, be sure to see the Vertical Garden up close – what it lacks in size, it makes up for in innovation. This living laboratory at the entrance of Muharraq is home to over 200 plant species, mostly from subtropical and desertic areas around the world and is the first of its kind in the region. Sheikh Isa Bin Ali House, one of the most impressive examples of Gulf Islamic architecture in Bahrain, is another interesting spot. Stroll around its multiple courtyards and walk up and down the various staircases to take in the carved wooden doors, ingenious wind towers, and perforated gypsum panels for insights into royal life circa 19th century.

Journey Back

There’s no shortage of ancient sites on the island, and one’s more intriguing than the last. The UNESCO-recognised burial mounds from the Dilmun era, for example, are a must-visit. Unique and mysterious, they continue to dominate the A’ali landscape due to their sheer number – there are over 11,000 of them and therefore impossible to miss. Prefer to time-travel within the comfort of a cultural landmark? Of the many exhibition halls at Bahrain National Museum, one focuses on the artifacts and history of the Dilmun civilisation, while another showcases its fascinating burial practices – it even features an actual burial mound that was transported from A’ali and reassembled onsite!

Meanwhile, as Bahrain residents turn to trendy rooftop bars for great views, we suggest Qal’at al- Bahrain (or Bahrain Fort as it is commonly known) instead. Walk around this UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’ll encounter plenty of vantage points while breathing in the soothing ocean air. On your left, you’ll see the adjoining Karbabad Beach, which explains that aforementioned breeze. Straight ahead? An excavated coastal fortress dating back to the 3rd century AD, with the glistening city skyline rising above the horizon. The site is also surrounded by groves of palm trees, which you’ll notice on your right. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more exceptional example of human occupation that spans nearly 4,500 years.

Sun, Sea, Sand

You’d think an island would entail plenty of beach clubs to choose from, but alas, that is not the case. Luckily, boho-chic Solymar Beach brings dining, partying, swimming, sunbathing, and lounging in luxury to one highly Instagrammable venue. However, what makes Bahrain truly unique in this part of the world is that it’s composed of 70 natural and 33 artificial islands. Jaradah Island is arguably the most famous as it’s only visible during low tide. Another great option is Al Dar Island, despite its size. 

For starters, it’s just a 10-minute boat ride from Sitra Fishing Port. If facilities are high on your agenda, this one’s for you – everything from palm leaf huts and chalets to fishing trips, dolphin-watching excursions, and water sports are on offer. There’s even a burger joint on the island in case you get peckish. For something a little more serene, think Nurana Islands. Whether you head here for a run, a horse ride, a swim, or killer views, it’s utter bliss.

beaches in Bahrain

The Great Escape

A journey deep into the lush green mangroves in Tubli Bay is one that every tourist should take. This one-of-a-kind eco tour feels like a true escape, taking you away from the commotion of the city centre and introducing you to the aquatic plants and diverse wildlife of this protected ecosystem. Birdwatchers are also bound to enjoy the boat ride due to the sheer variety of resident and migratory birds spotted throughout. 

The Great Escape

Mother Nature has blessed the island with so much more than the aforementioned mangroves, though. The height and density of the trees at Karzakan Forest is unexpected, to say the least, making it a popular place for impromptu photoshoots and early morning cycle rides. But if you’re going to make the time to visit only one natural wonder, it has to be the Tree of Life. For over 400 years now, this 32-foot mesquite tree has stood all by its lonesome in the barren desert with no water source in sight, making it an enigma to many – and a source of pride for Bahrain.

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Travel Guide to Kathmandu

Making a Case for Nepal’s Chaotic Capital

Yes, Kathmandu belongs on your bucket list.

Something’s not right. Because Nepal is home to some of the world’s most spectacular treks, Kathmandu is perceived as merely a gateway to the dramatic landscapes of Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Sanctuary, Manaslu Circuit, and more. The Nepalese capital is where hikers purchase camping gear, board domestic flights to Lukla and Pokhara, and tend to their aching muscles with cheap massages and even cheaper dal bhat platters post-trek. As for those who hate hiking? The city never even makes an appearance on their bucket list.

What happens in this process, however, is a lost opportunity to discover the UNESCO-listed sites of Kathmandu Valley, temples dating back to the third century, elaborate thangka art, and a perpetual showcase of human resilience. Following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake back in 2015, Nepal has continued its reconstruction efforts – even amidst the pandemic – vowing to provide a roof over the country’s most vulnerable residents. And the ultimate address to escape the chaos of Kathmandu come dusk? Dwarika’s Hotel.

A Visit to Kathmandu

Sleeping In

Kathmandu isn’t quite where you would go to ‘get away from it all’. Noisy, polluted, and overpopulated, it is a city that’s more catered to travelers than tourists. And then there’s the traffic – that notoriously nasty traffic. Luckily, the public spaces at Dwarika’s promise respite. While the guest rooms are spacious, it’s the wide and atmospheric courtyards that offer the best vantage point to admire the architectural grandeur of days gone by. Accenting the palatial cluster of traditional red-brick buildings are sunken fountains, lush pomelo and persimmon trees, and a light scattering of religious shrines. Arguably the most striking detail can be found at the outdoor swimming pool that’s inspired by 12th century Malla Dynasty baths: water gushing out of stone spouts depicting mythical creatures.

Incidentally, Dwarika’s is the brainchild of the late Dwarika Das Shrestha, who was determined to collect, protect, and replicate the intricately engraved wooden structures that were being desecrated in favor of more modern versions, starting with a pillar that was cast aside to be used as firewood. Today, the family-owned property boasts an astounding collection of artefacts from the 13th century onwards, with beautifully carved doors, pillars, and window frames at every turn – all exhibiting the very best of Kathmandu Valley’s craftsmanship. But don’t let this emphasis on heritage fool you. While the founder’s vision is reflected in each of the 83 rooms and suites, they all feature creature comforts like air conditioning and a well-stocked minibar.

Kathmandu

Stepping Out

Admittedly, Dwarika’s Hotel is much closer to the airport than the city center, but you’ll appreciate its location when it’s time to wake up at 5am for what can only be described as a truly awe-inspiring day. Several local airlines (like Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines) run hour-long mountain flights on a daily basis, providing passengers a front-row seat to the breathtaking, snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas – Mount Everest included. This one’s a must-do, hands down.

