With political unrest, terrorism, and travel advisories, travelers often avoid the Middle East. But as you will discover, you don’t have to stay away. Complete with a rich history and culture, gorgeous mountain ranges, and the most amazing desert adventures, the Middle East can offer experiences that are not only fun and educational, but also safe. Here are the 7 best vacations for kids in the Middle East.
1. Abu Dhabi
If you have a huge Star Wars fan for a child, why not take them to the major filming location for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens?! Abu Dhabi is actually an exciting modern city with beautiful structures like the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, turquoise-water beaches, theme parks, and the Emirates National Auto Museum for the little car lovers of the family as well as wildlife and desert explorations. While you’re nearby, take a trip just an hour outside the city to Al Ain, where there is a zoo, kids’ museum, hot springs, and tons of other fun attractions.
Where to Stay:
Opening this year, the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island is located in a vibrant urban community right on the water of the sparkling Arabian Gulf. The urban chic hotel contains six restaurants, waterfront terraces, and private dining rooms. Relax at the Dahlia Spa, lounge at the pool, or arrange a family activity with the concierge service. Complete with a Kids and Teen Club and babysitting services, children of all ages will easily stay entertained.
If you prefer a hotel that has been open a bit longer, the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is a five-star hotel tucked on the shore of the Grand Canal set against the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque nearby. With something for every type of traveler, The Ritz-Carlton has gorgeous gardens, ten restaurants, a spa offering signature hammam rituals and potent facials, Ritz Kids for the young ones, and even convenient access to the beach, airport, and iconic attractions.
One of the most kid-friendly places you could possibly visit in the world, the people in Jordan adore children. With so much rich culture and history to explore, this is definitely one of the best vacations for kids in the Middle East. Take a tour to learn more about the culture, visit the ancient mosaics in Madaba, learn how to weave banana leaves or cook local cuisine, and have your hands painted with henna. Visit the breathtaking ruins in Petra, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Just make sure you stop at Mount Nebo to walk in Moses footsteps and look across the gorgeous valley to the Jordan River, the Dead Sea (where you should also head to float in the salty waters), and on a clear day, even the promised land: Jerusalem. Also, if you visit in July check out the best preserved Roman city in the world, the ancient city of Jerash, as it morphs with cultural events during the Jerash Festival.
Where to Stay:
Stay at the five-star Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea. Located on the edge of the famous salty lake, the area is also the lowest point on Earth, which means it provides the most dazzling scenery in the world. From celestial pools and tennis courts to luxury airport transfers, this hotel is perfect to relax at while you explore the wonders Jordan has to offer.
Or, stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Amman to be located between the prestigious Al Sweifiyah residential area and the Shmeisani financial district. This five-star resort offer amenities for children like small bathrobes, babysitting services, and both an indoor and outdoor pool with magnificent city views. Enjoy a Swedish massage or rejuvenate your skin with Dead-Sea based body infusions at the spa. If you’re visiting for business, take advantage of the 24-hour business services and business centre.
3. Saudi Arabia
Whether you’re in Riyadh or Jeddah, take a walk on the wild side by visiting an amusement park filled with rides, games, and many great food and drink concession options. Al Hokair Land Theme Park, located near the Riyadh International Airport, contains roller coasters and thrill rides for older children and adults as well as gentler rides for younger children while Al-Shallal Theme Park in Jeddah contains an Amazon jungle ride, an on-site ice rink, and even a huge double-loop roller coaster that’s sure to get your blood pumping. Because camels serve both a historical and modern importance to many living in the desert, multiple hotels and tour groups offer a chance to explore the culture and the animals themselves by enjoying a camel ride along the coast or, in their natural habitat, the desert. Then, you can take a trip to Riyadh National Zoo, the largest in Saudi Arabia, to let kids explore over 1,400 animals. As soccer, or football as it’s known internationally, is a Saudi favorite pastime, young fans will also love watching the Al Taawon play at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium in Buraidah.
Where to Stay:
Located between the port city of Jeddah and the gorgeous Red Sea, the Waldorf Astoria Jeddah – Qasr al Sharq comes complete with amazing scenery, a female-only spa, a male-only club with pools and sports facilities, and both an indoor and outdoor pool for the kids to enjoy.
If you prefer to stay in the largest city and capital of Saudi Arabia, The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh is one of the most majestic and elegant hotels with spacious suites, a world-class spa, indoor and outdoor pools to splash in, lush grounds with 600-year-old olive trees, and the full royal treatment.
On those scorching hot summer days, head to the beautiful white sand Jumeirah Beach or next door at the Wild Wadi Waterpark to splash around while the whole family enjoys the 30 imaginative rides and attractions. If the heats really getting old, take it all the way down to -4° exploring Ski Dubai, a fully-equipped indoor ski center that offers a tube slide, penguin encounters, skiing lessons, and fantastic cafes. City tours, safaris, and other great trips can also be booked from Gulf Ventures. Don’t miss the world’s tallest structure, Burj Khalifa measuring 828 meters tall.
