Sheik Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi

See your local landmarks in a new light, like Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Zayed Mosque. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Go Local: Satisfy Your Wanderlust on Staycations in the Middle East and Africa

Ready to stretch your legs without trekking too far from home? A quick staycation may be just what you need.

Autumn in the Middle East — when the summer heat has finally dissipated and the weather, albeit still warm, becomes tolerable — and springtime in South Africa are the ideal times to explore local options. Whether you’re traveling with family or a small group of friends, these escapes can help banish the stay-at-home blues.

But before you prepare the car for your road trip, look up any travel restrictions for your destination and check for closures, as well as attractions’ opening hours, well ahead of your visit.

Abu Dhabi

al ain mubazzarah park
Find green spaces and fountains in Mubazzarah Park. (Photo: Getty Images)

The UAE capital has no shortage of open spaces, with public parks, beaches, restaurants, theme parks and even a Louvre museum welcoming visitors. But if you want to explore some of Abu Dhabi’s natural attractions, head to Jebel Hafeet on the outskirts of Al Ain.

At 4,000 feet (1,240 meters) above sea level, this rocky mountain has a cooler climate than the rest of the country. After enjoying the views from the top, head to the Green Mubazzarah Park for a picnic.

For something a little different, visit the certified-organic Farm 182 in the town of Al Rahba, where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables and feed the goats. The farm is open to the public every Saturday, starting in October.


saqqara necropolis egypt
Stray off the beaten path in Saqqara. (Photo: Getty Images)

A city teeming with history stretching back more than a millennium, Cairo is perhaps best seen the old-fashioned way: on foot. When planning your staycation, include a self-guided walking tour along Saliba and Muizz streets, and acquaint yourself with the city’s architectural legacy.

Book a Nile River experience and go on a dinner cruise with unrivaled views of the river’s shoreline. You can also escape from the city and take a one-hour drive to Saqqara, known for its step pyramids, which are even older than those in Giza.

Manama, Bahrain

ancient walls in bahrain
Stroll through ancient quarters in Bahrain. (Photo: Getty Images)

Fall is the perfect time to see familiar places in a new light, including famous landmarks like Al Fateh Grand Mosque, Qal’at al-Bahrain and Manama Souq. Alternatively, grab your picnic basket and dine al fresco at one of Bahrain’s 150-plus public parks, or take an eight-minute boat ride to Al Dar Islands, where you can bask in the sun and go swimming.

If you want to indulge your inner Formula One driver’s need for speed, go for a spin in a Radical SR3 at the Bahrain International Circuit, or take advantage of special rates offered to residents and book a short stay at one of the city’s luxury hotels.

Cape Town

Lone hiker in cape town
Stretch your legs on a hike outside Cape Town. (Photo: Getty Images)

Here below the equator in Cape Town, September through November means springtime and is the perfect season for residents to holiday at home and embrace nature. Put on your most comfortable shoes, follow the foliage trail and hike Newlands Forest, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden or Lion’s Head mountain, part of Table Mountain National Park.

You can also join a family-friendly guided walking tour to the top of Table Mountain and soak up impressive views of the city and its surrounding areas. If you want to take a short break from the urban hubbub, drive 35 miles (56 kilometers, or about an hour) to Boulders Beach and say “hello” to a colony of penguins.

Doha, Qatar

Islamic art center with Dhow boats in Doha
Take a trip on a traditional dhow boat in Doha. (Photo: Getty Images)

For a small city, Doha packs a punch in terms of attractions. Whether you’re planning a culturally rich staycation, retail therapy or a lazy day by the hotel pool, the Qatari capital has got you covered.

Start your day with a leisurely stroll along the palm-lined Corniche, with views of the city’s skyline. Then rent a dhow (traditional Arab boat) to go to Al Safliyah, an island 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) off the coast of Doha, and swim in the Persian Gulf.

Cap off the day with a sunset viewing experience. The best spot for this is Barzan Towers, an observatory just 23 minutes away by car from the city.