Archive for February, 2009

Dubai’s Newest Hotel: Atlantis, The Palm

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Atlantis, The Palm,  soft opened on 24 September 2008, is the newest address to those who visit Dubai for LUXURY. Hotel is already known with its underwater rooms; these rooms – “Lost Chambers’ –  are surronded with sharks and dolphins so every morning you’ll get your first ‘good morning’  from the huge shark swimming arounf your bed. Here is some more information about this hotel:

Guestrooms: Atlantis, The Palm will offer a wide-ranging choice of accommodation with 1539 guestrooms. Guests can choose between Deluxe and Atlantis Rooms, Executive, Terrace, Regal, Presidential and Royal Suites. Unique to the resort is the Bridge Suite, which joins the West and East Towers, and two Lost Chambers Suites with amazing views into the Ambassador Lagoon.

Food & Beverage outlets: The resort will have an extensive variety of restaurants including bistros, cafes, bars and lounges and will, for the first time in the Middle East, introduce restaurants by celebrity chefs Nobu, Giorgio Locatelli, Michel Rostang and Santi Santamaria.

Leisure Facilities: The Ambassador Lagoon is the 3 million gallon open-air marine habitat which will be home to 65,000 fish and marine animals. The Lost Chambers, an underground mythical labyrinth offering uninterrupted underwater vistas into the boulevards and streets of the ruins of Atlantis. Aquaventure, the largest water-park in the region and a playground of non-stop water thrills and swimming pools, will consist of several adrenalin inducing water slides and rides, water cascades, tidal pools and a never ending river ride.

Other Facilities: A shopper’s delight waits in The Avenues and along Jewellers Row where some of the world’s greatest brands will be found. The two floored Atlantis Spa and Fitness Club will have 27 treatment rooms for wet and dry therapies, whilst the state-of-the-art Fitness Club will offer extensive gym facilities, yoga and stretch studios. Four tennis courts and a running track are offered outdoors. For children of every age, there are fun-filled clubs and programmes designed to engage and excite. Children are encouraged to learn while playing through science and nature groups, arts & crafts, marine welfare programme etc.

Conference & Banqueting Facilities: The conference centre comprises 5600 square meters of floor space. The ballroom is a flexible and highly adaptable space divisible into 5 separate areas. 2 meeting rooms, 2 boardrooms, a traditional Majlis area and generous pre-function space provide venue for small groups or break-out areas for larger conventions.

Dubai Event Dates

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Following are the event dates in Dubai, most of the hotels in Dubai are already sold out for these dates:

– UAE DESERT CHALLENGE, from 24th October to 30th October 2008


DUBAI RUGBY 7S, from 27th November to 29th November 2008


–  DUBAI SHOPPING FESTIVAL (DSF), from 15th January to 15th February2009 

Turkish Cuisine Portal

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Turkish Cuisine Portal  is a new website prepared by Turkish Cultural Foundation on Turkey’s rich and diverse culinary culture. It is an excellent resource for educators, researchers, cultural organizations and for everyone interested in Turkish culture cuisine and customs. The portal is available in Turkish and English. Portal can be reached at


Find Your Travel Style: Group Tour Or Private Tour?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

It is not always about money – you may have sufficient funds to afford either but one of them would suit you more. And it is not always about your general style or preferences as ‘travel style’ is totally different. Many positive people may turn to be ‘unbearable’ fellows while traveling only because they have chosen the wrong style.You can go for group tours if you agree with some or most of the statements below:

– You are single and do not have a travel buddy: Join group tours for more fun, less cost and of course to make new friends.

– You are not alone but still enjoy knowing people from all over the world; where else will you have this chance?

– You are female(s) traveling to less developed countries – stick to group tours if possible. Groups can offer more safety and comfort.

– You seek for maximum efficiency: Group tours have pre-scheduled itineraries to maximize your sightseeing. No matter how long your wife/husband would prefer to stay at a shop or your photo addict friend would like to take extra shots; the tour has to end when the guide blows the whistle.

– Although money is not everything, it is something: In some countries such as Turkey, Greece or Morocco private tours cost almost double or even triple prices when compared to the group tours. For small families or friend groups (2-3 traveler) it’ll be more cost effective to join escorted group tours.

If you are not sure about your travel style yet, here are the reasons why people prefer private tours despite the higher costs:

– You want to have full control on where to go, how to go, when to relax, when to shop etc. No matter how much more it cots, take a private tour.

