It's not very often that we encounter deals to the Middle East beyond Israel, so this week's smart deal is a six-day trip Friendly Planet (tel. 800/555-5765; www.friendlyplanet.com) is offering to Dubai, priced from $1,299. Part of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is a luxurious playground and an emerging destination, with sand dunes, beaches, and duty-free shopping, among other attractions. According to Peggy Goldman, Friendly Planet co-owner and president, the company is excited about adding Dubai to its offerings. "This is the most hyperbolic, over-the-top place I've ever been. Everything -- and I mean everything -- has to be described using superlatives." The most expensive hotel in the world? In Dubai. The world's tallest skyscraper (once it's completed?) Also in Dubai. And a replica of the Eiffel Tower, only bigger and taller, is currently being erected. In response to the comment that it sounds like Vegas of the Middle East, Goldman agrees, but with one caveat: "except that Dubai IS the show," she says.
The advertised special reflects a discount of $800 per couple if you reserve before September 28. The price includes roundtrip airfare from New York, fuel surcharges, transfers, buffet breakfast daily, and three nights of accommodations at either of the deluxe hotels Al Manzil or Qamardeen. You will receive a comprehensive tour of the city and will have at your disposal the services of an English-speaking tour manager. Some of your time is comprised of air travel -- you fly on the first day, arrive on the second, and depart late in the evening of your fifth day. Although it might not initially seem like such a deal for so short a stay, the airfare alone, irrespective of the other amenities and your accommodations, would cost you at least $1,000.
On your first day, you start at the Creek, which divides the city in half -- the Deira on the north and Bur Dubai on the south. The city is a unique mix of older buildings and newer, oddly futuristic-looking architecture, making for an unusual skyline. You will also tour traditional neighborhoods, the Dubai Museum (housed inside a restored fort), and hop on a water taxi for yet another view. On your third and fourth day, you'll have plenty of free time to explore Dubai on your own; Friendly Planet equips you with a destination guide, chockablock with ideas.
You must act quickly, though, because departures are selling. The September 19 and December 12 trips are already sold out; January 16 has a waiting list. Availability remains for September 26, October 19 (priced from $1,399), November 21 (priced from $1,499) and dates in 2008, including February 6, March 19, April 16 and May 21, all priced from $1,499. They are priced per person, based on double occupancy, but do not include the September 11 security fee and other additional taxes of $95.
Now that you're halfway around the world, you can extend your itinerary, if interested, and add on a visit to Kenya Wildlife Safari for an additional four nights. You'll fly from Dubai to Nairobi, spend time with a guide viewing Masai Mara National Game Reserve and the Kigio Conservancy and then fly back to Dubai for your flight back to the United States. This extension is priced from $1,099. The price also includes eleven of your meals. Or, choose the Cairo Flash extension, which includes three nights, daily breakfast, transfers, and a full day touring Cairo's historic sites, along with optional tours. The Cairo extension is priced from $599.
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