WORD OF MOUTH
A trio of new UNESCO sites to explore in our backyard
Global travel news including a trio of new UNESCO sites on the Arabian Peninsula, an airport departure lounge on the beach and this month’s can’t-miss events. Plus, Tumi creative director Victor Sanz on what he would add to make the perfect carry-on
Fujairah’s Hajar mountain range is abundant with waterfalls, cool rock formations and unusual wildlife. Home to 20 mammal species, 81 bird species, nine types of reptiles and 467 invertebrates, Wadi Wurayah earned its spot as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve this summer. While the core of the reserve is currently closed off to the public to help ensure the biodiversity thrives, a buffer zone is available to support scientific research and encourage new developments – potentially to drive tourism.
At around the same time, the ancient city of Qalhat, 20km north of Sur in Oman’s Sharqiya region, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta were regular visitors to this city of fortified walls and time-worn domes that once served as mosques, houses and shops. Artefacts with Persian and Chinese influences, and tombs, including the Bibi Maryam mausoleum with embedded Qashani
(Persian decorative arts), fill the city and are free to visit.
Last but not least – in terms of size, anyway – Al-Ahsa, a largest-of-its-kind oasis in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, was also added to the World Heritage Sites list. Here you’ll find over 2.5 million date palms blanketing grounds that include mosques, fortresses, canals, wells and springs. Traditional souks, vintage stores, mountain caves, palaces, mosques and springs, including one of hot sulphur, make good pit stops as you explore. These are only the most recent UNESCO sites on the Arabian Peninsula, joining other visitworthy locations such as Qal’at al-Bahrain and the Al Ain Oasis in Abu Dhabi.