Travel SOS: where to spend your Middle East stopover

Stopovers are great for breaking up long-haul flights.

Travel SOS: where to spend your Middle East stopover

Lee Mylne has managed to combine her two passions – travelling and writing – into a long and successful career as a travel journalist. Her work is published in newspapers, magazines, websites and travel apps in Australia and around the world.

Travellers heading to Europe from Australia have plenty of choices when it comes to exotic Middle Eastern stopovers.

With Abu Dhabi and Dubai both hubs for their national airlines – Etihad Airways and Emirates, respectively – there’s plenty to discover in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with daily flights available from Australia. Visa requirements are the same for both destinations and Australian passport holders can obtain a free 30-day visa on arrival.

mosque in abu dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven emirates, and is gaining attention among Australian travellers as a stopover destination. Etihad offers a range of great stopover deals, whether you have a lengthy layover (six to 12 hours) or want to spend a couple of days exploring.

A must-see for visitors is the incredible Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with its 82 domes, 24-carat-gold chandeliers, and more than 1000 marble columns. It is one of the world’s largest mosques, with capacity for 40,000 worshippers, and is open to visitors every day except Fridays during prayer times.

The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital – the world’s foremost falcon welfare centre – is another fascinating spot. Tours run from Sunday to Thursday and give an insight into the world of falconry and the work of the hospital.

dubai harbour

Dubai International Airport is the busiest airport in the world, so a stopover here is likely for many travellers. Emirates offers a ‘stopover on arrival’ package from around US$45 per person, per night for three nights – which can only be booked in the arrivals hall of Dubai Airport.

There’s plenty to do in Dubai, starting with a visit to the Jumeirah Corniche – a 14km-long beachfront walkway complete with jogging track, kiosks and rest-spots overlooking the beach. Just the thing for beating jetlag!

For a bird’s-eye view of Dubai, head 450m up to the observation deck of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which includes a multimedia presentation about Dubai’s history and development. 

A 4WD desert safari tour is one of the most popular things to do in Dubai, including hospitality at a Bedouin camp, camel rides, sandboarding, henna painting, coffee and Arabian delicacies. Some safaris also offer music and entertainment.

So, which destination is better? There’s not much between them, with both offering great deals, plenty of activities and the chance to get a real insight into Middle Eastern culture.

Learn more about Abu Dhabi
Learn more about Dubai



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    17th Sep 2016
    Having had an insight into Middle Eastern culture here in Australia the less I see of it in the future the better.
    17th Sep 2016
    I hope this article does not start a islamaphob rant. I was in Dubia in February for 3 days and had a great time. Have to go back to experience Abu Dhabi, Oman etc.
    17th Sep 2016
    I loved travel in the Middle East. Oman was very welcoming with wonderful dolphin pods and beachside relaxing.

    I adored Jordan though.

    Petra was a fabulous town. The ruins are amazing but the town itself has incredible shopping. Especially jewellery, ceramics and lamps.

    How good was the bread in Dubai?

    Personally I wish we had a few more wood fired middle eastern bakeries here.

    I'm hankering to try Syrian food if the government ever gets around to that refugee rescue they promised.
    17th Sep 2016
    Having tried Dubai my choice is Singapore where people are normal , the place is spotless and prices reasonable
    17th Sep 2016
    Dubai is a good place to stopover, but avoid going during Ramadan. Couldn't get a beer before 9PM. What a joke, and most of the shops are closed as well, or segregated! I went up to the top of the Burj, just to say I did it, but it is bloody expensive (about $100AUD).
    17th Sep 2016
    We always stop over in Seoul, South Korea. The airline puts you up in a lovely hotel overnight and the Koreans are so polite, clean and helpful. It breaks the trip to the UK almost exactly in half and you arrive at Heathrow in the evening...just hop straight into bed and be fresh to hit the ground running the next day! I would not even consider the Middle East for the reasons already put forward.
    17th Sep 2016
    I have to say I am not very interested in the Middle East not because of its lack of history and places to see, but simply the impression I get is of danger, a beautiful place covering up a strange religion, lots and lots of money with a very very wealthy few, controlling it, and plenty of cheap labor building these enormous buildings , while international tradesmen make a small fortune working there. So enjoy it at the expense of other very less fortunate humans , I think!
    Plus too close to insanity .

    17th Sep 2016
    Old people who have lost the joy of living
    Too much other shit has clogged the brain obviously from the few posts I read.
    fish head
    17th Sep 2016
    No, Carlos. Just a dislike of inadvertently becoming involved unpolitical upheaval. The Middle East is not a terribly comfortable area no matter how sanitised.
    17th Sep 2016
    I was in Dubai in 2006 and Abu Dhabi last year and I personally thought Dubai was much better. We were in Abu Dhabi on a Friday and found the hop on hop off bus which was really expensive didn't stop at a lot of places on their route due to it being a religious day where things were not open or opened after we could get their. This spoilt our visit a bit.
    17th Sep 2016
    WHERE ?? :-) :-) :-)
    How much will you pay Me to go ? :-) :-) :-)
    18th Sep 2016
    Went to Dubai June last year, during Ramadan, which was accidental timing, and a bit unfortunate! The heat was extreme, and we were warned about being seen eating or drinking (water) in public, by the hotel. We got good at sneaking sips of water whilst on the bus, or down laneways. Of course, you can't purchase alcohol anywhere. Quite an eye-opener, but bit frustrating as a lot of places were shut. Worth it though, to see the sights, but Ramadan is not the best time to visit.
    19th Sep 2016
    I am not interested in going to these middle eastern countries. I have nothing against their religion, provided they show equal respect to other religions. But that is not the case here. And you never know what action you do will result in an arrest and getting thrown in jail. Same goes for Indonesia as well.

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