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Follow the Road Less Travelled to Um Qais

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Steeped in history, Jordan has hosted some of the world’s oldest civilisations. Home to ancient ruins, lush valleys, and dramatic desert landscapes, the country has a character all of its own and is renowned as a land of wonders. Four Seasons Hotel Amman offers a fresh range of individually tailored excursions that provide exclusive access to the many hidden gems this marvelous destination has to offer.

Connect with Jordan’s Hidden Gems

Most visitors will be familiar with the ancient Nabataean site of Petra or the charms of the Dead Sea. But what of the more elusive experiences, known only to those who venture off the beaten track? Four Seasons works closely with local sustainable service provider Baraka Destinations to connect guests to the best and most authentic experiences around the historical town of Um Qais, which sits in close proximity to the ruins of Gadara and overlooks the Lake of Tiberias and the Yarmouk River gorge. The town is around two hours north from Four Seasons Hotel Amman, and the Hotel team can arrange a comfortable vehicle for the party to enjoy a leisurely trip through the scenic countryside.

Take in Breath-Taking Views of the Mountains and Sea

Located in the hills above the Jordan Valley, Um Qais offers an abundance of hiking, cycling and camping activities. Experience the magic of the great outdoors, complete with amazing views of the Lake of Tiberias, the Golan Heights, and Yarmouk Nature Reserve. Expert local guides Ahmad and Ala’a will accompany guests on a variety of hiking and biking trails, which range from leisurely strolls suitable for beginners to challenging routes aimed at more advanced skill levels. For the ultimate return to nature, Four Seasons can arrange a special camping getaway where guests will spend an unforgettable night under the stars.

Harvest Nature’s Bounty

Cultivate a deeper connection to nature in the search for edible plants on the hills surrounding Um Qais. For seven months of the year, the fertile farmland yields olives, almonds, and many other wild ingredients. These include akkoub, a type of tumble thistle that tastes similar to artichoke, and loof, an indigenous plant with large green leaves and a long history for its medicine and food use in the Middle East. Foraging groups will learn more about the area’s biodiversity with the help of Ahmad, a highly knowledgeable local guide. He will reveal how the act of foraging triggers a greater appreciation of one’s surroundings, as guests take the time to slow down, pause, and take a look around. Once satisfied with the haul, guests can put the ingredients they have gathered to good use in a cooking class at Galsoum’s Kitchen.

Learn the Art of Cooking Regional Dishes

Dine like a true Um Qaisawi with a cooking  class at Galsoum’s Kitchen. Galsoum, also known as Um Sulaiman (or “mother of Sulaiman”) invites Four Seasons guests to join her in the charming and informal surroundings of her home. Here, they will learn how to prepare unique local dishes, rich with the full-bodied flavours that only the freshest ingredients can bring. To fully experience a place and culture, it is important to engage all of the senses. In Um Qais, an afternoon spent cooking and sampling local flavours with Um Sulaiman is a perfect place to start. Northern Jordan has rich soil, and experiences more rain than other parts of the country. These environmental differences have led to the use of some unique ingredients. Guests can discover how to get the best out of these at Galsoum’s Kitchen, and pick up some Arabic words along the way. Once home, guests can share their new culinary knowledge with friends and family.

Get a Buzz from Apiculture

Discover the true origin of the expression “busy as a bee” with a trip to a beekeeping site in Um Qais. Here, guests will meet Yousef, the local beekeeper, who will treat everyone to an exclusive peek into the world of a working beehive. Watch as the queen lays eggs, while her workers deliver the pollen and nectar necessary to create the honeycomb. To round off the visit, guests can enjoy the taste of all-natural honey, freshly created in this bustling hive of activity.

Crafting Unique Experiences

The Concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Amman takes great pride in crafting highly personalised itineraries. Taleen Halaseh, Chef Concierge at the Hotel, says “At Four Seasons, we aim to offer our guests unique opportunities to enjoy authentic local experiences. These excursions provide travellers with a fascinating glimpse into daily life in rural Jordan, and capture the special atmosphere of the Um Qais area, where the community still retains a strong connection to their traditions and heritage. It is extremely rewarding to help prepare a guest’s schedule, listening to their interests and anticipating that they’re going to enjoy a truly memorable experience. Time and again we see guests return with smiling faces, and like all the team at the property, I’m delighted to play a small part in making their stay an unforgettable one.”

Offering a True Taste of Local Character

This passion to showcase and preserve the local way of life is at the heart of Baraka Destinations’ packages, according to Muna Haddad, Founder and Managing Director. “Baraka was created to partner with local communities in lesser-known tourism sites and work with them to develop experiences that introduce their hometown to curious visitors. You’ll find us working in areas that are overlooked by most tourists; we aim to give people the opportunity to get to know these secret places, and connect with the people that call them home. We follow a sustainable tourism model, which leaves minimal impact on the environment and offers maximum benefits for local communities, while exceeding the expectations of today’s discerning and adventurous travellers.”