Closer to sea level, two major attractions are easily accessible from the hotel, starting with Pashupatinath Temple. Arguably the most famous religious site in all of Nepal, this Hindu temple complex is only an 11-minute walk away from Dwarika’s and the definition of sensory overload. Amidst this riot of colors, sounds, and smells is an opportunity to observe cremation ceremonies, devotees bathing in the sacred Bagmati River, and dreadlocked sadhus dressed in canary yellow and eager to pose for photos in exchange for a few hundred rupees. As stray dogs vie for a spot in the shade and monkeys scamper from temple to temple, we suggest you silently vow to embrace this country and its people wholeheartedly, curious stares and all.

In stark contrast to this parade of human and animal activity at Pashupatinath is the nearby Boudhanath, one of the largest stupas worldwide. Here, Buddhist monks silently walk clockwise around its base, prayer flags of all colors flutter in the wind, and pilgrims spin the many cylindrical prayer wheels that contain scrolls of Buddhist mantras. Like the rhythmic activities that humans turn to in times of stress, the repetitive nature of this environment feels relaxing, meditative almost.

Best Things to Do in Kathmandu

But that’s Nepal for you – full of unexpected surprises that have nothing to do with mountaintops. Case in point: the yak cheese by Himalayan French Cheese that you can sample at the weekly farmers’ market hosted by Le Sherpa restaurant. Another unexpected discovery? The aptly named Garden of Dreams. Because Kathmandu can be as frustrating as it is fascinating, you’ll be in dire need of some peace and quiet after a few hours of exploration. And with its ponds, pergolas, and amphitheater, this neoclassical garden guarantees just that.

Those in search of the city’s creative spirit, meanwhile, can distance themselves from the smog, noise, and impatient motorcyclists at Baber Mahal Revisited. Built in 1910 and once belonging to the Rana dynasty that ruled Nepal from 1846 to 1951, this complex houses the likes of Siddhartha Art Gallery (the city’s first contemporary art gallery) and Chez Caroline (beloved for its weekend brunches). Bonus: it’s nowhere near the hectic tourist hub of Thamel.

Also in the vicinity awaits Raithaane, a restaurant that comes highly recommended by Pauline Driard, founder of Pauline’s Rooftop Bar and an expat who has lived in Nepal since 2009. “Taking diners on a culinary journey through ethnic Nepali cuisines, this tiny joint is hidden in the courtyard of a traditional Newar house and rediscovers the ancestral ingredients that modern-day Nepalis have forgotten,” she says. “Just thinking about the buckwheat fries and rikikur potato pancakes served with yak butter and spring onion achaar – a delicious spicy sauce that accompanies everything here – makes me want to drool.”

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Here’s Why Baku Belongs on Your Bucket List

A visa on arrival is just the beginning.

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is repeatedly dubbed “the next Dubai” – but Icheri Sheher would beg to differ. This old city has managed to preserve its 12th century defensive walls, thereby earning a spot in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Elsewhere, the city hosts a vibrant piazza, a lively jazz scene, artistic institutions aplenty, a handful of architectural gems, and a food scene that draws influences from East and West. Factor in a visa-on-arrival system for all UAE residents, regardless of nationality, and a jaunt to Baku feels like a no-brainer.

Sleeping In

By now, many of the major luxury hotel groups have landed in Baku – Fairmont, Four Seasons, and JW Marriott included. But as any savvy traveller can testify, the location of a hotel trumps all else. Enter: Boutique 19 Hotel, which sits perfectly in the middle of Fountains Square and Baku Boulevard, both of which deserve a visit during your trip. However, bragging rights come in the form of Boutique 19’s proximity to Icheri Sheher – in fact, part of its fortress wall is actually located inside the hotel.

Stepping Out

Baku may be one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations, but never does it feel too chaotic or overcrowded. Unlike your trips to the likes of London, New York, and Bangkok, you’ll actually find the time to pause and people-watch in the tree-lined Fountains Square. Here await – you guessed it – fountains of various designs alongside street food, bronze sculptures, and carousels that look like they belong in a whole other era. The piazza transitions seamlessly into the lively Nizami Street. Stroll down this pedestrian avenue to feel the city’s pulse as it’s rife with restaurants, cafés, souvenir shops, and high street stores. And adding to its appeal is the sheer diversity of historic architectural styles – Baroque, Renaissance, and Neo-Gothic included.

Another wonderful area in which to take a stroll – and get a whiff of the Caspian Sea – is Baku Boulevard. Not only is this seaside venue especially family-friendly owing to attractions such as Tusi-Bohm Planetarium, Baku Eye ferris wheel, and Little Venice (complete with gondola rides), but at 25 kilometres in length, it’s also one of the longest promenades on the planet. Luckily, there’s plenty of opportunities to get heckled by the many playful men who sell dondurma – there’s an ice cream stall at virtually every turn.

Time Travel

Nothing wins tourists over more than Icheri Sheher, which holds history, mystery, stories, and secrets within its time-worn walls. You’ll undoubtedly get lost within its maze of cobblestone streets, but that’s part of the fun – just be sure to make a mental checklist of some unmissable pit stops. Both Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower are listed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The former is the crown jewel of the inner city as it’s made up of several different structures built throughout the ages, with each adding to the mash-up of medieval, Asian, and Islamic influences. The latter, meanwhile, is a symbol of Baku.

Historians don’t agree on when this cylindrical stone tower was built, how it was built, or why it was built, but everyone agrees that it is the stuff of legends – literally. Of the many folklores that surround it, the one you’ll likely hear is that it’s named after a princess who took her own life by jumping off the top of the tower to escape from a marriage of strategic convenience. Culture buffs, take note: the Museum of Miniature Books and studio of famous (and famously barefoot) artist Ali Shamsi also come highly recommended.

We recommend setting a whole day aside for this open-air museum as amongst the domed bathhouses, sandstone caravanserais, and storied mosques are plenty of opportunities to pick up quality (read: authentic) souvenirs such as traditional copperware, handwoven carpets, intricately painted ceramics, and armudu teacups alongside unexpected vintage finds – Soviet-era shot glasses, anyone? Social project ABAD gets a special mention for housing handicrafts from all over Azerbaijan under one roof, encouraging small-scale entrepreneurship and supporting the formation of family businesses.

Culture Quest

Baku’s blend of East and West, old and new, has resulted in a culture scene that has something for everyone. Bibliophiles should make a beeline for the extravagant Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature, and history buffs can while away the hours at the massive National History Museum of Azerbaijan. Also keep an eye out on the shows taking place at the various cultural venues around town, starting with the historic Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Incidentally, the city has a longstanding (and complicated) relationship with jazz – authorities in the Soviet Union banned it after World War II, forcing musicians to move or perform in secrecy. The result? Baku became a regional hub for this genre of music. Today, live jazz can be enjoyed at various places around town, but Baku Jazz Club is the one to beat.

