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.
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 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.