5 awesome GCC staycations for Eid

Jump in the car and head to one of these places – all within half a day’s drive of your front door. We’ve calculated all drive times from Dubai to give you a general idea.

Qasr Sarab
Drive time (from Dubai): 3.5 hours
Holiday type: Desert retreat
Head straight for: The dunes. At a height of 300 metres and a length of nearly 1.5 kilometres, Tel More’eb is one the largest single sand dunes in the world and is home to an array of sand rails and dune buggies skipping across its surface. It is about a 40-minute drive from the hotel and, for day-trippers, it’s more about the drive on the winding modern road that bores deep into the UAE’s sliver of The Empty Quarter. Go in the late afternoon and be prepared to stop every five minutes for pictures of the reddening sands. A stunning resort that looks out onto the desert, this where modern luxury meets Bedouin fantasy. It’s great value at this time of year.
If you have time: Come back via thew new-ish highway from Hameem to Abu Dhabi and stop by the Emirates National Auto Museum – most of the exhibits from the private collection of Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan.
Prices: From AED1,350 per night.

Alila Jebel Akhdar
Drive time: 5 hours 20 minutes
Holiday type: Mountain retreat
Head straight for: The outdoors. At elevations some 2,000 metres above sea level, the temperatures on Jebel Akhdar in Oman are at least 15 degrees cooler than Dubai. Before you’ve even got that far, you’ll be winding down the windows in appreciation of the sweet, cooling air. The small settlement of Nizwa is home to Alila Jebel Akhdar, which in the two years since opening has won a string of accolades for its architecture, design service and, of course, its location. It’s not only a beautiful hotel but the optimum base for exploration, with stunning views of the gorge and plenty of trails to wander up and down – including a new one that takes in the abandoned village of Al Khutaymi before dropping 600 metres to the beautiful plantations of Masirat Ash Shuraqiyn, where you can take a cooling swim.
If you have time: There are plenty of potential pit-stops in this corner of Oman, but make an effort to see Bahla Fort at the foot of Jebel Akdar, now a UNESCO World heritage Site, and the pottery souk in the town of Nizwa. Stuffed camels? Not here.
Prices: from AED1,050 per night.

Rixos Bab Al Bahr
Drive time: 1.5 hours
Holiday type: Resort
Head straight for: The water. It’s going to be pretty sultry at sea level in the UAE so you may as well head for a hotel that offers a huge strip of coastline and plenty of pools – all with beach bars and waiter service to keep all different kinds of liquids flowing. The Rixos Bab Al Bahr on Marjan Island has made much of its desire to attract guests from the emirates further to the south each summer – and have largely succeeded, with weekends in May and June pretty much fully booked. The private beach here is 345-metres long and sprinkled with private cabanas, while the resort also has a total of seven swimming pools – three outdoor, one adults only, one for kids and two spa pools for men and women respectively.
If you have time: Take a long, slow Turkish-style hammam in the resort’s Anjana Spa. You can either pay for a full scrub down and massage (recommended) or simply find a steamy corner and stay there until dinner.
Prices: AED3,200 per night for a junior suite.

Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort
Drive time: 2 hours
Holiday type: Watersports, diving
Head straight for: Al Boom Dive School. The best way to beat the heat is to spend anytime outside under the water and this leading PADI-affiliated dive school located on the property offers two-session introductory courses for beginners – one session in the pool, another in the sea – all for AED650. The resort also has plenty of above-water attractions, including Indian, Italian and Thai restaurants and several bars, and an unspoilt strip of beach.
If you have time: If learning something isn’t your ideal way of unwinding, the hotel is also within easy reach of Snoopy Island, which offers some great marine life for snorkelers.
Prices: AED1,400 per night.

Banyan Tree Al Wadi
Drive time:
1 hour 15 minutes
Holiday type: Desert retreat
Head straight for: Your private pool. This desert resort is all about privacy, with large pool villas set in the vast quiet of a nature reserve. The Bedouin-style design places a strong emphasis on impressive woodwork and large windows to frame the landscape. When you’re not enjoying the calm, there are some desert activities to get involved in, including a private falconry session, sunrise yoga, horse riding, abra sunset cruise and dune bashing.
If you have time: Try the Rainforest Experience at the spa, which includes an ice igloo, bride cavern, herbal sauna and a ‘rain walk’.
Prices: From AED1,800 per night

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