It is the mighty season of travelling once again, and this year, we’re sticking to our roots and digging deeper into our Arab region like never before. We take you on a journey of discovery and unearth the secrets of out of the ordinary destinations like Morocco’s ancient Chefchaouen and the breathtaking Adrar oasis in Algeria, while not missing the mesmerising historical Petra of Jordan, and including a final stop in the one and only fascinating Dubai. While, depending on your personal preferences, you’ll want to linger in one stop or another, we’ve gathered a few travelling tips on where to stay, meals and outings that can be a starter kit for your journey of exploration. Here’s a little snippet of how your voyage can look like…
Nestled in the beautiful Riff Mountains between the towns of Tangier and Fes, Chefchaouen, “the blue pearl of Morocco,” is just an hour away by bus or taxi from Tétouan Saniat R’mel airport. After you’ve made your way around its narrow sloping cobblestone pedestrian streets, head to the family-run hotel, Dar Besmellah, which captures the essence of what this city is all about, and also happens to be a few steps away from the local hammam where you can enjoy a soothing scrub and relaxing massage. Make sure you visit the outdoor terrace of the iconic Chez Hicham restaurant to feast your eyes on 50 shades of the deep blue sea, while pampering your palate with the delicious homegrown goat cheese salads that Chefchaouen is most famous for.
Nothing cures the blues like the blue waters of Adrar oasis (formerly known as Timmi), and with the tranquility of the surrounding Sahara Desert, phones should be strictly switched off upon arrival. Located in the southwestern region of Algeria, the oasis can be reached through Touat Cheikh Sidi Mohamed Belkebir Airport, which is only 10 kilometers away from center of the city. Adrar’s distinctive thick-walled red-wash architecture is characterised by sawtooth crenellation that are similar to teeth-like slopes and holds incredible spiritual influence amid the sand-dune-covered plains. Head to the Mraguen Hotel, famous for an abundance of folklore and cultural heritage, to serve as your delightful home away from home during your stay. Feel free to lurk around its iconic Khaima if you’re ready to kickstart the festivities, or otherwise, grab a cup of hot tea and let the amazing desert view sink in!
Full of exotic appeal and considered one of the most easygoing capitals of North Africa, sightseeing in Tunis starts at its iconic Medina, where the high walls will leave you rather lost but quite content. Let Tunis remind you that not all routes must be planned, for its charming labyrinth extends beyond the old town of over 700 monuments. For a cultural hideaway, home cooked comfy local dishes, and a spectacular rooftop terrace overlooking the iconic Zaytouna Mosque, Café Culturel El Ali awaits you after a long day of exploring. A must visit on the outskirts of the capital, is the quaint town of Sidi Bou Said, where there’s an abundance of charming hotels and amazing coffee shops serving delicious traditional green tea with pine nuts.
The noise, the scenery, and the thousand years’ worth of culture are all part of what makes Cairo the “Mother of the World.” One of the scarce remaining ancient wonders of the world, you have not truly visited Egypt unless you’ve had your tour around the Giza Pyramids and the ancient Sphinx. A private tour with an Egyptologist will grant you the flexibility and time to admire and digest the ancient history around Cairo and in the amazing Egyptian Museum according to your liking. After being properly acquainted with the Pyramids of Cheops, Khafre, and Menakaure, head to the world’s most ancient Khan Khalili bazaar in the Gamaleya neighborhood, which holds everything you could wish for, ranging from typical crafts shopping, hot beverages, old tales, local food. Bring walking shoes for sure!
Among the top must-see sights around the famed ancient city of Petra lies the rock-cut Treasury temple that can only be accessed through a narrow canyon called Al Siq, where Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was exclusively shot and raised the city’s cultural heritage back to its world-wide acclaim. After you’re done climbing up and down its 822 steps carved out of the mountain to the Monastery building and visited the sacred tombs deeply-rooted in Jordan’s south-western desert, you can either replenish with your ready-made pre-packaged lunch, or grab a bite to eat from the Bedouins’ food kiosks and small-scale restaurants that serve authentic Jordanian cuisine for passersby. Petra is easily reachable from Amman or Aqaba by the Red Sea, so you can take your pick on whether to make your base in the city or on the beach.
Besides several ancient monuments, Muscat’s prominent natural beauty is what strikes tourists the most. You also must take a stroll through the Arab world’s oldest market, Matrah Souq, which is located only 30 minutes away from Oman’s north-western city of Seeb. Shopping aside, natural must-see spots range from the indoor cave of Wadi Shab, Bimmah Sink Hole’s natural swimming pool, Nakhal hot springs, and finally, the Wahiba Sand’s peaceful desert getaway. Make sure you bring a map because you will need it on these exciting rugged excursions.
The list of Dubai’s touristic hotspots evolves with every passing year, if not every minute, but the eclectic city is considered one of the most permissive, relaxed, and cosmopolitan destinations in the region. Considered the tallest man-made structure of the world and almost three times the size of the Eiffel Tower, Burj Khalifa makes for one hell of an exciting lunch or dinner outing, especially if you book a visit to its 128th-floor observation deck. Make sure you visit Dubai’s second most-treasured and iconic Miracle Garden, which houses over 45 million flowers arranged in all the wondrous spectrum of shapes, sizes, designs, themes, and colours. Miracles do happen!