– You are not control freak but prefer flexibility while traveling: Well, check the group itinerary, see how tight their schedule is. Some group tours provide flexibility to some extend. But at the end, there will be at least 30 more people to share the same flexibility.

– You want to get off the regular tourist path; you prefer to visit a less known sight hidden at the far end of the city, or to stop at a local snack shop to mingle with the locals. If yes, you’ll have limited opportunity for this with a group.

– Your tolerance limit is somewhat low while traveling. Totally understandable. Well, in a group tour there might be fellow travelers that you dislike and you’ll need to stick with them for the entire tour. If this sounds like a nightmare, private tour might be a better option.

– You have certain accommodation preferences such as design hotels, awarded hotels, small B&B’s etc. However group tours usually stay at western type standard hotels to cater for the taste of the majority.

– You want to have the time and the freedom to ask silly questions.

– Simply you prefer privacy and personalized service!

– Last but not least, you have extra savings to afford all the reasons mentioned above.

So what will you do for your next trip? You don’t have to decide right away. It all depends on the destination, on the tour company, itinerary you’ll be looking for, the price etc. You will see that it is much easier to find group tour sellers. There are certain big tour operators that organize these tours and most of the travel agencies sell the same packages with same rates. However for private tours, you definitely need to make your homework. Look for a smaller boutique travel company that provides customized service. This company should have some expertise about the destination, should have the patience, and bulk purchasing power. The only way to understand all these are by asking questions, asking for price and comparing at least few companies. Always and always check the legitimateness of the tour company. Where is it registered and licensed? Are you under the protection of a provincial travel fund if anything goes wrong? All these questions are crucial before traveling to a new destination. At the end, when traveling is involved, cheapest is not always the best; peace of mind is what every traveler will be looking for.

by Turkay Aykut

About the Author

Turkay Aykut is the Sales Manager of Anatolia Tours & Travel Co. offering private and escorted tours to Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Dubai, Oman, Egypt & Jordan. More information at

Top 15 Tips for Shopping in the Middle East

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

It is a well known fact that every holiday includes the delight of shopping. Even tough you may promise yourself you’ll resist the bargains (that often become clutter around the house after a couple of months), nevertheless you’ll end up in the souvenir shop for ‘little’ shopping for your loved ones. If you are travelling to Turkey, Egypt, or Morocco it becomes harder to resist this incitement. As a person who travels frequently to Middle East, I’d like to share some of my personal experiences with North American travellers who are planning to visit these countries:

1) First rule: Always bargain at the bazaars and Souks. Salesmen in carpet, jewellery and leather shops work on commission basis; so never accept the first or second offer. Sometimes you can even get up to 70% discount over the original price.

2) Try to judge the price by how much you would be willing to pay for it in your home country. Fix the price in your mind and stick to it. On the other hand, always keep in your mind the value of the local money. Try to think in the local currency; most items might sound cheap when converted to USD but might be very expensive for local people. So purchase like a local.

3) Most salesmen understand many languages, so do not discuss anything in front of them.

4) Use power of ‘No thank you!’: At least learn this phrase in the local language and use it when you are hassled. Smile and walk away.  

5) Keep your own currency and credit cards out of sight. It is easier to haggle over a price with your ‘limited’ local currency.
6) Guides get commission over your purchases. If you are not satisfied with the price, try to come back on your free day and check the similar item at the other shops. So another golden rule: Have a free day for shopping!

7) The top touristy places such as Khan El-Khalili usually visited in Cairo tours or Grand Bazaar in Istanbul will have the most expensive prices. Find out the residential shopping areas for better bargains.

8) For items where quality is important try to find a fixed price shop. You may pay little more but the quality will be superior.

9) Haggling is necessary if you are buying high value items, such as gold and jewellery, but with low value goods it is not always worthwhile the time and effort.

10) Shops in Middle East prefer cash. If you pay with cash rather than a credit card, you should have more power for getting a good discount.

11) Always shop around. Never buy at the first shop; you can always come back. Shopkeepers will try to persuade you that they offer you the best value, but will not be offended when you say you want to look around and would come back.

12) When buying gold/silver bargain on the price per gram not the price per item.

13) Usually little grocery shops, coffee shops, supermarket chains will have fixed prices and bargaining is not accepted.

14) Shopkeepers will show great hospitality. They will tell that purchase is not necessary, they will invite you to their shop, offer you tea, coffee; at the end you’ll feel so ashamed to walk away without buying anything. Don’t fall into this trap.

15) If you are buying more than one item or shopping with a group, you can haggle for a greater discount.

