Top 10 Things to do in the Middle East

Landing a TEFL job in the Middle East isn’t easy – anyone who’s researched TEFL careers knows that; as (with the exception of Turkey and Egypt) unless you have a level 5 qualification and a couple of years’ of teaching experience under your belt, you won’t even get a look-in.

When you’re initially searching for a teaching job, or researching expat life in the Middle East in general; you often read about a lot of negative experiences, due to cultural differences (but that’s a whole other article!), and it can be easy to overlook the positives that teaching and living in the Middle East can bring (and I’m not just talking about the tax-free salaries!)  The Middle East offers lots of places to go and sights to see during your days off from teaching – the weekend being a Thursday and Friday in Saudi Arabia; and a Friday to Saturday elsewhere – so take a look at the Top 10 things to do in the Middle East

10. Visit a late night coffee house in Saudi Arabia: the strictest of the Middle Eastern countries, alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia, so you’ll be swapping your weekend bar-hopping back home for the traditional Saudi activity of coffee drinking. Coffee shops are open late into the night in all cities, so order a Gahwa (Arabic coffee) – with cardamom and cloves added for a bitter taste – and enjoy a game of cards with your new TEFL friends.

9. House of Mirrors, Kuwait City: this hidden gem is tucked away and easily missed, but is charming and worth a visit. An alleged 77 tonnes of mirror were used to create the mirror mosaics that adorn everything from the floors to the walls! Each room incorporates a theme – the hallway for instance, is known as the Basin of the Sharks.  You need to call ahead to book a tour, but the tours conducted by creator Lidia Qattan are extremely insightful and very interesting.

8. Watch camel racing in Qatar: the ‘Sport of Sheikhs’ is extremely popular, and surprisingly enjoyable to watch! Head out to Al Shahaniya – a 30 minute drive from Doha – to the track, where you can take a bus to see the camel’s race from start to finish. Mechanical jockeys ride on the backs of the camels; with the racing season running from October to May: April onwards being when the larger competitions are held.

7. Go shopping in Dubai: no trip to Dubai is complete without a shopping spree in the luxurious malls – although admittedly, even on an attractive TEFL teacher salary (approximately £2,000/$3,000 a month), you may need to stick to window shopping! There are so many malls to visit, but if you only have time for a couple, be sure to check out the Mall of the Emirates, with a ski slope and fairground alongside the 466 shops. Alternatively, take a trip to Souk Madinat inside the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel – you won’t get bargains like you would in a typical souk, but it’s great for sightseeing and you can take a boat trip down the manmade river – bonus!

6. Find a new favourite food: so you may have had quite a few shish kebabs on your drunken stumbles home, but have you ever tried one in Turkey? Cuisine never tastes as good as it does when it’s traditionally prepared in its home nation, so it’s a given that you should sample some local dishes! From cous cous to laban – referred to as ‘buttermilk’, this fermented milk drink tastes has a salty, yet sour tang – you may just find your new must-have dish!

5. Pamukkale, Turkey: located in South Turkey, four hour’s East from Izmir, lies one of the most breath-taking pieces of scenery you may ever lay your eyes on: Pamukkale. Referred to as the ‘cotton castle’ by the Turks, it’s essentially a huge white mountain, consisting of numerous hot thermal springs – perfect for relaxing and unwinding in after a long week of teaching English!

4. Visit the bustling Istanbul: A cultural hub, there are so many things to do, you’ll need to visit multiple times if teaching English in Turkey! The Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are picture-perfect buildings, dating back to the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries respectively. Afterwards, wander through the bazaar where you can pick up everything from belly dancing outfits to carpets; before ending your day with a cruise down the Bosphorus – the strait that separates Europe and Asia – where you’ll get to see all of Istanbul’s top attractions from the sparkling waters.

3. Visit the pyramids in Egypt: one of the seven wonders of the world, tourists flock from all corners of the globe to see these natural beauties – and if you teach English in Egypt, they’ll be right on your doorstep! As the largest, the Great Pyramid of Giza is understandably the most popular, but it’s worth taking a trip to the North (otherwise known as the Red) pyramid; which is the second biggest, and much better preserved due to the smaller crowds.

2. Durrat Al Bahrain: these 15 man-made horseshoe and fish-shaped islands lie off the South coast of Bahrain, and are the epitome of Middle Eastern luxury. Lavish villas sprawl round the islands; snapped up by the elite as holiday homes (not something reachable unfortunately on a tax free TEFL teacher salary!) However, you can afford to enjoy a relaxing day by the shores, followed by a bite to eat in the sophisticated eateries – we’d definitely recommend a frozen chocolate shake from Maya La Chocolaterie, it’s the perfect cool-down!  With Bahrain being so small, you won’t even need to fork out hotel fees if you don’t want to – it only takes just over an hour to get from North to South of the country!

1. Go sand skiing in the desert: yes, you may have taken to the snowy slopes of Austria or Switzerland before, but have you ever skied on sand? Well, now you can, on the desert near Abu Dhabi! Just like skiing, you’ll find a range of slopes – the Liwa Dunes with their gentle slopes are recommended for beginners.  Just remember to pack plenty of sun cream – the desert’s a scorching 40C!

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