The beaches of the Middle East never seem to get the attention they deserve. The coastlines in this part of the world are as equally beautiful as anywhere else but unfortunately, the politics of the region often deter beach tourism on any grand scale. If you were thinking that this region is mainly desert and magnificent ancient ruins, think again. Take a look at these lovely beaches of the Middle East.
Few people give thought to the natural beauty of the Persian Gulf. Usually associated with oil tankers and the Gulf War, this part of the world is actually pretty gorgeous and plenty of the best beaches of the Middle East are along its shoreline. Like Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia, for example. And like many of the best Middle East beaches, it is privately owned. One of the great advantages of this, especially when they are owned by corporations (usually oil companies), is that during weekdays they are often deserted. You get the pristine silky white sand that is fringed with tropical foliage and decorated with palm frond umbrellas and the vivid turquoise, crystal clear water practically to yourself.
Not all the beaches in Dubai are public, but if you don’t mind paying about $30, you not only get access to lovely Ghantoot Beach and its charming marina, but also to all the amenities of the Golden Tulip Hotel which owns the beach. This means the hotel pool, bars and the watersports club, which offers water-skiing, banana boat rides and wake boarding among others. There are also barbecue facilities and volleyball nets on the beach.
With more than 1,000 miles of stunning coastline, Oman serves up some of the best beaches in the Middle East and one of its most beautiful is Mughsayl Beach in Salahah, in the south of the country. Bordered by rocky headlands, its golden sand and azure waters, and with the banana plantations and coconut palm groves that grow along the edge, Mughsayl present a glorious view. One of the fascinating features of Mughsayl is the blowholes. During the rainy season it is a sight to behold when the water dramatically explodes through the holes at one end of the beach.
I had such trouble picking just one of Lebanon’s beaches. All of them are worthy of a mention among the best Middle East beaches and every one is a serious rival to any of the Greek, Spanish and Italian beaches across the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve picked El Heri. You might find it now referred to as Florida Beach thanks to the development of the Florida Beach Resort, but despite this presence, development is low key. The beach is surrounded by dramatic mountainous cliffs that plunge into shallow, crystalline waters which lap golden sands.
This is probably my favorite among the fabulous beach destinations in the Middle East. It is breathtakingly beautiful, but how many beaches do you know where you share the sand with the ruins of an ancient Roman Aqueduct? I love it because although many tourists visit to see the ruins, the beach has no facilities so they don’t linger to enjoy the sands and the glorious views, which are particularly special at sunset when it turns the ruins golden honey and red colors.
The current political unrest in Egypt means tourism is suffering very badly and it is not wise to plan a visit yet. But, with so much focus on the Pyramids and the Nile, it’s easy to forget that some of the best beaches in the Middle East are in Egypt. There are magnificent resorts on the Red Sea, undeniably one of the best places for diving and snorkeling anywhere, such as at Taba, and some people swear by the man-made beach at Hurghada, but I’ve picked Nuweiba. Located between Dahab and Taba, Nuweiba has only recently been discovered by the developers, so now’s the chance to enjoy it before it becomes lined with top class hotels and resort amenities.
Sadly, Yemen is another country where political upheaval is anathema to tourism, which means its lovely beaches are not getting many visitors. When it all settles down and Yemen is safe for traveling again, I recommend Al Khawhah. As this is one of the hottest places on earth, you certainly need a golden stretch of sand and gorgeous clear waters to enjoy it. At Al Khawhah, the shoreline is long and backed by rows of palm trees. The Red Sea is calm here; great for cooling off when the summer temperatures are generally over 48 degrees C.
It’s such a shame that many of the best beaches of the Middle East are in countries not considered safe for travel (Syria has been omitted for that reason). We have lost access to one of the most fascinating and beautiful areas of our world. Let’s hope there will be a solution in our lifetime and we get to enjoy the Middle East beaches as they should be. Have you ever visited any of these beaches?
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