Work travel has brought me to the Middle East four times in the last several months. Looks like at least one more coming up soon as well. Traveling the gulf countries is good for my airline status requalification, but I have mixed feelings about traveling in this region. Plus, these are business trips and are always booked in economy class. The best I can usually do is to connect in Europe and hope to upgrade the AA metal flight from the US using a systemwide upgrade.
Traveling the Gulf Countries for Pleasure
I have visited the UAE on past vacations, and mostly enjoyed my time. There are countless hotels at all levels, especially in Dubai. Some more memorable stays included the Al Maha Resort, which was very unique given its location in a desert reserve. This was the most expensive hotel I’ve ever booked (even using SPG points), but I highly recommend it. We also enjoyed our time at the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi. There are also outstanding airline options, with the ME3 of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar based in the region. Our trip to the UAE had premium cabin flights on Virgin Atlantic and then Etihad First Apartments. My business trips here are not so luxurious. Generally they have meant long flights with connections, and often in economy so these trips are much less enjoyable.
Traveling the Gulf Countries on Business
For my business trips to the region, I’ve mostly flown British Airways, with a couple of flights on Qatar. On one trip I took Lufthansa, to use up the last of my United SWUs from my days as a 1K. Work has brought me to both Dubai and Doha. I’ve had some pretty nice hotel stays on these trips, and this has helped keep me sane in more ways that one.
The work environment in the this region is unusual. Due to low population, much of the work is done by foreigners. My interactions are with more white-collar workers in medical facilities where I’m working, but seeing busloads of workers traveling to/from construction sites is heartbreaking given the conditions they work under. Sadly, these lovely state-of-the-art cities are built with what is essentially modern-day slave labor.
Out and About When Traveling the Gulf Countries
I’m privileged to travel around the world for work, and one of the things I enjoy most is experiencing local culture. Even if it is a tiny hint of it during limited free time, I try to take advantage of this whenever I can. This is often a challenge in the Middle East, at least in the places I’ve visited. For example, I’ve had some amazing Indian food in both Doha and Dubai. But when asking for local activities to do after work, the most common suggestion was to visit a mall.
One evening went to the Global Village near Dubai with a colleague. This is comparable to the World Showcase at EPCOT Center, with pavilions from various countries, but with much more of a Middle East flavor. Somewhat contrived as any amusement park would be, but it was quite enjoyable to compare cuisine and culture from all over. And yes, I went to the Dubai Mall. Mostly for the water show and to see the Burj Khalifa up close.
Final thoughts on my Traveling the Gulf Countries
I’m fortunate to see the world while I’m working. Before 2016, I’d only been to the region twice. Now I’ve been 5 times in a little over a year. After so many trips here, honestly, I’d rather mix up my destinations a bit. I’d certainly return to the region for vacation to see some other places. Visiting Petra, Jordan is high on my list, and I’d like to spend some time in Oman which reportedly has much natural beauty.
Any other recommendations for places to visit in the Middle East? Do other travelers to the region share my mixed feelings about trips here?