Embedded within the Middle East’s rich history and culture are experiences of a lifetime. Tailor-made for those who don’t mind spending big bucks for the ultimate in offbeat luxury, these offerings redefine opulence for the most discerning traveller. From wine tours in Lebanon to chopper rides over Jerusalem and glamping in a Bedouin village, there are ample choices for the extravagant globetrotter. By Shikha Pushpan & Rashima Nagpal
SAVOUR A UNIQUE FUSION IN QATAR
If your reasons to travel include tasting unique fusion food, a plush culinary experience awaits you at Nobu, Four Seasons Hotel Doha. The largest Nobu restaurant in the world at 2,415 square metres, the stunning three-level structure juts out over the Arabian Gulf, and is accessible only by its own private road. World renowned and critically acclaimed, executive chef Nobu Matsuhisa brings the best of Japanese cuisine to the Middle East, serving world famous Nobu classics along with dishes inspired by the region. The black cod yuzu is popular among patrons. From their collection of Hokusetsu sake, imported exclusively for Nobu from Sado Island in North Japan, try a 10-year-old Ongakushu or the premium Daiginjo Yk-35 Shizuku and take it up on the panoramic roof deck as you soak in the views of the Doha skyline and the Gulf.
2. SET SAIL IN JORDAN
As far as Middle Eastern voyages go, nothing comes close to the 14-day ‘Petra to the Pyramids & a Nile Yacht Cruise’ journey. Offered by Abercrombie & Kent, the tour is part of their Marco Polo Journeys. This particular voyage combines the best of land and sea travel. Begin in Jordan’s capital, Amman, and head to the City of Mosaics, Aqaba, followed by a day in the rose-tinted mountains and desert vistas of Wadi Rum. Explore the world- famous site of Petra, the well-preserved Roman ruins of Jersah, and float in the Dead Sea, before heading to Cairo. A flight to Luxor then brings you to the Zein Nile Chateau, your exclusive 12-passenger cruise ship for the next three days. After a rich sailing experience through the longest river in the world, you disembark at Aswan, where you discover Nubian history and culture, followed by three days in Cairo.
3. LIVE THE CAPPADOCIA FAIRY TALE IN TURKEY
It is no secret that Cappadocia’s amusing topography—honeycombed hills and towering boulders—is best explored on a hot-air balloon. For a memorable experience, sign up for a private flight over the region’s signature ‘fairy chimneys’. Voyager Balloon offers quite an experience with its Exclusive Flight. It fea- tures four-people aircraft-style seated baskets, hot beverages before the flight, and in-flight breakfast. Sip on champagne as you take in the views of the stunning Cappadocian valleys from above. Add to that the ease of transfers from your hotel in mini luxury buses and a commercially insured flight.
From Rs 1,69,990
4. GO FOR THAT GOLDEN GLOW IN INSTANBUL
While in Turkey, a visit to a traditional hammam is a no-brainer in the itinerary. But the pure gold treatments at Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul are perhaps the most indulgent way of unwinding in the land of Cleopatra. Based on the anti-ageing properties of gold, the opulent spa offers a 60-minute facial and a 75-minute body treatment, or a combination of both. Gold, with its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, calms the skin and protects it from free radicals that cause sun damage and wrinkles. Also involving essential oils and minerals, the extravagant ritual leaves the face and body rejuvenated and glowing. From Rs 72,000
5. TRY A SPA-CATION
The 11-day ‘Indulgent Journey To The World’s Oldest Spas & Thermal Baths’ offered by Zicasso is a wellness enthusiast’s dream come true. Beginning from Istanbul’s traditional hammams with 500 years of healing history, moving on to the naturally blessed Greco Roman spa town of Hierapolis and Pamukkale’s calcite pools, the itinerary is made up of all things rich and rejuvenating. It also features three days of sailing across the Turquoise Coast and witnessing an eclectic mix of ruins, hidden hot springs, hamlets, and sea shores. The yacht crew includes on-board masseuses. A luxe night stay in a cave hotel in Cappadocia is another highlight of the journey. Have the itinerary customised as per your preference, and embark on a thoroughly relaxing journey.
6. DINE WITH THE KINGS IN EGYPT
Imagine having the Pyramids of Giza to yourself for an evening and enjoying a private dinner with your partner under a canopy of stars. Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza hosts privileged guests for an extraordinary night at one of the most spectacular sites in the world. The guests are taken to the venue on a horse-drawn carriage and offered a private showing of a breathtaking sound and light show on the pyramids that narrates the lingering mysteries of ancient Egypt. They are then taken through a candle-lit route to a specially-built Mamluk-style tent on the Giza Plateau overlooking the three pyramids, where a private chef whips up a special menu using local ingredients. As you sink into your chair and relish the authentic food, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra illuminates the night with their signature creations.