Eye Candy

In complete contrast to the old city – and speaking volumes of Azerbaijan’s oil boom in the late 19th century – are Baku’s over the top architectural marvels. There are two in particular that are worthy of a closer look: the flamboyant Flame Towers and the beautifully fluid Heydar Aliyev Center. We suggest viewing the Flame Towers from the commanding Bahram Gur Statue before taking the Baku Funicular up to Martyrs’ Lane for panoramic views and countless photo ops. 

Come night, this trio of flame-shaped skyscrapers comes alive, its flickering lights symbolizing Zoroastrianism’s origins in Azerbaijan. Further afield, Heydar Aliyev Center is a true architectural feat by the legendary Zaha Hadid. Walk around to admire the many waves, folds, and curves of this iconic structure – and know that you’re in the presence of greatness.

Art for Art’s Sake

Between Azerbaijan National Museum of Art and Yarat Contemporary Art Space, aesthetes will be spoilt for choice – the city’s thriving art scene certainly came as a surprise to us. But if you can make time for only one, opt for Museum of Modern Art, where open passages help provide a multidimensional perspective of the over 800 exhibits. Contemporary art by leading Azerbaijani artists aside – which greets you before you’ve even entered the building – masterworks by Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Marc Chagall are also on display.

Retail Therapy

If you’re lucky enough to make it to the Baku Museum of Modern Art, there are two great stores just minutes away on foot: Port Baku Bazar and Chelebi. The former is a gourmet food market where you can sample and stock up on endless varieties of the sinfully delicious pastry, pakhlava. But that’s not all. Locally produced jams and honey, black caviar produced from classic Caspian sturgeon by Baku Caviar, all manner of sweet and savoury breads, and high-end confectionery by Xurcun are also on sale at Port Baku Bazar. Next door, Chelebi sells vibrantly hued cushions, coasters, wall art, figurines, and other decorative home accessories – all making for great gifts.

Source: Kamran Amirkhanov

Food Matters

It’s not just Baku’s architecture that reflects the diversity of its past; the culinary culture of Azerbaijan, which sits at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia and borrows from the travellers who passed along the Great Silk Road, is just as rich. Influences from Turkey, Iran, Russia, and Georgia are evident in Azeri dishes – think: pilafs embellished with nuts and dried fruits, fall-off-the-bone meats, sumac-infused salads, creamy cheeses, and pomegranate molasses adding a hint of zing to fresh fish from the Caspian Sea.

Both Sumakh and Nakhchivan are popular with the locals for their upscale ambience. Russian fare, meanwhile, is best enjoyed at Mari Vanna, where a meal feels more like dining in your (rich) grandmother’s living room rather than a restaurant abroad. As a tourist, however, you ought to dine at Şirvanşah – especially if you’re pressed for time. Not only is this museum-meets-restaurant housed in a two-story building that once served as a caravanserai, but it also accents authentic Azeri cuisine with a side of live mugham music, making for a night you won’t soon forget.

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Places to Spend Friday Afternoons In Dubai

This Is Your Friday Afternoons, Sorted

All hail the 4.5-day work week.

Announcements made earlier in the year came as a surprise to many: UAE made the big shift into a 4.5-day work week, with Friday afternoon, Saturdays, and Sundays as the new weekends. Looking to make the most out of these changes? Take your family and friends to these five Dubai destinations we’ve handpicked just for you. 

The Scene

There’s truly nothing like brunch on a Friday. The Scene is one of Dubai’s most loved family-friendly brunch spots that offers a little bit of everything the parents and kids will love. Located at the heart of Dubai Marina, this quaint Pier 7 restaurant is headed by British TV personality Simon Rimmer. The menu consists of the perfect blend of traditional and contemporary dishes from the UK. In addition, the adults can choose a drink from its extensive beverage menu and pair it up with the restaurant’s classic pub bites. Insider tip: don’t miss out on the pan-fried salmon and rigatoni!

The Scene, Level 4, Pier 7, Dubai Marina, 04 422 2328, [email protected]

Museum of the Future

Keen on doing something a little more laidback but different? Take yourself on a journey to the year 2071 at Museum of the Future. Unveiled earlier this year, the museum gives its visitors a look into the world years into the future. It features seven storeys of surreal walkthrough experiences that showcase new architecture, technology, and other innovations. Aside from its astounding displays, the structure in itself is also a visual marvel. Each and every element of its architecture serves as a representation of different things: the circular shape pertaining to humanity, the greenery as the earth, while the void symbolises the future.

Museum of the Future, Trade Centre 2, Sheikh Zayed Road, 800 2071, www.museumofthefuture.ae

Arabian Tea House

Bearing the prestigious honour of being the first authentic Emirati restaurant since 1997, Arabian Tea House continues to serve its patrons a unique and wonderful dining experience. Situated in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, this iconic spot in the city transports its guests into the past with its vibrant interior design, traditional Arabic drinks, and picturesque views of both historical and modern buildings. Make the most out of your visit and order the chef’s personal favourites: karak tea, khabisah, and the dates cake. 

Arabian Tea House, Al Fahidi St., Bur Dubai, Dubai, 04 353 5071, [email protected]

Arabian Tea House, Al Fahidi St., Bur Dubai

Source: www.arabianteahouse.com

Thiptara

Start your weekend right with your special someone by taking them to one of the most romantic restaurants in Dubai. Thiptara offers a classy and intimate space perfect for a lovely night with the beau. Feast your eyes on the gorgeous front row view of the Burj Khalifa and dancing fountain while you’re treated to traditional Thai cuisine that’s highlighted by a scrumptious Bangkok-style seafood spread. 

Thiptara, Ground Level, Palace Downtown, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd, 04 428 7961, https://www.addresshotels.com

88 Terrace

Unwind the best way possible this weekend at 88 Terrace. This new Dubai lounge sitting atop the largest rooftop in the city takes nightlife to a whole new level. The up-and-coming exclusive terrace restaurant will overwhelm the senses with its eclectic mix of Mediterranean-Spanish delights. The posh futuristic interiors and scenic views of the Dubai horizon, meanwhile, add to its charm, truly making it a destination not to be missed on your next bar crawl.

88 Terrace, No. EB1, Entrance 8, Bluewaters Island, 056 881 6888, [email protected]

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Sharjah Eid Attractions, Green Iceland in sea

10 Sharjah Attractions to Explore This Eid

Bonus: each is truly affordable.

