Cappadocia, a land of fairy chimneys and underground cities

Enjoy incredible sights in this Turkish tourist paradise. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 August 2017

Cappadocia, a land of fairy chimneys and underground cities

CAPPADOCIA: The shopping bazaars of Istanbul, turquoise beaches of Antalya and fascinating thermal waters of Pamukkale make Turkey a true tourist paradise.
Cappadocia, in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey, is another tourist draw — albeit one that is lesser known.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cappadocia is located among volcanic mountains. Several years of volcanic eruptions — resulting volcanic ash, floods and strong winds — have created unique, porous rock formations called fairy chimneys. These geological formations were used by fleeing refugees as hideouts, monasteries and to house entire cities. If you are a history aficionado, these rock formations are sure to have you captivated.
How to get there: Only an hour’s flight away from Istanbul, the easiest way to get to Cappadocia is to take a direct flight from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to the nearest airport in Kayseri and make the hour’s journey to Cappadocia by car. To get a true experience of the Byzantine era (albeit with some luxuries), check in to one of the many cave hotels in Cappadocia. Restored to some degree, these caves were once used as retreats by monks and now serve as hotels for tourists, with modern amenities like hot tubs and Roman Baths — an experience that is totally worth it!
Things to do: The next morning, check off one more item on your travel bucket list as you head out to your early-morning hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s valleys. As the sun rises, be prepared to be stunned by a valley of fairy chimneys and a sky filled with color as other hot air balloons float through the air. After spending a luxurious morning savoring the sights of Cappadocia, head back to your hotel for a lavish Turkish breakfast that will keep you fueled up for the day ahead.
Apart from the traditional Turkish spread, try Cappadocia’s testi kebap — meat sealed in dough and cooked in a clay pot. An entertaining show is made out of breaking down the pot and serving its tender contents.
With intricate designs and rich colors, the silk carpets of Kayseri are some of the best in the world. Visit a carpet-making factory to watch the local women spin beautiful silk carpets and perhaps buy some to take home. You can also visit the renowned Chez Galip pottery factory and see how traditional Turkish ceramics are made.
Places to visit: Visit the Derinkuyu underground city in the province of Nevşehir, making your way in and out of secret tunnels and passageways while you try to decipher Greek inscriptions on the walls. While there, you can try to fathom the daily life of the nearly 20,000 people who used to reside in the Derinkuyu underground city and the neighboring underground city of Kaymakli.
The Göreme Open Air Museum is an archaeological delight. You can wander around for hours and marvel at 11th century frescos, paintings, communal eating areas and monasteries.
To experience the wonders of nature, take a trek through the Rose Valley, named after the red and pink hues of its rock formations, or the Pigeon Valley, named after its rock formations that look like bird houses, in Göreme.
To revive your inner child, visit the Devrent Valley and try to spot the hidden creatures in the rock formations. If you look closely, you can see horses, camels and whatever else your imagination can cook up.
A three or four-day trip should suffice to see everything in the Nevşehir, Ürgüp, Göreme, Uçhisar and Ihlara areas of Cappadocia — pack a camera for the incredible sights and enjoy your trip!


Safe Eid staycations in the UAE

The UAE extended the curfew to start at 8 p.m. as of May 20. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 May 2020

Safe Eid staycations in the UAE

DUBAI: If you have been repeatedly pinching yourself to wake up from a bad dream, you are not alone. In the midst of the all-consuming coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the world has been forced to reconcile with a new order.

After several stages of grief for what was, and disbelief for what lies ahead, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and realized that summer is just around the corner, the same corner I had been walking to and from to stretch my legs since the UAE announced in March new measures to implement social distancing.

With this in mind, I decided not to stifle the ever-potent wanderlust that has powered me throughout the years. After all, there are places in the world with safe enough infrastructures to navigate the aggressive motorways of intercity traveling. So, I pumped my car with enough gas and hit the road.

Here are some tried and true (safe and in line with the directives of the Ministry of Health and Prevention) day trips and staycation destinations to keep you hanging in there:

Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach

The UAE Residents Key package starts from 1,100 Emirati dirhams ($300). (Fourseasons.com)

If you want to lose yourself in a micro-universe of (US filmmaker) Wes Anderson-esque opulence, look no further than the Four Seasons Resort on Dubai’s Jumeirah Road.

The UAE Residents Key package starts from 1,100 Emirati dirhams ($300) and is inclusive of a 20 percent discount on all in-house food and beverage outlets with early check-in and late check-out.

Upon arrival, guests are instantly beckoned by the tantalizing waters of the Arabian Gulf glistening through the panoramic windows of the lobby like a Henri Matisse painting.

Before heading out though, visit the Shai Salon near the check-in counter and bask underneath the lattice ceiling which resembles a starlit sky. While the kitchen is currently closed for dine-in, you may order from a selection of aromatic teas and nibble on finger foods on the terrace of your room.

After ample relaxation, it is time to soak up the sun. All beach beds are 2 meters apart, and if you forget sunscreen, worry not, as staff will come to the rescue.

The soft waves of this beachfront oasis, coupled with the tranquil, grainy white sand make for a dreamscape. Interspersing your cheeky dips in the water is a friendly ecosystem of shoals of bream, shellfish, and exotic birds.

Now that you are properly sun-kissed, head over to the SeaWake counter for some watersport playtime. Guaranteed to awaken the child within, you may choose a 45-minute wakeboarding session, a boat cruise to the canal, or a simple donut or banana ride into the sunset.

To answer the growling call of hunger, do not forget to claim the meal that comes with the UAE Residents Key package which offers a signature dish and dessert at Nammos by the sea.

Al-Qudra Lake, Al-Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve

It is the perfect spot to read that book you have been putting off all year. (Shutterstock)

A pleasant 30-minute drive takes you to this man-made wonder on the southern outskirts of Dubai as you bid farewell to the city’s skyline through the rearview mirror.

It is a habitat for flora and fauna, jaw-dropping migratory birds as well as local wildlife. You can spot deer, swans, flamingos, and some 200 bird species that have taken up refuge by the lake, some of which are endangered such as the Asian Houbara.

Catch the sunrise with a flask of hot tea as the birds announce the day or let the night sweep in as you stargaze under the silky skies. It is the perfect spot to read that book you have been putting off all year.

There are no on-site facilities at Al-Qudra, so be sure to stock up on food and drink. If you find yourself in a bind, head to nearby Bab Al Shams.

Ras Al-Khaimah Public Beach

The beach is on the same stretch as the famed Hilton Ras Al-Khaimah Resort and Spa. (Shutterstock)

This is not a de facto public beach but rather a serene strip of water that I stumbled upon while searching for a gas station.

On the same stretch as the famed Hilton Ras Al-Khaimah Resort and Spa and opposite the ADNOC station by the fish market, it is a little off the beaten track, which only adds to the mysticism.

The barren land surrounding it juxtaposed against the turquoise waves is a sight to behold. The boulders lined up on the side make for a nice little hiking challenge or a seat to prop you up for a sunset-tinted journaling session.

Just when you think you have the place to yourself, jellyfish swim up the shore. Do not forget to head back to the city before the curfew and grab an invigorating fresh pomegranate juice from Eat & Drink.