Picture the Middle East for a moment. Even if you haven’t done much Google Image research, odds are you’re imagining a land of amber deserts, spiralling minarets and something vague to do with the Crusades that you learned in school but have now forgotten. But we bet you’re not thinking about beaches. Golden, sandy perfect beaches. The stuff travel brochures are made of. Why would you? When considering an ocean-side adventure, most travellers fail to give the Middle East the credit it deserves. The truth is that this region’s incredible sand-scapes aren’t just confined to the desert, and there are a wealth of locations where the ocean meets the sand in simply stunning fashion. Below you’ll find a few of our top picks.
Shell Beach – Oman
Oman’s home to around 1,700 miles of dramatic coastline, and Shell Beach – as its name suggests – is home to a healthy amount of shells. As well as the shells, though, this particular spot also offers some of the best coral reefs outside of northeastern Australia. Needless to say, the snorkelling here is an absolute treat, and gliding over underwater worlds is made that much sweeter by the striking setting of the beach itself. Oman’s coasts are typically clean and this one, just a short drive from the capital, Muscat, is no exception. Come here for a day at the beach, stay because you’ve never been anywhere like it.
Aqueduct Beach – Israel
Whilst Israel may not be the first country that comes to mind when you begin considering a beach holiday, it certainly holds its own against the heavyweights. Aqueduct Beach can be found just a 30 minutes’ drive north from Tel Aviv. Here, the ocean is met by a truly immaculate white-sand beach, which boasts raised Roman ruins that form part of an aqueduct (hence the name) – built by King Herod in the first century BCE. It’s a truly unique location and minimal crowds mean it’s usually simple enough to find a nice, quiet spot to while away the day.
Ovabuku – Turkey
Turkey’s a pretty serious contender for the title of Europe’s most popular beach break destination, but its numerous lovely spots mean it’s often tricky to pick the right one. Ovabaku, which is largely hidden on the Datca peninsula, is an utterly mesmerising beach. The prettiest of three bays, the beach is relatively small but is punctuated by the kind of countryside you read about in fairytales. Pine forests, tall oak and carob trees simply add to the sense of wonder. For those seeking an escape from Turkey’s more crowded beaches, Ovabuku is the ideal (and idyllic) solution.
Emirates Palace Beach – Abu Dhabi
This luxurious beach, which is part of a billion-dollar resort, isn’t your typical beachside experience. Boasting lush, warm waters, a mile-long private beach and flanked by immaculate parks and lawns, it may even be a little too opulent for some beach-goers. If you’d rather relax on a beach a little further away from civilization, simply jump aboard a dhow and paddle over to one of the nearby deserted islands (there’s 200 of them!). You’ll be exploring beautiful new beaches in no time.
The Gulf of Suez – Egypt
Some people might presume that all Egypt’s got to offer is pyramids, camels, deserts and history. And whilst these elements of this particularly fascinating country and to be sniffed at – they make it what it is, after all – it’s estimated that more tourists now visit Egypt for its beaches more so than any other of its attractions. For Europeans particularly, the beautiful Egyptian beaches are inexpensive, well maintained and not all that far from home. Away from the Euro’s favourite beaches, the locals prefer the mainland stretch of coastline along the Gulf of Suez (though you can bet your last sea urchin that it’ll become popular with tourists soon enough). A little cooler than the beaches further south, resorts here are lovely, relatively cheap and easy to get to from Cairo. It’s the ideal location for a relaxing Red Sea sojourn, with plenty of Egyptian history dotted around nearby. Bliss.
Want to see what the Middle East is all about? Check out our Middle East small group adventures.
Feature image c/o fabcom, Flickr