Sharjah seems to be a bit of an enigma for some, the undisputed source of Dubai’s relentless traffic for others. And then there are those who see it for what it truly is: a city packed to the brim with cultural and culinary offerings. Here, we’ve put together a list of things to do that are surprisingly affordable, proving why you should head northeast this Eid al-Adha holiday.

Right as Rain

Sharjah doesn’t get enough love, but the opening of Rain Room is doing its part to draw Dubai residents. This site-specific installation provides an immersive experience of continuous rainfall, but getting drenched isn’t a concern – your movements will trigger motion sensors to pause the rainfall as you walk through the room. You can buy your tickets once you get there, but as the Rain Room is incredibly popular (read: usually fully booked), we recommend buying them online.

Cost: Free for children five and under, AED 25 for adults

Al Majarrah, 06 561 0095

Best Places in Sharjah

Seeing Snakes

Specialising in what is known as “calligraffiti”, French-Tunisian artist eL Seed uses his work to promote cross-cultural tolerance and his larger-than-life murals can be seen everywhere from Cairo’s Garbage City to a bridge in Paris, a rooftop in Rio de Janeiro, and the minaret of a mosque in Tunisia. In Sharjah, an abandoned building serves as the canvas for the artist’s first piece of public art in the UAE. His mural draws inspiration from a poem by 19th century Iraqi poet and calligrapher Ahmed Bu Sneeda, who spent most of his life in Sharjah.

Cost: Free

Next to Al Arabi Toys Centre, Bank Street

Journey Back

The largest historical preservation and restoration project in the region, Heart of Sharjah is worth a visit for photography enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Many of the buildings in this heritage area are former Emirati homes that have been restored over the years, so traditional courtyards, coral walls, narrow alleys, and hanging lanterns translate to an air of nostalgia. Throwback vibes continue at Souq Al Arsah – considered one of the country’s oldest souqs – which is located just minutes away and home to stores that sell everything from old-timey antiques and handicrafts to herbs and spices.

Cost: Free

Corniche Street, Mareijah, 06 511 2555

Corniche Street, Mareijah
Photo: Courtesy of Alexander McNabb

Art for Art’s Sake

Sharjah Art Foundation is to Sharjah what Alserkal Avenue is to Dubai – a.k.a. a hub for artsy types and a great place to while away a Saturday evening. Here await urban gardens, several art exhibitions, alfresco film screenings, and more. Our pick? The ongoing Aref El Rayess, showcasing more than five decades of work by the prolific Lebanese artist Aref El Rayess (1928 – 2005) and dubbed his first major institutional exhibition to date.

Cost: Free

Al Shuwaiheen, Arts Area, 06 568 5050

Comeback Kid

A patisserie, a supermarket, a branch of Sharjah Co-operative Society, an outpost of Taza Chicken, and now an arts centre – meet the aptly named Sharjah structure with nine lives. Inspired by the Brutalist architecture style of the 1950s, The Flying Saucer was recently renovated by Sharjah Art Foundation and now features new exterior spaces, as well as community gathering spaces that include a multi-activity café around a sunken courtyard with a specially curated library and multiple screening walls. Today, the venue hosts film screenings, workshops, and other events accessible to the general public. 

Cost: Free

Corner of Sheikh Zayed St and Sheikh Humaid Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Square, 06 544 4113

Sheikh Humaid Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Square,
Photo: Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

Open Book

Just about any architectural structure designed by award-winning architecture firm Foster + Partners is worth a visit, and House of Wisdom is no exception. Part-library, part-cultural landmark, this striking destination spans over 12,000 square feet and boasts a whopping 305,000 books across print and digital in different languages. It’s also the definitive spot if peace and quiet is what you’re after, courtesy of the library’s futuristic suspended private pods. Elsewhere around the premises? Lecture halls, outdoor reading spaces, an auditorium, an eatery, and uninterrupted views of ‘The Scroll’ monument that was designed to look like an ancient Arabic scroll looping 36 metres towards the sky.

Cost: Free

Al Juraina 1, 06 594 0000

Chasing Butterflies

This Eid break is the perfect time to escape to to the 45,470-square-metre Al Noor Island, which is best explored around dusk. Here, lighting, literature, art, and nature collide, coming together to form a leisure destination that is intended to foster a sense of serenity – a rather unexpected discovery amidst the frenzy of the city. While there’s quite literally something for every age group, kids and adults alike are bound to love the Butterfly House that is home to nearly 500 different species of butterflies in an ornately designed building inspired by its inhabitants.

Cost: AED 10 for children aged 3 -12, AED 15 for adults

Buhairah Corniche Road, Khalid Lagoon, 06 506 7000

Khalid Lagoon
Photo: Courtesy of Al Noor Island

Breaking Bread

If there’s one thing that life in Dubai has taught us, it’s that expensive does not equal delicious when it comes to food. In fact, some of our favourite local haunts are shockingly affordable, much like Al Mukhtar Bakery in Sharjah. A beloved staple in the city’s casual eats scene, this bakery has been churning out pastries, pizza, fateer, and desserts since 1981. Having said that, it’s still the manakish that people rave most about. And with14 different varieties to choose from, there’s something for even the pickiest palate – Nutella included.

Cost: AED 10 for a Labneh & Zaatar manakish

Al Bustan Tower – Block B, Al Etihad Road, 06 531 2228

Family Matters

While Al Majaz Waterfront boasts several family-friendly attractions – think: countless cafés and restaurants, green spaces aplenty, a jogging track, a magnificent mosque, mini golf, Maraya Art Park, and more – it’s the spectacular Sharjah Musical Fountain at this epicentre of entertainment that enthralls kids every single time. Not only is it one of the biggest in the region, but it also pairs water that shoots up to 100 metres high and 220 metres wide with cutting-edge sound, light, and laser techniques. Add to that the sheer variety of shows, and there’s always something new to come back for.

Cost: Free

Al Majaz Park, Khalid Lake Trail, 06 511 7000

Al Majaz Park, Khalid Lake Trail
Photo: Courtesy of Ludo Fotografía

New and Now

Between its trendy concept stores and traditional offerings, Souq Al Shanasiyah is a great place for an aimless browse. For starters, Dukan Namlet is one of the few places in the country where you can give Namlet a try. The drink – still unknown to most residents – dates back to the 1920s and had just about disappeared by the 1980s, only to return recently. Coffee aficionados, meanwhile, swear by specialty café Ratios Coffee. Overlooking Sharjah Creek and featuring décor elements that have been reclaimed from a 60-year-old dhow that was used by the traders of yesteryear, it’s our favourite spot in which to sip a cup of single-origin coffee in Sharjah.

