Dubai is oftentimes referred to as the “Gateway to the Middle East” – And, for good reason. Not only is the city an economic and cultural hub, but it is also an ideal starting point for exploring the rest of the Middle East.
During my three months in Dubai, I have had the opportunity to explore two additional Middle Eastern countries: Oman and Jordan. These trips have been a highlight of my time abroad and have allowed me to apply what I am learning in the classroom at AUD to the real-world setting of the Middle East. This has greatly strengthened my understanding of and appreciation for the region as a whole.
My first trip beyond the borders of the U.A.E. was to the Omani capital of Muscat. I took this weekend-long trip alongside two of my fellow exchange students from the U.S. (Aisha and Khushi). Over the course of three fun-filled days, we experienced Oman’s natural and cultural beauty by visiting the National Museum of Oman, taking a dolphin-watching tour, visiting a local camel farm and tasting delectable Omani shuwa (slow-cooked marinated lamb). The traditional Arabian culture and hospitality found in Oman was first-rate. Simply put, I absolutely loved my time in Oman.
Merely three weeks after my trip to Oman, I packed my bags for yet another Middle Eastern destination: Jordan. Joined by Aisha, Khushi, and our Japanese friend Sayaka, I spent five days relishing in the beauty of Jordan’s history, landscape, and culture. Our jam-packed itinerary started in Jordan’s port city of Aqaba, made a pit-stop in Wadi Rum, and finished in the capital city of Amman. Highlights of our trip include: spending a night camping in the desert, marveling at the archaeological city of Petra, floating in the Dead Sea, and feasting on delectable Jordanian knafeh. All things considered, the breathtaking sights, vibrant culture, and delicious food I encountered in Jordan made this trip one that I will never forget.
Given the impactful nature of my trips to Oman and Jordan, I think all AUD study abroad students should venture beyond the borders of the U.A.E. during their time abroad. To facilitate this process, I have created a four-step plan for planning international trips while studying abroad at AUD.
1. Find Travel Partners
- Perhaps the most important part of planning a trip during your study abroad experience is choosing your travel mates.
- While you could feasibly take a solo trip, I recommend finding fellow AUD students who are also interested in exploring your destination.
- This will greatly enhance your trip and will help you build life-long friendships in the process.
- Personally, I was lucky enough to find Aisha, Khushi, and Sayaka – who all share my adventurous, fun-loving spirit. I am confident that my friendships with them will last long beyond the end of our time at AUD and I’m glad I was able to explore new countries with them by my side.
2. Choose a Destination
- The Middle East has an abundance of enviable travel destinations. The only problem? Trying to pick which of them to visit!
- While I highly recommend that you visit Oman and Jordan, you may be interested in visiting other locations.
- A few destinations that could make for a memorable weekend trip from Dubai include Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
- If you are feeling a bit more ambitious and have more time to dedicate to your trip, you could consider destinations a bit further from Dubai, such as Egypt or Turkey.
3. Find Transportation
- Before you can enjoy your vacation, you will need to create a logistical plan to arrive at your destination.
- If you are planning to travel by plane, I recommend departing from the airport Abu Dhabi as opposed to the one in Dubai. Not only will doing this save you money, but it will also offer you a wider breadth of destinations. You can catch an hour-long bus from Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai to the Abu Dhabi Airport for 35 AED.
- To find cheap flights, I recommend using Google Flights. This tool allows you to explore different destinations on different dates and helped my friends and I find a ticket to Aquaba, Jordan that only cost 50 AED.
- Another transportation option to consider is private bus companies. This option is only available for relatively close destinations. For example, if you are interested in traveling to Oman, I recommend using the Al Khanjari bus company. A one-way trip from Dubai to Muscat costs 100 AED and lasts approximately six hours.
4. Plan Activities & Enjoy!
- After planning your trip and arranging transportation, now comes the fun part: exploring your destination!
- I recommend creating at least a tentative list of things that you hope to see, do, and eat during your trip.
- This will allow you to maximize your time in your destination and will help you plan for any unforeseen costs.
- Pro tip: A quick Google search will suggest “Top Things to Do” and “Best Places to Eat.”
- You should also consider taking advantage of day trips offered by your hotel. These are oftentimes cheaper than traditional tourist packages and also include transportation to and from your desired tourist site.