Consider one of these underrated places for your next trip.
Travel nostalgia is something a lot of people have been experiencing lately, and restrictions on movement has meant that the only way to fulfil our wanderlust is to remember trips of days gone by.
In preparation for when we can fly around again, we asked Dubai residents to take a walk down memory lane and share memories they treasure from the most underrated places they’ve been to.
I’m kicking things off with my own experience in the USA.
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Tennessee wasn’t originally on the agenda during a coast-to-coast road trip of the United States. The journey was meant to last around two months but because of the excitement of being on the open road I found myself way ahead of schedule. I needed a detour. Seven hours (and 500 miles South) later I found myself in Memphis.
As it wasn’t on my list of places to visit I hadn’t done much research and didn’t know much about Memphis other than Elvis’ Graceland was there.
What surprised me most was the upbeat vibe, people stopped to talk to you on the sidewalk, music played onto the street from speakers on the outside of shops. The neon lights of Beale Street were absolutely mesmerising and buzzing with activity. And the food. Where to begin with the food. We dined at a the Blues City Café, where the server told us with confidence, “Chef cooks the best BBQ ribs in the world.” He wasn’t wrong. To this day I still think about the flavour of that slow-roasted meat whenever I see a rack of ribs. And I’m strangely proud to say I ate them in Memphis.
I can’t say I was the biggest Elvis fan prior to going to Graceland but after a tour of his home, private jet and museum, I was converted and have loved his music ever since. I even bought an “I love Elvis” bumper sticker for the car – which wasn’t the best idea as it was a rental.
When I think back on that trip, which was about 10 years ago, I try and recall which place I was saddest to leave, and out of all 17 States I visited, saying goodbye to Memphis was the one that had me singing the blues.
Seefeld, Tirol, Austria
“I was invited to stay at a spa in Seefeld several years ago and didn’t have much of an expectation but it was a dream destination,” recalls Hayley Kadrou, one of our World Traveller content editors. “I had plans to be spa-bound for four days straight, but I found myself intrigued enough to explore this community and soak up the incredible views – the Alpine town sits at an altitude of 1,180 – even if that was in part from the infinity pool overlooking the mountain from my hotel.”
“Seefeld is a small village with a population of about 3,300 people and there’s a real, genuine, sense of community and village-style living. I got to experience all the beauty of the natural landscape that’s a popular skiing destination. The hiking spots where incredible, and I envied those living in the dainty little houses resting on mountains. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of local folklore in such a small place, and stunning old architecture and historical sites. In Seefeld, you feel like you really engage with the small community. Listening to old tales, visiting important buildings in the town squares with local, independent, shops and stalls, that have probably been manned by the same faces for decades, feels more rewarding and real than dotting around a big city trying to tick off the must-visit landmarks. I’ll be going back for sure.”
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Dubai-based opera singer Ste Jeffrey says, “I stayed over night in Wadi Rum, and it’s one of those weird places because it’s a desert – but it’s so much more than that. It’s a sea of red sand with picturesque parts, like rock bridges and lots of wadis you can go into. The sheer scale of it is amazing, and we stayed in a really low-key Bedouin-style camp. We stayed with some guys who lived there and they cooked us dinner in the ground, which was a flavoursome combination of meat and rice. Afterwards we sat and had tea and slept in a tent with a hole in the roof so you can see the stars, which was incredible. In the morning I found myself brushing my teeth next to a camel, which was an experience in itself. I always find myself recommending it to people who live in Dubai as it’s not that far away and I hadn’t expected it to be as amazing as it was.”
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
“It would be between two cities I’ve been to – Boston and Edinburgh,” says John Catherall, a Dubai-based graphic designer and travel enthusiast. “I’d probably say out of the two the most underrated places would be Boston, as when I went there I thought it would be this massive, busy city but it was actually quite small and easy to get around and it was cool and young. The vibe there is really good and it’s probably not the first city you think of when going to USA, but it should be. However, the city that I was most surprised about was Edinburgh. I thought I was going to find it a bit boring but it was very cool with many things to do, like wandering down all beautiful little streets and visiting shops off-the-beaten-track, which were really fun to explore.”
Arian Hasanyan, a Dubai resident and avid traveller, went to Gibraltar in 2014 to get first-hand experience of some British Overseas Territory. “I went there because I was fascinated with British History,” he says. “I actually stayed in the Spanish side and walked over the border and it’s such a bizarre experience literally walking into the country via a runway, it’s like a train crossing and the barriers come down, except you’re watching a plane land in front of you. It’s so funny how English it is as well, there’s red buses and the police have the same uniform as the UK. In terms of things to do there’s museums and a cable car to go up to the top of the rock, which is infested with the famous wild roaming monkeys, so that was an experience. It’s just a fascinating place with great weather most of the year, but I don’t think it’s top of many people’s lists to visit for some reason, but I will definitely be going back.”
Daymaniyat Islands, Oman
Sam Rodgers, a web designer who lives in the UAE and uses his free time to explore, thinks that Oman is one of the world’s most underrated places and was surprised at how much marine life there just a few hours from Dubai. “I did a weekend trip to Oman earlier this year, just to have a break from the city for a few days and was blown away by Daymaniyat Islands. I’d heard the snorkelling was really good but was surprised just how clear the water was and how much marine life there is to see. I was lucky enough to see turtles, sharks and hundreds of colourful fish. There are also (natural) white sandy beaches on the little islands, which are surrounded by Maldives-like waters. There were only about eight people on our tour, which meant we didn’t have to wait long to move onto the next spot, so ultimately we got to see more of the islands. I would go back in a heartbeat to be swimming in the water again, and as it’s so close to Dubai it’s easily do-able in a weekend, especially as you can fly to Muscat on a Friday morning.
Let us know of your underrated places in the comments. To stay up-to-date with the latest regional travel news, subscribe to World Traveller Middle East. For the latest health updates regarding coronavirus, ensure that the information you are consuming is from an official source.