Pick a holiday to suit your clients’ pace, writes Katie McGonagle
There are two types of people: those who relax by doing as little as possible, and those who relax by packing their days with plenty of activities.
OK, that might be going a bit far – most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes – but there’s no doubting how we relax says a lot about who we are and the types of holiday we seek.
For every person who wants to lie on a sunlounger with interruptions only for ice cream or freshly topped-up cocktails, there’s another who can’t switch off until they’re hurtling at full speed around a racetrack or in the wake of a speedboat.With destinations as varied as the activities they offer, a holiday in the Middle East can be tailored to suit either camp – or both, often within the same break – so here’s our round-up of a few options across the region.
Pause: Anyone craving a quiet getaway should head for Dubai’s luxuriant spas. Gold Medal recommends Jumeirah Zabeel Saray’s Talise Spa, where 42 treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms and thalassotherapy pools leave spa-goers spoilt for choice. Anantara The Palm is a Travel 2 favourite, combining its Emirati location with the brand’s Thai heritage in therapies ranging from a floral foot ritual to an Arabian exotic wrap.
If the city gets too much, try a Bedouin-inspired escape to the desert. Master the ancient art of falconry at Banyan Tree Al Wadi in Ras Al Khaimah (from £715 for a two-day course plus accommodation), or enjoy total tranquillity at Luxury Collection resort Al Maha (six nights’ full-board in a Bedouin suite starts at £1,749 with Premier Holidays in June or July, including flights and transfers).
Play: Adrenaline-seekers are well catered-for in Dubai. Whether kitesurfing in the warm Arabian Gulf, scaring themselves silly with Wild Wadi waterpark’s Jumeirah Sceirah and Aquaventure’s Leap of Faith, or bumping over sand dunes in a 4×4, there’s plenty of opportunity to get the blood pumping. If clients have a competitive edge, suggest having a go at camel polo (from £115 through Gold Medal), sand-boarding or dune surfing.
To exercise mind as much as body, time the visit to coincide with Art Dubai in March, which attracts more than 500 international artists, or the nine-day Dubai International Film Festival in December, which features pop-up screens in Burj Park and JBR Walk with the added bonus of star-spotting on the red carpet.
Pause: The pace of change in Abu Dhabi might feel frenetic, but there are still chances to wind down. Enjoy leisurely sightseeing on a dhow dinner cruise to contrast the traditional sailing vessel with the fast-moving modern city (from £69 adults/£49 children with Attraction World).
Or take advantage of pampering packages such as the Romantic Escape at Yas Island Rotana. For £116.50 per couple per night, enjoy a room upgrade, passes to Yas Beach Club, bottle of bubbly, sweets and flowers on arrival, breakfast in bed and a half-hour couple’s massage. If two have become three, Gold Medal can also offer a three-night family stay here with breakfast, Etihad flights and deluxe transfers, starting at £539 based on two adults and a child sharing, departing February 8-16.
Play: Clients who go to Abu Dhabi as adults will soon find themselves retreating into adolescence with its fun-filled activities. You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy the 43 rides and slides at Yas Waterworld; and even less so at next-door Ferrari World, where petrolheads can slide into a Formula 1 cockpit and feel the 4.8 G-force of accelerating to 150 miles in less than five seconds. TravelCube offers general admission to Yas Waterworld from £43.25 or £79 for a Fast Pass ticket; Ferrari World starts at £45 standard or £81 Fast Track.
Pause: Oman sports a spectacular coastline, but it’s more than a beach destination. The Chedi Muscat offers a relaxing base to explore the capital’s cultural highlights, while the new five-star Salalah Rotana Resort combines a breathtaking coastline with easy access to Taqah Castle, Unesco heritage site Sumharam on the Frankincense trail, and the Qara mountains (from £91 per night).
Alternatively, Cox & Kings suggests the flexibility of a self-drive to set your own pace – even more attractive when you consider road signs are mostly English and petrol costs about 20p a litre.
Play: Active types will be happy on Cox & Kings’ new twin-centre Peak to Beach tour, starting in the stunning new Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel, for hiking and biking through the Al Hajar mountains, plus a beach stay to recover (from £1,495 for eight days).Families, meanwhile, may prefer the more contained environment of Al Waha in Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah resort – though be warned they might never find time for sightseeing. Between the 500-metre Lazy River and Splashpad play area, Adventure Zone packed with climbing walls, slides and a ball pool, plus mini-golf, camel and pony rides, it’ll be tough to drag kids away. Caribtours offers a week with breakfast, flights, private transfers and lounge passes at Heathrow from £6,655 per family based on four sharing an interconnecting family room.
Pause: The Dead Sea’s mineral-rich mud attracts spa-goers of all varieties for dedicated wellness breaks or post-tour add-ons. Trafalgar’s five-day Jordan Experience ticks off cultural highlights – the impressive ruins of Amman, Jerash and Petra, 12th-century Crusader fortress at Shobak and mosaic map of the Holy Land at Madaba – then gives guests a rest on an optional two-night extension to the Dead Sea.
Play: For those who would rather devote their time to exploring its history and culture, Riviera Travel’s Jordan & Petra itinerary offers guided tours of Petra and Jerash, visits Wadi Rum for a night in a Bedouin camp, and stops at the biblical spots of Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land, and Bethany, where Jesus was baptised. The seven-day tour starts at £1,199 with flights.
For even more action, Insight Vacations’ 12-day Egypt and Jordan tour combines two countries in one: see the Pyramids of Giza, fly to Luxor for a Nile cruise, take tea at Agatha Christie haunt the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, then move on to Jerash, Shobak and Mount Nebo before finishing in Amman. The tour costs from £2,985 with B&B, cruise and domestic flights but excluding international flights.
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