Cost: Free

Corniche Street – AlMerijah, Heart of Sharjah, 06 511 2555

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Travel Guide to Turkey

Is This Turkey’s Most Underrated City?

Liberal, cultured, tragically overlooked – meet Izmir.

It comes as no surprise that a day trip to Ephesus remains one of Turkey’s most popular attractions; not only are its Hellenistic and Roman ruins both spectacular and well-preserved, but it’s also easily accessible from the city of Izmir. But therein lies the problem. The average tourist will hightail it out of Izmir following a day trip to this archaeological site – and that’s just wrong.

For the uninitiated, Izmir is Turkey’s third largest and most liberal city – and proud of it. Historically known as the Greek city of Smyrna, its significance as a port city continues due to its position along the Gulf of Izmir, resulting in a vibrant seafront promenade known as Kordon. But that’s just the beginning of all it has to offer.

Staying In

While some of the largest hotel chains have set up shop in Izmir, the intimately scaled Key Hotel comes highly recommended for one reason alone: location, location, location. Standing on the Kordon, this luxury property is housed in what was once the Central Bank building and features 34 elegantly furnished rooms accented with modern amenities. Oh, the breakfast spread only adds to its appeal.

For something closer to all the action, think L’agora Old Town Hotel & Bazaar. Another four-stay property, it resides in a 300-year-old building amidst the sights and sounds of Kemeraltı, one of Turkey’s most fascinating bazaars – but more on that later. While the rooms here are clean and comfortable, its claim to fame is the atmospheric courtyard where great food and live music collide.  

Travel to Turkey

Stepping Out

Izmir is one of those places where life happens on the streets – whether you’re dining in the bohemian district of Alsançak or immersing yourself into local culture on Synagogue Street, you’ll gain plenty of insights in no time. No vicinity, however, is as ideally suited to people-watching as the aforementioned Kordon. Here, the city’s young and loved up linger alongside fishermen, cafégoers, and street food vendors. It’s also where history buffs will find Ataturk Museum, a small yet decently appointed museum dedicated to the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder and first president of Turkey.

If panoramic views of the city are what you’re after, the Asansör (Turkish for ‘elevator’) offers them for free. Built in 1907 by a Jewish philanthropist to assist elders and pregnant women grappling with the staircase between Mithatpaşa Street and Halil Rifat Quarter, it’s housed within a 51-metre tower built of bricks imported from Marseille. Another historic landmark worth visiting? Izmir Clock Tower. Built in 1901 and standing 25 metres high, it’s widely considered the symbol of Izmir. Admittedly, taking in its ornate Ottoman-style of architecture can be tricky considering the many distractions around it – selfie-takers, flocks of pigeons, and kids chasing said pigeons – but it’s easy to see why it once commanded attention.

The Ultimate Turkey Travel Guide

The clock tower also leads nicely to what can arguably be described as Izmir’s most popular tourist attraction: Kemeraltı. This iconic bazaar dates back to the 17th century and continues to have it all – shops, synagogues, mosques, traditional coffeehouses, artisan workshops, and enough dining outlets to leave you feeling overwhelmed. Make a beeline for Ayşa Boşnak Börekçisi, which ranks amongst the top ten restaurants in all of Turkey and serves some of the best salads you’ll ever eat. Incidentally, tasteful souvenirs and objets d’art await in this area at İzmirShop, about a two-minute walk away. To call the chaotic Kemeraltı a labyrinth would be an understatement, so just go with it and relish the joy of getting lost.

Food Matters

Considering that Izmir has been home to Greeks, Armenians, Levantines, and Turks over the years, its cuisine is an attraction in itself. Dostlar Fırını, for example, is famous for its many varieties of boyoz, a fried pastry of sorts concocted hundreds of years ago by Jewish bakers. Çelebi Unlu Mamuller, meanwhile, is the ultimate address for bombas. Between fillings like chocolate, coconut, pistachio, and sour cherry, this beloved local haunt manages to do wonders with a bit of soft dough.

Elsewhere, simit (a Turkish take on bagels) and midye dolma (rice-stuffed mussels) are other street food staples worth trying. And with Izmir’s location along the Aegean Sea, its fare is dominated by achingly fresh seafood accented with Mediterranean flavours – and every budget is catered to. Deniz Restaurant has understandably earned a spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, while Soirée brings with it the bonus of striking sunset views from Konak Pier.

A Complete Travel Guide to Izmir, Turkey

Culture Quest

Izmir is not just a cosmopolitan city – it’s cultured, too. Set inside the beautiful French Honorary Consulate Building, Arkas Art Center features the private collection of Turkish businessman Lucien Arkas and is a must-visit for contemporary art enthusiasts. The ongoing Myths and Dreams exhibition has taken over both floors and all nine exhibition rooms, showcasing works by the likes of Swiss visual artist Daniele Buetti, Turkish multimedia artist Gizem Candan, and Argentinian sculptor Jack Vanarsky.

Broader in scope and often overlooked by tourists, the Izmir History and Art Museum is set within a sprawling urban park known as Kültürpark. This one’s anchored in ancient artefacts, exhibiting an impressive range of ceramic works, coins, jewellery, sculptural fragments, friezes, and more across three pavilions. And with excavations relentlessly carried out in various parts of this region, you can expect to encounter traces of even the Archaic and Classical periods.

A Travel Guide to Izmir, Turkey
Photo: Courtesy of Giacasso

When in Izmir

An evening spent at a hole-in-the-wall is the definitive antidote to a long day of tourist must-dos and more mainstream attractions, and an easy way to get a real feel of Izmir. Two favourites? Münire and Karga Cafe. The former is decked out with all manner of vintage kitsch and serves over 20 different flavours of Turkish soda pop – some downright unexpected, like mastic gum. The latter is a no-frills live music venue that comes highly recommended if you’re looking to smoke nargile, have a couple of drinks, and mingle with the locals who live up to their easygoing reputation.

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Eid in Dubai

This Is Your Eid Weekend Plans, Sorted

We’re here to help you plan for a fun weekend with family!

Eid al-Adha is a mere weeks away, bringing with it another long weekend to enjoy. Of course, it’s always recommended to plan ahead as venues across the city book up – fast – around this festive holiday. Here, we round up a few fun options to consider.

Dubai Opera

Celebrate the Eid holiday by visiting Dubai Opera. Sitting in the heart of the Opera District in Downtown Dubai, this architectural wonder is host to several art and cultural events such as theatre performances, opera, ballet productions, concerts, conferences, and exhibitions. This 2,000-seater establishment has the unparalleled ability to transform into three different venue formats: a theatre, a concert hall, and an event hall, enabling it to host a wide variety of events.

