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:
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!
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
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.
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
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!
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.