6 Outdoor Escapes Less Than a 3-Hour Drive from These Cities in the Middle East and AfricaBy Ramsey Qubein
City adventures are exhilarating and fun. But sometimes snarling traffic and noise can have you itching for the great outdoors. Many cities around the Middle East and Africa have entertaining activities to explore both inside and outside of the city limits.
Here are six adventures to check out on your next visit to these enticing destinations. You will quickly discover that heading a little bit out of town can reveal much more about a place than its own downtown.
As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
A two-hour or so drive from Riyadh brings tourists to Saudi Arabia’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon. Visitors can climb the stunning cliff, dubbed the “Edge of the World,” on the rim of the Tuwaik Mountains.
It is best to visit during the winter months to avoid the raging summer heat. This dramatic cliff is also known as Jebel Fihrayn, and hikes are very popular day trips for tourists.
Bring your camera because you won’t want to miss capturing the stunning views
Head to the desert about an hour outside of Dubai to try dune bashing, a four-wheel-drive adventure sport that takes the brave and eager on a fast-paced journey driving across the hilly and sandy desert.
Be prepared for plenty of bumps, screams and thrilling drops along the way. Once you’re finished with the ride, stop for a photograph amid the dunes or dine in a tented camp in the same style as nomads and Bedouins from centuries past.
Other options include camel rides and sandboarding, where you “surf and slide” down a sand dune on a specially made. One of the closest spots to Dubai for these sandy adventures is Bab Al Shams desert.
If you’re looking for a more peaceful escape, the Dead Sea, a hour drive from Amman, is a popular excursion. Here, you can soak in the world’s saltiest body of water and float, seemingly like magic, on the surface.
After snapping a photo, head for the healing and restorative Dead Sea mud and lather it on your skin. It’s said to help remove skin impurities, relieve arthritis and chronic back pain, and improve psoriasis, among other health benefits.
This is a perfectly relaxing way to spend an afternoon after visiting Amman’s many museums, shopping malls and historic landmarks.
Once you’ve haggled in the souk, snapped photos with the snake charmers and sipped mint tea beneath orange trees in a traditional Moroccan courtyard, head out of town for adventure.
Less than an hour from Marrakech is the Agafay Desert, where visitors can ride camels, drive all-terrain vehicles or hike through the atmospheric desert. Prepare to see a mix of colors, from brown sand to verdant trees whose branches are filled with the famous tree-climbing goats.
Parts of Morocco were heavily damaged in a September 2023 earthquake. Please check local travel advisories before planning a trip to the region.
Cape Town, South Africa
A visit to the famous vineyards of Stellenbosch, just 45 minutes outside of Cape Town, is a popular activity for those visiting the Mother City.
There, they can learn about and sample wine, bike through the charming town and vineyards, or even learn to blend and bottle their own wine.
Don’t miss the village museum and the many art galleries that line the streets. It’s a relaxing way to spend time between sipping the world-famous wine here.
Nairobi National Park sits about 10 minutes outside of the downtown area and is the perfect spot to enjoy short safari game drives if visitors don’t have time to venture farther into the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Like more rural parts of Kenya, it is possible to spot the “big five” here, which includes the leopard, elephant, lion, black rhinoceros and African buffalo.
Instead of tented camps, the city’s skyscrapers are visible in the distance, but this prized swath of nature reserve so close to the capital is one of the city’s most popular activities. It’s easy to forget that frenetic Nairobi is just on the horizon.