For years, Europe has been the go to continent for parents seeking sun, sea and excitement with their kids. Today, however, the Middle East is fast becoming a firm favourite with fun-loving families from every corner of the globe.
The Arabian Peninsula has recently undergone a pretty well-publicised transformation of tremendous proportions. Since the proliferation of oil in the 20th century, the United Arab Emirates and Oman have invested wisely in infrastructure to develop their small trading post towns into world-renowned centres of luxurious tourism, global finance and ground-breaking architecture. Families from around the globe have flocked in their thousands to be a part of one of the most exciting and fastest growing regions in the world and, in doing so, have created a flourishing family-focused culture. Huge buildings, magical palm tree islands, multiple massive waterparks, children’s museums, archery, diving, sailing and exceptional resorts, together, form a compelling case for sticking the Middle East at the top of your family holiday bucket list. And here’s why…
Whether you’re visiting the Middle East or Madeira, your hotel serves as the cornerstone of any great family holiday. Aside from the airport, it’s your first impression of a destination and can really set the tone for the rest of your stay. Good news then that the UAE and Oman have seen an influx of prestigious hotel brands to help you and your clan start as you mean to go on. Most luxury Middle East hotels have extensive programmes and facilities for children but, for us, the ones that really stand out are One&Only Royal Mirage The Palace and Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai, St Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi and Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa in Oman.
Atlantis not only has family pools, a huge waterpark, a pirate playground, an arts and crafts recreation centre, sports facilities, an underwater theatre, an aquarium and a video game recreation centre, it also runs two kids clubs too, available for children between the ages of 3 and 18. One&Only’s kids club is available for children aged between 4 and 11, offering a more cultural and educational experience in henna painting, evening camping and Arabic lessons. On the emerging Saadiyat Island, in the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi, St. Regis offer the Sandcastle club for children aged 1 to 12, taking full advantage of its beachfront location, while in Oman, Shangri-La’s kids club is at hand to entertain 4 to 8 year olds. Shangri-La in particular are known for their extensive range of facilities, activities and services for little ones. And once your home away from home is taken care of, the other big consideration to make, before you start exploring the land where east meets west, is how to get there.
We know how stressful flying can be with children and airlines know it too, which is why Etihad offer a range of services to help make your journey as smooth and stress-free as possible. From complimentary strollers at the airport to inflight entertainment, to children’s fun packs and even a flying nanny service, Etihad have gone the extra mile to ensure the fun begins before you’ve even left the runway. Emirates also have an extensive range of services to keep young flyers entertained in the air. At around seven hours flying time away from the UK, speaking from experience, we’d definitely recommend giving careful consideration to your flying arrangements, and our travel experts are well equipped to guide you every step of the way, ensuring that your holiday begins from the moment you board the plane.
If you’re staying at Atlantis in Dubai, kids and grownups alike will love the magical experience of staying in an underwater suite, and this massive complex has so much to offer that you could easily spend two weeks there without leaving the resort. But you still have the whole of the UAE to discover. One hugely popular place, for children living in Dubai, is Kidzania – an interactive museum for kids, which gives them a taste of adult working life, allowing them to dress up like grownups and go to work in a range of professions, from construction workers, to supermarket assistants, to air stewards or radio DJs – Kidzania is a guaranteed fun day out for the whole family. Another big hit with local little people is Wild Wadi Waterpark, situated near the Burj Al Arab and part of Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
Dubai’s record breaking mega-mall is home to a haven for sweet-toothed kids in the popular and colourful Candylicious store, and just a short distance along the coast, in Abu Dhabi, is the world’s largest indoor theme park – Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, close to Yas Waterworld. Oman is an altogether more cultural experience for children, perfect for opening their eyes to the world around them and broadening their horizons. From dolphin watching in dhow boats, to turtle conservation and four by four safaris through the desert, little travellers who enjoy wildlife and the great outdoors will be in their element in Oman.
As with all our inspirations posts, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what awaits on your family’s Middle East adventure, but if you’d like more detailed information to help you decide on the best family holiday destination for you, get in touch with one of our dedicated travel experts today.