Interior of Louvre Abu Dhabi

On a summer day, enjoy a visit to Louvre Abu Dhabi. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Fun Things to do in the Middle East While on Summer Vacation

You may think that summer in the Middle East is not for the fainthearted. After all, the region’s arid climate means outside temperature can reach a sizzling 122 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels a shocking 80 percent in July and August.

But while the desert sun can be intimidating — especially to the uninitiated — it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a carefree Arabian getaway. Gone are the days when the season made ghost towns out of major cities in the region.

Today, summer is bustling with activities, which not only encourages “staycationers,” but also gives solo and family travelers an excuse to experience the extraordinary attractions various destinations have to offer.  Here are some of the best places to visit in the Middle East in the summer, plus a variety of fun activities to try.

As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.

Make a Splash

In the Middle East, you’re never far away from where the land meets the sea. Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, the region is home to stunning beaches and vibrant dive spots.

One of the world’s most popular underwater wildernesses can be found in Saudi Arabia. Farasan, in the kingdom’s southwestern region, is an archipelago comprised of more than 170 islands. The area’s year-round temperate climate makes exploring its rich coral reefs and marine life enjoyable.

However, for more accessible water attractions, get your adrenaline pumping at any of the region’s several water parks, including Lost Paradise of Dilmun in Bahrain; Aqua Park in Kuwait; Land of Legends in Antalya, Turkey; Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi, UAE; and Wadi Adventure in Al Ain, UAE.

Soak Up Art and Local Culture

If you’d rather spend your holiday in air-conditioned comfort, head to one of the Middle East’s museums and cultural centers. In Abu Dhabi, the Louvre Abu Dhabi displays artistic masterpieces from across the Arab world and beyond.

Other places where you can also immerse yourself in local art and culture are Bait Al Zubair in Muscat, Oman; the Calligraphy Museum in Sharjah, UAE; Hagia Sophia in Istanbul; Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar; and Sursock Museum in Beirut.

Alternatively, catch the latest musical or theater performance at Dubai Opera or Royal Opera House Muscat.

Hit the Slopes

activities in the middle east
Skiing in the desert? It’s a thing. (Photo: Getty Images)

Improve your skiing or snowboarding skills in Ski Dubai, a 242,000-square-foot indoor ski slope located in Mall of the Emirates. The snow park has been a favorite summer destination among residents and tourists alike since it opened in 2005.

You can also embrace the indoor chill by getting your skates on at Dubai Ice Rink in Dubai Mall or the Zayed Sports City Ice Rink in Abu Dhabi; each features an Olympic-sized rink.

Go for a Ride

Add some thrill into your summer break by visiting one of the Middle East’s impressive indoor amusement parks. In Dubai, the IMG Worlds of Adventure has the Velociraptor, a pulse-pounding roller coaster that zooms along a one-kilometer track at 62 mph in 2.5 seconds.

Another one for adventure seekers is Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World. This beast shoots passengers 150 mph in 4.9 seconds.

Indulge in Retail Therapy

activities in the middle east
Shop in the souks. (Photo: Getty Images)

If there’s one thing the Middle East has plenty of, it’s sprawling shopping malls. You can also lighten your wallet at traditional markets, known as souks, which are typically open air, but some have been refurbished to become air-conditioned retail spaces.

Souq Waqif in the Qatari capital Doha has been the site of centuries-old trading. Here you can buy anything from gold jewelry and exotic fragrances to spices and textiles.

Muttrah Souk, in Muscat’s Old Town, is not air-conditioned. But a summer visit to the Omani capital would not be complete without a detour to this souk’s labyrinthine alleys peppered with stalls selling frankincense, dates, silver khanjars (daggers), crafts and handmade carpets.

To enjoy your shopping stroll and avoid the heat, head there early in the day (shops are open from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.) or late in the afternoon (from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.).