Do you want to build a snowman during your Middle East vacation? Here are some of the iciest destinations in the Arab world...
Gorgeous stretches of desert may be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of the Arab world, but even here, there are many places that are perfect for anyone dreaming of a White Christmas. Here are some of the most snowy destinations you could find while vacationing in the Middle East…
TABUK, SAUDI ARABIA
The Saudi Arabian city of Tabuk sits on the border between two opposite worlds: the Red Sea with its vibrant coral reefs, and the ice-capped mountain range where camels walk amidst the snow. Visitors flock to Tabuk to explore ancient archaeological sites, where it is believed that the prophet Moses lived east of the city for a decade. On the mountain, you can brush the snowfall away to read ancient inscriptions carved into the stone.
In the centre of all this ancient history and natural splendour, the Grand Millenium Tabuk recently established itself as one of the two five-star hotels in the city, and has already risen to one of its most popular stays with prices starting at USD 265.
To visit Saudi Arabia, travellers must have a valid tourism visa before arrival and a negative PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours prior to departure, as well as COVID-19 insurance.
WADI RUM, JORDAN
Whenever a Hollywood movie wants a scene set on Mars, this is where they come to film it. Wadi Rum, also known as ‘The Valley of the Moon’, is a protected area famous for the ancient city of Petra, a Wonder of the World that was carved into pink sandstone cliffs by the Nabataean people. A popular destination for ecotourism, the desert is a spectacular spot for budding astronomers to marvel at the night sky. With that said, during the peak of the winter season in January and February, the desert floor is often covered in snow. Picture dune dashing amidst an icy desert; that’s a unique excursion in nature if we ever saw one.
As far as hotels go, the Wadi Rum Bubble Luxotel is an attraction in and of itself, bringing the glamping experience to the bubble room. Featuring private jacuzzis and open glass ceilings, this stay lets you sleep under the stars in total comfort, with prices starting at USD 160.
Travellers to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will need to fill out the relevant form at visitjordan.gov.jo, and present a negative PCR test conducted 72 hours prior to departure.
Located 1,650 metres above sea level amidst the Middle Atlas mountains, Ifrane is known as the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’. The town was originally established during the French colonial era in the 1930s as a hill station and an alpine-style resort for Europeans. It is best known for its European-style architecture, with red-roofed houses, lake-studded parks, and green gardens. During your stay, you can head over to Ifrane’s national park to spot a variety of wild animals including the endangered Barbary macaque. Or you can ski at the famous Michlifen resort, one of if not the best-loved hotel in the city, with prices starting at USD 360.
Visitors travelling from countries on Morocco’s A-list must present evidence of vaccination upon boarding, while visitors from countries on the B-list must present a negative PCR test taken no longer than 48 hours before boarding.
SAINT CATHERINE, EGYPT
Located in the southern end of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Saint Catherine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Mount Catherine, the highest mountain in Egypt with snow-covered peaks that are popular amongst climbers. On the rare occasion that snow blows down to the rest of Egypt, people point to Mount Catherine as the cause. The town is famous for its religious sites, including St. Catherine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai, which holds great religious significance to people of Abrahamic faiths.
Although Saint Catherine caters to a more ascetic lifestyle, the Morgenland Hotel offers simple but comfortable stays with prices starting at USD 80.
Visitors to Egypt must present a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to boarding time.
MOUNT LEBANON, LEBANON
A paradise for nature lovers, Mount Lebanon is an outdoor adventure park with an endless list of winter sports available throughout the season. One of the most popular stays in Mount Lebanon is the Mzaar Ski Resort, which is tucked in amongst the Cedars of God, an expansive grove of ancient Lebanese cedar trees. With prices starting at USD 300, the resort is home to over 80 kilometres of ski runs and neighbours the Kfardebian Natural Bridge, which overlooks the frothy white ‘Yogurt River’.
Travellers to Lebanon must present a negative PCR test from a lab certified by the Lebanese local authority that is no older than 96 hours, and must take another test upon arrival.
AL HAJAR MOUNTAINS, OMAN
Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams in Oman, part of the Al Hajar Mountains, experience drastic changes in weather, giving lucky mountaineers the possibility of encountering thick blankets of snow in January and February. The mountains are a popular spot for climbing and camping, towering at 10,000 feet.
A must-stay at Al Hajar Mountains is The View, a hotel with pod-like rooms situated 1,400 feet above sea level, overlooking a breathtaking view of the terrains with prices starting at USD 280 a night.
Travellers to Oman must present proof of vaccination as well as take a PCR test upon arrival.