Just two hours away by airplane, Salalah in Oman makes for an excellent relaxing weekend getaway. The country’s second largest city boasts a mild, cool climate through most of the year, attracting visitors from neighbouring gulf countries and beyond. If your ideal holiday includes winding down and being one with nature, Salalah has much to offer. Book a tour of one of Salalah’s many “Wadis”: picture trekking along azure blue canyons nestled between mountains and lush greenery. Wadi Shuwaymiyah is one of the most popular in the region. You may also have the opportunity to go for a dip in one of the many natural hot pools along the wadis. The more adventurous can go mountain climbing and admire the stunning scenery from above.
For a cultural experience, take a trip to East Salalah and explore the historic Al Baleed Port. Learn about the region’s important frankincense trade dating back to the 12th century. Visit the Frankincense Souk for a selection of rich incense and perfume oils. If you have time to spare, head to West Salalah and visit the Nabi Ayoub Tomb, a site of great religious significance. You can also stop by the small village of Mughsail. Take a relaxing walk along Mughsail’s pristine beach as you listen to the sound of waves crashing into the rocks.
Located off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar is the perfect destination for an exotic weekend island getaway. Just over five hours away by airplane, the island enjoys cool, sunny weather during the summer months. After arriving at your hotel, go for a long walk in Stone Town and you’ll instantly spot the Arab, Indian, African and European influences steeped in its architecture. Visit the Old Fort for a glimpse into Zanzibar’s history under Omani rule. Live music and dance shows are held regularly inside the fort. As the day winds down, stop by one of the small local beachside restaurants serving fragrant curries with a local twist. The Freddie Mercury Restaurant – named after music band Queen’s lead vocalist – boasts magnificent views of the beach and a delicious array of local, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines.
On day two of your weekend getaway, spend some time basking in the sun on one of Zanzibar’s beautiful beaches. Nungwi beach is also ideal for snorkeling, diving or kite surfing. By the afternoon, consider a tour of a spice plantation. You can take in the delicious aromas of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg in their raw form. Many of the plantations also sell locally grown coffee, tea and spices for visitors to take home.
If you’re after a bit of adventure, make sure you book a trip to Cheetah’s Rock. This privately owned animal reserve promises up close encounters with wild animals including lemurs, bushbabies, a cheetah, a White lion and a rare Striped hyena. You’ll need to set aside at least half a day for this experience and make sure you pack a pair of comfortable shoes too.
Amman holds a special air of mystery with its blend of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history and varied landscapes. Just over three hours away by airplane, Jordan’s capital offers fantastic food, affordable accommodations and lots of things to do. You can start your weekend getaway with an immersion into the city’s rich history at the Amman Citadel. Here you can see the Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace. A true eclectic mix of civilizations is represented on this site. By nightfall, you can relax and sample Amman’s delicious local cuisine. Beit Sitti in Jabal Al Weibdeh offers the opportunity to savour authentic Jordanian dishes. The dine-and-cook venue also regularly holds cooking classes.
For the next half of your weekend, book a trip to Petra –Jordan’s most popular attraction by far. The Nabataeans carved this rose-coloured city from sandstone and its stunning structures are a marvel to behold. Make sure to spot "Al-Khazneh" or The Treasury - one of Petra’s most iconic temples. The temple appeared in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After spending a day admiring the beauty of Petra’s architecture, visit one of the various Bedouin tents nearby to learn about the local culture. You can also buy authentic souvenirs. It’ll take you about four hours to get to Petra from Amman. Hire a car, take a taxi or, for a cheaper option, go by bus.