Dubai Opera, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd, Downtown Dubai, 04 440 8888, dubaiopera.com

Eid In Dubai, Dubai Opera

Ain Dubai

Take your long weekend to greater heights by visiting the Insta-famous Ain Dubai. View the Dubai skyline at 820 feet above ground in the daytime or during the evening. This enormous structure boasts air-conditioned cabin rooms that show 360-degree views of the city. Choose between shared and private cabins before tucking into a wide variety of delectable food and beverages.

Ain Dubai, Bluewaters Island, 04 428 0411, aindubai.com

Green Planet

For a more family-friendly affair, take a drive down to Al Wasl and see the majestic wonders of nature at Green Planet. Home to more than 3,000 species of flora and fauna, this indoor ecosystem offers visitors an immersive tour of the jungle. Here, you can grab the opportunity to learn about birds, reptiles, sloths, and sugar gliders up close with an experienced guide. Once you and the family have explored its attractions, make a quick stop and refuel at the rainforest-themed café onsite.

Green Planet, City Walk, Al Wasl, 800 7699, greenplanet.com

Gevora Hotel

If you prefer a more laidback way to celebrate Eid, you’ll never go wrong with a staycation at one of the premier hotels in the city. Standing at 484 metres tall, Gevora Hotel holds the Guinness World Record for being the tallest hotel in the world. Our tip? Head up to the rooftop restaurant Highest View Lounge and order the always-popular T-bone steak, accented by views of the city, of course.

Gevora Hotel, 101 Sheikh Zayed Rd, Trade Centre, DIFC, 04 524 0000, gevorahotel.com

Eid Celebrations  Dubai, Gevora Hotel

Motiongate

If you’re an avid fan of theme parks, head down to Dubai Parks and Resorts and visit Motiongate, where there’s always something for everyone. You can visit motion picture sets in real life, try extreme rides, enjoy the colourful parade, and more. Oh, and remember to drop by the merchandise store on your way out to see its wide selection of cool movie memorabilia.  

Motiongate, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Sheikh Zayed Rd, 04 820 0000, motiongate.com

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Summer Eco-Friendly Travel

Eco-Friendly Travel Looks a Little Like This

Have fun without polluting your destination.

Travelling – spending time in nature and exploring new cultures especially – is a great way to get away from the daily grind and recharge our batteries. We often come back from vacations with great memories and souvenirs, but have you considered what you leave behind in the places you visit?

Our adventures often come with a heavy eco-cost, and single-use plastics are the apparent culprits. Many countries lack proper waste segregation and recycling mechanisms, so disposable products like water bottles and shopping bags can irreversibly pollute their soil and water. This becomes even worse if you are exploring mountains or beaches, as you could inadvertently wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems in the name of convenience. 

What does it mean to vacation sustainably?

It is our ethical and environmental responsibility to not burden our hosts with the duty of cleaning up after us. Thus, the goal of sustainable vacationing is to leave a light carbon footprint. Be conscious about your consumption as it can add to the waste management crisis. 

The simple rule of sustainable vacationing is   ‘no plastic, no pollution’. This can be done by replacing plastic and synthetic products in your luggage with eco-friendly ones. If you are new to sustainable practices, this can be quite difficult – even seasoned sustainability warriors can find it frustrating! Enter: My Eco Souk, an online shop for all things eco-friendly and recycled. Here, we share our top product picks from the souk for a sustainable holiday.

Reusable Water Bottles

Disposable water bottles are a common fixture in most vacations thanks to their convenience and local water safety or quality concerns. Still, they can be a menace to any ecosystem. Did you know that it takes roughly 1,000 years for a single water bottle to decompose? Switching to a stainless steel or hardwearing glass version is the simplest way you can prevent pollution from single-use water bottles.

Bamboo Flask, THE ECO LOOP

Stainless Steel Bottle, NATRL

Stainless Steel Bottle, RISAECO

Refillable Coffee Mugs 

Carrying a hot liquid like coffee in cheap plastic cups is not exactly appealing – not only do they pollute the environment, but they also leach chemicals that you could ingest. Even paper cups might not be as innocent as they seem. Nearly 6.5 billion trees are cut down annually to manufacture compostable paper cups, so why not carry a reusable coffee mug or collapsible steel cup on your next trip? 

Collapsible Steel Glass, Sustainable Souk

Reusable Shopping Bags  

Shopping is a must during vacations, especially as it’s an opportunity to support local artisans. But shopping with disposable plastic bags is always a big no for anyone interested in going green. Most plastic bags end up clogging landfills and leach microplastics into soil and groundwater. Instead, pack a couple of canvas or cotton shopping bags. You can easily fold them and carry them around in your backpack or handbag.

 Cotton Grocery Bag, UPCYCLE LETS TRANSFORM

Cassava Starch Based T‐shirt Handle Bag, My Earth Bags

Foldable Bag, RISAECO

Reusable Cutlery 

Vacations often mean eating on the go. Unfortunately, disposable cutlery like spoons or forks is often too small and too light for recycling and, when disposed of improperly, can be harmful to marine and wildlife. We recommend steel cutlery as a budget-friendly alternative as it can be washed and reused safely as many times as needed. And if travelling light is a priority? Pick compostable or biodegradable cutlery made from materials like sugar pulp or bamboo.

Stainless Steel Cutlery, THE ECO LOOP

Compostable Or Biodegradable Cutlery, ECOZOE

Eco-Friendly Food Containers 

Packing snacks is a must, especially if you’re travelling with kids. But how are you packing them? Do you use styrofoam or plastic containers? Or ziplock bags? Not only do such materials contribute to local pollution, but they also contain chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), which have also been linked to cancer. This year, ditch them for eco-friendly alternatives like recyclable containers or reusable silicon bags. Another interesting idea is to carry beeswax wraps instead of using aluminium foil or saran wrap.

Recyclable Containers, MY EARTH BAGS

Recyclable Containers, MY EARTH BAGS

Bamboo Toothbrush 

Humanity adds roughly 600 million kg in plastic toothbrush waste each year and, because plastic is practically indestructible, almost every toothbrush made since 1930 still exists. So, what can we replace them with? Bamboo toothbrushes. They’re ideal to take with you on holiday and even toss away at the end without any guilt as bamboo is completely biodegradable. Moreover, it is a fast-growing crop that does not pressure water resources.

