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Middle East: Making the most of stopovers

A range of regional UK departures make the Gulf states great stopover options for all types of clients. Rob Gill outlines where your clients can fly from, stopover highlights and good options for twin-centres.

TRFBLI
Museum of Islamic Art 3.jpg
Museum of Islamic Art 3.jpg
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"Emirates’ extensive network – it flies to more than 140 destinations from Dubai – means that the family options are endless."

Qatar

Where can you fly from?

 

Qatar Airways’ growing regional network from the UK to Doha already includes non-stop flights from Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh, with daily services from Cardiff due to start from May 1, 2018. The airline also started direct flights from Dublin to Doha in summer 2017.

 

What are the stopover highlights?
Doha can’t match the scale and range of activities that Dubai offers, but the city gives a more laid-back insight into Arabian culture and history.
Visiting the Museum of Islamic Art is one of the highlights and this iconic building also offers some of the best views of Doha’s rapidly changing cityscape as the country prepares to host the 2022 World Cup football tournament.
Stroll around Souq Waqif where tourists can buy spices and souvenirs, as well as visiting the falcon market, or catch a performance at the Katara Cultural Village. The city’s cultural attractions will be enhanced next year by adrenaline going, while historic Al Zubarah Fort in the north of Qatar is a Unesco World Heritage-listed site.
Stopovers are now much easier in Qatar after the country introduced visa-free entry without the need for any prior application or fee payments.

 

Where does it pair well with?
Qatar Airways is constantly adding new destinations, including the first non-stop service from Doha to Auckland for clients who don’t mind an 18-hour flight. There are plenty of beach and cultural options with much shorter flight times including new services to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand starting this week (December 12), while the airline has also become the first carrier to fly a spanking new Airbus A350 to the Maldives.

Dubai

Where can you fly from?
Emirates is well-known for its regional UK services with flights from Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow. It has just added extra capacity on the Birmingham-Dubai route by introducing a second daily A380 superjumbo flight. The airline also flies from Dublin.

 

What are the stopover highlights?
Few destinations can match Dubai’s scale of attractions, from some of the world’s most iconic buildings and huge shopping malls to palatial hotels and resorts – and then there’s the recent opening of major theme parks, such as Dubai Parks & Resorts and IMG Worlds of Adventure. Mix in year-round sunshine and spectacular beaches, and you can see why Dubai is pitching itself as a “family-friendly” stopover throughout the year, although soaring temperatures in the summer months can be oppressive.
The development never seems to stop in Dubai, as the emirate aims to attract 20 million tourists per year by 2020, with even the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, set to be put in the shade by The Tower, which will be even higher when it opens in three years’ time.
Another new family attraction coming in 2018 will be Dubai Safari, which will feature 10,000 animals including lions, antelopes and elephants. This will be followed in 2019 by a new Six Flags theme park.

What does it pair well with?
Emirates’ extensive network – it flies to more than 140 destinations from Dubai – means that the family options are endless. Beach destinations include Phuket in Thailand, Mauritius, the Maldives, Bali or the Indian state of Kerala. For clients thinking about heading Down Under, Emirates is adding a fourth daily service to Sydney from March 2018.

Abu Dhabi

Where can you fly from?
Etihad Airways offers flights to Abu Dhabi from both Manchester (double daily) and Edinburgh (daily during summer and five times per week in winter). The airline also flies nonstop from Dublin.

 

What are the stopover highlights?
Dubai’s near neighbour is not quite as showy or fixated on tall buildings as its fellow emirate – after all, Abu Dhabi is much larger and its huge oil reserves have allowed the destination to develop at a more stately pace.
That’s not to say that Abu Dhabi doesn’t do bling, as anybody who has visited or stayed in the gold-obsessed Emirates Palace hotel can attest to. High-end hotels, restaurants and shopping malls make it a great place for a stopover for adult groups and couples.
Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions have also been greatly enhanced by the long-awaited opening of the Louvre art gallery in November featuring more than 600 artworks.
It also has its own theme parks for those seeking a more adrenalin fuelled experience including Ferrari World, which is currently undergoing a major expansion, and Yas Waterworld. They will be joined by SeaWorld Abu Dhabi in 2022.
Abu Dhabi also has plenty of desert for a spot of wadi-bashing through the dunes, while a more tranquil option is to paddle around the mangrove forest in a kayak.

 

Where does it pair well with?
Abu Dhabi can easily be combined with a holiday in India, with Etihad serving 11 destinations in the country, as well as being a partner with Indian carrier Jet Airways. It’s a similar story with another Etihad partner, Air Seychelles, which also operates from Abu Dhabi. The emirate can be easily combined with a culture-based holiday in the Far East thanks to connections to Thailand, Hong Kong, China and Japan, among others.

Oman

Where can you fly from?
Oman Air started a new daily route from Manchester to Muscat in May 2017, in addition to its Heathrow flights.

 

What are the stopover highlights?
The Omani capital of Muscat offers a different perspective of the Gulf region – away from the gleaming skyscrapers of the other major aviation hubs. One of the city’s most dominant landmarks is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which opened in the early 2000s, with its domed roof and fine Islamic architecture, while more historic sites include Al Alam Palace and neighbouring historic Portuguese forts of Al Mirani and Al Jalali.
Muscat also has plenty of natural attractions including several nearby beaches with the pristine waters ideal for snorkelling, diving, whale watching or relaxing on a traditional dhow cruise.
Tourists can also enjoy an authentic Arabian shopping experience at the souq in Mutrah where you can haggle over Omani and Indian crafts. Several day trips are available for those on longer stopovers including visiting the town of Barka (famous for camel racing), Jebel Shams mountains, the fort of Nizwa or the turtle-nesting site of Ras Al Jinz.

 

Where does it pair well with?
Oman Air does not offer the same range of connections as the “big three” Gulf carriers but it still has a good choice of onward destinations including regional options such as Jordan, Cairo and Tehran to keep the cultural theme going. It also serves African destinations such as Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, as well as Kathmandu in Nepal and Sri Lanka.

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