About the Author:
Nil Aykut is the Marketing Manager of Anatolia Travels. Anatolia Travels offer private and escorted tours to Morocco,Turkey, Egypt, Jordan & Greece.

Dubai – International Event Dates 2007 – 2008

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Here are the top international events Dubai will be hosting in the coming months; most of the hotels have already stopped accepting reservations for these dates:

  • UAE DESERT CHALLENGE, from 29th October to 02nd November 2007
  • DUBAI RUGBY 7S, from 29th November to 01st December 2007
  • DUBAI SHOPPING FESTIVAL (DSF), from 24th January to 24 February 2008
  • MUSCAT FESTIVAL, from 25th January to 16th February 2008
  • DUBAI MARATHON on 18th January 2008
  • DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC (DDC), from 31st January to 03rd February 2008
  • DUBAI WORLD CUP (DWC), on 29th March 2008

10 Unknown facts about Turkey

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

1-) Original homeland of Tulip is Turkey

2-) The Seven Churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation are all in Turkey

3-) The Turks introduced coffee to Europe

4-) The word “turquoise” comes from “Turk” derived from the crystal blue Mediterranean

5-) Legendary city Troy is in Turkey

6-) St John, St Paul and St Peter lived and prayed in Anatolia

7-) Scholars agree that Noah’s Ark landed on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey

😎 Homer, King Midas, Herodotus and St Paul the Apostle were born in Turkey

9-) St Nicholas was born and lived in Demre, Turkey

10-)Turkish Cuisine is regarded as one of the best cuisine in the world    

Moroccan Couscous with Chicken

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Ingredients (Serves 4) 

For the Couscous

2 cups couscous
2 cups warm water
2-3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
For Chicken and Topping 2 lbs chicken parts, excess fat trimmed
4 medium size onions
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon saffron threads (if available)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup golden raisins soaked in water for 15 minutesPreparing Couscous

For full recipe please click Anatolia Travels Morocco Cuisine pages



Discover Wonders Of Egypt And Jordan

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

7 Wonders of the World… You may not name all of them but probably you know that most of them were destroyed by earthquake, fire, or other causes since Herodotus formulated his list in mid 5th century BC. Today you may only see 2 monuments: the remains of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Turkey and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the only one fully standing. Although Egypt has many to offer still thousands of tourists visit Egypt every year to see the Great Pyramid. In 2001 a corporation started an initiative to choose the New 7 Wonders of the World. The results were announced in 2007 and one more monument in the Middle East was selected as one of the new wonders: Petra in Jordan. Since then Jordan became a booming tourism destination. Although Egypt was not happy with the results still Petra’s selection increased the tourist flow to the region, and both Jordan and Egypt benefited from this traffic. The frequency and the short duration of the flights between these countries motivate North American travelers to visit both countries once they take the long flight to the Middle East. You’ll need at most 13 days to tour Egypt and Jordan; you can cover the major highlights and return home with mystical memories of the new and old wonders of the world.It is suggested to begin with Cairo, the bustling city of North Africa. Don’t plan to begin touring on your arrival day, try to rest, recover from jet lag and keep your energy for the next day. Next morning why don’t you start with the famous Giza Pyramids? If you have booked a private tour in Egypt, probably you’ll meet your guide at your hotel and you’ll drive to Giza Plateau, located in the west bank of Nile, facing Cairo. Cheops, Chepren and Mycerinus are the three pyramids you will see in this plateau and their guardian Sphinx, the lion body human head mythical statue. If you are planning to enter the Great Pyramid you’ll need to arrive the gate early as the number of visitors is limited with 150. After Pyramids, visit the second highlight, the world famous Egyptian Museum. The museum that houses the largest Egyptian collection with more than 250.000 antiques extending over the past 5000 years. The famous Tut-Ankh-Amon collection is one of the most splendid parts of the museum. In the museum you may purchase additional ticket to visit the Mummy Room (cameras not allowed).

Your second day should begin early with a flight to Aswan or Luxor to join the Nile Cruise. You may not be really a “cruise type” but in Egypt, Nile cruise is the best way to visit Luxor, Aswan and other sights in between. If you begin from Aswan probably you’ll want to take the expensive excursion to Abu Simbel. It is a half day excursion but a must-see sight in Egypt. Flights to Abu Simbel fly early morning from Aswan and return by noon allowing ample time for cruise guests to board their ship. In Abu Simbel you’ll see the magnificent temples of Ramses II and Nefertiti.