Bamboo Toothbrush, PIYAS PLANET

Bamboo Toothbrush, PIYAS PLANET

Clean or Organic Personal Care Products 

Obviously, the plastic packaging of our personal care products is a threat to the environment, but the chemicals within can cause significant harm, too. Around 14,000 tonnes of sunscreens are washed into the oceans every year and damage underwater habitats. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) – found in hairspray and perfumes – can cause air pollution and add to carbon emissions, so start packing personal care products that are natural and organic. Carrying soap and shampoo bars will also save you from lugging multiple bottles around.

Organic Sunscreen, VAADI HERBALS 

Oil Blends Calm, THE CLEAN TOUCH

Eco-Friendly Sanitary Products

Disposable sanitary products are a major pollutant, and there is nothing convenient about them when it comes to their consequences on the planet. A disposable pad or tampon will take around 500 to 800 years to disintegrate. Moreover, they cannot be recycled as they contain both organic and synthetic materials. We suggest you opt for a reusable menstrual cup  to not only prevent pollution, but also gain major savings. Alternatively, you could replace your disposable pads or tampons with biodegradable ones.

Menstrual Cup, Sirona

Menstrual Cup, Sirona

Biodegradable Sanitary Pads, The Woman’s company

Eco-Friendly Straws 

Plastic straws, although small in size, have big environmental consequences. Single-use plastic straws cannot be recycled or broken down naturally, so they end up as microplastics and release harmful chemicals into the soil and groundwater. They are particularly problematic for aquatic animals, who often confuse them for food. Thankfully, you can now carry steel, copper, or biodegradable straws that you can use multiple times. Another fun option would be edible straws – watch your kids chomp on their straws after finishing their drink!

Biodegradable Straws, ECOZOE

Biodegradable Straws, ECOZOE

Stainless Steel Straws, The Eco Loop

Edible Drinking Straw, ECOZOE

Edible Drinking Straw, ECOZOE

Green Laundry Alternatives

Doing your own laundry when you are on vacation can not only add to your savings, but also bring down the amount of luggage that you need to lug around. But there is a catch. Most commercial laundry detergents contain harsh chemicals that damage your clothes and add significant pollutants to water bodies. For the most practical and eco-safe option during your trip, try a laundry egg. It is compact, chemical-free, and does the job of both detergent and conditioner.

Laundry Eggs, Eco Egg

Laundry Fabric Softener, DUTYBOX

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Family Activities in Dubai

5 Family-Friendly Activities to Try This Summer

Beat the heat with these top picks.

On the lookout for fun, family-friendly activities this season? You’re in luck. Dubai offers an extensive variety of both outdoor and indoor activities perfect for all ages. Whether it’s to get the adrenaline pumping or to recharge and unwind, we’ve got you covered.

Mountain & Desert Safari Tour

Experience an immersive ecotourism tour with the whole family this summer and explore the Dubai wilderness. Book the customisable mountain and desert safari tour by Platinum Heritage and embark on an awe-inspiring journey through the mountains and wadis. Take your tour to the next level by adding hiking, cycling, or even swimming to your itinerary. You never know, you might chance upon a wild Arabian oryx or majestic gazelles. 

Mountain & Desert Safari Tour – Platinum Heritage, Office 1303, Control Tower, Motor City, 04 440 9827, platinum-heritage.com

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Make the most out of the summer season at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. This gem in the heart of Palm Jumeirah takes pride in being home to the only overwater villas in the United Arab Emirates. Furthermore, this lush family-friendly resort offers three temperature-controlled swimming lagoons, various water activities for all ages, and wellness programmes perfect for a relaxing getaway.

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, East Crescent, Palm Jumeirah, 04 567 8888, [email protected]

Family Activities in Dubai | Laguna Waterpark Dubai

Laguna Waterpark

Take your summer getaway to the waters at Laguna Waterpark. There’s exciting attractions for everyone – surf, splash, and slide the whole day with the Dubai skyline as your backdrop. Pro tip: don’t miss out on the fun and iconic ‘Free Fall’. Enjoy the scenic views from the glass capsule sky box platform and let the floor drop under you for a straight plunge down the splashdown lane!

Laguna Waterpark, La Mer, Jumeirah 1, 800 7699, [email protected]

Ski Dubai

Missing winter? Look no further than Ski Dubai. It’s a massive 22,500-square-metre resort situated inside Mall of the Emirates that offers skiing and snowboarding activities, an elaborate snow display, and best of all – penguins. Cool down with the family this summer and take your snow boots for a spin at this beloved Dubai destination.

Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha 1, 600 599 905, skidxb.com

Dubai Dolphinarium

Meet some of the cutest, most intelligent aquatic and avian creatures at the Dubai Dolphinarium this summer. Settle in as bottlenose dolphins and fur seals execute breathtaking acrobatic feats at UAE’s only dolphin and seal show. Then, take your trip up a notch and be captivated by a wide variety of birds doing the coolest tricks sure to wow the whole family. 

Dubai Dolphinarium, Creek Park Gate 1, Riyadh Street, 04 336 9773, [email protected]

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Visa On Arrival For UAE Residents

This Travel Privilege Is Open to All

Three words: visa on arrival.

Hate it or hate to admit it, but it took a pandemic to prove that “immunity inequality” (as Bill and Melinda put it) is very real. However, long before coronavirus put forth the debate of vaccine passport privilege was the matter of passport privilege, and it continues to reek of hypocrisy for countless reasons.

That’s why the term ‘visa on arrival’ is music to the ears of so many. Not only does it bypass the tedious paperwork needed for the average tourist visa application, but it also allows everyone the joy of travelling on impulse. Sound appealing? Here’s a list of destinations where UAE residents can get a visa on arrival. Admittedly, it’s not an extensive list, but it has it all – history, gastronomy, culture, nature, and even naughty-looking nuts.

Azerbaijan

Head to: Baku

Stay at: Fairmont Baku

Why Visit?

The capital of Azerbaijan is so much more than “the next Dubai”. In fact, its deeply historic Icheri Sheher begs to differ. Not only does this open-air museum host domed bathhouses, sandstone caravanserais, and storied mosques, but it’s also home to Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs – both listed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Add Baku’s mild weather, a meal at museum-meets-restaurant Şirvanşah, a trip to Zaha Hadid’s iconic Heydar Aliyev Center, and the countless cafés and boutiques of Fountains Square to the mix, and you’re set.

Bonus: It takes only two hours, 55 minutes to fly to Baku. 

Azerbaijan Visa On Arrival For UAE Residents

Georgia

Head to: Kazbegi

Stay at: Rooms Hotels Kazbegi

Why Visit?

