Many travellers don’t make it out of the airport on a visit to the Arabian Peninsula. Home to the staple stopover cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Muscat, countries like the UAE, Qatar and Oman don’t always get the attention they deserve.
Most longhaul flights stop off in the Middle East in the dead of the night or the early hours, but guess what? That’s when the cities here come alive! From the bright lights of the city skyline to the beautiful night skies in an empty, endless desert, the Arabian Peninsula was made for nocturnal exploring.
I’m giving Arabian Nights a big High Five, and counting down five nocturnal experiences that I reckon are worth stopping over for. So delay that onward flight by an extra night or two, and make the most of your time in this exciting region.
It's all change when the sun goes down | Image courtesy of Kjersti Joergensen
Five amazing experiences to have after dark in Arabia
1. Drink up high
There’s nothing quite like unwinding with a cocktail after sunset. Throw in a rooftop location and the balmy nights of the Middle East, and you may have just found the secret to inner happiness.
Dubai has the glitziest selection; head to the aptly named Rooftop Bar in Dubai to watch the sun go down, and stay for the mezzes and views of the Palm Jumeirah. Not to be outdone by its Arabian neighbour, Doha throws Sky View Bar into the mix, a somewhat flashy spot that has great views of the city’s ever changing skyline.
2. Sleep under the stars
When our Ant wrote a blog post back in February about the best places in the world to sleep under the stars, we were overwhelmed at the response from you guys. It seems that a night camping out under nature’s roof is high up on most travellers’ wishlists, and the Arabian Peninsula offers masses of opportunities to do it in style.
Spend the night under the stars in Arabia | Image by Pete the painter
Head out of the city in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and spend the night sleeping under the beautiful clear night skies. Heading to Qatar? Check out Purple Island. Pitch your tent in the mangrove forest and marvel at how such tranquillity can exist just 40km from Doha.
3. Have dinner in the desert
You’re in a city in a desert. You can have dinner in a restaurant at home. What you can’t do at home is visit a Bedouin camp and enjoy a BBQ while being entertained by belly dancers. So join one of our desert safaris from Abu Dhabi or Dubai and you’ll be whisked away on a 4WD adventure into the heart of the dunes. Witness sunset from the back of a camel, or stay on (very) dry land and partake in a little shisha, before enjoying a truly unique dinner under the stars.
4. Be a nocturnal tourist
With temperatures reaching over 40 degrees in the day, it’s best to restrict your sightseeing to the twilight hours in Arabia. Luckily, after dark is when the cities come to life. A stroll along the waterfront in Oman’s Corniche district, for example, is the perfect chilled out night time activity. From here, you can wind your way up to the Mutrah Souk to breathe in the aroma of the local spices.
In Abu Dhabi, don’t miss a sunset tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The beautiful architecture of the UAE’s largest mosque is transformed at night, thanks to the mosque’s unique lighting system.
The UAE's largest mosque is totally beautiful at night | Image by Dhanaji Wadakar
5. Get your rave on
The UAE’s expat culture may have been hit hard by the recession, but the hardcore are still out there, and the exclusive (and not-so-exclusive) nightclubs are out in force to cater for them. So get on your dancing shoes and join them. Check out People by Crystal, winner of Time Out Dubai Nightlife Awards 2012, and 360° which, as the name suggests, is a completely circular venue, beautifully located down a jetty one kilometre out to sea.