Then you can join your Nile cruise ship where you’ll spend you next 5 days. Most cruise excursions will take you to Aswan Dam, to the Philae Temple and to a short sail by felluca’s, traditional sail boats to view the Agha Khan Mausoleum which is currently closed to visitors. On the way to Luxor ship will stop in Kom Ombo and Edfu. The Kom Ombo Temple was built in Ptolemaic Roman era for the worship of god Haroeris and Sobek, the crocodile god. Edfu Temple, located in the west bank of Nile, is dedicated to god Horus, the falcon god. This temple is the second largest temple after Karnak and its distinctive character comes from its huge structure that blends Greek and Pharaonic architecture. At the end of 3rd day on boat you will arrive Luxor, the greatest open air museum in the world.

Luxor tours begin with the Valley of Kings and Queens. Some of the most important tombs in the valley are the tombs of Tut-Ankh-Amon, Ramses III, Set I (Kings), and Nefertiti (Queen). Here you can also see the colossi of Memnon, Necropolis of Thebes and the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, established by the only woman who ruled Egypt. Three terraces of the temple are impressive. Then you’ll cross the river to the eastern bank of Nile to see the temple of Karnak and Luxor. Luxor temple was built for the worship of god Amon Ra. Karnak temples includes several temples and it begins with the spectacular avenue of Rams. Next morning you’ll disembark and may spend the day in Luxor to visit the Luxor museum or you can return Cairo via flight or train.

For a complete Cairo experience you must visit the Khan Khalili Bazaar, the most famous bazaar of Egypt built in 14th century. The market has a medieval atmosphere and is famous for its unusual, typically oriental souvenirs, and handmade crafts.

At the end of your 7 night in Egypt you’ve already covered the most important highlights. On 8th day you can stay in Cairo to visit Memphis and Sakkara or you can take a daily tour to Alexandria, second biggest city and the largest port of Egypt. The city was built by the order of Alexander the Great in 332 B.C and became the capital city of his reign in Egypt. Here you should visit the Pompay Pillar, Catacomb, Montazah Garden, National Museum and the Alexandria Library. You may stay a few more days in Cairo to visit the old Cairo, mosques, citadel etc. But if you have limited time I suggest you to take the early flight next day to Amman, Jordan.

Amman, the modern and ancient capital of Jordan, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the World. Although Amman is the first step to visit Petra, Dead Sea or Wadi Rum still it is advised to begin your journey from Amman where you can visit the ancient Citadel, the Archaeological Museum and the Roman Amphitheatre.

Next day you can drive along the King’s Highway, the ancient Silk Road, to Madaba that is famous with its Byzantine mosaics. In the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George you can see the earliest surviving original map of the Holy land in a mosaic floor dating to 560 A.D. Ten kilometres west of Madaba is the holly district of Mount Nebo, known as the site of the tomb of Moses. Here you can enjoy the spectacular view across the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, even the spires of the churches of Jerusalem. Leaving Mount Nebo behind you are heading to Dead Sea, to the lowest point on earth, and the world’s richest source of mineral salts. It’s called the Dead Sea because nothing lives in it. Its salt content is six times that of most oceans. Plants or fish can not survive in the salty water but humans can float in the Dead Sea which makes swimming here a truly unforgettable experience. After this unique experience you are ready to head to Petra, but before Petra you have to visit Kerak, the city famous with the12th century hilltop fortress including galleries, towers, chapels, and ramparts that vividly recall the age of the Crusaders. Arrive Petra and enjoy a deep sleep as you’ll need your energy for the Indiana Jones adventure of the next day.

Red Rose City Petra, built by the Nabeteans who settled Jordan 2000 years ago, impresses travelers from all over the world with its desert rock carved monumental tombs, palaces, temples and the treasury. You’ll need to hike the 1.2 km canyon to reach the magnificent treasury. At the end of the fissure passage widens and you catch a glimpse of the astonishing monument that dominates Petra, El Khazneh (The Treasury). The rock face in which it is carved is sheltered from winds and rain so the Khazneh is known as the best preserved of all the monuments. On the way back you can enjoy the horse ride for a complete Petra adventure.

It is the 12th day of your journey, knowing you are approaching the end, you may prefer to slow down little bit. If so, I’d suggest you to head to sunny Aqaba, the red sea resort area where you can enjoy the sunshine and sea on your last day. But before going to Aqaba, the last must-see is the Wadi Rum, also known as Valley of the Moon; tourists explore the area in 4 X 4 vehicles. The landscape of Wadi Rum, with its immensity, colour and awe-inspiring shapes, creates an almost supernatural atmosphere. It was the setting for the film Lawrence of Arabia as most of our guests would recall. Passing by the Bedouin tents you will drive south to Aqaba, the red sea resort area where you can lie on the beach, close your eyes and spend a few moments to memorize the unforgettable mystical experiences you had in 12 days. The next day your final journey will be to Amman to board your flight back home.