Contact the concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Amman today to find out more about the exciting experiences that await in Um Qais. Stay tuned for details of more delightful excursions in nearby Pella, one of the ten historic Decapolis cities that were established during the Hellenistic period.

 

Destinations

Rediscover Istanbul: Last Step in Europe, First Step in Asia

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Housed in a century-old neoclassical Turkish prison, Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet offers a genuine Istanbul experience just a few steps from city’s important landmarks in Sultanahmet with the Suite Authentic luxury accommodation package. One can escape to Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet to indulge in a memorable Istanbul experience in fall enjoying city’s mild climate, historical attractions surrounding the Hotel, cultural events and festivals, last but not least various shopping alternatives including designer labels and traditional souvenirs. Set in the historical peninsula, the Hotel is neighbour to the city’s most significant souks such as Grand Bazaar and Spice Market.

Although Istanbul has become a year-round destination, fall is a perfect season to enjoy city’s magnificent vistas, traditional shopping stops and designer shops. It is also an ideal time to discover the art scene in the city, such as Contemporary Istanbul, Akbank Jazz Festival or Istanbul Design Biennale. Designed to offer multiple delights to visitors of Istanbul, the Suite Authentic accommodation package includes daily American breakfast in Seasons Restaurant or through In-Room Dining for two and offers 30 percent off the room rate.

The Hotel’s beautifully designed suites relate directly to the rich history and layers of Istanbul, offering a strong sense of place with their breathtaking views of the manicured courtyard as well as St. Sophia and Blue Mosque. With one of the most authentic and one-of-a-kind suite collections in Istanbul, guests can choose from an impressive Executive Suite to two Presidential Suites, St. Sophia and Marmara, each containing a living room with fireplace, dining area for 6-8 guests and three private terraces offering exceptional city views. In their intimate residential setting, guests can truly make themselves at home – whether they wish to lounge around in the living area or enjoy a magnificent Old Town silhouette from their balcony.

Inspired from Istanbul’s heritage, the interior design in suites reflects the footsteps of past empires. Understated Four Seasons elegance and the mysticism of Old Town show itself in the tiny details of each suite. This indigenous indulgence is now offered to ensure a luxury accommodation at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet. the Suite Authentic accommodation package is valid for three-night minimum stays until March 31, 2019.

Not-to-Miss Attractions in Old Town

Visit Spice Bazaar and Covered Bazaar: Home to the Grand Bazaar, the largest covered market in the world, Istanbul boasts a vibrant and unforgettable shopping scene. More than 4,000 shops on 58 streets feature goods and fine crafts from all over Turkey and beyond, and the Grand Bazaar is one big Aladdin’s cave.

Go underground at the Basilica Cistern: The Basilica Cistern is the largest of the ancient underground water cisterns found across Istanbul.

Visit Hagia Sophia: One of the most visited museums and most prominent monuments in the world in terms of art and the history of architecture, Hagia Sophia should be at the top of a to-see list for Istanbul. Do not miss the upstairs gallery to catch the best views and to glimpse the surviving mosaics, in particular the golden mosaic of the Virgin and Child in the apse.

Visit the Blue Mosque: Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque’s two most striking features are its six minarets and blue domed exterior.

Get a taste of royal life at Topkapi Palace: Topkapi Palace is the largest royal residence in Istanbul and it served as the main residence to the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years.

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Destinations

Shop like a local in Guadalajara

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As one of Mexico’s top artisanal hubs, Guadalajara offers the best in culture, cuisine and shopping. Travelers can find everything from expertly crafted pottery to luxe leather goods in unique markets throughout the city. For those who travel the world in search of the best locally-produced, stylish souvenirs, Guadalajara provides the ultimate in retail therapy in a vibrant, festive atmosphere — after all, this is the birthplace of mariachi, tequila, and charrería, the Mexican rodeo!

Follow these tips for shopping, eating, and playing like a local in Guadalajara, and you are sure to leave with as many memories as one-of-a-kind purchases.

Largest indoor market in Latin America

Visitors to the historic center of Guadalajara will enjoy sightseeing with a backdrop of the beautiful architecture of the double-spired Guadalajara Cathedral. This area is home to Mercado Libertad, the largest indoor market in Latin America with three floors and nearly 3,000 stands featuring everything from apparel and handbags to fresh produce and local delicacies. Stop for a meal or browse endless options. Mexican cowboys, known locally as charros, frequent leather vendors in search of saddles, boots, and belts. Across the street in the jewelry market, gold and silver pieces will add just the right Mexican accent to your wardrobe.