Most UAE residents never make it beyond Tbilisi – but should. In fact, a hectic capital city is hardly the place to take a time-out. We recommend enjoying Georgia’s cultural and geographical diversity by heading to Kazbegi, a small valley town steeped in ancient mythology and officially named Stepantsminda. Here await opportunities to stargaze, soak in hot springs, hike across gorges, and more. History buffs will love the 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church that is located at an elevation of 2,170 metres and boasts Mount Kazbek – a now-extinct volcano – as its backdrop.

Bonus: Tbilisi, a Silk Road crossroads, represents the epitome of East meets West.

Georgia Visa On Arrival For UAE Residents

Maldives

Head to: Vakkaru

Stay at: Vakkaru Maldives

Why Visit?

Unlike most travel destinations, where you stay in the Maldives is downright crucial – it can make or break your trip. Enter: Vakkaru Maldives, where you will indulge in a level of luxury that you’d be embarrassed to acknowledge back in the real world. And while white-sand beaches and turquoise-blue waters are a given, this property stands out because of its location within Baa Atoll, the only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives. Elsewhere, a sense of personality comes courtesy of Assouline coffee table books, farm-to-table experiences, and efforts towards sourcing educational materials for the local school.

Bonus: Guests can take a speedboat to Thulhaadhoo – the only island where Maldivians still create traditional lacquer artefacts that once catered exclusively to nobility – to explore authentic culture and purchase souvenirs.

Maldives Visa On Arrival For UAE Residents

Seychelles

Head to: Praslin

Stay at: Raffles Seychelles

Why Visit?

Legend has it that Praslin island is the real-life site of the mythological Garden of Eden. But there’s more. Not only is it the archipelago’s second largest island, but it’s also home to blush-inducing natural wonders. Anse Lazio – one of the world’s most beautiful beaches – happens to be located just around the corner from Raffles Seychelles, while the granite boulders of La Digue are a boat ride away. Most memorable, however, are the fabled Coco de Mer palms at Vallée De Mai nature park. These ancient 40-metre trees produce the world’s heaviest nuts, but it’s their suggestive shape (reminiscent of a woman’s nether regions, to put it politely) that makes them so unique.

Bonus: Creole cuisine is a unique blend of Indian spices, African flavours, and European cooking techniques, making it a tourist attraction in itself.

Seychelles Visa On Arrival For UAE Residents
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Father's Day In Dubai

9 Ways to Celebrate Father’s Day in Dubai

The holiday will be marked on Sunday, June 19.

Let’s admit it: most of us put a lot less spotlight on Father’s Day as compared to the other holidays. It’s an often-overlooked but nonetheless special day that celebrates father figures everywhere, so make your dad feel valued with one (or more!) of these fun ways.

Be a Sport

The month of June comprises some of the biggest sporting events of the year, so shout your support for dad’s favourite team at one of Dubai’s best sports bars. Kickers Sports Bar, conveniently located at Dubai Sports City, has TV screens on every wall so that audiences at this cool joint never miss a spectacular moment of action.

Kickers Sports Bar, Football Zone, Sports Village, Dubai Sports City, 04 448 1001, kickerssportsbar.ae

Make a Splash

If your dad is up for an adventure in the city, take him to a waterpark! Dubai boasts a great number of options that perfect for some well-deserved family time. Aquaventure at Atlantis the Palm features a wide array of slides and thrill rides perfect for beginners and adrenaline junkies alike. Let your dad show off his valour at its most popular attraction: the Leap of Faith. This slide has an 18-metre vertical drop sure to keep the blood pumping. Aquaventure also offers group attractions such as the Aquacondo and Zoomerango that the family can enjoy together.

Aquaventure, Atlantis The Palm, Crescent Road, 04 426 0000, atlantis.com

Take a Ride

Another great way to spend dad’s special day is by taking him on a jetski tour around the city. Treat him to two exciting hours of fun as he takes in the gorgeous views around Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab, Atlantis, and Bluewaters Island while he glides through the turquoise waters of Dubai with his very own personal watercraft. 

Ride in Dubai, Jumeirah 4, Al Fintaas St. Fishing Harbor, rideindubai.com, 052 714 2600

Catch a Flick

For the laid-back dads out there, you can’t go wrong with a classic night of entertainment at the movies. Spoil your dad with tickets to the latest action flick – or two – with VOX Cinema’s exclusive ticket offers. Look through its list of partnered banking establishments and avail movie tickets for half the price.

VOX Cinemas, 600 599 905, uae.voxcinemas.com

Journey East

Fathers Day In Dubai, Journey East

Celebrate this special day by treating the family to a scrumptious feast of Asian-American fusion dishes. Han Shi Fu at Aloft Dubai Creek is a gem in the heart of the city, offering traditional yet innovative flavours reminiscent of the most popular dishes in Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York, and Los Angeles. Here, the menu boasts a wide array of dim sum, entrees, alcoholic beverages, and more in its well-curated unlimited and à la carte menus.

Han Shi Fu, Aloft City Centre, Deira, 04 228 1075, @hanshifudxb

Check In

Experience the wonders of being a tourist in your own town by booking a staycation for the family. It’s a great weekend activity, perfect for dads in need of a little R&R. It’s also an easy way to escape the city grind without the stress of travelling. Bonus: you can up your gifting game by booking a well-deserved full-body massage for your dad. 

Browse some of our favourite staycation spots here.

Shop Savvy

Take your dad shopping for great staple pieces for his wardrobe, trading in his old and worn-out shirts during a fun day of mall-hopping at Dubai’s many shopping destinations. Oh, and be sure to watch out for amazing promotions during the Dubai Summer Surprises usually happening right around June – just in time for Father’s Day!

Learn more about countrywide shopping events here

Cut ‘N’ Shave

Make a huge difference to your dad’s grooming routine by treating him to a luxurious shave at 1847. This establishment is one of the Middle East’s most exclusive men’s grooming lounges, dedicated to providing premium services from haircuts to facials and more at its 12 locations across Dubai. Give your dad the pampering he deserves and book him in for the comprehensive ‘Murdock London’ shave, 1847’s signature service.

1847, 2nd Floor, Fashion Avenue, The Dubai Mall, 800 1847, [email protected]

Escape the City

Looking to treat an outdoorsy dad? Go sightseeing in Dubai’s deserts by joining a safari tour, which you can easily customise by choosing from a number of fun activities – dune bashing, quad biking, and buggy riding included. Have your dad immerse in the culture while experiencing the endless thrills that the desert has to offer. Win-win.

Desert Safari Tours, 055 735 5443, [email protected]

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