About the Author 

The author of this article, Nil Aykut, is the Marketing Manager of Anatolia Travels. Anatolia Travels offer private and escorted tours to Turkey, Greece Egypt , Jordan & Morocco. More information at

Tips for Untouristy Tourists: Istanbul’s Hidden Treasures

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Istanbul is the jewel of Turkey, the land of exceptional cultural and natural treasures, country of contrasts and contradictions, history filled with epic episodes. If you already had chance to visit this beautiful city, probably you’re waiting for the day to go back. If you still haven’t, treat yourself with a trip to this amazing city, the crossroad of modern Europe and mystic Asia; Istanbul should be definitely included into your Turkey tour package.

Almost everyone who arrives in Istanbul begins with the classic Sultanahmet (old city) tour. Visit will include Topkapi Palace Museum and Haghia Sophia Museum along with other Sultanahmet highlights. Well known Topkapi Palace was the imperial residence of the Ottoman Sultans for four centuries and houses examples of Ottoman architecture, large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armour, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts, as well as a display of Ottoman treasure and jewellery. Second major highlight Haghia Sophia, the “Church of Holy Wisdom”, was built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. After 916 years as a church, in 1453, shortly after the conquest, Haghia Sophia was converted into a mosque. In 1935 it was transformed into a museum. These main museums will help you in understanding the country’s history and appreciating the richness of its culture.

However, there are numerous other treasures you can discover in Istanbul. For example The Archaeology Museum in Gülhane Park is a place not to be missed while in Istanbul and is only steps away from Topkapi Palace. It is certainly one of the best museums in Turkey and a must see for anyone with any interest in archaeology. A nice definition used by travelers for this museum is that it is country in nutshell. Turkey has many archaeological sites and the museum offers visitors a sample of what the country has to offer in terms of archaeological treasures, from the prehistoric times to the Ottoman period.  This complex is divided in three buildings, the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Oriental Antiquities, and the Tiled Pavilion. The star attraction is the Alexander Sarcophagus which is remarkable for stunning carvings on the exterior detailing the battles and the life of Alexander the Great.

Another less known jewel is Chora (Kariye) Museum hidden in Edirnekapi district of Istanbul. The dictionary meaning of Kariye (Chora) is “outside of the city”, or “rural” in old Greek, probably stemmed for being located out of the ancient city walls; today it is located close to the Edirnekapi city walls over the Golden Horn.  Kariye Museum is the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul after Haghia Sophia and houses the best examples of Byzantine mosaic art. The neighbourhood has a relaxed atmosphere, with narrow and steep alleys, traditional wooden and colorful Turkish houses and small cafes where you can enjoy a cup of tea.

Dolmabahce is another effulgent palace and museum at the shore; five million Ottoman gold pieces, the equivalent of 35 tonnes of gold was used at its construction. The Palace was the official residence of several Ottoman Sultans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Dolmabahce visit is usually offered as optional in many itineraries, but you can also visit it on your own with a short taxi ride from Sultanahmet.

The other shore of the Bosphorus houses another palace, Beylerbeyi, the summer palace of the Ottoman sultans. After palace visit you can stop at the Beylerbeyi town center, a small fishing town where you can enjoy scrumptious sea food with the tranquilizing view of the Bosphorus.

Finally, make sure you pay a visit to the Basilica Cistern, also known as the “Sunken Palace”. Usually guides do not include it to their itineraries but it is conveniently located across St. Sophia, at the centre of the historic hotels. Cistern was constructed by Justinian in 532 to supply (water) the Byzantine Palace primarily. It is the largest of all Istanbul’s ancient cisterns; today the walkways have been constructed right through the cistern and subdued illumination lends the place a suitably mysterious atmosphere.

Istanbul is full of historic and cultural sights; it is a vibrant and colourful city offering surprises to its residents and visitors every single day. It was usually described as beautiful and flirtatious woman in the old poetry, seductive but variant. So next time you visit Istanbul, discover your own treasures, in other words, make sure you’ll have couple of free days to have Istanbul on your own way…

by Turkay Aykut

Turkay Aykut is the Sales Manager of Anatolia Tours & Travel Co. offering private and escorted tours to Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Dubai, Oman, Egypt & Jordan. More information at