When westerners go on holiday they tend to think of Mexico, Costa Rica, or for more exotic locations maybe Thailand. But in some spots in the Middle East, the sun always shines, well mostly, and getting away can be a lot more interesting than sitting in a pool bar drinking Coronas all day.
If you have thought about the Middle East, why not Abi Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates? While the air miles you accumulate won’t be green, there are some chilled out activities for the planet lover to explore. And you can find good deals on flights even to Abu Dhabi, according to this website. While the life of luxury springs to mind when you think of the Arab Gulf region, there are ways to stay green and have some cheap holidays at the same time. Here are 12 ways.
1. Yoga on the beach: Just like anywhere you can do yoga on the beach in Abu Dhabi. This Vinyasa flow yoga gives sessions inside a cabana on the public beach. Check out the Yoga Juice.
2. Go to a hammam. Known as Moroccan or Turkish-style baths, this is a beauty secret for Abu Dhabi locals. You can get cheap scrubs, or deluxe sessions, depending on your budget.
3. Dig your toes inside white sand. The beaches in and around Abu Dhabi are to die for. How about a day trip to Sadiyaat Island, a 9km stretch of beach. You can get a day pass at the Monte Carlo Beach Club, or ask your hotel if they can issue you a pass.
4. Get your own tailored suit. It’s not just in Thailand where you can find tailors to make you a suit at a cheap price you can afford. Bring along some of your favourite sustainable or organic fabric and get a suit worth a million bucks. Call Abu Dhabi New Tailors (02 634 4990).
5. Find a secret island. If you ask locals they might tell you about Belevari Island, a small clean island that pops out of the sand for four or five hours every day. It might not be around in the future thanks to global warming, so sun yourself in the pristine sand while you can. Don’t forget to bring some organic sunscreen to wear. Get there via Belevari Marine (02 6594 144).
6. Go for a picnic. It’s great to picnic on the beach, right, but who likes sand in their salad? Go to the public beach on the Corniche where you can book one of the Bake cabanas.
7. Dune bask sustainably. It’s great fun to go out in a 4×4 and get stuck in some sand and to fancy yourself as Lawrence of Arabia, but make sure you are ready for the ride and that your tour company stays on the off beaten path. Find a local who can take you out in their car and favorite locations.
8. Try the Arabian coffee experience. Drinking Arabic coffee is serious business in this neck of the woods. Drink from a finjan the way the locals would. You’ll find a pretty authentic brew at Al Arish (02 673 2266).
9. Go on a date date. Want to learn all about dates and what makes them so special to Middle East food traditions? Head over to the Fruit and Vegetable Market and find yourself inside a mountain of dates from Tunisia, Al Ain and Saudi Arabia. Sample them and learn all about different tastes and varieties. Fruit and Vegetable Market, Mina Port.
10. Eat a camel pizza. It might not become your regular thing, but camel meat is a traditional protein from the region. Eat a camel pizza at Olivia’s for an authentic Emirati dish. Olivia’s, ADNEC (02 444 6900).
11. Go to a UNESCO site. Six of Al Ain’s oases are classified protected by the United Nations, as World Heritage Sites. Find the remains of tombs and buildings from the Bronze Age.
12. Learn the Islamic art of calligraphy. Wouldn’t you like to be sol cultured that you could make your own pages of calligraphy? Try your hand at the Al Qattara Arts Centre.
Image of Abu Dhabi Sheik Zayed Mosque from Shutterstock