After a recent first time trip to Kuwait, it's been fun to return to writing about destinations in the Middle East. I've had the pleasure of travelling all over the Persian Gulf, including three years living in Muscat and multiple trips to the UAE, but Dubai
remains the stand-out option for family fun and winter sun.
Dubai has been firmly on the global destination map for some time now, and is straightforward to fly to from
almost anywhere. What is particularly striking about its appeal, though, is the sheer diversity of experiences on offer, particularly for avid shoppers and adrenalin junkies.
Amongst the many retail delights, the BurJuman Centre
might be the most high end of them all, with pretty much every conceivable luxury brand, as well as a play area and a cool fountain to keep children entertained so that shopping can be fully focused on…Another option is the wonderfully quirky Ibn Battuta Mall
, which commemorates a hugely famous Arabian explorer with all the memorabilia that suggests, and which is the world’s largest themed mall.
Dubai has been hosting exceptional desert safaris for some time now, but fewer visitors area aware of the sea adventures available, beyond perhaps a traditional dhow sail. There are fantastic wreck diving opportunities just a few miles off the coast of Dubai, while slightly further afield, Musandam boasts regular whale shark sightings and Fujairah has some great reefs. Back in Dubai, Umm Suqeim Beach is a popular location for kitesurfing, which has really gained in popularity in the Emirate in recent years.
Closer to home I’ve been thinking of compiling a list of my favourite European destinations
for shopping and the wilder side of travel. I’ve just returned from an exceptional trip to Naples, Pompeii and Capri. Italy’s venerable tradition of fine dining and wines is visible on every street corner in Naples, with one wonderful deli stocking local meats, cheeses and grappas after another. This might be the best place on earth to buy Limoncello, and many restaurants proudly offer their own homemade version for guests to try.
The Amalfi coast, like much of Italy, is a great gateway to the beginning of adventure sports with some gentle-yet-intrepid experiences to be had. Paddle boarding is something most of the family can enjoy with a little practice, and a great way to enjoy the scenic coastline. Snorkelling in the many little inlets that dot the seaside is another rewarding activity, with incredibly clear azure waters teeming with fish and the occasional dolphin and turtle.
My other 2016 tip for retail and true adventure would be the Caucasus. Baku’s shopping district is a marvel of modern consumerism, stretching for one luxurious city block after another, in the evocative setting of the Caspian sea coast. Tbilisi is justifiably proud of its ancient wine tradition and excellent vintages, and the many, many independent wine merchants and tasting stores are a superb place to start, especially the well-known Vinotheca Shop
For outdoor fun, Georgia in particular has really excellent rafting and kayaking opportunities. The last time that I was in Armenia, I had the unique adventure of wrestling a tin pail from a struggling pig’s head, but trekking and horse-riding offer slightly more conventional animal encounters in the country. Azerbaijan also has some of Europe’s best hunting opportunities, as well as truly spectacular mountaineering and paragliding.