Beaches may not first spring to mind when thinking of the Middle East, yet the region is home to splendid stretches to suit a variety of clients, says Charlotte Flach
Sand in the Middle East isn’t just confined S to the region’s terracotta deserts.Indeed, there are many brilliant beaches scattered across the region, with options to suit different clients.
There are great natural and man-made beaches, according to Jenny Peart, head of product at Caribtours. “There’s an excellent range of luxury resorts in the Middle East which usually have their own private section of beach, with spas, high-end dining and watersports facilities perfectly complementing the beach- break experience.
“For a small fee, resort beaches can usually be accessed by non-residents for those that want to explore other beaches on their travels.”
In terms of the dress code for public beaches, Peart has the following advice: “In general,public beaches in Dubai are fairly westernised and it’s OK to wear normal swimwear suchas bikinis. If unsure, it’s always best to check with your tour operator as not all beaches in the Middle East will be the same, and it may be more appropriate to dress conservatively.”
Tel Aviv is home to no fewer than 13 beaches, which stretch across almost nine miles of golden sand, surrounded by the azure blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
Ideal for families is Metzitzim beach, thanks to its shallow waters and visible lifeguards to put parents’ minds at ease. There are a host of restaurants, bars, showers and shaded areas for the little ones.
Cyplon Holidays’ Elena Ahmadian recommends “colourful and inclusive” Hilton beach for LGBT travellers. “It’s located within walking distance of the heart of the city, making it an ideal place for the June Pride Parade to host live music, drinks and dancing,” she says.
BOOK IT: A four-night stay at the Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv, is priced from £1,049pp on a B&B basis. Price includes flights from Luton on 6 September and private transfers, for two adults and two children (under 12) sharing two rooms.
Abu Dhabi is a real contender to Middle Eastern powerhouse Dubai, with a cosmopolitan vibe that goes hand in hand with its natural environment.
“Abu Dhabi is known for its glittering skyline, glossy shopping malls and wealth of cultural attractions, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the new Louvre Abu Dhabi,” says Peart. “But many people don’t realise this is a fantastic destination for a beach break, with the emirate set over a series of sand- fringed islands.”
One of these is Saadiyat Island, which is linked to the main island by a bridge. The white sands, rolling dunes and crystal-clear waters of its Blue Flag beach are an ideal backdrop for a range of watersports including sailing and windsurfing.
BOOK IT: Caribtours offers five nights at The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort from £889pp on half-board. Price includes flights, private transfers and access to a UK airport lounge.
Clients visiting Oman will have the opportunity to discover Fins Beach on a tour with Emirates Holidays. Flamingos can be spotted along the white sands just after dawn breaks, enjoying the cooler atmosphere and refreshing water.
Fins Beach is a sanctuary located away from the bustle of the Omani capital, but nearby enough that clients can spend a day there enjoying its souks and restaurants before kicking back on the sand. Niel Alobaidi, managing director of Emirates Holidays UK & Ireland, adds: “Fins Beach offers an escape away from busy Muscat, inviting travellers to swim in tranquil, clear waters and see Oman’s incredible marine life.”
BOOK IT: The A Taste of Oman tour is priced from £2,720pp for a seven-day trip, based on two sharing. Includes Emirates flights and private chauffeur-driven transport. The tour can be tailor-made to suit clients’ preferences.
Al Marjan is a group of four coral-shaped islands in a man-made archipelago, located in the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.
It incorporates four islands, one of which is Dream Island, which has an extensive beach area with several hotels and clubs on its shores.
“Travellers can discover remarkable restaurants, bars and beach parties, along with access to a wealth of sporting and leisure facilities such as golfing, sailing and desert camping,” says John Poulton, assistant product manager, Middle East, Indian Ocean and Africa at Gold Medal.
BOOK IT: Three nights at five-star DoubleTree by Hilton Resort and Spa Marian Island, Ras Al Khaimah is from £559pp staying in a guest room with pool view on B&B basis. Includes flights with Emirates and transfers from Dubai airport. Valid for travel from 1-20 July.
While the luxury beachfront hotels of Ajman have their own private beaches, there is also the well-known public sun-catching spot of Ajman Beach. This stretch of coastline is one of the longest public white-sand beaches in the UAE and runs along the edge of the town centre.
“With long stretches of white sand and turquoise waters, the beaches are one of the standout selling points of Ajman,” says Wendy Kenneally, director of commercial and operations at Kuoni. “They are quiet, so you’re not going to see crowds of people on them, and all the hotels in our programme are just a few steps from the sandy shoreline, which makes them attractive for couples looking for a premium beach break.”
BOOK IT: Three nights at the Fairmont Ajman costs from £671pp for two sharing on a B&B basis, including flights. Price based on selected September departure dates.
Jarada Island, which appears with the ebb of the tide in the middle of the Gulf, is famed as one of the best beaches in Bahrain. Not just a haven for sun worshippers, there are also opportunities to pearl-dive, spot dolphins and see up to 30 types of coral and more than 200 species of fish. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain’s new Pearl 1 boat can take guests to the island in 90 minutes.
“Being the only island in the Middle East, the Kingdom of Bahrain offers a multitude of pristine beaches,” says Yousef AlKhan, director of marketing and tourism promotion for the destination.
“The Bahrain Islands are home to over 33 natural islands; Jarada Island and Hawar Islands are popular among locals and tourists alike.”
BOOK IT: Prices start from £984pp for a stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain. Price is based on two sharing a deluxe room on a B&B basis for five nights, including flights.