7. EXPLORE FJORDS IN A DHOW IN OMAN
Oman was once renowned for its boats and the skills of its sailors. The iconic dhow is the last-standing testimony to the country’s seafaring traditions. For an immersive experience, take a ride on a luxury dhow provided by Six Senses Zighy Bay, and relive the golden age of Arabian voyages as the handcrafted vessel cruises the Musandam fjord, where the Al-Hajar mountains tower over small fishing villages. At Dhahab, you can extend your experience with an overnight stay in its plush cabins. The luxury vessel can host upto six guests, and comes with a personal chef and butler, well-equipped salon, cinema, and large open galley, besides generous sun decks for panoramic views of the fjords. While you’re onboard, try your hand at kayaking, fishing, or attending a personal Masterclass with the chef. Guests can also bring spa therapists on-board. From Rs15 lakhs
8. SWIM ON THE EDGE OF LAND IN ISRAEL
The infinity pool of Beresheet Hotel, located in the town of Mitzpe Ramon, is no ordinary swimming pool. Part of the Isrotel Exclusive Collection, the hotel is a plush, all-villa resort that sits on the edge of the towering cliffs that slope down into the Ramon Crater in southern Israel. Also known as Makhtesh Ramon, it is the world’s largest erosion cirque and is part of the vast Negev desert. The semi- arid, rocky landscape, with majestic mountains along its borders, attracts tourists from across the world. But guests at Beresheet enjoy unlimited views of this geographical wonder from the comfort of an infinity pool, azure as the sky that covers the mouth of the crater. Rooms from Rs 32,500
9. FLY OVER THE HOLY LAND JERUSALEM
Soak in the grandeur of Jerusalem with a helicopter tour operated by Israel Unlimited. Take off from Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov airport, fly south along the Mediterranean coastline over the ancient port city of Jaffa, then turn inland to the Judean Hills and Sha’ar HaGai, the site of many historical battles fought for the control of Jerusalem. As you approach Jerusalem, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum piercing the Jerusalem Hills is a welcome sight. After you take in views of the Western Wall, The Temple Mount, the Walls of the Old City, and the Mount of Olives, it is time to bid Jerusalem adieu and fly over the canyons of Wadi Qelt to see the Monastery of St George of Choziba, and continue to Jericho, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Follow along the shores of the beautiful Dead Sea and past the oasis of Ein Gedi as you make your way to the final destination of Masada.
10. CAMP WITH THE BEDOUIN IN ISRAEL
Israel’s thriving tourism industry is paving the way for increasingly luxurious experiences that are unique to the region. Glamping in a Bedouin village in the middle of the Negev Desert is one of them. Luxury tour operator Glamping Israel custom-makes this experience for luxe travellers. Their glamping expedition begins with a colourful convoy of camels and Bedouin musicians who escort you to a remote village, where a private stay is arranged. From canvas tents, tepees, yurts, and trailers to mudhouses and luxury camps, there is a huge variety of accommodation options here. Expect gourmet meals paired with fine local wine from the Negev Mountain, campfire, stargazing, morning yoga, cultural performances, tours of the stunning landscape, and more.
11. TAKE THE SLOW LANE IN LEBANON
For those who enjoy a slow pace of travel and wish to discover a side of Lebanon that is rarely experienced, Corinthian Travel offers an immersive, privately- guided, nine-day tour. ‘Lebanon: Off the Beaten Track’ includes a culinary tour in the backstreets of Beirut, a hike to the serene and leafy Qadisha Valley, relaxing by the sea for a day in historic Tyre, an amble through the bustling medieval souks of Sidon, and taking in the stunning views from the Crusader castle of Beaufort, among other things. Dar Alma in Tyre, a 19th-century house overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with a private beach, is a good option for stay. From Rs 2,06,000
12. PLAY THE SOMMELIER IN LEBANON
One of the oldest wine production sites in the world, Lebanon boasts over 50 wineries, Beqaa Valley being home to all the major ones. The famous Châteaux Musar, Châteaux Ksara, Massaya, and Châteaux Kefraya have their production plants here, and the country’s French influence can be seen in the varieties of grape grown: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvèdre , Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan. Nakhal organises an eight-hour private, guided day trip from Beirut to some of these wineries. The package includes transportation and a professional guide. From Rs 6,800 per person
13. CHECK OUT THE SKY SPA IN ABU DHABI
Who says wellness treatments in city spas need to be confined within concrete walls that put you to sleep? Surreal views only add to the well-being quotient. Often referred to as the ‘sky spa’, The Rayana Spa at Hyatt Capital Gate is the highest spa in Abu Dhabi. Perched on the 19th floor, the spa offers unparalleled views of Abu Dhabi’s stunning skyline, while also offering refreshing treatments inspired by the desert. The brilliant architecture of the hotel is another highlight of the place. Called the ‘Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi’, the build- ing is reportedly the world’s most leaning man-made structure. From Rs 20,000
14. JOIN THE RACE OF THE RICHES IN ABU DHABI
Scheduled to be held in November this year at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu
Dhabi Grand Prix is watched closely for the ultra-luxe itineraries of its high- heeled attendees (think private jets, yachts, penthouse suites, and exclusive post-race parties). If you’re ready to shell out a few crores, you too could be a part of the exclusive club. Consider the following for your induction: `1 crore for return flights on a private jet, `14 lakhs for four nights in a superyacht, `3.5 lakhs for an all-access race pass, `9 lakhs for a trackside view at Viceroy Lounge and a suite key, `38 lakhs for Presidential seats at A-list concerts, `4.2 lakhs for dining at Cipriani and partying at the Skylite rooftop bar and Amber Lounge.
