Turquoise waters juxtaposed with barren landscapes. Rugged deserts are fronting tropical oases. Opulent luxury resorts and rustic beachside cabins define the surreal beach getaways in the Middle East.
This region abounds in stunning and enticing coastal holiday destinations that complement the fascinating cuisine, people, music and architecture of ancient cultures.
Blessed with a warm temperate climate, the Middle East offers the discerning traveller a rewarding and relaxing escape along its vast and captivating coastline so, if you’re yearning for a well-earned holiday in a unique location, head to one or more of the following surreal beach getaways in the Middle East.
Opulence thrives in the Gulf region of the Middle East. The peninsula houses some of the most luxurious and decadent destinations in the world, which are fit for royalty, and many of these front stunning beaches.
The wealthy Emirate of Abu Dhabi hosts two stunning resorts, which abound in sophistication and excess. Emirates Palace offers indulgence, while the Burj Al Arab is regarded as the world’s most luxurious hotel and overlooks the blue waters of the Gulf.
Stunning beaches surround Oman’s capital, Muscat, and provide the backdrop to the sophisticated Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa. Still in Oman is the Six Senses Zighy Bay, a high-end hotel perched above an azure bay backed by harsh, rocky cliffs – the aesthetic which typifies Oman’s unique coastline.
As an island, Bahrain is bound to possess some wonderful stretches of coastline, and it also houses an opulent resort. The Al Areen Palace and Spa is the only all-villa private pool resort in the Arabian Gulf and is a place to experience limitless luxury.
Travelling further afield, away from the Gulf, visitors can still revel in decadent luxury. The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar in the Dead Sea in Jordan promises all of the trappings of a high-end resort as well as access to the soothing and special waters of the Dead Sea.
If you can afford it, or even afford to splurge and treat yourself to something genuinely remarkable once in your life, you could visit one of the locations mentioned above and live like royalty.
For short escapes
Travellers with a short window for a beach holiday can escape to many coastal gems.
After exploring the pyramids, weary travellers can unwind in Ain Al Sokhna, which lies just two hours from Egypt’s capital. Visitors can choose between lazing by the pool and watching dolphins frolic in the sea or playing on a jet ski, sailboard or kayak. The resort area also rewards guests with elegant hotels and fine dining, as well as white sand beaches.
Another stunning coastal retreat close to Cairo is Gouna. Sitting on the shores of the Red Sea, Gouna hosts many five-star hotels and apartments by the marina, as well as opportunities for snorkelling, canoeing and sunbathing, plus fine dining and all-night dancing.
Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi is home to the hawksbill turtle and blue-flag beaches and is just 10 minutes from the center of the city. It also boasts a sea-front links golf course designed by Gary Player. Kite Beach, a short trip from the heart of Dubai, offers endless activities for families and offers respite and relaxation for an afternoon or a day.
Meanwhile, Damour in Lebanon is famous for its party scene, similar to that of Nissi beach in Cyprus.
Touted as one of the most picturesque beaches in the region, Taba is situated on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and achieved its fame courtesy of its bronze-coloured mountains and the vibrant colours of the Red Sea.
Completing the alluring picture is its perfect year-round weather and luxurious resorts, plus the chance to wander the sand dunes on the back of a camel and share tea in a Bedouin tent.
Challenging Taba for beauty supremacy is Marsa Matrouh or Cleopatra’s beach. Yes, Cleopatra herself is said to have bathed and relaxed in its waters, such as the beauty of its white-sand beaches, natural rock pools and caves at Ageebah beach.
A natural rocky breakwater protects the calm waters, and the destination is served by an international airport and many excellent hotels.
Salalah Beach in Oman is backed by green hills, while Oludeniz in Turkey hosts perfect white sand beaches, spectacular views and majestic mountains rising from its shores.
The resort offers a full array of activities such as paragliding above the sand, sea and mountains. Discover its long wide beaches, famous blue lagoon and hidden coves.
Float on top of the sea, revitalize your skin and regain that healthy glow in Dead Sea resorts in Jordan. The waters of the Dead Sea have long been hailed for their ability to improve the health and wellbeing of those who bathe in their waters. The rich waters provide visitors with the surreal experience of remaining buoyant on the surface of the water.
You may not entirely be able to walk on water, but this is the closest you will ever get.
Scuba divers are spoilt for choice in the Middle East, whose clear waters and year-round sunshine promise excellent visibility and an abundance of marine life, as well as the bonus of warm water and many wrecks.
Marsa Allam is known as the pre-eminent dive site in Egypt and is located along the Red Sea coast. The landscape is impressive, sitting between the sea and the mountains, and the tropical fish and coral reward the diver.
The snorkelling is just as impressive, as are trips in glass-bottom boats. Of course, visitors can then bask in the sun on one of the beautiful beaches and work on that tan!
Egypt also boasts sites such as Ras Mohammed National Park for wall diving, and Dahab, a bohemian town with a famous dive called Blue Hole. Aqaba in Jordan attracts many underwater adventurers to its sunken wreck, Cedar Pride.
An increasingly popular diving destination is Saudi Arabia, which plays host to the Boiler Wreck off Jeddah, and Yanbu, where it is possible to get up close and personal with hammerhead sharks – if you dare!
Have you considered Iran?
Admittedly, this country does not spring to mind when beaches are mentioned, but the dive scene is growing in this nation thanks to sites such as Kish Island, known for its colourful coral and moray eels.
Divers can’t go past Oman. Located close to the capital of Muscat, an interesting destination in itself, are dive sites such as Daymaniyat Islands, Al Fahal Island and the Al Munassir wreck, which attracts a type of sell-less sea slug called nudibranchs. Oman also promises the opportunity to dive off a traditional dhow.
For a genuinely surreal dive experience, swim among the sunken ruins of Roman cities off the coast of Tyre, Lebanon, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
For rustic charm
To truly savour the natural beauty of Middle Eastern beaches and the winning combination of stark landscapes and stunning waters, visit one of the more rustic beach resorts in the region.
Ras Shitan in Egypt offers travellers rustic beachside bungalows and authentic bamboo huts on the shores of the Red Sea. The destination promises peace and relaxation, as well as crystal clear waters with a rugged backdrop. The small resort is located in Northern Nuweiba and is famous for its underwater mountains and caves, as well as the vibrant marine ecosystem.
Named for its annual visitors, Turtle Beach in Oman is an untrampled and stunning beach. The nearby beach of Ras Al Jinz hosts turtles every year, and visitors can witness conservation efforts while learning more about the creatures. There are regular tours to the turtle nesting sites as well as an impressive and modern visitors center.
Accommodation is available at Turtle Beach Resort, which enjoys views of the ocean and the customary rugged Omani landscape. Meanwhile, Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve also offers accommodation in rooms or luxury eco-tents.
Staying on-site at Ras Al Jinz is an advantage, as many of the visits to the turtle nesting sites leave very early in the morning. It also gives visitors the chance to sit back with a drink and a meal at the end of the day and watch the world go by over the ocean.
The landscapes, culture, cuisine and marine treasures of the Middle East are truly unique and spectacular, and the resorts which hug their shorelines can be just as memorable. White sandy beaches and lush or rugged coastlines beckon visitors, who can stay in rustic beachside cabins or some of the world’s most opulent and decadent resorts. Divers, families, party animals and nature lovers are catered for, and some picturesque beaches lie just moments from the heart of major cities.
Throughout the region, holidaymakers are spoilt for choice when in need of a luxurious and unforgettable beachside holiday!