The perfect pair

Fashionistas rejoice. Whether it is pumps or loafers, sandals or sneakers you seek, Guadalajara is the place to find the perfect pair of shoes. Make a beeline to Galería del Calzado, a shopping center focused exclusively on your feet. Choose from 64 stores offering everything from jaw-dropping high fashion designs to the hottest streetwear trends.

Galleries galore

In the colonial town of Tlaquepaque, local arts and crafts fill market showrooms and upscale stores where you will find carved wooden furniture, colorful blown glass ceramics and hand-stitched clothing. The downtown area retains the traditional structure of a small Mexican community with a parish street, central market, main square, and many pedestrian-only streets, making this a good place to take a stroll. Catch the daily mariachi performances at the local restaurants and cantinas, some with outdoor seating perfect for people watching.

Bargain hunting

Some of the best bargains can be found among Tonalá’s narrow streets, where most of Guadalajara’s local goods can be purchased. In this neighborhood, you can find some of the best crafts in the country. This includes wide-mouth clay bowls designed to serve a cazuela cocktail, Guadalajara’s signature citrus punch. The area is particularly known for silver and gold crafts, hand-painted pottery, paper-mâché, and clay figurines. On Thursdays and Sundays, bargain-priced merchandise is sold at a vast street market where wholesalers arrive from all over the country to buy in bulk.

Lap of luxury

In the district of Zapopan, the Andares Mall offers shoppers top-of-the-line luxury brands. After a day of shopping, join the locals as they enjoy a pedestrian corridor filled with high-end restaurants and bars near the basilica.

Nature’s products

Just outside of Guadalajara are sprawling agave fields, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the world’s tequila is produced. Drive past fields of the blue agave plant that stretch out over the rugged, hilly terrain, en route to the town of Tequila. After visiting the distilleries and purchasing bottles to serve back home, peruse smaller shops and stalls for necklaces and earrings crafted using blue agave leaves, agave syrup, and figurines made from the obsidian of the nearby volcano.

For more information on Guadalajara, visit www.visitguadalajara.com.

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Destinations

Why Myrtle Beach is the perfect fall vacation for families

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When it comes to vacation planning, millennial families with young children have the edge over school-aged families — no strict school schedules to obey!

Take advantage of this flexibility while you can, and plan your escape to Myrtle Beach. This oceanside city along the beautiful South Carolina coastline features just about everything families with young children are looking for: family fun, engaging and interactive attractions, delicious food and relaxing places to chill out. Bonus: Now that school is in session, you’ll escape the summer crowds.

To help you plan, here are some of the things that await in Myrtle Beach.

Budget-friendly fun: As promised in the name, Myrtle Beach is the place to make oceanside memories: building sand castles, hunting for seashells and delighting in their giggles as the waves lap their little toes. As it turns out, fall is one of the best times of year to have that beach vacation without breaking the bank. Look for deep discounts and special lodging packages at hotels and resorts. While you search for fun things to do, be on the lookout for exclusive fall promotions. For example, Visit Myrtle Beach is offering a complimentary children’s beach photo session, which will create the perfect keepsake for your getaway.

Beautiful “summer” weather: Even if you feel a nip in the air in your region, the fall weather in South Carolina is still ideal for exploring wide open spaces and enjoying outdoor activities. Brookgreen Gardens features the Lowcountry Zoo, which houses animals in spaces as close to their natural habitat as possible. You’ll definitely want to get way up high and see the beaches and water stretch off into forever from atop the SkyWheel, a 200-foot Ferris wheel that’s right on the beach.

Enriching fun: Myrtle Beach has plenty of kid-friendly places to interact and build new connections to this wide, wonderful world. Kids can get an up-close look at the colorful fish and other sea creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium. After hearing stories about farm life in their favorite picture books, they can see the real thing at the L.W. Paul Living History Farm. Finally, WonderWorks Science Center has more than 100 hands-on exhibits that are designed to both thrill and teach children a thing or two about science.

Peaceful pursuits: While you’re enjoying all this family time (and seeing the smiles on those little faces), be sure to make time for the grownups to enjoy themselves, too, with solo outings at some point in the trip. All around Myrtle Beach you’ll find lots of options to chill and recharge, whether it’s a well-deserved spa treatment or discovering your new favorite wine at a tasting. We’ll lose the thought with this vision of heaven: You and your family relaxing along the seashore seashore. No one’s cranky, no one’s hungry, just … aaaaaaah!

For more ideas and inspiration to plan your fall family vacation to Myrtle Beach, visit www.visitmyrtlebeach.com.

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