In the age of ever-evolving communication technologies, there has been an equally ever growing ironic dilemma: even though connecting with the world around us can be literally done through one single click, we have become too caught up in the breathtaking pace at which the world around us moves that, sometimes, all we might be wishing for is to just momentarily give up all the fancy gadgets that often seem to trap us rather than help us and disconnect ourselves from it.
We always yearn for a chance that would enable us to insulate ourselves even for the briefest moment just to discharge the stress we are burdened with and have a quick recharge before going back to our daily quest of trying to keep up with the world. That being said, there is no way to have this needed getaway better than returning to nature itself.
Although there are many good activities out there that can help with this, stargazing sites preserve their prominent status as one of the best tranquillizing relaxation and meditation methods that nature always offers us.
Due to their abundance of camping sites, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have risen to prominence for having some of the best stargazing sites in the world. We here introduce you to the best five stargazing sites in the region:
1. Liwa Oasis – Abu Dhabi, UAE
Known for being the historical home of Al Nahyan, the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, as well as being the filming location for Fast and Furious 7 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens movies and the host of Liwa International Festival, Liwa Oasis is located in Rub’ al Khali and it has all the features you are looking for in a good stargazing camp.
The oasis does not only comprise several large sand dunes itself, it is also located near Moreeb dune, the tallest sand dune in the UAE and one of the largest in the world. The oasis also offers multiple options for staying that range from basic sleeping tents with sightseeing and BBQ dinner options to luxurious resorts like Qasr Al Sarab.
2. Jebel Shams – Al Hamra, Oman
Being the highest mountaintop in all of Oman, Jebel Shams (the Sun Mountain in Arabic) is known for offering a spectacular sightseeing area with a unique view of Al Nakhr Canyon (Also known as the Grand Canyon of Arabia) and multiple stargazing sites by the edge of its canyon where you can escape the city’s light pollution, noises and heat and lay down under the starlit sky. Should you be lucky enough, you will get a view of the Milky Way and – if you are a photography lover - rare chances for some breathtaking photos of the stars.
The closer you are to the peak of the mountain, the clearer the view will be as you will be less likely to suffer from the light pollution coming from the city and the better your chances are to find a perfect stargazing site. Also, if you are into hiking, Jebel Shams has three hiking routes that range from the casually easy hike in Al Nakhur Rim route to the challenging steep Jebel Shams summit hike.
3. Sakhir Desert – Bahrain
During Bahrain’s camping season which usually lasts from October to March every year, it is not uncommon to see this area that is located south of Al Manama city full of camping tents, with the Bahamian families often gathering in big numbers on Fridays.
Sakhir Desert does not only provide its guests with a beautiful stargazing site, the area also houses many other tourist attractions like Al-Sakhir Palace, Al Areen Wild life park and Bahrain Grand Prix. All of this contributes to branding Sakheer Desert as the camp area that includes everything you need to have a remarkable family getaway.
4. Shuweihat Island – Abu Dhabi, UAE
If you are looking for the tranquility-invoking irresistible blend of a spectacular sea view of multiple shades of blue and a breathtaking stargazing site, then Shuweihat Island is the right place for you.
Named after a 14-million-year old formation of Miocene rocks discovered on it, this island is a place where the sea waves meet the desert sand to offer the guests a special treat with minimal light pollution, beautiful peculiar sand structures and water caves.
On the other hand, the island offers more than just a magnificent stargazing spot. Whether you are seeking the challenges of the Arabian desert, like mountain hikes and sand skiing, or the chance to just sit on the beach to meditate, watch the sunset, and experience a special taste of inner peace that you usually long for in the outside world with no interruptive sounds around you other than the endless waves that crash repetitively before your feet and the howling wind, Shuweihat Island, again, is the right place for you.
However, due to the remote nature of the island, it is advised to pack what ensures your comfort during the journey. Nevertheless, the unique experience is definitely worth spending the weekend in a trip there.
5. Al Khatim Desert – Abu Dhabi, UAE
Located near the town of Al Khatim west of Abu Dhabi, this vast, seemingly-endless expanse of alluring sand dunes and rocks has a combination of everything you seek in an exotic desert safari; be it the stargazing sites it offers under its starlit sky, or the friendly Bedouin community culture you get to enjoy and immerse yourself in and experience the mouth-watering Arabian barbecue dinner and the traditional dances, or the diversity of thrill-packed adrenaline rushing activities you can practice on the sands, like dune bashing and quad biking.
A memorable quiet moment spent under the stars is always worth what you give it. Make sure you pick the vacation destination that offers everything you need but, more importantly, make sure you are enjoying and savouring every moment you spend in this visit is disconnected from the modern world.
Have you been to a stargazing camp in the GCC area that we did not mention here? Share with us your experience in the comments!