From a water-side golf course to untouched islands and the healing Dead Sea, there are plenty of reasons to head to the region’s sparkling coast.
Despite being a destination that is increasingly well-known as a winter sports hub in the region, Lebanon merits consideration for a visit during the warmer months, too. The country’s beach culture has managed to distinguish itself by successfully melding the relaxing seaside experience with elements of effortlessly cool Beirut nightlife. The 225km stretch of Mediterranean trim lays claim to some trendy shoreline hangouts. Iris Beach Club in Damour and Pierre &Friends ) in Batroun are two examples of such alchemy, where the laid-back beats of daytime, pumping over scattered loungers, eventually give way to sunset and sophisticated soirées. The music, pools and atmosphere combine to feel more than faintly reminiscent of the best parts of an Ibizan holiday.
SAADIYAT ISLAND, ABU DHABI, UAE
Less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island is poised to become a fulcrum of culture and heritage for the UAE, but it’s already an important conservation area. Two luxury hotels – from the St. Regis and Park Hyatt portfolios – hold prime position overlooking its blue- flag-rated beaches, home to the endangered Hawksbill turtle, and just off-shore spinner dolphins can be seen frolicking in the waves. Another notable attraction is Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, the region’s first sea-front links course. The Gary Player-designed championship course takes both the amateur enthusiast and the professional across spectacular scenery and challenging topography. A magnet for international clientele, Arabian Gulf-view golf is one way for sports devotees to satisfy those maritime yearnings.
With its crystal-clear waters, the shores of the Red Sea in Egypt have long been popular with holiday-makers seeking out the region’s opulent hotels, fantastic diving spots and a treasure trove of historical relics. Sharm El-Sheikh is a favourite among sun seekers, but if you want to escape the pretty though crowded beaches surrounding Naama Bay, consider the seaside town of Hurghada as an alternative. Similar to Sharm in terms of natural charm, Hurghada is sprinkled with a sufficient supply of five-star hotels but is relatively quieter. Once you’re done with snorkelling the surrounding waters, one of its greatest assets is its day- tripping proximity to some of the world’s best preserved and most historically important ancient buildings. Egypt is all about UNESCO World Heritage Sites, hosting archaeological loci such as Karnak, Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, the Philae Temple Complex and the Abu Simbel temples, providing an irresistible opportunity to up your Instagram game with shots of these millennia-old manmade marvels.
When you think beaches in the Middle East, the mind’s eye conjures imagery of sand expanses without too much effort. Vibrant green landscapes require a little more imagination, unless you’re in Salalah for the monsoon season. During the summer months of July and August, a metamorphosis takes place over certain enclaves of the Arabian Peninsula. With the monsoon comes precipitation to nourish the local vegetation, summoning forth the chromatic acrobatics of a run-away country garden. During these seasonal rains, the natural springs flourish, drawing visitors to spots like Wadi Darbat and Wadi Sahalnoot, and average daytime temperatures of around 27 degrees provide another form of welcome. Horse riding is a popular activity at this time, a pleasant mount from which to enjoy a quiet canter along deserted wild beaches.
FARASAN ISLANDS, SAUDI ARABIA
At a time when coral bleaching and the negative effects of mass tourism on coastal environments is top of mind, it’s heartening that places like the Farasan archipelago still exist. Comprising 176 islands, it’s one of the diving world’s most unspoilt underwater wildernesses. All manner of marine life makes its way through these waters: sea turtles, manta rays, whale sharks, dolphins and even occasional visits from orcas. It is, however, a treasure best enjoyed by those with a truly adventurous spirit; there are no dive schools nor equipment rental stations on the islands, and the general amenities are either basic or illusory. Trips should be organised in advance – but for the intrepid few who choose to take up the challenge, the reward is bragging rights of having glimpsed a world few have seen before.
KITE BEACH, DUBAI, UAE
A purist may argue that the perfect beach is one of balance, of sand and sea, of simple blemish-less colours and infinitely transparent waters. Parents, of course, know different: it’s about facilities and catering, safety and ease of access. Dubai’s Kite Beach satisfies all of these requirements, and still manages to deliver on dreamy turquoise waters. Among the many food options, don’t miss food truck Salt, a local firm favourite with signature sliders and lotus softies (speciality ice cream) starring on their concise menu. There’s also an assortment of static restaurants, a skate park, lifeguards operating a warning flag system, an elevated-wire adventure playground and spaces set aside for sporting endeavours. Should you discover your phone battery dipping into the red after a day of taking (and re-taking) family photos, there are charging stations along the beachside promenade. Kites are strictly optional, though there’s no better place in the city to, literally, go fly a kite.
DEAD SEA, JORDAN
After examining a list of the myriad benefits of Dead Sea mud, one begins to wonder why ancient potion salespeople bothered packing such a variety of elixirs in their cases; one application of the mud, it seems, is reportedly good for most of what ails you. There is something wonderful about the waters, too, besides the salt that keeps swimmers so famously buoyant. It all adds up to make Jordan a true seaside wellness destination. The spa at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea is the largest in the region and has received numerous awards for its extensive array of treatments and service. Hydrating, rejuvenating, restorative and beautifying – there’s more than just sea air at work here.