Secret Gems in the Middle East: 6 Places Beyond the Tourist Trail to Visit

Secret Gems in the Middle East: 6 Places Beyond the Tourist Trail to Visit

Explore the Middle East like never before!

Get ready to go on a magic carpet ride in the enchanting Middle East for your next adventure.  From golden desert dunes to renowned attractions at every turn,  discover the beauty and charm of these hidden gems in the Middle East with Ascott Star Rewards (ASR). 

TripZilla tip: Sign up for the complimentary Ascott Star Rewards (ASR) membership to earn and redeem ASR points for all your business and leisure stays in 119 cities worldwide. Enjoy 25% off your first stay, prioritised early check-in and late check-out along with other exclusive rewards and benefits. 

6 Must-Visit Underrated Places in the Middle East

1. Khobar Corniche, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia

middle east

Image credit: AFZALKHAN M via CanvaPro

Al Khobar, situated along the Arabian Gulf coast in Saudi Arabia‘s Eastern Province, is a bustling commercial hub known for its museums and retail scene. From malls to local markets, known as souqs, the city offers a diverse shopping experience for visitors and locals alike. Khobar Corniche, the picturesque 16-kilometre stretch of parks and promenades, is open all year round to offer an escape from the city. 

Wander along the waterfront, bask in the beauty of sunsets, and savour the sea breeze with the iconic 90-metre-tall Khobar Water Tower, in the backdrop.  Apart from supplying water to the city of Khobar, the tower also hosts fireworks displays during special occasions like Eid al-Adha. 

Where to stay in Al Khobar: Ascott Corniche Al Khobar

Image credit: Provided by ASR

Ascott Corniche Al Khobar is the perfect accommodation for your trip to the city. Situated along Prince Turki Street, Ascott Corniche Al Khobar provides guests with access to various restaurants, retail outlets, and malls nearby. Besides its close proximity to the Khobar Corniche, it’s also close to Al Khobar’s main business hub on King Fahd Road, and only a 10-minute drive from the Al Khobar-Bahrain causeway, making it ideal for both business and leisure travellers.

Ascott Corniche Al Khobar boasts a variety of amenities, including a Business Centre, a fitness centre, a pool, and other relaxing facilities such as a jacuzzi and sauna. Indulge in breathtaking views of the corniche directly from the Shisha lounge and cafe or relax in the Resident’s Lounge with your favourite books. 


TripZilla tip: Use promo code 𝐀𝐒𝐂𝐎𝐓𝐓𝟒𝟎 to get one night free with a minimum 4-night stay at ASR participating properties! Offer ends 31 December 2024. T&Cs apply.

2. Dubai Miracle Garden, Dubai, UAE

middle east

Image credit: Dubai Miracle Garden | Facebook

The world’s largest flower garden, Dubai Miracle Garden, is situated in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.This botanical wonderland boasts a remarkable collection of 150 million flowers, making it one of the best places in the world to witness blooming flora. 

Visitors can marvel at the picturesque attractions like the Floral Clock, Sunflower Field, Lake Park, and Umbrella Tunnel. The garden is also home to a butterfly garden, a Smurfs Village, as well as a plethora of dining and entertainment options. 

Where to stay in Dubai: Citadines Metro Central Dubai

Image credit: Discover ASR

Situated in the heart of Dubai in Barsha Heights, Citadines Metro Central Dubai is only less than a 20-minute drive away from the Miracle Garden. It also provides easy access to attractions like Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach, and Mall of the Emirates, thanks to its proximity to the Dubai Internet City Metro station and convenient taxi pickups.

There are 208 spacious hotel apartments on the property, featuring fully equipped kitchens, and separate living, dining and bedroom areas. Guests can enjoy a range of amenities, including an on-site café, guest lounge, rooftop pool and deck with city views, a gym and secure parking. It’s an ideal stay for those seeking comfort and convenience in a bustling city.


TripZilla tip: Link your corporate email with your ASR account to start earning ASR points for both your business and leisure stays! Find out more about business travel as an ASR member here.

3. Katara Cultural Village, Doha, Qatar

middle east

Image credit: bennymarty via CanvaPro

An underrated gem in Doha, Qatar, Katara Cultural Village is a cultural and commercial complex that offers a diverse tapestry of experiences that cater to art enthusiasts, history buffs, and families alike. Adorned with a distinctive architectural landscape, blending traditional Qatari motifs with contemporary design, the village hosts museums, art galleries, an open-air amphitheatre, and outdoor spaces affording vistas of Katara Beach.

Guests are invited to capture the architectural splendour through photography, immerse themselves in artistic pursuits within the galleries and museums, or savour the delectable offerings of Qatari cuisine at the village’s restaurants. There are also other recreational activities like kayaking and sailing at the adjacent beach.

Where to stay in Doha: Somerset West Bay Doha

Image credit: Discover ASR

Nestled within a vibrant community area, Somerset West Bay Doha welcomes both leisure and business travellers seeking an authentic urban experience infused with the country’s cultural heritage. It’s only a 30-minute drive from the Hamad International Airport and within easy reach of cultural landmarks such as the Katara Cultural Village, Museum of Islamic Art, and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.

More than its prime location, Somerset West Bay Doha offers rooms with stunning views of the seas. Each elegantly decorated apartment features earthy tones of green and rustic browns, complemented by a blend of contemporary and Arabesque decor. Thanks to its mix of comfort and luxurious decor, this property is sure to provide guests with a memorable staying experience.

[BONUS] Download and login to the Discover ASR app to enjoy an instant upgrade to Silver tier. 


