It's always good travel fun to peek over a border, particularly when the other country is off limits like Saudi Arabia. Though Bahrain is an island, it has been connected to Saudi Arabia with series of bridges, called the King Fahd Causeway. The border is in the middle on an artificial island, called Passport Island. You can visit the island, whether or not you are going to Saudi Arabia and have look around (only on the Bahraini side). Since the island is halfway between the two countries, there are 12 km to the Saudi Arabian mainland, meaning there isn't an awful lot to see, beside a tiny Saudi Arabian skyline in the hazy horizon. However, there are two watch towers under construction, so the view might improve slightly in the near future.
A tree that seems to get by without water in the middle of the desert. Locals consider the tree almost like a miracle – however, tourists are often less enchanted by this freak of nature. There exist different scientific explanations of how this tree has managed to survive for so many years, when there isn't any known water source for miles, but nothing has been proved. The tree stands about an hour drive from Manama (far away in Bahraini scale), a journey that goes through the Bahraini desert. Not a pretty trip, as some might think, as the desert landscape is scattered with oil rigs, overland pipelines, and power lines, but certainly a fascinating one.
An embassy that doesn't even exist any more, how exciting can that be? Well, first there is the history. The embassy got overrunned in 1979 by revolutionary students, when the Shah fled the country and the Ayatollah gained power. 52 US employees was hold hostage and the American attempt to rescue them went terrible wrong. After 444 days the hostages were released. Today are the walls that surrounding the old embassy decorated in anti-American propaganda that has almost become iconic. The grounds are still guarded by the military and some of the soldiers are not that happy about cameras, so this sneaky part can actually turn out to be quite exciting.
Ayatollah Khomeini's funeral hit the record in 1989 as the largest funeral ever held, with a crowd of 10 millions mourners. Today his tomb is located in the outskirts of Tehran in what seems to be a mausoleum under never ending construction. The huge complex resembles a mosque with tall minarets and gold dome. Everyone can enter and see the caged off shrine and hang around the vast area surrounding it. The mausoleum attracts a diverse range of locals from picnicking families over young couples seeking some privacy to mourners paying respect to His Holiness. It's truly a remarkable weird place.
The Dead Sea is, besides being the lowest point on earth, a very salty place. It is neither pleasant nor relaxing to swim in due to the high level of salt. It is just very weird and sticky. The main place for a dip is the public Amman Beach which has freshwater showers (you will crave one after a swim), but also a hefty entrance fee. If you want it free, you can drive further south. Expect litter and dodgy looks from local men, but if you are willing to dodge some fence you can cross the road and get access to a hot spring with fresh water.
Ooh la la. A very high flagpole which can be seen from almost anywhere in Amman. It was once the tallest flagpole in the world, but is now beaten by both the National Flagpole (162 m) in Azerbaijan, Dushanbe Flagpole (165 m) in Tajikistan, and Jeddah Flagpole (170 m) in Saudi Arabia. If the pole doesn't really has to be a pole, the title previously belong to North Korea and their Eiffel tower looking flagpole at 160 m, standing in Peace village (Propaganda village) on the border to South Korea. Apparently that pole can't hold the flag if it becomes wet. We don't know if the Jordanian can.
These gigantic striped mushrooms are water towers. They were constructed in 1970s by some Swedish engineers, and are a part of a water supply grid, which also include the more famous Kuwait Towers – yes, two of those are also water towers. The biggest group of Mushroom Towers are the one in Kuwait City (picture), but you will see others scattered around the country. The Mushroom Towers are the closest Kuwait gets to have an UNESCO World Heritage Site, as they are on the tentative list, and Kuwait otherwise doesn't have any. It also gives you an idea of what to expect in terms of tourist attractions in Kuwait.
For a bit of a reality check, take a self-guided tour at the Sultan Qaboos university. It is a closed off property, so if stopped by security guards just say that you are considering studying/teaching here. Here you will realise that students in Oman are not much different from elsewhere in the world, some are fast-walking nerds while others hang out lazily in the sun... and then again. Though it is an unisex university (half of the students are females) there are special walkways for female students only, just so things don't get too crazy.
Pearl Qatar is an artificial island build as residential estate for those with a bit extra on the bank account. We are talking manicured green lawns, water fountains and a swanky marina right at the lucky owner's doorstep. The area is Disneyfied to the extend that muzak is playing along the groomed promenade. The fancy shopping arcade contains of course all the luxury brands you can imagine, including a showroom for Rolls-Royce and Maserati. However, ordinary things, like a bottle of water, seem impossible to buy anywhere - but we guess that a housekeeper would normally be in charge of that.
What do you get when you mix the rugged, desert terrain of Qatar with the sleek, modernity of Qatari life? The answer is dune bashing. The towering dunes around the Sealine Beach resort south of Doha make for the perfect weekend getaway for Qatari fun-seekers. Ramped up SUVs, dune buggies or (for the slower paced) camels, vie in a one-upmanship show of scaling the sandy towers. It's almost like riding a roller coaster. Then, after a day of thrills, it's time for a little chill. Numerous well stock desert camps offer the opportunity to spend the night under the stars in a traditional bedouin camp; though it's unclear how traditional air-conditioned tents are.