Where to Stay:
Within the vibrant city of Dubai lies the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, boasting a private soft-sand beach, elegant rooms and suites with a great view of the sea, two temperature-controlled pools and a kids’ pool, and a spa with nearly 50 relaxing treatments. With a Kids Club and numerous activities like paddle-boarding, wind-sailing, and deep-sea fishing for the entire family to enjoy, this hotel has it all!
A private resort located in the heart of the Dubai Marina, The Ritz-Carlton Dubai combines on a pristine beach with the lure of shopping and the city just around the corner. As with all Ritz-Carlton hotels, the amenities and dining experiences offered will provide the best trip for the whole family!
This popular religious pilgrimage destination is actually a living history goldmine. Even if the kids are too young to fully appreciate the rich historical background of the city, this destination still makes for one of the best vacations for kids in the Middle East. Explore the ancient castle-like Nimrod’s Fortress, complete with tunnels, staircases, statues, and vistas. Play at a kibbutz, spend the day at the beach, or enjoy Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, a desert oasis.
Where to Stay:
The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya is located in the marina overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Combining modern and traditional, this hotel has a luxury spa, rooftop pool, and the first Ritz-Carlton kosher restaurant in the world. Ritz Kids will keep the little ones entertained all day with activities around the resort that will tap into their creativity as they learn about natural wonders like coral reefs and forests, cultural traditions, and even art and food. Enjoy a couple’s treatment in the spa while the kids play!
On the other hand, the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem offers luxurious rooms in the heart of the ancient city so you can explore Jerusalem’s historical sites just minutes away. Enjoy the finest Mediterranean cuisine created with local produce while you marvel at the hotel’s unique architecture. Plus, with a spa and lap pool opening this year, you can relax in style after a long day of sightseeing.
Scheduled to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar is a safe, newer tourist destination nestled by the sea. Spend a day at the beach, and for a little excitement try kite-surfing or rent a jet-ski. Explore and learn more about the culture of the Middle East at the Museum of Islamic Art, the village of Katara, and a traditional marketplace called Souq Waqif. Before you leave, just don’t forget to check out a traditional sport of the area that remains popular to this day, camel racing!
Where to Stay:
Positioned in the Gulf Bay, the Doha Marriott Hotel is the ideal destination if you need to blend work with play while you’re in Qatar. With elegant five-star accommodations, large desks, and free high-speed Internet, a full-service spa, 24-hour fitness center, an outdoor pool, and seven restaurants, what more could you need?
Stay at Intercontinental Doha – The City for a stylish and modern hotel experience that was created to impress whether your stay is business or leisure related. Relax at the rooftop pool or spa, and then walk just five minutes to the Qatar Exhibition Centre, the City Centre Shopping Mall, Doha Golf Club and Souq Waqif to explore the city.
When it comes to family vacations, you just can’t beat the fantastic weather, gorgeous beaches, and wonderful natural scenery in Oman. Crisscross the desert in a 4×4 as you examine the mountains, dunes, waterfalls, and lush orchards before you watch the sun set while sitting on a sand dune. Spend a night under the star studded skies as you visit turtles nesting on the beach at Ras al Jinz or explore the ocean filled with exotic fish and dolphins while you snorkel the best coral formations in the world. Just be sure to stop by Muscat, a traditional Arabic marketplace filled with designer clothing, perfumes, and jewelry while the kids become immersed with an Arabic Night experience complete with an oasis, wadis, souks, and even camel forts!
Where to Stay:
Known as “an oasis of luxury along the sparkling bay”, the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa is surrounded by the deep turquoise waters of the Sea of Oman and majestic mountains that rise behind the resort. Your trip wouldn’t be complete without mini-golf, a lazy river, camel and pony rides, a children’s pool, and so many more fun activities with Cool Zone Kids Club.
Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton hotel, also has the most amazing views. Set in exquisite gardens between the Hajar Mountains and the shimmering sea, the hotel itself is a grand beachfront retreat steeping in ancient traditions, reflecting Omani culture. Dine on a sandy carpet under the stars and indulge at Six Senses Spa for a truly amazing vacation.
From gorgeous beach oases, beautiful mountain ranges, and majestic desert landscapes filled with a rich history, the Middle East can provide a truly remarkable vacation. The best vacations for kids in the Middle East wouldn’t be complete without fun while children explore the world and learn. Whether you’re heading to the Middle East for a family vacation, mixing business with pleasure, or making a religious pilgrimage, you will be immersed in all there is to see, explore, learn, and marvel at.
Important Note: Although these destinations were safe at the time this article was written, we highly suggest staying up to date with any new information on the place you’re planning to visit prior to booking your trip.
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