Thursday, March 15, 2012

Top 10 Travel Destinations From Saudi

One of the advantages to living in the Middle-East and Saudi-Arabia is the travel opportunities it opens. Many places become geographically closer for the expats coming from the Americas, Europe and Asia. Travel is also relatively affordable and there are direct flights and good flight connections from Saudi and the GCC countries. Many expat workers have 50+ annual leave days a year as benefits to use for travelling!

During my four years here I traveled to 15 different countries for a holiday directly from Riyadh. Some of them are worth mentioning so here goes: My top 10 places to travel to from Saudi-Arabia in no particular order:

1. Qatar
The reason I like Qatar so much is that it manages to keep its traditions alive without drowning in the commercial madness like neighbors Dubai and Bahrain. Qatar has almost a small town feel to it despite the emerging skyscrapers. Some of the ME best museums and cultural villages can be found here. The numerous souqs have been restored and wandering among them feels like stepping back in time. Qatar also has great restaurants and beaches for those in search of a beach holiday!
2. Maldives
The ultimate honeymoon and couples destination is easily reached with a 6 hour flight from Riyadh. Picture perfect beaches and world class diving await the visitors. Still on my bucket list!

3. Oman
IMHO the world's most hospitable people are the Omanis. I have never felt so welcomed and my every need and wish catered to than in Oman. Some examples of the Omani people's character: I traveled here alone so I felt a bit awkward at times as a female in an Arab country. However I was not harassed once! One time as I was collecting small pink seashells from the beach a group of young Omani boys came to help me. After we had gathered a large amount I thanked them and  being accustomed to the thought of little boys only doing such arduous jobs for money thought to myself, they surely want to get paid now! As I was handing over some cash for them to go buy ice cream they all firmly refused. I was insisting but they declined and smiled and told me it was a gift. I thought it was the perfect example how Omanis don't see tourists as only walking money machines but as honored guests to their beautiful country.
Oman has many places worth seeing, the capital Muscat has a mystical feel to it and it's nothing like the other busy, crowded and materialistic GCC countries. The country is full of interesting historical sites and amazing landscapes. Oman is one of the few places in the world where tourists can be 100% sure to be able to watch sea turtles come to shore to lay their eggs. Beach destination Salalah is worth a mention as well.
4. Sri Lanka
Easy and cheap to reach from Riyadh with a direct flight, Sri Lanka is an enchanting little island in the Indian Ocean. A nice combination of nature, culture and people, Sri Lanka has surprisingly many options for the traveler despite its small size. The magnificent tea farms and majestic mountains make for wonderful trekking opportunities! There are palaces and temples to explore, traditional dances to see, delicious spicy food to enjoy and bustling little cities and towns waiting to be explored. And of course some pretty amazing beaches!
5. Jordan
Very easily reachable from Saudi even for an extended weekend, Jordan is an absolute must see destination! From Amman the Dead Sea is quick to reach and the spas dotted along its coast are just divine! We stayed at Movenpick and loved the tranquil atmosphere.
The world famous tombs of the Nabatean people can be seen in Petra. This place is crowded with tourists year round and its best to book early for peak seasons. The ancient site is surrounded by the most strangely shaped beautifully colored mountains. Jordan has plenty of other historical sites and a beach destination Aqaba as well.
6. Hong Kong
The dynamic Hong Kong has something for everyone! Worth a visit on its own but also great for a stop-over when continuing further east.
7. Tanzania
 The best safari experience I had so far has been in Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. Especially during the great migration this place is truly magical! A visit to Tanzania would not be complete without seeing Zanzibar, the Spice Island! One of those few places left where the only people on the beach besides you are the local fishermen. Amazing diving!
8. Kuwait
Saudi-Arabia's tiny little neighbor is greatly under valued as a tourist destination. Only an hour flight away from Riyadh, Kuwait is definitely worth a weekend trip and great for a quick getaway from Saudi. Personally I like the vibe here more than for example Dubai. Read more about Kuwait here: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2010/10/what-saudi-arabia-could-learn-from.html
9. Malaysia
Very popular among Saudi tourists, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi are the best know destinations in Malaysia. But this country has so much more to offer! Diving, trekking, history, rain forests, wildlife, architecture, shopping..Malaysians are known for their courtesy and fabulous food! My absolute favorite place in Malaysia is the tiny island of Perhentian Kecil!
10. Turkey
Particularly Istanbul! Check out my pictures from Istanbul to understand why it's worth a visit! http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2011/10/incredible-istanbul.html

Now I've caught the travel bug!! What places would you add to the list?

P.S. Apologies for poor quality of the images, all my travel photos were destroyed after my computer crash last year so these are only copies from my Facebook files.

36 comments:

Robyn said...

A great list-although don't think Qatar deserves a spot there,unless it is the weekend of the tennis. Syria or Lebanon deserve a spot though, for sure.

Faisal Haji said...

Oman .... I love the Sultanate and its wonderful people. Very humble, generous, and thoughtful people in Oman. I'm very happy that they are my neighbors :D

Anonymous said...

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!.ure making me wanna jump on an aeroplane this MOMENT all those look and sound wonderful..lol All i can say is i love ure blog.
#MORENA

Laylah said...

Robyn-I left out Syria (and actually Yemen) because of the current political situation there, and for me I prefer Qatar over Lebanon although I do love the country! I would go somewhere else than Beirut though!

Laylah said...

Faisal-You've described them very well!Happy to live so close by too!

Laylah said...

Morena-I would love to jump on a plane to the Maldives right now :)

Anonymous said...

I've just recently found your blog and love it! How fortunate you are to explore this amazing areas on our planet. I doubt I'll ever be able to visit and enjoy your travels so much.