4. Mutrah Fort, Muscat, Oman

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Image credit: Leamus via CanvaPro

A must-visit hidden gem in Muscat, Oman the Muscat Fort is an iconic landmark built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The fort once served as a defensive stronghold that safeguarded the entrance of the harbour and the city of Muscat. Though its military purpose has ceased, you can still spot several cannons that date back to its time as a military stronghold. Standing tall on the cliffs, Muscat Fort boasts panoramic vistas of its surroundings — rugged mountains in the backdrop, blue seas, and an enchanting view of the city below.  

Image credit: Provided by ASR

Mutrah Fort also houses a mini cafe to rest your tired feet while taking in the views of the beautiful panoramic views of the Muscat coastline. 

A mere four-minute walk from the fort will take you to the Mutrah Souq, a traditional Omani marketplace that sells household goods, spices, antiques, Arabic perfumes (also known as oud), and more. 

Where to stay in Muscat: Citadines Al Ghubrah Muscat

Image credit: Discover ASR

Ideally situated for both business and leisure travellers, Citadines Al Ghubrah Muscat offers a convenient location.  Situated just a 17-minute drive from Mutrah Fort and with easy access to Sultan Qaboos Road, the property provides guests with effortless access to the airport, the city’s premier shopping malls, and renowned tourist attractions such as the nearby Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. This contemporary seven-story building boasts 96 units, offering spacious apartments designed to cater to the guests’ work and lifestyle needs.

Unwind with a range of entertainment options here, including a refreshing dip in the swimming pool, sweating it out at the gym, or enjoying cocktails at the juice bar. Business meetings can be hosted in the meeting rooms and the conference rooms. There are launderettes on-site for added convenience, too. If you’re feeling up for it, get fresh seafood from the Muttrah Fish Market and cook up a storm with the fully equipped kitchen in the rooms at Citadines Al Ghubrah Muscat!


5. Sapphire Observation Deck, Istanbul, Turkey

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Image credit: İstanbul Sapphire Sky Deck | Official Website

When contemplating a trip to Turkey‘s biggest city, Istanbul, what comes to mind are its architectural wonders, bustling bazaars, and unique blend of European and Islamic cultures, making it a city unlike any other. For those seeking to admire Istanbul’s iconic landmarks and architectural marvels, a visit to the 261-metre-high Sapphire Observation Deck, also known as the Sapphire Skydeck, is a must. 

As one of the tallest buildings in Istanbul, this prominent landmark allows visitors to marvel at the Bosphorus Strait, the Old City, and the skyscrapers dotting the horizon. There are other attractions like the Skyride 4D Simulation for thrill seekers, as well as a Vista Cafe and Restaurant, where visitors can indulge in delectable cuisine while taking in the view.

Where to stay in Istanbul: Somerset Maslak Istanbul

Image credit: Discover ASR

Nestled in the heart of Istanbul’s Maslak 1453, Somerset Maslak Istanbul offers a range of serviced apartments, from studios to four-bedroom units. Each of these features spacious living areas, fully-equipped kitchens, and cosy bedding, ensuring a comfortable stay.

It’s a 12-minute drive away from the Sapphire Observation Deck. Guests can also enjoy amenities like a gym, outdoor pool, and residents’ lounge. Family-friendly facilities here include a children’s playroom equipped with a playset and innovative games. Guests looking to get some work done can avail of the business centre, equipped with high-speed wireless internet connection and business support services.


6. Al Masmak Fortress, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

middle east

Image credit: Jasmina Putnik via Canva Pro

The Al Masmak Fortress, also known as the Al Masmak Palace, stands as an iconic landmark amidst the city of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Constructed in the 19th century, it was once a military fortress during the reign of Imam Abdullah bin Faisal. Today, it has been transformed into a museum, allowing visitors to take a journey back in time through the artifacts and exhibits from the kingdom’s past.

The fortress is divided into six main sections including the gate, mosque, towers, and residential units. Visitors can explore the palace’s rich heritage through visual presentations and ancient relics. Once you’ve finished exploring the fortress, you can take a 12-minute walk to AlSafat Square, also known as Deera Square. It houses many restaurants and a large bazaar, and is a beloved gathering spot for locals.

Where to stay in Riyadh: Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh

Image credit: Discover ASR

Nestled in the modern business hub of Olaya, Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh offers a luxurious stay amidst two of the city’s tallest skyscrapers: Faisaliah Tower and Kingdom Centre, providing breathtaking views of the city skyline. The property is conveniently located 24 minutes away from Al Masmak Fortress by car and features an array of restaurants and shops nearby. Meanwhile, landmarks like Al Rajhi Mosque and Al Masmak Fortress are about an hour’s drive away.

Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh offers a range of thoughtfully designed studios and apartments, ideal for both short and extended stays. In addition to the business support facilities, guests can also enjoy the on-site gym, steam room, sauna, and outdoor swimming pool for relaxation.


There you have it: a list of underrated treasures in the Middle East to visit on your next adventure and where to stay! From natural wonders to ancient architectural marvels, the Middle East is brimming with hidden gems that are sure to captivate your senses. Start planning your journey to this beautiful region and stay rewarded with ASR!

Elevate your Middle East adventure with an unforgettable stay with Ascott Star Rewards! Use promo code 𝐀𝐒𝐂𝐎𝐓𝐓𝟒𝟎 to book a minimum 4-night stay at ASR participating properties to get one free night! Offer ends 31 December 2024, terms and conditions apply. Sign up now as an ASR member and receive 25% off your first stay at any participating ASR property, along with exclusive member perks and rewards.

Brought to you by Ascott Star Rewards (ASR)

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.