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Barcelona feels a bit surreal – appropriate, since Salvador Dali spent time here and Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí designed several of the city’s buildings. Stepping into Gaudí’s Church of the Sacred Family is a bit like falling through the looking glass - a journey that you can continue with a visit to Park Güell. Sip sangria at a sidewalk café in Las Ramblas while watching flamboyant street performers, then create your own moveable feast by floating from tapas bar to tapas bar.
Over the centuries, many cultures have added their mark to this prized piece of land. Today, you can experience those influences firsthand by exploring Istanbul’s mahalles (neighborhoods). From the holy sites of Sultanahmet and the 19th-century European elegance of Beyoğlu to the high fashion of Nişantaşı, the vibrant café society of Kadıköy and the football-loving streets of Beşiktaş, it’s easy to see why travelers say that Istanbul isn’t just one city, but many cities within one.
Stunning coral reefs and turquoise waters perfect for windsurfing have made Hurghada, on Egypt's Red Sea Coast, a busy resort town. Within easy reach of the stunning Giftun Islands and the Eastern Arabian Desert, Hurghada has seen enormous amounts of development in the past decade—and yes, it does seem overrun with tourists at times. But it’s a relatively easy beach escape for Europeans, and some of the world's best diving and snorkeling sites are just offshore. Walk or catch a cab to explore the old quarter, El Dahar.
The prophet Mohammed's birthplace is Islam's spiritual center and is strictly off-limits to non-Muslims. The pillars of Islam state that all Muslims with the means must undertake Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, once in their lifetime. Those who visit the holy city are rewarded not just by proximity to landmarks and religious sites crucial to the religion, such as the Masjid Al Haram (Holy Mosque), the Mountain of Light, the Black Stone and the Well of Zamzam, but with the forgiveness of all their sins.
Dubai is a destination that mixes modern culture with history, adventure with world-class shopping and entertainment. Catch a show at the Dubai Opera, see downtown from atop the Burj Khalifa and spend an afternoon along Dubai Creek exploring the gold, textile and spice souks. If you’re looking for thrills, you can float above the desert dunes in a hot air balloon, climb aboard a high-speed ride at IMG Worlds of Adventure or skydive over the Palm Jumeirah.
Sometimes referred to as the capital of Africa, Addis Ababa is a buzzing hub of economic, social and political activity and home to such notable offices as the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The diversity of its people is reflected in the many churches, mosques and museums, including the Ethiopian National Museum which houses the fossilized skeleton of Dinkinesh, or Lucy, the Australopithecine discovered in the area in the 1970s.
Conquering New York in one visit is impossible. Instead, hit the must-sees – the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and then explore off the beaten path with visits to The Cloisters or one of the city’s libraries. Indulge in the bohemian shops of the West Village or the fine dining of the Upper West Side. The bustling marketplace inside of Grand Central Station gives you a literal taste of the best the city has to offer.
The windy city is a cornucopia of modern art, fine dining, cutting edge comedy, and die-hard sports fans. Snap a photo of your reflection in the silver Cloud Gate sculpture at Millennium Park before heading to Grant Park to get hit with the refreshing spray of Buckingham Fountain. There are dozens of museums and theater companies in Chicago, so a cultural experience is never hard to find. You’re sure to laugh your head off at the Second City Theater, the professional launch pad of many famous comedians.
Want to make your co-workers insanely jealous? Just casually drop "I’m vacationing in the Maldives this year" into conversation, preferably in the dead of winter. Or better yet, go there without mentioning it to anyone—then send them a "Wish you were here!" postcard.
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