For the second year running, Time magazine has released a list of the 'World's Greatest Places' and Dubai's Quranic Park is among the chosen ones this year.
The world's first Quran-inspired park opened in Al Khawaneej this April, celebrating the teachings of the Islamic holy book.
It boasts more than 60 hectares of green space, including an Islamic Garden, an array of plants mentioned in the Quran, two children's play areas, solar power harvesting 'trees' featuring calligraphy, and a "cave of miracles", which uses technology to educate people about the seven miracles revealed in the Islamic text. It is free to enter.
"The park's aim, per the city's municipal government, is to bridge cultures and promote tolerance by offering visitors exposure to Islam in a family-friendly space," writes Hillary Leung for Time.
The annual list celebrates the "100 destinations to experience right now".
To compile it, the publication called for nominations across a variety of categories – including museums, parks, restaurants and hotels – from its editors and correspondents around the world, as well as industry experts.
Each spot is evaluated on key criteria, such as quality, originality, sustainability, innovation and influence. The final selection is separated into three sections: To Visit, To Stay, and To Eat and Drink.
Other great places to visit in the region
In the first category, Dubai's Quranic Park is listed alongside Egypt's Red Sea Mountain Trail, the country's first long-distance hiking trail. "The new route is a community tourism initiative managed by the local Maaza tribe and dedicated to preserving Bedouin heritage and empowering nearby communities," reports Joseph Hincks.
Also in that list is the world's tallest statue, the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, India, which was unveiled towards the end of last year. At 182 metres, it stands on an island in the Narmada River, towering over the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
The tourist attraction pays homage to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who became India's first Deputy Prime Minister in 1947.
Other attractions on this list also include Troy Museum in Turkey, as well as the brand-new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland in California, the Mori Building Digital Art Museum in Tokyo and the Geosea Geothermal Sea Baths in Iceland.
Greatest places to stay
Under the second category, some incredible hotels are featured, such as Six Senses Bhutan, Kachi Lodge in Bolivia's Unyuni Salt Flats, Leopard Hill in Kenya, and a number of cruise ships, including Celebrity Edge, Norwegian Joy and AmaMagna.
From the region, the Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort, one of the Hyatt's newest properties, is included. It is the first hotel in the new mixed-use development, Ayla Oasis. "The stark white buildings and azure accents evoke Mediterranean serenity with Middle Eastern details – and the ancient city of Petra is less than two hours away," Hannah Lott-Schwartz writes.
In India, Soho House Mumbai has made the cut. Nick Jones' members-only club, which is well-known throughout the US and Europe, has been given a local spin in the form of an 11-storey building that overlooks the Arabian Sea. "The unique feel comes in the shape of block-printed fabrics from Rajasthan; handwoven cane furniture; environmentally sustainable, sari-coated lampshades; and some 200 art pieces by mostly South Asian artists, including Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta," writes Joseph Hincks.
Greatest places to eat and drink
As is all too common with these sorts of lists, this section does not include any restaurants from the region (similar to the World's 50 Best Restaurants, which annually fails to select entrants from the Middle East). The only spots included from Asia are Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore and 80/20 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Wolfgat, the tiny beach restaurant in a fishing village in South Africa's Western Cape, is also listed. Run from a 130-year-old cottage, the Paternoster eatery headed up by chef Kobus van der Merwe was this year named Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards that took place in Paris, France in February.