15. GET A FALCON’S VIEW OF DUBAI
Few cities on earth are as bedazzling as Dubai, especially from the sky. Get a bird’s- eye-view of this man-made spectacle with a private helicopter ride. Alpha Tours curates private chopper rides, covering the iconic structures that define the skyline of Dubai. You can choose a preffered time of the day; but sunrise comes highly recommended. The chopper departs from Atlantis The Palm Helipad. These helicopters are specifically chosen for sightseeing purposes with large panoramic windows that offer visibility of upto 5,000 metres, and the tour is enhanced with commentary by an expert guide. After you arrive at the helipad of the Al Maha Luxury Resort & Spa, a generous breakfast spread awaits you, before you take off again in a Range Rover for a desert safari in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
16. TASTE THE GORDON RAMSAY PIE IN UAE
Legendary Michelin-star chef Gordon Ramsay closed down his rooftop venture, Verre, to come up with a superlative dining experience at the Bread Street Kitchen & Bar. Housed in the iconic Atlantis Hotel, the place is designed on the lines of the original London restaurant of the same name. Relish contemporary British dishes with an extensive choice of wine, as jazz artistes set the mood for the night. Book a seat at the coveted family brunches, where the legendary chef curates a special menu of hot and cold starters and an extensive dessert board. The Pie and Pairing Night is an equally sought-after event where the chef takes the centrestage to celebrate the ‘Great British Pie’, following which guests enjoy a pie-themed menu featuring Scottish salmon cured in beetroot, steak & ale pie served with savoy cabbage and aged cheddar mash, and orange and malt custard tart.
17. SIP ON THE MOST EXPENSIVE DRINK IN DUBAI
When it comes to drinking at Dubai’s Skyview Bar, the sky is the limit. Soaring 200 metres above sea level, on the 27th floor of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the place is revered for its unparalleled views of the city and the Arabian Sea. However, it’s the signature cocktails that take the centrestage here. Priced anywhere between Rs 3 lakhs and Rs 6 lakhs, these cocktails are among the world’s costliest drinks. While the 27.321 Cocktail, priced at Rs 5,40,000, was the biggest star here until a few years ago (a limited-edition of 10), the mantle has now been taken by The Birth of an Icon, which has been priced at Rs 3,25,000. So, what will you have today?
18. FOLLOW IN THE TRACKS OF SCHUMACHER IN BAHRAIN
Ever wondered what goes behind the scenes of Formula 1 races? Get exclusive insight into the fast-paced world of motorsport management with a VIP tour of the facilities at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC). The tour begins with a visit to the iconic Sakhir Tower that stands out with its distinct architecture. Here, guests are taken to the eighth-floor rooftop to enjoy a 360O view of the circuit and the surrounding area, before heading to the Race Control Tower. The nerve centre of the circuit, it is here that officials make use of more than 40 remote-controlled cameras with zoom capabilities to monitor every moment on the track during a race. Once you get a hang of the brass tacks, it is time to hit the track. An experienced driver gives you an exclu- sive tour of the 15 turns of the BIC Grand Prix track, following in the footsteps of the world’s racing legends.
19. SKYDIVE SANS FEAR IN BAHRAIN
There are many who want a taste of the skydiving adrenaline but are afraid to take the plunge. For these acrophobic ones, a safe and much less daunting introduction awaits in the form of an indoor skydiving session. Gravity Indoor Skydiving in Zallaq allows visitors to take flight in a 12-metre-tall tempered-glass wind tunnel, the world’s tallest of its kind, where wind speeds reach up to 250 kmph. A 90-minute session includes training and a supervised flight; you can go solo or fly with your partner/friends. Non-fliers can watch all the action from a viewing area in the building. Plan your visit around the Third FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving Bahrain in October and watch world-class flyers perform breathtaking stunts in the wind tunnel.
20. SAIL IN STYLE IN KUWAIT
Explore the skyline of Kuwait from the comfort of a private yacht as a personal butler caters to every need. The triple- deck Majesty 155 is the biggest superyacht yet from Gulf Craft. The 47-metre-long yacht uses technology used in the A380 aircraft to provide a superlative sailing experience. While the Owner’s State Bedroom is equipped with a walk-in wardrobe, the guest bedrooms feature plush amenities. An ornate fountain on the sun deck lends a touch of glamour to the vessel. However, it’s the waterfall that cascades from the rear sun deck into the jacuzzi, positioned on the upper deck, that steals the show.