As for the 'haters', you are correct, you can't please everyone and you are entitled to your experience and opinion. Keep up the good work and thank you so much for sharing!

Elleblue

Ildi said...

I have never been to any middle-eastern or even in arab countries. I love your travel guide! Would like to visit all. Due your blog I randomly started friendship with Standy the omani girl, and reading your experiences aabout her home made me feel happy. :) Thank you Dear!

mrsbawazir said...

Hi Laylah,

So proud to see Malaysia on the list :) You are right, there are a lot of Middle Easterners visiting Malaysia especially Saudis. Some of them come for holidays, for honeymoons and some come to study as we have many good universities. It is a good source of income for my country :) and the funny thing is, they leave quite an impact on us, Malaysians, in terms of dressing. You can see many Malaysian ladies donning abayas now just like the GCC ladies. Myself included but I've been wearing it since a looong time before it even became the "IN" thing. Btw, Laylah would it be too much to ask if I were to put a link to my vacation home here for anyone who plans to visit Malaysia? I'll give you a special offer on my vacation home if you and your family plan to visit KL again :) Be free to say no, though.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

I love Oman for all the same reasons;)

I couldn't live anywhere else.

Om Lujain© said...

Love your list. I have been to several of the countries mentioned... and Yes.. Kuwait it in my heart... I lived there as a teenager.. and loved it <3 Still trying to get the hubster to move out of Riyadh and to some of the spots you mentioned above :D

I think I might need to go to Oman again, as I really did not see it the way you describe it.. gotta go give it a second chance :)

Anonymous said...

I've never been to the Middle East or the Far EAst, but the places on your list all look amazing! Thanks for posting your beautiful photos! Francesca from Ottawa, Canada

Karen King said...

So exotic, all the places your mentioned. I would love to see where my grandparents came from (Anatolia), but it's not easy being an Armenian in that section of Turkey. BTW, have you traveled in the US? I've driven this country from Massachusetts to California. Cross-country drives here are amazing. Can't wait to do it again.

Jean said...

I actually have not yet been to Asia yet. Nor the Middle East and Africa and South America.

So clearly you're doin' well, bopping all over the place.

Anonymous said...

I am looking at the calendar right now to see when I can fly out to these beautiful places.

Another place that is on my list is the Seychelles and Mauritius islands. I have heard a lot about those islands and want to visit ASAP.

Noor said...

You forgot Bali so many people from the Gulf was there and Jakarta, Indonesia was flooded with Saudis..

My dh has no interest in going to Arab countries but I would love to go to Oman. Maldives is on my to do list for sure.

Noor said...

Yea who would go to Syria right now :p

Noor said...

I would love the link bc my family and I LOVE Malaysia and want to come again.

mrsbawazir said...

Noor, I'm waiting for Laylah to give me the green light first bcoz this is her blog and I don't want to advertise anything unless she agrees :)

Anonymous said...
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mrsbawazir said...
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Laylah said...

Elleblue-thanks for the comment and hope to see you around :)

Laylah said...

Omani Princess-lucky you to live there! I will be visiting next month inshallah!

Laylah said...

Ildi-I hope you get to visit one some day! If I had to recommend only one I would say go to Oman!

Laylah said...

mrsbawazir-sorry for late reply!!Sure you can put the link!Where is the vacation home?
Hope we can visit there someday!

Laylah said...

Om Lujain-I have the same agenda, Qatar and Kuwait would be great ;)Yup you really need to visit Oman again!When did you go?

Laylah said...

Karen-I used to live in the States as a kid and we did a lot of travelling especially on the east coast.Never drove cross country though ut it sounds like an awesome trip!

Laylah said...

Noor-haven't been to Bali for the reason I dislike and tend to avoid places that have been ruined by mass tourism..Many of my friends did go from Saudi and were disappointed, however they loved other places in Indonesia. Indonesia is on my bucket list for sure!

mrsbawazir said...

Hi Laylah, thanks :) It is in Kuala Lumpur about 10 minutes of driving to the twin towers. I do hope you'll come visit. seasoncityinkl.blogspot.com

I wish to go to Kuwait though, your blogging about it really puts me in awe. Inshallah once the baby is bit bigger and can handle the travelling. Keep on writing, you are an inspiration!

flawlessvelvet said...

I'm very interested in going to Oman one day. How developed is it in comparison to other gulf states?

shaz said...

you should visit west Malaysia ..the Borneo island..Sarawak & Sabah!
as malaysian, i cant get enough of Sabah & Sarawak!
so many interesting and beautiful places!! especially if you are a nature lover :)

Syed said...

Wow,its great that you mentioned oman!
Even though i'm living in Abu Dhabi,i still love Oman and even though i'm Indian,i love it more than my Homeland,maybe because i was born over there and all my memories are related to Oman,infact there isnt a day i dont think about Muscat :(
Indeed the People are really so wonderful! I really hope Oman gets more Tourism too!

On the other hand i just came across this blog today and so far its very interesting,looks like im going to spend the whole night going through it!

Btw what you have to say about Dubai is slowly spreading to Abu Dhabi as well,but then there is Al Ain which then totally kicks ass for Greenery+Traditions!There is greenery all over and there are so many forts,if you dont know about it then please Google it and find more about it! I'm sure you'll like it :)

Katie said...

Great list here! Sri Lanka and Kuala Lumpur are my favourites :). Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Don't write off Bali just yet! It is absolutely lovely as long as you get off the main tourist strip. There are lovely romantic guesthouses and villas to stay in and things to do all over the island. Also, don't go in July, August or Christmas - it's much too busy then, if you go during other times it can actually be really quiet and quaint.

Anonymous said...

Laylah, was it you in the swimming pool?

Layla said...

no.